First Second to Publish Six Volumes of Hit French Martial Arts Fantasy Series, ‘Last Man’
Speculation about publishers First Second acquiring the rights to a book by French comics superstar, Bastien Vivès, first began swirling in March, and while I’d like to say I’m above such speculation, when it concerns my favourite authors, I’m just as readily excitable as anyone else. July saw things take a more solid shape, as a listing for the first volume of Last Man, Vivès’ co-authored series with Balak and Michael Sanlaville, showed up on various book retail sites, with a projected release date of March 2015. Happy news, but I’m here to bring you even better: not only are First Second translating Last Man, they’ve bought the rights to the first six volumes of the series, and will be publishing three books each year for the next two years.
When profiling Vivès earlier in the year, I put forward Last Man as the series that would be most likely to have wide appeal and attract a larger audience: already a huge hit in France, it’s inspired by gaming and Japanese comics, specifically shounen manga, incorporating a rich fantasy adventure setting with character-drive storytelling and plenty of action sequences. Here’s an official blurb for book one, “The Stranger”:
The Games are already underway when Richard Aldana arrives in town. This mysterious stranger seems to have more in common with our world than the world where the Games are held. He smokes cigarettes and wears a leather jacket while everyone else in this medieval realm is casting spells and weaving tapestries. Nobody knows what to make of him, but when Aldana enrolls in the games he quickly becomes a top contender. Eschewing magic and using only his martial arts prowess, Aldana also befriends and protects a small boy for reasons as mysterious as his origins. Who will win the games? Who is Richard Aldana, really? And what is the ultimate purpose of this grueling gladiatorial contest?
All three authors credit the influence of American pop culture — particularly films and comics — as a driving inspiration behind Last Man, as storyboard artist, animator and TV show director, Balak (who works with Marvel Comics on the new digital Infinite Comics brand), details, “Last Man is a love letter to the things we watched and loved as kids. American pop culture is a huge part of this, being comics, movies, TV shows. So, I’m pretty excited to see how the US readers will react to this. It feels like coming home, in a weird way. With a French accent.”
Sanlaville, whose career has followed the twin paths of animation and comics, concurs: “Terminator, Rambo and MacLane followed and fed my passion for drawing. I decided to make a living at it. Last Man is both my richest professional experience, and also a testimony to a generation of kids raised on American blockbusters.”
Vivès — perhaps the most familiar name to English language audiences with both his A Taste of Chlorine and Polina having been translated — is similarly excited about Last Man being published in English, “My studies focused on illustration and animation at Gobelins school of animation. After movie-making classes, I dived into comics, and my first title came out in 2007. And now Last Man comes out in the US! I was raised on Stallone, Spielberg, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Richard Corben, and Bill Watterson. . . .They inspired me to take up this life, and I’m genuinely honored to be translated into English.”
The fifth volume of Last Man was published in French this June, with Vivès, Sanlaville and Balak aiming for the series to be 12 volumes long and to release it as both an animation and video game — or for the story to extend into these mediums. No doubt the second half of the series being given English editions will depend on how well the first six books do. The combined dynamic of these incredibly talented guys and their kinetic dynamic styles working together on a book, in addition to the involvement and known quality quantity of Vivès, means this is already high on my most anticipated of 2015. If you need further convincing, take a look at the exclusive excerpt presented below.
The first volume, Last Man: The Stranger will be released on March 25, 2015; followed by The Royal Cup on June 23, with the third volume, The Chase, due to be published in October. The books will be formatted in 6 x 8 1/2 and in black and white.