In an increasingly digital world, the endurance of brands like Blackwing serve as a breath of fresh air and a cherished vestige of a bygone era. The stationery company has been kicking since the 1930s when they released the widely beloved Blackwing 602 pencil, subsequently used religiously by folks like John Steinbeck, Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, and Disney animator Shamus Culhane.
Much to the chagrin of these A-list artists and the rest of Blackwing’s loyal congregants, the Blackwing 602 was discontinued in 1998 after several corporate acquisitions. But many of its fans continued to hold a candle for the cherished writing utensil. Then, in 2010, Blackwing was reborn, revived first as a single pencil that has now grown into a culture.
A pillar of this modern iteration of Blackwing is their Volumes series—limited special edition pencils designed to honor people, places, and events that have helped chart creative culture. Each Volume gets released quarterly and comes with a story reflected in every component of its design, from the box and the color of its eraser to the hardness of its lead. The latest installment in the series is Vol. 64, released this past June.
This eye-popping pencil pays tribute to comic books and their creators, with a halftone barrel design composed of a pattern and palette inspired by the 64 colors and the printing techniques developed for producing comic books in the 1930s. During the golden age of comic books (the 1930s-1950s), comic books were printed on presses using etched plates inked with the CMYK color model. To achieve certain shades, details, and patterns, printers looked to the “Ben-Day dots” (a.k.a. halftoning) method and would apply a range of pressure and angles to their inked plates. The Vol. 64 design emulates these techniques, which uses overlapping sections of solid yellow, a yellow ben-day halftone pattern, a cyan diagonal pattern, solid cyan, and a magenta diagonal pattern. The pencil then received a doubled imprint in homage to comic book lettering.
Blackwing has released accompanying Vol. 64 replacement erasers and point guards to complete the collection for those that can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet CMYK. The next Volume will get released in the fall, which we await with bated breath.
Because one thing is certain—once you go Blackwing, you never go back.