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Synthesis - Columns

From 2008 to 2015 I wrote a weekly column for Synthesis Weekly under the name Zooey Mae. What started as an outlet to review graphic novels and comic books evolved over the years to cover everything from pop culture to whatever menial event was happening in my life. Looking back, I think I spent much too much time regaling Chico with tales of my allergies. 

Blacksad Makes Me Happy

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: June 2010

A few days ago I was sitting in my car, listening to Fresh Air on NPR. If you’re unfamiliar, Fresh Air is a radio program in which the host, Terry Gross, interviews prominent cultural figures. There have been a few misses here or there, but for the most part it’s a guaranteed hour of entertainment. Enjoying a rare spot of Portland sun, I listened as Terry’s dulcet tones filled my car. She was interviewing LCD Soundsystem’s front man, James Murphy. I say “front man”, but realistically, Murphy makes up nearly all of the band. It almost seems to mildly irritate him that he needs human involvement for the creation of his music. In a clip from a song off his latest album “This Is Happening”, he waxes lyrical about getting older and feeling like the uncool, old dude in a room full of young kids. “I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars. I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know”. After playing the clip, Terry Gross asked Murphy if his inspiration had been from his own life, or if it was something invented and surprisingly, his response hit a nerve. He explained how he’d had a pivotal moment in which he realized he had become the token old guy at a music venue full of the cool young kids who was complaining that the music had no depth or value. Of course I can relate to that feeling, but what really struck me was when Murphy explained that this song had been the easiest he’d ever written. I’ve found that the columns that seem to resonate the most with Synthesis readers, the ones I get the most and best response from, are the ones that are the absolute easiest to write. Of course certain creative endeavors that are tedious and time consuming can yield amazing results. But I’ve found that more often than not, artistic projects that are the culmination of simple and seemingly effortless inspiration have a greater staying power than those without.

When coming across Blacksad during a recent trip to my local comic slinging shop, it took me awhile to pinpoint exactly what it was that was so appealing about this hardcover collection of a European comic. The concept isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s how each element comes together that makes Blacksad so incredible. The artwork, by Juanjo Guarnido, is almost reminiscent of Duck Tales, or Darkwing Duck, if they’d been mixed with a heavy dose of Sean Connery era Bond. Published by French publishing company Dargaud, Blacksad features anthropomorphic animals of every variety in a film noir setting. With a dark, realistic feel, the artwork is simply stunning. If you’re out to pick up one new title this year, make it Blacksad. You heard it here first.  

Arielle Mullen