Filip Sablik and John Mahoney Talk Top Cow's 'The Last Mortal'

We’ve all dreamt about living forever, but Alec King has the unfortunate luck of actually doing so.

Friends since the sixth grade, John Mahoney and Filip Sablik came up for the idea for Last Mortal in high school. The miniseries tells the story of Alec, a typical 20-something loser who can’t get anything right. His slick friend Brian has often gotten him in and out of trouble, but recent problems with the mob now leave Alec in an impossible situation. A job that should clear Brian’s debt winds up getting him killed and Alec, filled with despair, ends up shooting himself in the head. Imagine his surprise when he wakes up!

Last Mortal, the second title released under Minotaur Press, debuts May 25th. With stunning black and white art by Thomas Nachlik, the four issue miniseries promises an interesting look at the concept of immortality. MTV Geek chatted with writers Mahoney and Sablik about their inspiration, Minotaur Press, and their lifelong friendship.

MTV Geek: Last Mortal hammers home the point that every action you take has a consequence. Why is that lesson so important for you to address?

John Mahoney: When I began writing this book we were still in high-school. I had been reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” and Filip had been plowing through the unabridged version of Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology”. This wasn’t part of any plan or homework assignment, we were simply very interested in the “Hero” (capital H) and it occurred to us that throughout world mythology there was a continuing theme of a hero’s “call to adventure”, whether he liked it or not. Essentially, the idea that the gods, fates, what have you, will call you at anytime and throw your life into complete turmoil, then leave you to sort out the consequences on your own. Filip and I decided we wanted to tell the same type of story but without all of the mystical window dressing and for a hero without any classically heroic advantages.

Filip Sablik: Alec definitely doesn’t come across as your typical hero role, but I think in the context of his world and the larger story John and I have planned we definitely see him that way.

JM: The questions we were trying to ask were not, “what are the consequences of Alec’s actions?” but instead “what influences, both internal and external, led Alec to take these life changing actions?” These decisions that led him into a life of crime, and how would the adventure unfold if there was not so much a “call” but instead a “fall”, into an inescapable trap?

FS: It’s definitely an interesting aspect of the book for us. We all know that our choices define the people we become and we’ve tried to really get across in the four issue arc what choices led Alec to the point where we first see him in issue #1. There’s also an interesting divide of who is responsible for Alec’s choices, some folks might look at the character and see him as being a victim of the people around him, others might say that he is ultimately responsible for all of his choices. Those choices definitely do have direct consequences and each one seems to lead Alec deeper and deeper down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Geek: How did you decide upon Thomas Nachlik as the artist? Why did you feel that his style would fit your book?

FS: Thomas brings a gritty, inherently noir quality to the story, which really meshed well with what we had written. I remember when I first saw his samples I was impressed with how he was able to convey motion, but also had a great stark design sensibility.

JM: What we really needed for this book was an artist confident enough in his abilities to tell the story with a minimum of expository description and could stand on its own in the absence of further coloring. From the beginning this was a noir story and as such we needed an artist who could tell a story full of blacks and whites with very little grey. As soon I saw Thomas’s renderings of Alec and Callahan I knew he was the right artist for this book.

Geek: Where did you get the inspiration for Last Mortal? Besides Alex’s immortality, are there other supernatural elements in the book?

FS: I think the original germ of the idea just came from combining two unlikely ideas. When is immortality not a gift, but a curse? When all you want to do is die. The idea of a suicidal immortal just struck us as interesting to play with when we were teenagers. Over the years, I think the idea has evolved into something more than its simplistic beginnings.

JM: When Filip and I really started to talk seriously about resurrecting this story, I had just finished teaching a psychology class at the University of Colorado. I was really struck by the similarity between Filip and my mindset in the late 90s and those of my students in the late 2000s, which I would essentially boil down to the intention of young adults everywhere to live hard, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Sure they would pay lip service to the concepts of responsibility and planning for the future, but really, when you’re 19, 20 years old, does anyone REALLY think they’re still going to be around when they’re 30? Recognizing that we had played around with this idea back when we were young pups, I saw the opportunity to explore this idea through Alec, a 20-something who lived his life as if there were no tomorrow, not for a few months or with reservations, like most people, but really balls out and for years!

In a lot of ways Alec is a grown up version of Huck Finn or the Artful Dodger, someone who lives on the fringes of society so he does not have to conform himself to society’s definitions of right and wrong. Someone who lives between the cracks in the sidewalk. The inspiration for the story then, was to explore what would happen when a bright light was shined on this outsider and an antagonist who won’t go away, who Alec can’t escape, even in death, relentlessly pursues him.

FS: The core of the story is about hitting rock bottom so that you can begin the path of redemption. Whether Alec ever achieves that redemption or not is for the readers to find out.

Other than Alec’s immortality, everything in the book is pretty grounded and there aren’t any supernatural elements. Not saying there couldn’t be some other elements down the road, but in the four issue series he is the one anomaly.

Geek: With the recent success of Echoes, how are you feeling about the Minotaur imprint?

FS: We’re feeling really good about it! Echoes has received a ton of critical acclaim, one of the best reviewed titles we’ve published since I’ve been in the Publisher chair. It’s a real honor and pleasure to be following in the talented footsteps of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal. Our plan is continue to release one Minotaur Press title at a time through 2011 and see how the imprint continues to evolve, but right now the future looks bright. I love having this avenue to explore some more unique, subtle stories.

Geek: Having worked on this idea for so many years, did the finished product live up to your expectations? How has the story changed and evolved over time?

JM: The first thing to keep in mind about the development of this story is that, until we found Thomas, Filip had always been the artist. Going back all the way to high school, the images I saw of Alec, Brian, and Candidate Callahan, the ones that I thought of when I was writing this book, were all drawn by Filip. I don’t think the “faux hawk” that Alec wears even existed when we first created the character! So visually this book is nothing like how I expected it to turn out. But I don’t think that is a negative. Thomas brings a wholly different perspective, a different energy, to the book that was frankly not there until he came into the project.

FS: It’s funny too, because it wasn’t until we received Thomas’s first character design of Alec that the character really crystallized for me. I’d been sketching this guy for years and we thought we had a really solid idea of what he looked like and who he was, but it turned out it took Thomas to really reveal him.

JM: In terms of how the story itself changed, once Filip came over as co-writer many of the more esoteric aspects of the story were minimized in favor of a stronger street level, noir, approach to storytelling. This is really a different story than the one I originally wrote, but I think part of that comes from a more mature perspective on the world. This has certainly made this a stronger story overall.

FS: I think the story definitely has matured. There are story beats you think of when you are teenager without much experience in the world that seem perfectly natural and logical and when you look back on them as an adult you realize how naïve they really were.

Geek: Are these characters based upon your friendship? In your eyes, who is Brian and who is Alec? How did it feel to finally complete this lifelong dream?

JM: In an odd way, Alec is an idealized amalgamation of Filip and I. He is bold and decisive like Filip, and he is a head in the clouds philosopher like me. He is the guy we imagined we would become if we had moved to the big city and tried to live by wit and guile. The teenage dream of life without responsibility, so obviously there would be consequences.

FS: I think Brian is a bit of an amalgamation of both of us as well. There’s a bit of that charming, “get you in trouble, but never gets caught” element in both of us.

JM: As for the second part of the question, I won’t know what it feels like to complete this dream until I can actually hold the first issue in my hands. Somehow it doesn’t quite feel real yet.

Geek: How many issues can we expect from Last Mortal? How much of a story does Alec have to tell?

JM: This is a story I have been writing for almost 20 years. The initial Minotaur miniseries might only be 4 issues but Alec has many more stories to tell. With any luck this will only be the first of many chapters. I can’t wait to see the reaction when we finally reveal the nature of Alec’s invulnerability.

FS: John, Thomas, and I have already started planning where the story will continue past the four issue Minotaur series and we have some fun creative directions we want to go. For me, this four-issue story is the origin story, the first act. The real fun begins in the second act and the reveal of the third act.

The Last Mortal #1 hits stands May 25th!

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