It’s been nearly twenty years since Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s landmark comic book series Y: The Last Man was published—and it has taken nearly as long to develop an adaptation that fits the tone and story of their post-apocalyptic series, about a plague that wipes out all of the men except for escape artist Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand. For a while, there were plans to turn the 60-issue series into a single feature film, to no avail. At New York Comic-Con 2019, Guerra joked that while a movie adaptation was never the perfect fit, they would have been OK with it because “it’d be like Buffy”—that is, even if it sucked, they could still always make a better TV series later.
The movie never happened, but a TV adaptation is coming to FX in 2020. During their Revisiting Y: The Last Man panel, Vaughan and Guerra shared a few details about the series and how it’s “the version that you guys deserve.”
“There’s been a lot of people attached and a lot of versions,” Vaughan recalled; he himself took a stab at the screenplay when a movie was in development. While he has been in many a meeting over the years where people claimed it would be as easy as turning Guerra’s panels into a storyboard, “it’s a deceptively tricky story to get right.”
Aside from the visuals, other “translation glitches” in moving from one medium to another come down to character names. Vaughan pointed out that “something I always think about is, 355 is a name that looks great on a comic page, and it’s a giant pain in the ass to say out loud.” Also: “Monkeys are a real challenge.” Joking that the TV series should take a page from Friends (which used two monkeys to play Marcel), Guerra and Vaughan did share the fun tidbit that the monkey portraying Amp is female.
“The version that’s coming your way—I’m glad that it took this long to get here,” he said, “because this is the version that you guys deserve, and I think you will love it.”
Television is definitely the right medium for Yorick and 355’s story, Vaughan said: “FX is definitely the right home for it. Now is the right time for it more than ever. The death of all men doesn’t feel so much like an apocalyptic thing; it’s more like escapist fantasy.”
While the creators are involved in some capacity, they made sure to clarify that showrunner Eliza Clark (who replaced Michael Green, who wrote the original version of the FX pilot) and the writers room are the ones, to quote a fan question, steering the adaptation. What was important, Vaughan said, was “finding people we trust who understand the material.”
“They’re the ones who know how to drive better than us,” Guerra said, “so we’re trusting their judgment.”
“We already did our ideal version of the story,” Vaughan added, “so I’d rather go away and make something new. … We’re not so much hand on the steering wheel, but happy passengers along for the ride.”
The biggest question seems to be how to update a story that ran from 2002-2007, and that engaged its fair share of gender-related issues at the time, for a present with increasingly different and even more nuanced discussions of gender.
“From what I’ve seen of the script so far, the show is tackling that side of it,” Guerra said, adding that the adaptation will include “stuff we never got to address ourselves. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Vaughan praised the “incredibly diverse writers room, [including] writers who are trans,” and agreed that the TV series will include “stuff we didn’t talk about enough [in the comics]. It would be incredibly different if we were to start Y today,” he said, “and I think the TV show will focus on that while still capturing the heart of the original.”
Y will premiere on FX in 2020.