Last Man Blog Tour: Interview with Bastien Vives, Balak, and Michael Sanlaville

Last Man

Bastien Vives studied illustration and animation at the Ecole des Gobelins. After movie-making classes, he dived into comics, and his first title came out in 2007.

Balak (aka Yves Bigerel) works as a storyboard artist, 2D animator and TV show director in France. He works with Marvel Comics on the new digital Infinite Comics brand, as a storyboard artist (Avengers VS X-men with Mark Waid, Guardians of the Galaxy with Brian M. Bendis, Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted with Jason Aaron and Jason Latour).

Michael Sanlaville graduated from the Emile Cohl school, and later the Gobelins, after which he followed twin careers in animation (at the Xilam studio) and in comics with Casterman Publishers.

  1. As Last Man is a collaborative work, could you walk us through the creative process?

 

It’s kind of like being in a rock band. Bastien comes up with an idea for a song: “it’s gonna be in B minor, it’s moody and dark, here are some chords for the chorus.” I try to find other chords progressions for a verse, have a nice bridge leading up to the chorus, and write some lyrics on top of that. Michael and Bastien take that structure and buff it up with beautiful guitar riffs, drum patterns and make the mixing and mastering of the track. The three of us listen to the result, make some adjustment and voila. Yeah, it’s definitely like being in a rock band. Well, minus the sex. And the drugs. And, you know, the rock’n’roll.

 

  1. Who are your inspirations in the comic industry?

 

Bastien loves Richard Corben’s art and Bill Watterson ‘s Calvin & Hobbes. Michael is a fan of Akira Toriyama, Katsuhiro Otomo and he loves traditional, old school french bande dessinée as well, like Franquin, Greg or Reiser…

As a teenager, I spent a insane amount of time redrawing pages of Rumiko Takahashi, Mitsuru Adachi, Janry, Erik Larsen and Sal Buscema. And Paul Smith’s X-Men are my favorites. And Alan Davis’ Excalibur. And . . . okay I’ll stop.  

 

  1. G. Willow Wilson recently posted an excellent response to a criticism of her upcoming collaborative work A Force (http://gwillowwilson.com/post/118822887543/dr-lepores-lament) .  Comics often come under fire for their portrayal of women. At the end of The Last Man: The Stranger, Marianne shows that there is more to her role than just being eye candy. Do you work with an awareness of stereotypes attached to comics particularly where female representation is concerned? Do you actively work to subvert these stereotypes?

 

We don’t actively work to subvert anything, we are too busy creating believable characters, people you care about. I mean, Marianne is a mix of Bastien’s own mother and some friends. As well as Richard. Richard seems like a big macho alpha man, but he is weak in his own way and makes a lot of bad choices. Marianne is a mother, a woman, and a badass but she makes mistakes too. By trying to make real characters, I think you move things in the right direction. In short, we don’t have an agenda, we just draw what we like. We happen to like strong and independent women as much as cheesecake, as much as many other things.

 

  1. Do we ever find out what lies behind Cristo Canyon’s mask?

 

Yes. French readers know what’s behind the mask. But there will be many other surprises with Cristo….

 

  1. As your work is originally in French, are there any particular situations that make more sense, or in other words, would be more comprehensible to a French audience? To elaborate, do you think there was anything lost in translation?

 

We think that the English translation is great, very faithful. The main difference is that in French there is a lot more cursing and bad language, you know: “Putain, merde”…  Ah, The Suarez twins in the first volume are inspired by famous French astronomy popularizers Igor and Grishka Bogdanov. They are our Neil DeGrasse Tyson, well, not as brilliant and with a very peculiar look, but we genuinely like them. So this is a nod only French people can notice. We take inspiration from some famous people when we are searching for a design. In later books you can find characters that look like Rutger Hauer, Jean Reno, Freddie Mercury… So the references are more international.

 

  1. What have you recently read that you would recommend to our readers?

Bastien: Petit, a great book by Gatignol and Hubert. Incredible drawings and a cruel story with giant ogres, really impressive. I hope you can find it in the US. And recently, I went back to Hokuto no Ken by Tetsuo Hara. To me, it’s one of the best comics/manga/bd of all time , every page blows my mind .

Michael: Punk Rock Jesus, by Sean Gordon Murphy

Balak: Innocent by Shinichi Sakamoto and Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith. His series MBQ was awesome too. Felipe Smith is awesome. Read Felipe Smith’s stuff. It’s awesome.