Stop for a moment and think about your best friend; no matter who he or she may be, think about them and what you’d do for them. Now thing about how you would feel if they died and it was your fault?
In the new Top Cow series Last Mortal, we find out that even the bad guys have best friends, and when a small-time criminal named Alec King causes the death of his best friend Brian on a two-bit hit, he goes to end it all and finds instead another beginning. After trying to end his life, Alec King discovers he can’t – he’s immortal. Taking ideas of crime noir and mixing it with the supernatural, the four issue series spins Top Cow’s newly relaunched Minotaur imprint in a startling new direction.
Last Mortal’s Alec King might be a born loser, but series artist Thomas Nachlik is anything but. A quick look at Nachlik’s work under the Top Cow banner might lead to raised eyebrows considering how different he is from what you’ve come to expect from Marc Silvestri’s company, but that’s part of the reason they hired him. As part of Last Mortal, he’s helping ringing in Top Cow’s Minotaur imprint, which promises startling different types of art with stories to match. After cutting his teeth in the big leagues with last year’s Pilot Season: Forever, the release of Last Mortal #1 this week is the next step in the European artist’s career.
Newsarama: It seems this is a continuation of a partnership between you and Top Cow after doing Pilot Season: Forever last year. How did you come to join Last Mortal, Thomas?
Thomas Nachlik: I met Filip Sablik during a portfolio review at the Wizard World Chicago 2007 - and by the way, same as most people I thought because of their "house style" I never had a shot at them. But he liked my pages and we remained in contact until he offered me Last Mortal and later even Pilot Season: Forever.
Nrama: So he offered – but what made you accept?
Nachlik: Definitely the story and a very good feeling about the writers, especially because I was able to meet Filip in person. And both - the story and the writers - met my expectations in every possible way.
Nrama: What specifically about Last Mortal’s story drew you in?
Nachlik: I was very much into Vertigo and IDW type of books at this time and Last Mortal pretty much fit into what I was looking for: a tragic story of a depressed and tortured anti-hero looking for revelation. And I knew it's gonna be black & white and I'm gonna have total control over the art.
Nrama: Like you said, you don’t fit in the style they’re known for of full-color hyper-stylized artwork, but as part of their Minotaur imprint LAST MORTAL has a rawer, black & white format. What’s that like for you, the artist?
Nachlik: For Last Mortal I wanted the reader not to miss any colors. In this case I had to "color" with textures, splatter effects etc. to suggest the possible best feeling of 3 dimensionality. It shows better in the later issues of Last Mortal when I switched from a Wacom Intuos to Cintiq and started to use Lightwave models for my backgrounds. I remember when I started to work on the full color Pilot Season: Forever in between Last Mortal issues I had to go back from this heavy black-and-white style to a more line oriented and had even some difficulties with it at the beginning.
Nrama: Can you tell us about the process before the script, where you were working with the writers to nail down the look and feel of the characters and setting?
Nachlik: Basically it was a back and forth between me and the writers. I sent them sketches of how I imagined the characters and they sent me back their corrections until we all agreed. Same about the environment, and because I work with 3D models for my settings it's even easier to show the writers my vision or re-build the whole setting without too much effort.
Nrama: One of the key tenants of the series seems to be the contrast between real and supernatural – how are you working to draw them both authentically while being able to fit in once they’re sharing the same pages?
Nachlik: I'm trying to bring them to the same level, or to make the supernatural look as real as possible. Let's say I'm drawing a scene where Alec wakes up from the dead; it's always easier to play such a sequence in front of a camera and record yourself. And basically that's what I do.
Nrama: Filip and John said they’d been working on this idea for fifteen years – could you feel all the deliberations they’d gone through when talking about the book? And if so, how did that help you in your role?
Nachlik: Even after fifteen years they were still deliberating but now I was included. I remember we were talking a lot about Alec's gun, the look of his exit wounds, scars, the process of Alec waking up from the dead, etc. All this helped me to create an image of the book in my head which on the other hand helped me to imagine all the characters and how they react in their particular roles and different situations.
Nrama: Can you describe for us a particularly challenging page that came out different than you initially intended, and why that happened?
OriginalRevised Nachlik: Page 2 and 3 were not particularly challenging, but I remember after I was finished with them John came up with the idea to give Alec a revolver instead of a semi-automatic gun. I had to redraw both pages, which also allowed me to correct some details - and there's ALWAYS something to correct - and put the "right" gun in his hand. And I gave him black fingernails and an earring.
Nrama: Filip & John will be showing off the book at a store event on May 21, 2011 – will you be doing any appearances related to the book?
Nachlik: Yes, I'll have appearances in four German comic shops at the beginning of June: Friday June 3, 2011 at Cologne’s Fantastic Store, Saturday June 4, 2011 at Mr C. Comics in Bochum, Monday June 6, 2011 in Frankfurt at T3 Terminal Entertainment, and the next day June 7 at Comix in Hannover. I might also have an "appearance" in L.A. during Top Cow's local store event. I can't tell you more at this point but it could be pretty groundbreaking if it works out the way we imagine it.