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April 22, 2015

‘Last Man’ exclusive: Cover revealed for Vol. 4 in French fighting series

Posted in: Books,Comics

lastman cover 300rgb Last Man exclusive: Cover revealed for Vol. 4 in French fighting series

"Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

lastman2 300dpi rgb Last Man exclusive: Cover revealed for Vol. 4 in French fighting series

"Last Man Vol. 2: The Royal Cup," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

lastman sampler 2low Last Man exclusive: Cover revealed for Vol. 4 in French fighting series

A page from "Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

lastman sampler 3low Last Man exclusive: Cover revealed for Vol. 4 in French fighting series

A page from "Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

lastman sampler 4low Last Man exclusive: Cover revealed for Vol. 4 in French fighting series

A page from "Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

Magic, a Medieval fighting tournament and a mysterious stranger set the stage for the “Last Man” graphic novel series, by French comics creators Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak.

“Last Man,” which won the Prix de la Serie at the Angoulême International Comics Festival earlier this year, is available in English for the first time from publisher First Second.

"Last Man Vol. 4: The Show," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

“Last Man Vol. 4: The Show,” by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

The six-issue story follows Adrian Velba, a young fighting school pupil preparing to enter his kingdom’s gladiatorial contest. When his partner falls ill the day of the tournament, Adrian’s luck appears to improve with the arrival of Richard Aldana — a stranger who fights without magic and has little knowledge of the local customs — and the pair team up to take on the kingdom’s most legendary fighters.

The tale’s first installment, “The Stranger,” was released in English in March to critical praise. “The Royal Cup,” the second issue, is slated for a June 23 release, soon to be followed by “The Chase” on Oct. 6. Hero Complex readers get an exclusive first look at the cover for “The Show,” the fourth book in the series, due out on April 5, 2016.

Hero Complex caught up with Balak, Vivès and Sanlaville via email to discuss their collaborative process, their creative inspiration for the magical ring-fighting adventure story, and what’s next.

HC: Where did the idea for this magical gladiatorial contest come from? It feels like it might have some roots in anime?

Absolutely.  We had in mind the classical tournaments you can find in “Dragon Ball,” “YuYu Hakusho,” “Saint Seiya,” etc. We are in our 30s, and everybody our age in France grew up with Japanese cartoons on TV. That’s basically in our DNA, as much as loving wine and being rude. And mime.

HC: The story had me laughing out loud throughout, and yet Adrian is such a sympathetic character. How do you balance comedy and pathos?

We try to put ourselves in each character’s shoes. Richard is the one cracking jokes, that’s his way of dealing with people (that, and punching them in the face). When you put this guy next to a sensible, naive child, something interesting is naturally going to happen. We’re sure some very clever guy put that in equation, something like “contrasting character a + contrasting character b x emotional stimulus  = drama/humor.” But we just rely on our instincts, because we are just not that clever.

A page from "Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

A page from “Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger,” by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

HC: Richard Aldana is such a fun mystery. Will we get to see some time travel? Where there any particular inspirations for his fighting style?

Richard’s mystery will be largely covered in the volumes to come, as well as in a TV show currently produced in France. Our inspiration for Richard is a mix of many influences; Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis in “The Last Boy Scout”), Sylvester Stallone, Lou Ferrigno, Javier Bardem, Bastien’s uncle. . . . We are not into sports at all, so for the fighting moves we consult a friend in our studio who’s very good at taekwando and street fighting. We mean actual street fighting, not video game street fighting.

HC: Can you share some insight into your collaborative process? How do three of you share artistic and writing duties?

It’s kind of complicated: Bastien gives the main story in broad strokes, then the three of us discuss it.

Then Balak directly storyboards and develops the story and dialogue. When he’s done storyboarding 20 pages, they’re dispatched to Bastien and Mic, who draw 10 pages each, while Balak keeps on going on the next 20 pages, and so on.

At the end, we read everything and change some dialogue, sometime we redraw some details or pages to keep everything tidy and solid.

We don’t have a script per se, so it’s a very organic way of creating. Everybody is reacting on each other’s work at any time, we’re working next to each other in the same studio, working digitally, so the pages are constantly updated in real time on our Dropbox. It would be impossible to work that fast and with that much efficiency without this method — we’ve published six books of 200 pages in two years. The downside of this is that we’re probably gonna die sooner rather than later.

A page from "Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger," by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

A page from “Last Man Vol. 1: The Stranger,” by Bastien Vivès, Michael Sanlaville and Balak. (First Second)

HC: How did your experience in animation, video gaming and comics influence both the story and the way you told it?

Since we’re working a some kind of a mini studio, our experience in the animation industry, as well as our school years in the Gobelins Animation school surely helped.

What helped too is that we get along very well; we complement one another. We’ve never had one single fight or crisis in three years of working together, and it’s kind of a miracle, because individually we are most definitely knuckleheads. Except for Mic. Mic is the nicest guy ever.

HC: Can you give us any sense of what the next volume has in store?

Suspense! Drama! Betrayal! Love! And most importantly, you will see Richard butt naked. That’s a view you don’t want to miss, trust us.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | @LATHeroComplex

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