What if the Big Bang was not the first of its kind? And, more importantly, not the last? Her whole life, Julia has yearned for adventure, and when she falls through a rupture in spacetime, she finally gets her wish. Last Born is a cosmological thrill-ride marks the comic writing debut of Patrick Meaney, director of Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, and features art from Eric Zawadski.
We got a chance to talk to the two of them about this new series from Black Mask Studios.
Graphic Policy: For those who might not know about the series, what is it about?
Patrick Meaney: Last Born follows Julia, a frustrated teenager in the early 1960s who yearns for adventure. When she falls through a rupture in space-time to a desolate future, it’s up to her and a small group of friends to restart life on Earth before it’s destroyed forever. The series blend big apocalyptic spectacle with a focus on characters and emotional experience.
GP: How did the series come about?
PM: I developed the idea for the series slowly over the past few years. I knew I wanted to do something with people from different times and places overlapping against the backdrop of this epic conflict. I like action movies and blockbusters like Empire Strikes Back or Aliens a lot, but I also love character drama like Magnolia or Six Feet Under, and I wanted to try and bring those two worlds together and mash all the stuff I love into one series.
Eric Zawadski: I collaborated with Patrick on a short for the Occupy Anthology and enjoyed working with him enough to ask if he wanted to do something bigger. He sent me a couple of ideas, but I fell in love with this one.
GP: With the idea of the Big Bang not being the first, and not being the last, it got me to thinking of cycles, life and death, and how parents and children tie into all of that.
PM: Right from the title, the series is all about the overlap of birth and death. As it goes on, we deal a lot with the idea of cycles, and the intersection of creation and destruction. I’ve always wondered what existed before the Big Bang, there must have been something, right? And what will happen after our world gets wiped out for whatever reason. There’s always going to be something new rising up, and whatever’s next might have no idea we ever existed, in the same way that we all have thousands of generations of ancestors, but have no idea who they were or what their lives were like. By combining a disparate group of characters from different points in time, I wanted to show the interconnected nature of the entire human experience.
GP: A lot of the first issue deals with a daughter and a father. Was it important to have a female lead, and how did you decide on that?
PM: When I approach a story, I’m usually trying to find a different take or approach to the material than what I’ve seen a lot of, and since there’s been more stories with male protagonists in the past, I often gravitate towards a female protagonist. The original approach to the story was going to be a bit more ensemble based, but in searching for the best way to bring people into it, Julia emerged as the clear choice for a central viewpoint character for the audience, and we built the world around her.
EZ: Each issue focuses on the point of view of a different character. In issue 2 we see James’ story and in issue 3 we follow Eden. But Julia is the most logical entry point for the audience because her time, the 1960’s, is closest to ours.
GP: The first issue jumps around a lot as far as genres, there’s some super natural, some sci-fi, family drama. And the issue jumps around in worlds. What got you to want to change up the tone of the first issue, instead of just sticking with sci-fi, or super natural aspects?
PM: I wanted to make sure there was a clear grounding before getting into the headier sci-fi stuff, and tracking back into Julia’s life and world she came from seemed like a good way to do that. Even people who become heroes or involved in massive battles come from somewhere and have personal problems, and I wanted to explore the roots of all these characters and show their personal lives as well as their more heroic struggle.
GP: Patrick, you’ve been involved in the movie industry, though a lot of those movies have to do with comics, what got you interested in doing a comic?
PM: I’ve loved comics for a long time, and love the kind of storytelling that you can only do in comics. Reading a work like Watchmen or The Invisibles, there’s an incredible density of ideas and emotion contained in any given page or panel. Comics can do things that movies can’t, both in terms of presenting a story with a scope that would be cost prohibitive to film, and in terms of the storytelling style. I love the challenge of writing comics, the need to encapsulate a vast world in a series of images and moments. I love doing movies, but comics offer a bigger canvas and an entire different way to tell a story. And, having loved reading comics so much, creating my own was irresistible.
GP: Eric, how did you come on board the comic?
EZ: I’ve been following Patrick’s writing since his pop culture blog way, way back when. I appreciated his smart analysis of comics, TV and movies. A couple of years ago he wrote on twitter that he was looking for an artist to do a short story and I jumped at the chance. We worked well together on that, so we decided to work on something bigger.
GP: The coloring for the first issue stands out, especially Julia’s red dress. How important was that coloring to the art and storytelling?
EZ: Coloring is probably my weakest skillset in producing comics. I’m still learning, but I think I’ve grown a lot while working on Last Born. The biggest challenge is portraying an ash covered wasteland while still making everything look interesting. My solution for that was to give our cast a very colorful appearance.
GP: This is a four issue limited series, but any chances it might extend beyond that into another volume?
PM: The plan is to do three four issue volumes, which will tell the entire story of Last Born. When I first presented the story to Eric, I included everything, and we’re planning to tell that whole story over the next year or two.
GP: What can we expect from you two next?
PM: As I mentioned, we’re planning to work together on Last Born Volume II once this initial run is wrapped. I have a few more comics projects in development, as well as a film project called Trip House, which is coming together slowly, but surely. I’m also working on a documentary about Neil Gaiman that I’m currently editing.
EZ: I’ve got another comic that I created with Ryan K. Lindsay called Headspace, which comes out regularly from Monkeybrain Comics. I’ve also got a couple of smaller projects cooking with various writer friends, including my long-time collaborator Danny Djeljosevic.