- Special Features
- Blogs & Columns
- Fun & Games
I have recently taken on the idea to submit ten essays, one per week, taking an in depth look at what I think are some of the finest examples and collections of comic book stories around. By no means have I read everything ever printed and don’t claim to know it all. I have read and own everything on this list as well as a large amount more. This is an eclectic collection that I, personally, think would please not just hardcore collectors, but casual fans as well. And that’s the most important criteria in forming this list; I looked at complete stories, easily accessible, without too much history to learn. Something that a casual fan, or even non comic fan can pick up and possibly enjoy. Last week featured Jeff Smith’s Bone.
Number Two: Blacksad hardcover volume 1, Dark Horse Comics, $29.99. This is a collection of the first three Blacksad stories; Somewhere Within the Shadows, Arctic Nation, and Red Soul, the last of which is experiencing its first English translation here. For the sake of this selection we’ll use all three in this hardcover collection by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido.
This is what every comic aspires to be! I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. The effort put into every aspect of the story is obvious at every turn. The story itself is about John Blacksad, a detective, set in the 1950’s. He and his supporting cast, as well as every character, are cast as anthropomorphic, animals with human traits or personalities. If you’re a fan of this and haven’t yet experienced this book, you need to. If you’re not a fan, don’t let it sour you to this experience. Canales possesses an uncanny knack for characterization through form. In other words, the animals he chooses are spot-on perfect for the emotions and traits conveyed in the story. It’s not a cheap tool here, but through the intricate and highly detailed artwork of Guarnido, the characters emote in a way that moves the story sometimes better without words. The art is also impressive in the use of lighting and angles. This entire production truly is a pleasure to behold.
These two creators have a history in film and it shows in the pacing and development of the story. More and more, I think, we're seeing stories not about capes and super powers and this stands out as a high water mark as to what true talent and love of the medium can accomplish.
These three stories are separate in nature and don’t necessarily need to be read together to be enjoyed. Blacksad and Weeks, his ‘sidekick’, are the underlying theme that holds the tapestry of cases together but each stands solidly on its own, from start to finish. This is comics done perfectly and the compelling nature of the characters only adds to that. I’ve also said that I wished I had found Blacksad 40 years from now so that I could have enjoyed more of it (without waiting). I stand by everything I’ve said!
Michael R. Murray read his first comic and has been buying and collecting for over 35 years. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade and key issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from appropriate artists on the inside of his hard covers. His personal collection of graphic novels consists of over 2,000 hardcovers and trade paperbacks. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it. Follow on Twitter at mycomicstore001 or like his Facebook page.