The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman & Alice Cooper | Review


Published on Nov 30, 2017


The Last Temptation is a horror story and a comic was born from the collaboration between Neil Gaiman and rock legend Alice Cooper. In its first edition, the story was divided into 3 chapters, the first of which was included in the booklet of the self titled album of Alice Cooper.

In this special version published for the twentieth anniversary of the first output, unreleased in Italy before now, is this the complete story, as well as an extensive series of mouth-watering add-on content.

The volume The Last Temptation is opened by an introduction written by Neil Gaiman in 1995, in which the author explains how he and Alice Cooper are put in contact to collaborate in the creation of the story of the eponymous concept album of the american musician (it's a music album in which all tracks are connected between them, in order to create a story whose thread runs through the whole album).

Bob Pfeifer of Epic Records approached Gaiman behind the specific request of Alice Cooper, that it would welcome the cooperation of the author of the Sandman to create with him the story behind his album in the studio.

In the introduction it is also explained the process that led to the choice of topics to cover, the story and the setting. Source of inspiration were the classic horror films of the Italian series B, of which Alice Cooper is a scholar, Faust, and the “Grand Guignol, the French theatre of blood and horror, so famous in the early years of the century.”

After having discussed together the details, Gaiman is put to work on the story: the protagonist would be a guy named Steven, who one day meets “a Thespian that had a strange resemblance to Alice Cooper and that was part of the spectrum machiavellian, part commentator, part of the devil”.

When Cooper and Gaiman met again, had been passed six months, and Gaiman suggested to the american musician of some of the ideas for the lyrics and the titles of the songs of his album. From the joint work of these two sacred monsters are born both the album and the comic The Last Temptation: the one that initially was just a story in the mind of Neil Gaiman was coming to life in the form of a concept album of one of the most famous and controversial legends of rock history.

Of course, a comic book is not made of words alone: Dave McKean had done the album cover, which has also become the cover of the comic book The Last Temptation. Gaiman also asked the collaboration to the illustrations by Michael Zulli, the “double of Salvador Dali” with whom he had already worked for the Sandman and Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, while Todd Klein did the original lettering.

The intent of Gaiman was to create a story not too deep, but rather “a comic book to be read while the album was in the background”.

It is the 30th of October, and the guys are all excited for the Halloween party the following day. Steven is a teenager surrounded by friends that their friends are not, and that is having fun to tease him.

That day, the guys walking near the city Hall, coming across a self-styled Thespian who offers one of them an occasion not to be missed: watch the show of his “Theatre of the Real: The Grand Guignol”. The Thespian will never be called by name, and yet it seems to resemble someone...

The bizarre impresario seems particularly interested in Steven, who is convinced to witness the elusive spectacle of his guest. The “Theater of the Real” is so called because it is, according to its creator, a realistic representation of what awaits Steven outside of the theatre: a life of useless and empty, made of pain and loneliness.

But Steven is not so unfortunate, because now you can choose between two alternatives: a return to the real world and become “one of them”, in a hostile city in which he is completely alone and misunderstood, or never become great and become a part of the cast of the theatre. Forever.

In a horror story such as this, the visual aspect is of vital importance: the illustrations by Michael Zulli convey the anxiety, the fear and the loss experienced by Steven, thanks to a scene-setting created by the plates are very suggestive, which also represent a dream scenes:

Also the faces of the characters are rendered in a very expressive, to be able to convey to the reader what they are trying to do and their intentions; the colorful illustrations are very clear and explicit and, thanks to the contribution of the lyrics, often infused with humor, at times, somewhat grim and sarcastic, and give life to the scenes vivid and lively:

As you can see from the extract above, the lofty language and the lexicon, abandoned, the mysterious Thespian, united to his appearance and his clothing, make him look like a character out of time.

We will never know what type of entity it is: if it is a ghost, a monster or the Devil in person don't know, but this is all part of the charm of the story, as also the fusion of dream and reality.

The mysterious theatre is in fact located in a sort of half-way between the real world and that of dreams, is not a physical place real, because no one but Steven can't see it, but rather the memory of a real place. For this, also everything that happens within it, and the consequent visions that Steven will have, even once released from it, you can never tell if they are real or only the result of hallucinations created by the Thespian in the mind of Steven.

That in question is a special edition to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of The Last Temptation, until now unpublished in Italy, which also contains many extras.

In addition to the original cartoon and the introduction of Neil Gaiman, at the end of the story there is an afterword by Michael Zulli, in which the illustrator admits that he approached the music of Alice Cooper and had fallen in love thanks to her collaboration in this project. There are also more illustrations by Zulli and some of his plates in black-and-white.

Then if you want to learn more about the development of the creative process that led to the creation of The Last Temptation, then you will find interesting reading from the first letter that Neil Gaiman sent to Alice Cooper after their first meeting, in which Gaiman begins to sketch out the guidelines of what will be the constituent elements of history.

The volume is further enhanced by the presence of the synopsis and original script, written both by Neil Gaiman, and different proposals for the cover, designed by Dave McKean.

The issue is really very rich, and allows you to penetrate more deeper into the story, and in its symbolism, thanks to the words of Gaiman. The story, short enough, it flows smoothly, and keeps alive the interest of the reader, who feels compelled to read on, in search of the longed for end.

The themes are, as has specified the same author, very simple, but the impact, also thanks to the illustrations evocative, and at times strong, as you would expect from a good horror story.

A small jewel that can not miss in the collection of every fan of the genre and of every good fan of the healthy, old rock ' n ' roll, to which we dedicate the video for “Lost in America”, a song included in the album of Alice Cooper The Last Temptation, and where you can admire some of the tables taken from the homonymous comic story:

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