The rock band Queen asked the immortal question, “Who Wants To Live Forever?” on the “Highlander” soundtrack in the ’80s. Writers Filip Sablik and John Mahoney plan on answering that question with this May’s “Last Mortal” from Top Cow’s Minotaur Press imprint. The four issue miniseries, drawn by “Pilot Season: Forever’s” Thomas Nachlik, kicks off with a pair of friends and petty criminals named Alec and Brian who find themselves working a job that does not end well for either of them. While trying to square a debt, Brian finds himself on the wrong side of a gun. Distraught, Alec heads to the safehouse, turns the gun on himself and pulls the trigger. Problem is, he wakes up. It would appear that Alec, unlike most, is an immortal.
Sablik and Mahoney originally dreamt the story up when they were high school chums, but the pair have grown up since then and included themes of maturity and redemption in their tale. With an eye towards examining the darker side of living forever, the writers hope to offer a different perspective on immortality, giving Alec a chance to make up for parts of his misspent life now that he cannot escape it. CBR News talked with Sablik and Mahoney about their hero, his motivations and how the blessing of immortality can actually be a curse.
CBR News: This book is going to focus on Alec as the protagonist, but what is the Alec/Brian relationship like prior to the first issue? How does it change as the book kicks off?
Filip Sablik: Well, Alec and Brian’s relationship doesn’t really change after the first issue with Brian being dead and all!
John Mahoney: Actually, Alec and Brian’s shared history forms the spine of this story. In later issues we will be showing how these two met, how they spent their college years, and how they ended up living down by the docks. Brian might not get a lot of screen time in the first issue but his influence on Alec will be felt throughout the series. Despite Brian being dead, Alec just can’t escape him.
Sablik: Absolutely. Brian ends up being the character that continues to influence Alec’s decisions and drive him forward. The flashbacks of their shared past hopefully help illuminate who Alec is for the reader through the course of the series.
How does Alec respond to his newfound immortality? Does he see it as a novelty, a chance to right past wrongs, or something else entirely?
Mahoney: He actually doesn’t have much chance to think about it. #2 opens with Alec receiving an unexpected, and very unwelcome, visitor almost immediately after he realizes his immortality at the end of #1.
Sablik: I don’t think we want to give away too much, because a good part of the enjoyment of the story is seeing how Alec responds and adapts to his new situation. He feels like he’s been backed up against a wall, the final wall, and he can’t back out. It forces him to move forward with his life and deal with the consequences of his past choices, whether he likes to or not.
What is the world of “Last Mortal” like? Is it basically our world with immortals or are there other mystical/supernatural elements involved?
Mahoney: Alec’s immortality is the only supernatural element introduced in this first story arc. As far as Alec can tell, this world is indistinguishable from the “real” world except that no amount of damage, no matter how painful, will result in his release into death.
Sablik: We wanted to keep the story as grounded as possible to help readers relate to Alec’s story. The mystery of the true nature of Alec’s immortality is something we want to tackle in future stories, but for now, like so many things in life… we don’t know why he can’t die.
Given that Alec gets a second chase after his failed suicide attempt, does “Last Mortal” deal with redemption as a major them?
Mahoney: I hope this isn’t a cop out, but Filip and I really tried to leave that up to the reader to decide. We feel our job is to present a dilemma that anyone could imagine falling into and then show how we think we would get out of it. Essentially, how would you act if, after living a life free of responsibility, suddenly all of this freedom were stolen from you, even the freedom to dictate the time and place of your own death? We then present how we think Alec would deal with this problem. Whether the results will be redemptive or damning remains to be seen.
Sablik: The only thing I would add is that I’d like to think we show hints that Alec is a guy capable of being a better man than who he is now. That he is capable of redemption, but certainly it would be a long, difficult climb for him.
What drew you to the idea of living forever?
Mahoney: We wanted to explore the opposite side of the classic fantasy of immortal life. Instead of looking at it as a gift we looked at it as a curse. Instead of focusing on the freedom this would bring, we tried to delve into how this ability could tie you down, limit you, and take away your options.
Sablik: We’ve always loved combining two unlike ideas and seeing how the contrast and contradiction creates interesting story possibilities. A suicidal immortal? Okay, that’s an interesting idea, let’s see where that leads us.
Mahoney: For a guy like Alec, who frankly has nothing to live for, who has screwed up his life about as bad as anyone could, the recognition, unconscious as it may be, that he could escape this hell anytime he wanted was the only thing keeping him going. So we took away this escape and, hopefully, revealed how trapped Alec really was. Watching Alec trying to escape from this trap of a life is what makes the story exciting.
Given that you two have been working on this idea since high school, how have you managed to keep the idea fresh across the years?
Mahoney: Although the basic plot has remained unchanged over the years, we have kept the story fresh by updating Alec’s perception of the events around him. In high school we wrote about how we thought Alec would act. Now we have enough life experience to write about how we have acted in similar circumstances (minus the gunfights, of course!).
Sablik: And as teenagers, young writers, I think we focused more on plot and creating scenes we thought were interesting. As we’ve both evolved as adults and writers, we’ve both become more fascinated with character. Who are the characters in the story? What makes them happy, angry, scared and so on? The story is a continually evolving process and having this much time to develop it has hopefully enabled us to trim away the pieces that were unneeded and focus on the scenes that have real meaning.
How did you decide to work with artist Thomas Nachlik on the book?
Sablik: I actually met Thomas at WizardWorld Chicago in 2007 during a portfolio review when I was the VP of Marketing & Sales for Top Cow. I immediately thought he was fantastic, but told him I didn’t think he’d be a good fit for Top Cow. After the show, I emailed him and mentioned I had a personal project I was working on and wondered if he might be interested in collaborating with me and John. Thomas really responded to the idea and the first issue script. From the first character sketches he sent over, I knew he was our guy. He has added so much to the characters, tone and sensibilities of the story, I can’t imagine another artist drawing Alec and his cohorts at this point. Which is kind of funny, because originally I was going to draw the series myself!
“Last Mortal” begins in May from Top Cow/Minotaur Press. You can read a preview of the first issue right here on CBR.