by Brian Truitt)
After exploring the epic ideas and masterpieces of comic-book icons on film, writer Patrick Meaney has his own story that goes from the dawn of time to the end of humanity, with a lot of stops in between.
Out in August from Black Mask Studios and illustrated by Eric Zawadzki (The Killers), Last Born is a sci-fi story introducing Julia, a young girl whose father was haunted by a cave he saw that was a gateway to another world. Julia herself feels an attraction to that same place, and there she finds other lost souls in a wrecked version of the future that they somehow have to reboot for the sake of mankind.
His debut comic is a fusion of everything Meaney loves about storytelling, he says: "big cosmic philosophical ideas, intense personal character journeys and a diverse ensemble cast bouncing off each other in interesting ways."
Comics "can blend spectacle that would be hugely expensive to portray on film, with the kind of character drama that most huge budget movies don't have time for," adds the documentary director of Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont's X-Men. (Meaney also has upcoming films on Neil Gaiman and women in comics.)
While Julia is the point-of-view character because she's the closest to present day, all of the major players are from the same place but at different points in time. Meaney will be revealing backstory for each of them in various issues and also parsing out info over the overall mysteries of Last Born.
It's a combination of the intense character drama of Magnolia and the large-scale sci-fi of The Empire Strikes Back, according to Meaney.
"I started out by thinking about what it would be like if you placed a disparate group of characters in a big fantasy setting and focused more on the impact of this on them personally than on the quest they're on," the writer says.
Meaney's mainly worked in low-budget film, and he admits that Last Born is a reaction against the limits if what he can produce. "I wanted to go nuts and do a massive story I would never be able to budget for."
At the same time, though, editing as a filmmaker has taught Meaney about storytelling, and working in music video showed him the best ways to construct a tale visually.
He sees Terrence Malick as a big inspiration in the way he juxtaposes words and pictures to create an experience that's more than the sum of its parts, Meaney says, but the writer sees Morrison as a major influence both as a writer and a person in general.
"I always wanted to make films and tell stories, but reading The Invisibles in high school brought a lot of things together and made me realize that stories aren't just fictional entertainment, they can make an impact on the real world," Meaney explains.
"Most of the people who read Action Comics No. 1 are dead and forgotten, but Superman is still around and stronger than ever. Grant made me think about that and realize the power that a story can have."
One hallmark of Morrison's work that Meaney is also hoping to capture is the use of cosmic scale to dramatize personal feeling.
"Throughout comics history, I think it's amazing that some of the most popular creators, from (Jack) Kirby to (Alan) Moore to Morrison, have all been filled with mad ideas and insane new concepts," Meaney says. "That's what makes the medium so special: It's two people working together to build a visual world, with no limits, and I'm hoping that Last Born can be a part of that."