Created by Carlos Sampayo and José Munoz
Cue the warbling sax…
In a stylish, impressionistic and highly influential comic strip, Argentinian-born New York gumshoe and former New York cop ALACK SINNER, cold, cynical, and with a face scarred by who-knows-what, is a brooding, obsessed man who hangs out at Joe’s Bar, a local watering hole.
Bit by bit, as the series progresses, his painful past is revealed–the girl left behind in Peron’s Argentina, his subsequent exile, his almost-forgotten father, etc. And it’s all rendered in a swirling, distorted and ink-heavy impressionistic haze, in oh-so-noirish black-and-white, heavy on shadows and ambiguity.
Originally a rather standard P.I. series, albeit more dark and sombre than most, it soon evolved into “the life’s chronicle of a down-on-his-luck private eye as he witnesses the world go to hell around him,” (March 1, 1988, Amazing Heroes). Sinner’s obsessions ran deep, and his contempt for the corrupt cops and greedy lawyers he had to deal with didn’t make life any easier.
One of the most evocative tales told in this medium (and far ahead of the curve on this side of the pond), full of the pain of an ex-pat trying to justify and come to terms with both his past and his present. The artwork captures the mood perfectly, full of pain and darkness, populated by gallery of grotesque characters who seem to have escaped from a circus freak show, and it all takes place in a mythic New York that probably has more to do with a B-movie fever dream than the real city (according to legend, neither Sampayo nor Munoz had ever been near NYC when they began the series.
It didn’t matter—the series, originally appearing in Italian in Alterlinus and in French in Charlie Mensuel, was a hit in Europe, soon translated into Dutch, Portuguese and German, and eventually—although it took a while—into English.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Both Carlos Sampayo and José Munoz, are Argentinian exiles themselves, living in Europe, whose most well-known work, Le bar à Joe (Joe’s Bar), was a spinoff from Sinner.
Sampayo is best known for his work in comics, particularly in collaboration with artist Muñoz. The two met in Spain in 1974 when Sampayo was fleeing from the military junta. They created Joe’s Bar, a series of short stories about the various denizens of a café in New York, one of whom was a scar-faced private detective named Alack Sinner.
As a child in Argentina, Muñoz displayed a real knack for drawing, and began his professional career in comics with the detective series Precinct 56. His meeting with Sampayo in 1974 marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship—and the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration. His artwork seems an obvious influence on such other comics artists as Eduardo Risso (especially his work on DC’s 100 Bullets), Keith Giffen and Frank Miller.
- “Alack Sinner was the first crime comic to light up my head. Its bleakness seeped off the page and into my soul.”
- “… in José Muñoz’s work, dense puddles of ink and fraying linework combine to evoke a world of depravity and morbid decay”
— Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics (1993)
- “You can see very clearly why Muñoz and Sampayo have had such an inspirational effect on comics creators around the world… but they remain unequalled, and The Age of Innocence is titanic, memorable work.”
—Woodrow Phoenix in The Slings and Arrows Graphic Novel Guide
- “One of the 100 great comics of the last 20th Century and one of the ten all-time best drawn, [when] IDW does bring us a complete edition of Jose Munoz and Carlos Sampayo’s Alack Sinner, that will be a line drawn across the page at or near the top on the ‘missing comics editions’ list in this golden age of reprints. That is just a lovely comic, cynical and cool, the ur-modern crime comic.”
— Tom Spurgeon in The Comics Reporter
- ALACK SINNER
Serialized in Italian in Alterlinus
and in French in Charlie Mensuel, and à suivre
Writer: Carlos Sampayo
Art: José Munoz
I think this is the complete listing (in Italian). Please feel free to correct me…
- “Il caso Webster” (January 1975, Afterlinus; aka “L’affaire Webster,” “The Webster Case”)
- “Il caso Fillmore” (February 1975, Afterlinus; aka “Fillmore” (“The Filmore Case”)“)
- “Viet Blues” (March -May 1975, Afterlinus)
- “La vita non è un fumetto, baby” (August 1975)
- “Egli, la cui bontà è infinita” (September-November 1975, Afterlinus)
- “Scintille” ( January-March 1976, Afterlinus)
- “Constancio y Manolo” (August-October 1976, Afterlinus)
- “Città oscura” (November 1976-February 1977, Afterlinus)
- “Ricordando” (April-May 1977, Afterlinus)
- “Conversando con Joe” (August 1978, Afterlinus; aka “Conversation avec Joe,”“Talkin’ with Joe”)
- “Trovare e ritrovare” (October 1981-May 1982, Afterlinus)
- “Nicaragua” (January-March 1986, il grande alter)
- “Norteamericano(s)” (February 1989, Corto Maltese)
- “Por unos dibujos” (October 1991; Corto Maltese)
- “Ostaggi” (January 1992; Corto Maltese)
- “Fine di un viaggio” (1992)
- “Storie private” (March 2004, I classici del fumetto di Repubblica)
- “Il caso U.S.A.” (April 2017, I grandi maestri n. 10)
- LE BAR À JOE
(1980’s, à suivre)
Sinner appeared now and then in installments in this spinoff.
- Alack Sinner (1975)
- Mémoires d’un Privé (1977)
- Le Bar à Joe (1981)*
- Flic ou privé (1983)
- Rencontres (1984)
- Viet Blues (1986)
- Rencontres (1984)
- Histoires amicales du Bar à Joe (1987)*
- Nicaragua (1988)
- Souvenirs d’un Privé (1999)
- La Fin d’un Voyage (1999)
- Histoires Privées (2000)
- L’Affaire USA (2006)
- L’age du innocence (2007) | Buy this book
*Not exclusively about Sinner
- PRIME CUTS
(1987–88, Fantagraphic Books)
A bold attempt to get Americans hooked on European comics.
- “Memories” (August 1987; #4)
Sinner’s 20-page origin story, p. 1-20.
- “Memories” (August 1987; #4)
A noble-but-short-lived attempt to bring European-style comic books to America. Rumours were that Sinner was going to be twelve issues. I might have been the only one who bought a copy.
- “Talkin’ with Joe” (October 1987; #1)
- “The Webster Case” (March 1988; #2)
- “The Fillmore Case” (May 1988; 3#)
- “Viet Blues” (Septembner 1989; #4)
- “Life Ain’t a Comic Strip” (September 1990; #5)
(1980-91, Penguin Books)
An American comics anthology edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly that championed the 1980s alternative comics movement, and also served as one of the main venues for European comics in the US back then.
- “North Americans” (1991,Volume Two, Number Three)
- ALACK SINNER: THE AGE OF INNOCENCE | Buy this book
The first of two volumes that will finally collect all of Alack Sinner’s adventures, arranged in chronological order, in English.
- ALACK SINNER: THE AGE OF DISENCHANTMENT | Buy this book
The second of two volumes collecting all of Alack Sinner’s adventures, arranged in chronological order in English for the first time.
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- August 12, 2023
The Bottom Line: This highly influential noir-drenched comic channeled a zillion B-flicks (and a little Scorsese) as it followed an ex-pat Argentinian gumshoe lost in the 70s Big Apple. Don’t mind the maggots.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. I apologize for any inaccuracies in publishing info. The series appeared in multiple languages and editions, and the various sources of information is available often contradict each other.