Bastien Vivès, Balak, And Michaël Sanlaville Fight To The Death… Or Talk About Last Man Volume : The Stranger
Back in 2013, LastMan Tome 1 (or Last Man Volume 1) debuted in France to rave reviews and critical acclaim. Creators Bastien Vivès, Balak, and Michaël Sanlaville captured readers' hearts and minds with the fantastical tale of Adrien Velba and Richard Aldana, two unlikely strangers coming together to compete in the greatest fighting competition in all the kingdom. A wonderful blend of medieval fantasy, manga, and kung fu, Last Man has something for everyone to enjoy. While the series is currently on volume six in France, English readers will see the release of the first volume, The Stranger, through First Second Books on March 31st with volumes two and three being released later this year. Vivès, Balak, and Sanlaville were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules to answer some of my questions about the series via email.
Cameron Hatheway: The first volume was originally published in France back in 2013, so everyone who lives in France already knows what happens in the next six volumes. You've seen the acclaim and reactions it has already garnered in one country, what's it like to see it become another possible hit in another?
Bastien Vivès: I think it would be a spoiler war. And everyone will die at the end. Sorry.
Balak: Everybody liked the end of the first season here in France. We had some nasty and sad messages from heartbroken readers and it felt SO DAMN GOOD. We can only hope we will get the same reaction in the United States. Because everything sounds cooler in English, even "I HATE YOU."
Michaël Sanlaville: Arnold Schwarzenegger himself would probably cry at the end!
CH: There are many humorous situations revolving around Richard Aldana being the fish out of water in this magical medieval world. While he's definitely the "stranger" in this first volume, will his backstory be explored more in future volumes? More importantly, will he finally find some cigarettes?
BV: Hehe, yes, we will have some information about his background, etc. About the cigarette thing, if I was Richard, I would tell myself that it's a good opportunity to quit.
Balak: Come on, man. You never touched a smoke in your entire life, that's an easy thing to say. Could you live in a world without cheese and McDonalds? I don't think so. But yeah, we will learn a lot about Richard's past in later books. Actually we're currently working on a whole animated TV show that is especially about Richard's shady past. It will air in 2016.
MS: You will see that Richard's wife has big blue hair and a yellow son named Bart.
Balak: That's actually almost true, you know?
CH: The first volume is out in English at the end of March, with the second and third volumes being released later this year. Volume six is currently out in France with volume seven to be released soon, so will English readers be on the same release schedule as French readers by the final volumes?
BV: Maybe. Right now, we're publishing two volumes a year. I hope all Last Man readers can have the same release schedule. As we said previously, it will be an anime and a video game soon, so I hope English readers will have their books really fast to enjoy the whole thing.
CH: The art throughout is beautiful and filled with so much movement and action, while remaining majestic with its medieval setting. What (or who) were some of your influences, style wise?
BV: I love Richard Corben. And I love animation (Miyazaki, Don Bluth). I think it's my main influence for the style of Last Man. About the writing, it's mainly movies.
Balak: I'm only in charge of the storyboards and the co-writing with Bastien, and it's true that our main influence on this last point are Hollywood movies (we love John McTiernan, Tony Scott, Verhoeven, Spielberg, all the movies that made our heads explode when we were 12), as well as our own experiences. But about the pacing of the book, how the story is told, it's very manga-ish. Because I think this type of storytelling is the best, it's what comes naturally.
MS: They've said it all. I would add Akira Toriyama to that list, he was the one who gave me the burning passion of drawing. And French artists like Reiser and Franquin.
CH: Yourselves being three talented individuals from the backgrounds of French comics, animation, and video gaming, what was the creative process like? How much did the original ideas change since the early discussions of what the book was going to be about?
BV: At the beginning, Last Man was a small idea, and now it's huge. And I hope it will grow even bigger. I love the fact that Last Man is a universe, a place where the characters can live great adventures.
Balak: By "small idea," you mean when we actually just wanted to do a porn book in the first place? OK. Well, the creative process is a mess. These books are written and drawn with our own blood, tears and regrets. And yet, it's fun and stimulating. Oh, the human nature.
MS: Last Man is a big challenge. I would never be able to do this alone! We are three times faster and not afraid to change where the story is heading. Sometimes I can't believe Bastien and Balak's choices but I must admit: they've got big balls!
Balak: That's very sweet. I guess.
CH: I can definitely see the influences of Japanese manga and video games throughout the comic. Can we expect to see a video game based on the comic in the future? Or perhaps an anime series?
BV: Yes, the video game will be called Last Fight, and is to be released this year. And for the anime, in 2016!
Balak: Yeah and the anime is directed by Jérémie Périn, the guy who traumatized YouTube two years ago with the video clip DYE – "Fantasy." And it will be made with the French taxpayers' money because France is sometimes awesome.
MS: You have to fight!
Balak: That is very true, even though I don't know why you said that.
CH: If you were participating in the Games and had to go up against Velba and Aldana, what would your game plan consist of? How would you counter Aldana's killer K.O. punch?
BV: I will speak with the referee to move the match at midnight. Aldana will be drunk and Adrian will want to go to bed.
Balak: I would share my cigarettes with Aldana. He would be so happy, he'll give up. Then we would have a beer and check the local girls' boobs at the bar. Rating them and stuff. Because we're rude that way.
MS: Last Man is a fiction, it is not possible. But if I was the Terminator, I would beat them.
Last Man: The Stranger will be available to purchase March 31st. Special thanks to Vivès, Balak, and Sanlaville for taking time out of their busy schedules and Gina Gagliano for helping put this together.