Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s “Y: The Last Man” tells the story of a world, much like our own, where every living organism with a Y-chromosome suddenly drops dead. That is, everything besides a struggling street magician named Yorick Brown and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand.
Originally running from 2002-08, the story of Yorick’s journey to figure out what happened to all of them men, while also bearing the weight of being the last one alive, took readers across the country and the world. With news that FX is developing the title for an on-screen series, we figured it’s a great time to explain exactly why “Y: The Last Man” is ripe for television glory.
WARNING: The following list contains major spoilers for "Y: The Last Man."
In the very beginning of “Y: The Last Man,” readers are immediately dropped into chaos like a WWII paratrooper. As stated earlier, every living creature with a Y-chromosome simultaneously dies. We’re talking humans, dogs, cows and everything else. And it wasn’t pretty, either. Blood came out of every possible orifice and they all collapsed in agony.
The results were even more chaotic as a world full of grieving mothers, sisters, lovers, friends and coworkers were stuck in a state of shock. First responders are instantly overwhelmed, if not dead themselves, and even the military is incapacitated. Imagine that being the opening scene of a television show. That would be the pilot of the year, hands down!
The premise of “Y: The Last Man” has everything today’s television viewer wants. Drama, complex relationships, relatable characters and on-screen diversity. But none of that would’ve happened if it weren’t for the tragic beginning.
Like in any post-apocalyptic world, the survivors of the plague in “Y: The Last Man” eventually learned to cope. Some chose to live a life of solitude while others found or formed communities and new families to get them through. No matter which way they chose, no one remained the same.
One of these groups that was formed was called The Daughters of the Amazons; in reference to the woman-only warrior race of Greek mythology. While they weren’t trained in the combat techniques of gladiators, they were just as deadly. Especially if you were the last man living. Yorick had a sister named Hero – their parents were big fans of Shakespeare, obviously – who had to find her own way in the new world, so she joined the Daughters of the Amazon and cut off her left breast as a sign of her loyalty and devotion to their cause.
Not to get overly political, but, in far more cases than not, politics is full of men. Senators, governors, mayors and civil servants of all levels tend to be jobs in politics traditionally held by men. So what happens when they all suddenly drop dead and leave the world’s governments grasping at straws? Their wives takeover, sometimes by force.
Politics actually got even more tense in “Y: The Last Man” as the wives of the dead Republicans staged an armed takeover of the White House. While Yorick’s mother, who was one of only 73 women in Congress, tried to negotiate, things quickly turn violent during this attempt to fill the power vacuum.
With today’s political climate, it would be refreshing to see a situation we can comfortably say won’t play out in real life. [Note: They also throw in a quick Hillary Clinton joke. It’s nice to see those aged well.]
Trauma has different effects on different people. Some turn towards a dark place and are never the same. Others use it as motivation to become the best versions of themselves. One applies to the Daughters of the Amazon and the latter applies to the women of Marrisville.
While Yorick was fleeing some of his many, many pursuers with the help of Agent-355 and Dr. Allison Mann, they were forced to jump off of a moving train. They found themselves outside of a quiet, peaceful town in Ohio. Unfortunately, peaceful times never last long (or make for good comics).
The Daughters of the Amazons hit the scene, with Hero in tow, looking to finish what they interpreted as a divine mission from God to kill the last living man in all known existence. Little did they know that the women from Marrisville were actually former inmates of a nearby prison who were enjoying their second chance at life and were more than willing to throw down when necessary.
Fact: Yorick Brown was the last known living man on the planet.
Easily Forgettable Fact: This doesn’t include those orbiting the planet.
For a brief moment, it looked as if Yorick wasn’t going to have to bare the pressure of preventing human extinction all on his own. While the plague clearly affected all of the men on earth for unknown reasons, there were two floating around Earth’s orbit from a previously-launched space mission that were due for a landing.
But how would the plague affect them? Would the symptoms take effect as soon as they entered the atmosphere? Did they get lucky and miss out on whatever wiped out half of the population? And how do you land a space shuttle when there's no Mission Control to guide you during reentry?
This is the kind of suspense and mystery that can carry at least half of a show's season if written correctly.
A list about “Y: The Last Man” wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t take some time out for everyone’s favorite Capuchin monkey who has a knack for throwing his own feces despite wearing a diaper. Ampersand is a helper monkey in training who makes Yorick's life a living hell before the world went insane.
While Yorick is important because he’s the last living human male, Ampersand is just as important because he’s the last living male of his own species, as well. Whatever kept one of them alive, probably kept the other alive as well. Or, at least that’s the theory.
Despite not speaking any comprehensible lines, Ampersand is probably the most sympathetic characters of the series. So much so, that it’s hard to watch him be put in any danger or separated from the people he loves. But that also leads to the potential for numerous great reunions, and scenes like those always do well on television.
Relatable characters are the most beloved and most engaging in any series, be it on television or in comics. The most effective way of making them so is by exposing both them to the audience both at their strongest and their most vulnerable. For most of “Y: The Last Man,” Yorick was an emotionally stunted jokester.
Readers got far much more than they could’ve bargained for when he was dropped off with one of Agent 355’s old spy comrades, who put him through some truly intense psychological torture. It forced Yorick to admit several harsh truths and recall bitter memories that helped explain why he became the man he was. There’s a very dark reason for why he took up being an escape artist and he finally shows us how deeply his survivor’s remorse affects him.
Reading this part of the story is jaw-dropping enough, but watching it take place over the course of an entire episode would have people talking for weeks.
Dr. Allison Mann was introduced to the story because of her specialized training in bioengineering. She hoped she could find out what caused this worldwide plague and help figure out how to slowly repopulate the planet. Over time, she became more than just the smart friend in the group as readers learned more about her past. But the most shocking revelation came when she confessed to her own guilt that she may have caused the massive extinction.
As an expert in asexual reproduction, Dr. Mann was hard set on creating the first living clone of herself. The biggest catch was that she’d have to let it grow inside of her during a full-term pregnancy. When she went into labor, the cloned child was lost, leaving her unable to ever bear a child. And that’s also when plague hit. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
Was her taking blame for the whole thing a bit overzealous? Maybe. But you can’t rule it out either.
A common problem with a lot of stories, whether it be in comics, on television or any other medium, is that the characters and narratives tend to get too comfortable in one place. “Y: The Last Man” could’ve easily been a story about a group of characters traveling back and forth across the Unite States. But a worldwide catastrophe deserves to truly be explored.
Eventually, Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann realized they couldn’t find the answers they needed from the United States government and headed overseas. However, things don't go exactly as planned. To keep everyone’s adrenaline pumping, Vaughan and Guerra introduced drug-dealing pirates and even a frickin' submarine into the mix.
The main characters would go on to visit Japan and parts of Europe before all was said and done, but they almost didn’t make it after a torpedo sunk their ship in the middle of the ocean.
Espionage has long been a part of politics and war, so it’s not a huge logical leap to presume that General George Washington had his own elite group of spies working for him that could still be in action today. That’s the premise of the Culper Ring.
The Culper Ring in “Y: The Last Man,” like every other governmental agency after the plague hit, survived because of the strength of its female operatives. These women were recruited and taught how to infiltrate and annihilate its targets in the most efficient way possible. This is why Agent 355 was assigned with protecting Yorick on his journey and it helps explain why the ranks didn't completely disintegrate when the plague hit.
Adding this aspect to the story gives it a flare of mystery that wouldn’t be present otherwise. Learning how Agent 355 was recruited, met her handler and eventually had to face that same handler in combat helped fill in the blanks of an otherwise private character.
The very moment the apocalypse started, Yorick was on the phone proposing to his college girlfriend, Beth. The call was dropped before she could answer. While Yorick was fully aware of his responsibility to the human race once the plague hit, he always had hope that he would reunite with the love of his life. He kept thinking this even after five years and when it seemed like his time would be better spent elsewhere.
Along the way to reconnecting with Beth, despite Yorick having a handful of brief love affairs – five years is a long time to wait, especially when you’re the most eligible (and only) bachelor on Earth – he never forgot about her or stopped loving her. This made their actual reunion a huge part in the story.
However, things didn’t go exactly as expected. At all, really. After the two are intimate, Beth reveals she was actually planning on breaking up with him before their phone conversation years ago had cut off.
You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, right? In comics, that omelet is a memorable story and those eggs are the hearts of readers who have watched their favorite characters go through hell for our entertainment. “Y: The Last Man” is no exception.
Name a character and there’s at least one moment where they made you want to jump into the book and protect them. Most have multiple such instances and they often involve someone dying. For example, Yorick Brown clearly has the same curse as Matt Murdock and Peter Parker when it comes to watching their lovers die in front of them. Every time you think he may have found a new love, they end up shot or drowned and its usually because of him.
And let’s not forget one of the most heartbreaking pages in comics, when Agent 355 gets shot in the head moments after telling Yorick her real name, after they confessed their love for each other.
One of the many things that keeps a series like “Y: The Last Man” relevant – outside of the multiple attempts at adapting it, we mean – is the mystery around its basic premise (meaning how all the males on the planet died all of a sudden). Plenty of theories are presented about what caused the widespread obliteration of the Y-chromosome. Some are more believable than others, but none of them have ever been confirmed or denied, so they’re all worth exploring in a potential TV series.
There were plenty of hints dropped throughout the series, but nothing concrete enough to give one school of thought sway over another. Was it a punishment from a divine power? Did Dr. Mann’s cloning experiments actually manage to throw off the scales? That's the best explanation given and it is really science-y in the details of the argument, but even that's hard to believe.
Who doesn’t like a good time skip? It is a great way for moving stories along without having to run through every tedious moment and can help keep things from turning stale. “Y: The Last Man” actually has a couple of time skips. Earlier on in the story, the jumps only cover about a week or so each, but they start to cover bigger and bigger spans of times, even multiple years as we see the characters get longer hair.
And they work even better on television because, newsflash, people get noticeably older after a few years. In other words, as the actors age, it will become harder and harder to believe that a season only takes place over a series of weeks or months.
For example, “The Walking Dead” is nearing the point of a major time jump that occurred in the comics and they should probably take it because Carl’s a couple episodes away from rocking a goatee. Having a quality time jump already written into the story helps make it even easier to execute when the time comes.
A lot of the stories we get are based on people that look the same way. For example, rural American shows would typically star an all-white cast with the same political and religious beliefs. Based on its premise alone, “Y: The Last Man” is forced to tell different stories that aren’t told a lot. As a start, there may only be, like, five male characters in the entire story, and one of them is a monkey.
Outside of Yorick, the main trio includes a black woman from Detroit with the skills needed to kill at least three people with a coat hanger, and a half-Japanese, half-Chinese lesbian whose the most profound geneticist in the world.
The book also introduces characters from every walk of life you can imagine, which would make the series perfect for today’s audience. While there are a couple cringe-worthy moments throughout the series, those can easily be avoided in a 2017 production.
What do you want to see out of a "Y: The Last Man" TV series? Let us know in the comments!