We are in the golden age of comic book television shows. Marvel has started to release shows like “Loki” and “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and HBOMax is home to DC shows like “Titans” and “Doom Patrol.” Other companies and streaming services lack access to these popular superhero franchises and have been forced to seek out less well-known comic books to find content to adapt to television. As a result, we have shows like “Invincible,” “The Boys,” “The Umbrella Academy” and, the recent premiere of, “Y: The Last Man.”
Created by legendary writer Brian K. Vaughn in 2002, the “Y: The Last Man” comic takes place in a world where almost every man has been killed by a mysterious case of androcide, the systematic killing of men. The only surviving man is an escape artist named Yorick Brown, who is accompanied by his pet monkey, Ampersand. Without men, society quickly falls into chaos. Yorick embarks on a journey across the world to save what’s left of mankind since it will go extinct without men. A government agent, named Agent 355, joins him on this quest.
The Journey to Bring “The Last Man” to the Screen
Before it became a tv series, there were several attempts to turn it into a film. New Line Cinema acquired the film rights in 2007 and selected D.J Caruso as the director and David S.Goyer as the producer. The film ended up in development hell, seemingly due to the studio not liking any of the script drafts. New Line Cinema executives wanted to stray away from the source material, and several rewrites were rejected, including one from Vaughn. Ultimately, the film never got off the ground, and these issues lasted from 2007 all the way until 2014, which is when the film rights reverted to Vaughn.
In 2015, the comic, once again, entered development stages — it was reported that FX planned to bring it to television. A pilot for the show wasn’t filmed until 2018, and the series was officially ordered in 2019. In April 2019, both showrunners Michael Green and Aida Mashaka Croal departed the show, due to creative differences. In 2020, the role of Yorick was recast, which led to Barry Keoghan being replaced by Ben Schnetzer.
It took over a decade, but an adaptation of “Y: The Last Man” finally premiered on Sept. 13, 2021 on FX on Hulu. The biggest problem with adapting the comic has to be the story. The comic has heavy feminist undertones and only has one male character (unless you count the monkey). Studios probably didn’t believe that Zachary Levi as Yorick or Alicia Keys as Agent 355 would be enough to carry a movie like this. Back in 2007, these combined factors would have been a hard sell for any studio. Hollywood was, and still is, pretty male-dominated on- and off-screen, so the executives probably didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand, the comic’s story and themes, thus leading to all of those script rejections.
2021: The TV Landscape Shifts
“Y: The Last Man“ has the opportunity to make people confront uncomfortable topics like misogyny and feminism. On the surface, it communicates that society would quickly fall into chaos without men, but when you read more of the comic, the author’s intentions shine through. For instance, there is a group of women, known as the “Daughters of the Amazon,” that hate men and cut off their hair as a way of rejecting stereotypes. They even cut off one of their breasts so that they can have more accuracy with a bow and arrow.
On the surface, this group appears to be a metaphor for feminism, but in actuality, they are better representations of extremists, who mold an ideology to fit their own beliefs. Instead of spending their existence fruitlessly hating men, these citizens of the new world could’ve joined Yorick on his quest and maybe found a way to ensure their future.
It’s hard to imagine this kind of narrative airing anytime before 2021. Although TV writers, actors, and fans continue to do the work of increasing representation, now is the opportune moment for a show like “Y: The Last Man” to come out. Thanks to the success of films such as “Wonder Woman,” “Atomic Blonde” and “Captain Marvel,” studios and audiences have become more receptive to female-led movies and shows. As “Y: The Last Man” continues to air its first season, it’s sure to inspire criticism and controversy as well as productive conversations about gender, feminism, misogyny, and equality. But, as they say, all news is good news.
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