With the blockbuster success of Marvel and DC films and CW and Netflix superhero shows, adapting comics for the big and small screens can seem like a surefire way to print money. However, many comic properties are still waiting to reach an audience. Some are finding their development a difficult slog marked by stops and starts. The storied Sandman franchise is a good example. It is still mired in development hell. Even big names like James Mangold, Eric Kripke, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all tried and failed to bring it to life. Joe Hill’s gothic horror comic Locke and Key had similar difficulties. It had multiple failed pilots before Netflix picked it up last year for adaptation. Now Y: The Last Man, another popular and critically acclaimed Vertigo series has experienced a serious setback on its path to the small screen.
Adapting Y: The Last Man
Y: The Last Man was a DC/Vertigo series that ran from 2002 to 2008. It followed the adventures of Yorick Brown, the last male left on Earth after a mysterious apocalypse kills every creature carrying a Y chromosome. Brian K. Vaughn wrote the series, with Pia Guerra (initially) illustrating. They combined elements of post-apocalypse with science fiction and political intrigue. The series has received wide-spread critical acclaim, winning the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series, It also received a nomination for the first ever Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2009.
New Line Cinema optioned the franchise for film adaptation in 2007. D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) was to direct with Shia LaBeouf interested in playing main character Yorick. Caruso left the project in 2010, citing creative differences. 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg took the project up next, but he similarly stepped away from the project in 2014. The future of the project seemed in doubt until 2015, when the rights reverted to creator Vaughn and he partnered with the FX network to develop Y: The Last Man as a TV series.
In April 2018 Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) and Aida Mashaka Croal (Turn, Luke Cage) came aboard as showrunners. Melina Matsoukas (Insecure) would direct the new pilot, with a premiere date set for 2020. The studio announced acollection of impressive actors, as well. Irish actor Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) was to star main character Yorick. Diane Lane (Man of Steel, Unfaithful) would join him playing the role of his mother Jennifer, a junior Senator in her first term. The cast also included Imogen Poots (Fright Night, Green Room) as Yorick’s sister Hero. Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, Bulletproof) rounded out the cast as 355, a Secret Service agent tasked with protecting Yorick.
Y: The Last Man Stalls Out
Things looked good in February of this year. At that time FX ordered the show to series. Star Keoghan even shared a production still from the pilot on Twitter. John Landgraf, president of FX, acknowledged the series’s long development in an interview at the TCA Winter press tour this year, saying:
If you want to get things right, if you want to take care with them, you have to stop; you have to slow down. Sometimes you have to shut down for a period of time . . . It’s just not an easy adaptation, and it’s just taken us a long time to get it right.”
Getting it Right
“Getting things right”, however, may prove a longer process than he anticipated. Green and Croal have recently announced their exit from the project over, you guessed it, creative differences. The pair made an announcement via Croal’s Twitter, stating that FX had decided “not to move forward with our series in its current form.”
Early reports among the trade publications interpreted this news as spelling the death of development on the series. However,The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that the series would continue at FX under the new title Y. The story also reported that the search for Green and Croal’s replacements was currently underway.
What’s Next for Y: The Last Man?
Y: The Last Man creator and executive producer Brian K. Vaughn told THR in 2017 that he and FX “wanted to find someone who loved the source material but didn’t feel so indebted to it that they would be afraid to change it,” though it seems ultimately that whatever plans Green and Croal had for the series did not line up with the network’s expectations. This is the second time in recent history that Green has left a high-profile series; he and his producing and writing partner Bryan Fuller were fired from the second season of American Gods after clashing with the network and series creator/producer Neil Gaiman over story direction and budgetary issues.
For any Y fans looking forward to a successful series, this news could be much worse. Losing a high profile writer/producer like Green is bad news, as is losing an experienced writer for streaming shows like Croal. However, standout talent Barry Keoghan is still with the show, as is the rest of the solid cast, and FX appears committed to getting it right. The post-apocalyptic, post-male world of Y: The Last Man is a morally and politically complicated one, and adapting it to the screen would be a daunting challenge for any studio or network. Hopefully, FX and the new showrunners can pick up where Green and Croal left off and still deliver an adaptation that the award-winning series deserves.