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‘Lost’ and ‘Y: The Last Man’ Writer Brian K. Vaughan on Comics, Time Travel, and the Dharma Shark

Courtesy of Vertigo; ABC (Lost)

Over the past six years, fans of Brian K. Vaughan’s comics series Y: The Last Man have followed the adventures of the series’ hero, Yorick Brown, and his pet monkey, Ampersand — the only survivors of a gendercide that killed every male mammal on earth except for them. In that same time, Vaughan has gone from a well-liked but little-known comics writer to a star of the comics world, with multiple beloved series and an acclaimed graphic novel (Pride of Baghdad) under his belt. He’s also branched out into TV, bringing his well-honed story sense to Lost, where he’s now a co-producer. With the final issue of Y publishing Wednesday, and the season premiere of Lost airing Thursday, this seemed like a good week to check in; Vulture spoke to him on his day off from the WGA picket lines.

The final arc of Y has turned the story from a mystery — how were the earth’s men killed? — to a kind of extremely charged romance, as Yorick chooses between the woman he loved before the catastrophe and the woman who’s protected him since. Did you always intend for the story to go in this direction?
For me, it was never a turn. I’ve always seen Y as an unconventional romance between a boy and his protector. It was always about the last boy on earth becoming the last man on earth, and the women who made that possible.

A major character was killed off a few issues ago. How hard of a decision was that?
Pia Guerra [Y’s artist], who’s been extraordinarily helpful every step of the way and totally onboard — this was the one case where she really lobbied for a stay of execution. “Really?” she asked. “Do we have to do this?” And that’s the most hate mail I’ve ever received. But this was always the ending that I had in mind when I came up with the idea, when I was 22 or so. I felt great allegiance to the boy I was when I came up with this idea.

Even though Yorick’s experience might argue against depending too much on the person you were when you were 22.
That’s true. There were a lot of times when I wondered if I should take it a different direction. But in the end, the big pieces fell into place exactly where I wanted them to. Those who lived were supposed to live, and those who passed away — that was always their fate.

This finale reminds us that there’s a lot of story we never saw, back when Yorick, Dr. Mann, and 355 were traveling cross-country. Would you ever consider filling some of that in or continuing the story in some other way?
No. I am truly washing my hands. Unless I’m in really dire financial straits and I have to do an Ampersand the Monkey spinoff.

Whose voice was the most fun to write?
Dr. Mann. Because I brought her along for this journey, and I thought, Oh my God, I’ve really written myself into a corner, because I’m a semi-literate film-school student, and she’s supposed to be the smartest woman on the planet, and I have nothing in common with her. But I like having someone who is there to be constantly annoyed by the protagonist.

Yeah, Y may be unique among comics series in terms of the hero being constantly denigrated and insulted.
I never wanted this book to be about the Über-mensch who survives to save the poor helpless woman. Yorick’s always been the damsel in distress.

The final issue of Y features a Vaughan trademark, flashbacks and flash-forwards. Watching last year’s season finale of Lost, were we right to see your hand in the flash-forward?
I wish! I would love to take credit for it, but it was entirely Damon Lindelof’s genius. I like to think that my being in the room served as the muse to inspire him.

What Would Vaughan Do?

Matthew Fox has hinted in interviews that there might be actual time travel in this season of Lost.
He did?

Seemed like it in Entertainment Weekly. Wouldn’t this violate the show’s seeming rule that science must explain the island and its inhabitants?
I think if I were to answer too specifically, a future version of myself would appear and assassinate me. But I will say that my only concern, whether it’s science or fantasy or magic, is what is the best story. What is the most revelatory about the characters? Whether it’s crazy-ass magic shit like Dr. Strange or more hard science fiction like Y.

Obviously, you’re not writing at all now because of the strike. But did you write any of the scripts for this first part of the season?
I co-wrote two. The second and the eighth, which I believe is also the last, at least for a while.

How does that eighth episode shape up as a de facto season finale? Will we be happy or unhappy with where it leaves off?
I think every episode is a painful place to end. That’s what makes Lost so great.

Tell us one character who really undergoes something transforming this season. Who should we keep an eye on?
This sounds like a cop-out, I know, but … all of them. In the writers’ room we have all the actors’ head shots over the door. At the beginning of the season, there was a lot of thought about: We know now we have 48 episodes to go. What is the best possible thing to do for each character? More than any other season, there’s more of a focus on keeping a balance and giving each one of them a moment to shine.

Okay, sure, but one of them.
Agh … I guess, um, the Dharma Shark?

‘Lost’ and ‘Y: The Last Man’ Writer Brian K. Vaughan on Comics, Time Travel, and the Dharma Shark