Brian K. Vaughan’s acclaimed comic is coming to the small screen. But 2015’s Y: The Last Man will outshine the original.
Last Man Standing
For anyone unfamiliar, Y: The Last Man is a benchmark 2003 comic book series from acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughan. As the title suggests, the story follows the last two mammals left alive with a Y chromosome after a catastrophic plague: Yorick, the last human, and his capuchin monkey Ampersand. For the most part, the series was a globe hopping, episodic adventure yarn balanced with a focus on the characters.
After bouncing around development hell at New Line Cinema for years as a feature film project, the film rights reverted back to the creators, Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra. I call this great news. While New Line has produced some fantastic films, Y: The Last Man is a highly serialized and lengthy story that could only be done justice through episodic media. And now, Vaughn and FX are teaming up with producer Nina Jacobson to make a TV series happen.
Jacobson is most notably a top producer and co-writer of the entire film adaptation of The Hunger Games franchise and seems a sharp fit for the series, and Vaughan is no stranger to television, either. He was a long time producer on Lost, writing seven episodes for the series and working as a story editor for many more, and was an Executive Producer on the Stephen King adaptation Under The Dome.
Because the series is being adapted by FX, not all of the rather adult themes and plotlines from the comics will be able to make the jump into the adaptation. But if they do it right, Y: The Last Man will retain all the edge that made it an important read in the first place. In fact, the TV series actually has a chance to update – and even move beyond – the original books.
Has Anything Changed in a Decade?
The central motif of Vaughan’s story is how the world treats women (and therefore what it would mean for only women to survive an apocalyptic plague). But keep in mind the first issue of Y: The Last Man was published more than thirteen years ago. The first issue of Y: The Last Man’s features a page of statistics of how many women are a part of different sectors of life in 2002 (such as politics, manufacturing, and the like).
The top statistics include (in the context of all men having died) that “495 of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are dead” as well as “99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers.” At first glance these statistics seem wholly unbelievable by today’s standards, but more contemporary analysis of the same trends seems to suggest little improvement in the world since Vaughan’s 2002 analysis.
A report conducted by the American Management Association concluded that, in 2015, women made up only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEO’s. While this is up roughly three percent from the 2002 statistic Vaughan quoted, it is certainly not the improvement expected in a decade. Similarly, a study of “traditionally male” trade jobs in 2013 New Zealand matches the statistics from Y: The Last Man almost exactly, implying that nothing has changed in over a decade.
Ironically, Y: The Last Man specifically singles out New Zealand as a more female-progressive country in the context of the story.
While it’s clear that Vaughan was spot on with these startling statistics, and that they are still far too accurate today, at least one thing has changed in the years since the comics. While it is a mostly hollow victory Forbes reports that, “in 2002, 77% of Americans reported being comfortable with women holding leadership positions, a sentiment that grew 12% by 2007 to 89% of the nation.” American sentiment seems to precede actual change.
At any rate, the point is that the main thrust of the series hasn’t lost any importance in the last decade. If anything, the issue of gender equity in the workplace is a more mainstream political concern today.