What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be lightly tanned and being able to pass off or being mistaken for just about any ethnicity? Black Mane is a graphic novel discussion by Michael LaRiccia exploring through his own voice and others, of American stereotypes in the great melting pot nation. This semi-autobiographical story is the first professional project by Michael LaRiccia, an American of Italian descent.
LaRiccia is so self-conscious that he recounts his creative process and the hardship of creating a graphic novel about the experiences he witnesses and imagines within the context of the story. A lot of the underwritten context of this tale is LaRiccia’s obsession with the white males whom he imagines as the villains who prey on man of various shades and women of all creeds.
Yet, these villains are also his heroes and the people he looks up to. For example, his work friend, Tom, a much older white man becomes his ideal hero for a moment, based on the fact that he’s taller than the bully that wanted to date the black girl. Here, he introduces another unwritten rule that is very understood in this society. According to him, one’s tallness influences one’s stature in society. It’s too bad that LaRiccia is so small and lethargic.
LaRiccia’s strength is his caricature-driven artwork which is filled with life and dynamism. He uses it effortlessly to draw us closer throughout this graphic novel to the primal rules of this society. His facial expressions are clearer and more profound than even Kevin Maguire's but with a touch France’s Tardi. His inking flows adeptly and covey tones and mood very well. His style reminds me of the Franco-Canadian animated production, Les Triplets de Belleville. That book should be on your shelf right now.