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The Last Temptation was a limited comic series originally published in the now defunct Marvel Music imprint and republished in a collected volume by Dark Horse. It was developed by Neil Gaiman and Alice Cooper originally as Cooper's concept album of the same name, but eventually was adapted as a comic by Gaiman and illustrated by Michael Zulli.
The story focuses on a boy name Steven who, on the day before Halloween, encounters the Showman and his Theatre of the Real. Inside Steven is treated to a show of all the horrors of the future, and the loneliness and doubt that adulthood offers. While this fails to crack Steven's will, he does find himself taken with the Showman's lovely female assistant, Mercy. After leaving the theatre, the Showman proceeds to attack Steven's sense of security through various mind games and eventually offers him an escape from having to face the future, for a price of course.
This graphic novel provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Though they do help Steven in very minor ways.
- Becoming the Mask: Mercy was created to feign interest in Steven, but appears to really love him in the end.
- Body Surf: The main method of the Showman's psychological attacks is to talk to Steven through the people around him, and then switching out of them at just the right moment.
- Broken Aesop: The Theatre of the Real is pretty much founded on convincing children that its broken aesops are the real deal.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: The Showman, and his cane, loves these.
- Deal with the Devil: The Showman offers to save Steven from all the horrors of being an adult, in exchange for his future and all the potential he ever had.
- Expy: The Showman pops up in another Gaiman/Zulli graphic novel: The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch. He's running another sort of circus show with mysterious powers, and he even sings Alice Cooper songs (badly), but because of his general lack of (obvious) malicious intent it's a little up in the air whether or not it's really the same Showman or if they were just fond of this type of character.
- Glamour Failure: Mercy, in spite of all her allure and charm, doesn't appear to have any skin on her back.
- Kid Hero: Steven.
- Kill It with Fire: The Climax.
- Large Ham: The Showman knows how to play it up like its nobody's business.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: The Theatre of the Real.
- Louis Cypher: While the Showman denies that he is the Devil (he claims the Devil is a "huge concept"\x9D), but the end of the story implies that if he is not the Devil he is at least something very close to it.
- Magic Mirror: The Showman likes to appear in mirrors to mess with Steven's mind, effectively making any mirror magic when he feels like it.
- Non-Human Sidekick: The Showman's cane, and his legion of little goblin things.
- Our Angels Are Different: The look like Alice Cooper, maybe.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Sort of zombieish, but still called ghosts.
- Our Souls Are Different: The Showman claims he doesn't traffic in souls, but he's always willing to buy your future, and all that you ever could have been.
- Scaled Up: The Showman at the story's climax.
- Shotacon: While nothing explicit ever happens, Steven has a pretty healthy sex drive for a kid his age. Because of this, the Showman appeals to Steven's lust to draw him in.
- Shout-Out: The librarian is reading a book by Richard Maddock, a minor character and novelist in The Sandman.
- Not to mention the kid dressing up as Dream.
- Talking in Your Dreams: The other part of The Showman's attacks on Steven's mind.
- Time Abyss: The Showman, for various reasons, gives off the impression that he is as old as the human race itself.
- Town with a Dark Secret: The Theatre of the Real pops up in Steven's town about every five years, but no one in the town is really in on the secret.
- Transhuman Treachery: In a way, this is what the Showman offers to Steven and all the children he takes. "When you've become the thing that scares, there's nothing to be scared of ever again."\x9D
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Mercy.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Steven beats the ghost theatre by imagining fire to burn it down.