At NYCC 2019 I attended a panel discussing European Noir and American Crime Fiction. Panelists included; Dan Panosian (Slots), Josep Homs (Millennium), Juanjo Guarnido and Juan Diaz (Blacksad). Each creator gave their thoughts on what makes the noir genre unique and embraced across cultures. Here are some highlights of the points discussed.
Dan Panosian spoke about the importance of having flawed characters. In his stories there are no good guys, mostly bad guys and worse guys. After spending time in Las Vegas Panosian, learned to treat the city as a character itself when writing. To Panosian, comics are a form of escape like drinking or drugs.
Juanjo Guarnido and Juan Diaz discussed the origin of Blacksad. The two creators met while working on Disney animation in the 90s. Blacksad was conceived of as a fable combined with a Noir mystery. Fables often utilized anthropomorphic animals characters to tell meaningful stories and Noir provided the time period and mature tone.
Noir also yielded two unique points of view. The internal view, narrated by the character, and the external view of conflict fueled by social issues. Noir stories’ period setting of late 40s-50s America provided plenty of social and political strife for Guarnido and Diaz to explore. The animal aspects of the characters in Blacksad allowed the authors to tackle topics like racism in a more accessible way.
Josep Homs talked about his work on the Millennium series which was a comic adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Homs agreed to do the series provided that he was given creative freedom to interpret the material in his own way. To this effect, Homs purposefully avoided watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo films.
Homs approach to Millennium was to work on the book as if it was a personal project and injected his own point of view into it. If he worried about appealing to fans or editors Homs felt the comic would come out lifeless. Homs next project is titled Shi, which combines Victorian and Japanese cultures.
In closing, Guarnido and Diaz discussed the global appeal of Noir. Both creators hailed from Spain but chose to write a comic set in North America. Guarnido described Noir as a mythology that’s uniquely American just as much as the Western. For Guarnido witty banter is an essential component of Noir. “Irony is the privilege of intelligence,” in other words sharp humor.
Diaz said that Noir is easily adaptable to other genres and should blend with other stories to stay fresh. If an artist were to simply draw another murder mystery with with a detective and a femme fatale it would be boring. But if you set a Noir story in the future like in Blade Runner it comes out original. Guarnido bookended Diaz’s idea by stating, “Noir has no boundaries.”