Waltz Calls on Marine Experience for Sci-Fi Epic "The Last Fall"

IDW Publishing takes off for another galaxy this July in "The Last Fall," a new 5-issue miniseries from writer Tom Waltz and artist Casey Maloney, who previously collaborated on "Children of the Grave." "The Last Fall" is about a "war-hardened soldier who is finally able to return to his home planet after multiple tours, only to witness his beloved wife and son murdered by an enemy suicide bomber." The book examines the toll taken on a soldier when he leaves his family behind and his journey from devastation all the way to illumination -- and ultimately redemption.

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Waltz, who also writes IDW's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" ongoing series, recently chatted with CBR News about "The Last Fall," revealing how it was inspired by his four years as a Marine, hinting at a major "TMNT" on the horizon, teaming back up with Maloney and more.

CBR News: Tom, what is "The Last Fall" about?

Tom Waltz: Doesn't the title say it all? It's about the previous autumn. (I kid, I kid...) Seriously, "The Last Fall" is a sci-fi/military drama that focuses on Marcus Fall -- a war-hardened soldier who is finally able to return to his home planet after multiple tours, only to witness his beloved wife and son murdered by an enemy suicide bomber. Bent on revenge, Fall voluntarily returns to the war in order to take bloody revenge against those he deems responsible for his grief -- specifically, every single enemy soldier. But, in his single-minded quest for vengeance, he is exposed to devastating truths behind the war he has been fighting for so long -- and learns that the true enemy is not who's he's been led to believe it is. All told in five issues with awesome artwork from my longtime creative partner Casey Maloney, with colors by Hi-Fi Colour Design's Dusty Yee.

What inspired "The Last Fall?"

Well, I spent a number of years in the military myself, including four years as an active-duty Marine. I was single and without children when I was sent to Desert Storm, but I witnessed firsthand how extraordinarily tough it is for married servicemen and women to leave their families behind -- especially their kids (and vice versa -- never underestimate how much the families at home struggle, too, when their service member is sent into harm's way). It was seeing this play out so many times that got me thinking about what a military person would do if everything they'd been fighting for was suddenly stolen from them and all they had left was the fight. It was this seed of an idea that ultimately blossomed into "The Last Fall" -- which became equal parts tragedy, socio-religious commentary, love story, and action-adventure romp as I continued to plot and write it. That said, at its heart, it's one man's tragic journey from utter devastation to illumination and redemption.

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The best sci-fi tales like "Star Wars" and "Blade Runner" build a completely new world for their characters to live in. What's the world of "The Last Fall" like?

"The Last Fall" takes place between two planets -- Merkonia (Fall's home planet -- very much Earth-like with a futuristic feel) and the Planet Krovin (a desert planet where a pseudo-religious war is being fought). Events primarily take place in the present, in the Krovin war zone, while others are presented in flashback on Merkonia, providing the backstory necessary to show Fall's... well, fall... from loving father and dedicated soldier to hate-filled, cold-blooded killing machine. As for the planets, however, careful observers will quickly realize that they are fictional stand-ins for very real countries -- and situations -- in our very own world today.

What's your creative process like with collaborator Casey Maloney?

Honestly, Casey and I are like a well-oiled machine now. He and I have been working together for many years, starting in the early 2000s with our IDW-published creator-owned graphic novel "Children of the Grave." He and I actually started talking about "The Last Fall" shortly after "COTG" was published, when I first presented the basic idea to him. He was immediately intrigued and we both agreed it had to be our next creator-owned project together. But we never found ourselves in the right circumstances -- personally or professionally -- to sit down and actually crank it out. We both had bills to pay (that's life, eh?) so most of our collaborations were on licensed paying gigs. But we never lost our enthusiasm for the idea and when IDW green-lit it this year, we were both chomping at the bit to finally get it out of our systems, onto paper, and into reader's hands. It's definitely a passion project for both of us -- matter of fact, Casey has been absolutely integral to the overall story, infusing "The Last Fall" with his own plot ideas -- including much of the scientific/cosmic backstory we are providing. The long years we've waited to finally finish the book have given us ample time to bounce plenty of ideas off each other, not to mention the opportunity to build and mature our individual creative skills, and I'm confident "The Last Fall" is a far better final product as a result.

What sets "The Last Fall" apart from other sci-fi war tales?

I don't know what would set it apart (except, of course, Casey's cool new weapons and armor designs) but I can say that like all great science fiction, "The Last Fall" is, first and foremost, a character-driven tale that utilizes a futuristic setting to tell a very real and contemporary tale. In this case, a human tragedy that depicts Marcus Fall's personal journey through hell and back, and the many grim as well as enlightening things he learns about himself and mankind in general along the way. That's not to say we're not building a cool and/or expansive universe, because we ARE leaving the door wide open for more tales, definitely. We plan for "The Last Fall" to be a foundation for continuing adventures and future drama. In other words, if things work out, "The Last Fall" won't be the last.

Beyond the giant explosions and sci-fi elements -- will Marcus attempt to fill the void of his family with anything but bloodshed?

Absolutely. The story cuts with a sharp, bloody edge. Fall's family has been murdered and there is no escaping the dark tragedy of that dirty deed... or how it has affected his psyche. But as the story progresses, we take the reader on excursions into social commentary, inter-personal relationships, political conspiracy and, eventually, much more enlightened and hopeful territory. A human tragedy (and celebration) told in a sci-fi setting.

How did Kevin Eastman come to provide a variant cover for "The Last Fall"

Honest answer -- I asked him and he unhesitatingly said yes! Kevin and I have become very good friends over the course of our time together on "TMNT" and I can't think of a nicer guy in the comics biz. Hell, he's a great guy period. And he did a killer subscription variant for "The Last Fall" #1 -- one I'm sincerely honored to have gracing our first issue. Look for cool sub[scription]-variants from talented folks like Phil Hester and Roger Robinson in future issues, too!

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Speaking of Kevin Eastman, you also co-write "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" with him. How's that going at the moment?

Oh, man, we just keep rolling along! I just finished writing the script for "TMNT" #37 and am already busy putting together the first parts of #38. Editor Bobby Curnow, Kevin Eastman and I have our hands full with our green ninja buddies but I know none of us would have it any other way. Working on "TMNT" has been an absolute joy and blessing in my life and I continue to be as excited now as I was three years ago when we first started. Our licensing partners at Nickelodeon are awesome and our fans are out-of-this-world spectacular. As for our series, we've got some seriously cool and surprising things planned for all our characters moving toward issue #50 -- and that half-century issue's gonna be a doozy!

Any other projects coming up?

Oh yeah -- I'm very fortunate to stay a busy boy in this business and count my blessings every time I sit down in front of my word processor. I have a new "Silent Hill" comic I'm working on with the talented Aussie artist Tristan Jones called "Silent Hill Downpour: Anne's Story," which hits stores in August from IDW. It's my fourth foray into the fog-shrouded streets of that haunted little town and I'm very excited to be on the adventure with my good buddy Tristan. I continue to edit a number of books at IDW (including my personal favorites "Ghostbusters," "Kill Shakespeare" and "Borderlands") and, as mentioned above, plenty of "TMNT" writing work to keep me occupied -- including a special announcement I can only hint at now. Stand by, folks, and thanks from the bottom of my heart for your continued support of and interest in my work!

"The Last Fall" by Tom Waltz and Casey Maloney is out this July from IDW Publishing.

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