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'Last' man creates different world on 'Lost'

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  • Brian K. Vaughan's "Y: The Last Man" ending its run
  • Comic book took on big themes with its story of last man on earth
  • Vaughan, now a writer on "Lost," believes the show's next 8 episodes terrific
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By Matt West
CNN
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Listening to writer Brian K. Vaughan summarize the plot of his comic book, "Y: The Last Man," makes it sound like just another pulp title.

Vaughan

Brian K. Vaughan says he's "depressed" about the end of "Y: The Last Man," but he's got other projects to work on.

"A plague of mysterious origin destroys every male mammal, human being and animal on the planet," he says, "except for one boy and his monkey. And wackiness ensues."

Well, that's the story boiled down to its basics. But the tale of amateur escapist Yorick Brown, the last man alive on an Earth now home to only women, and his monkey, Ampersand, is actually far more complex than Vaughan's description reveals, involving long journeys, the value of memory and the politics of gender roles. The title, which has had a very successful five-year run, is coming to an end this week with the release of issue No. 60.

It is a finale that is equally emotional for both fans and its creator.

"I guess I've moved into acceptance but that doesn't mean that I'm not still depressed about it," says Vaughan, 31, a soft-spoken Cleveland, Ohio, native who now makes his home in Los Angeles. Photo Gallery: The worlds of Brian K. Vaughan »

"It's been weird because it's a gradual [form of] saying good-bye," he says. "First, you finish the script, but then it still has to be penciled and inked, and there's so many stages in comics that it's sort of been like the stages of death."

Vaughan's career in comics dates back more than a decade, but his love for the medium stretches back to his adolescence. Already an avid fan of comic books, he discovered Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel "Watchmen" on a family vacation. It would be the spark that inspired him to give life to his own stories. Video Watch Vaughan pick out some of his influences »

When Vaughan first pitched his concept for "Y: The Last Man" to Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, he was focused on a specific ending, without knowing whether the series would last long enough to reach it.

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"We had a long-term idea [of doing] five years but realistically, I knew I had just gotten 'Swamp Thing' canceled at Vertigo and most people hadn't heard of Pia [Guerra], the artist," he says.

"It's not like we were destined for a long and successful run," he adds, smiling.

Almost immediately following its debut in 2002, the series found success, earning critical praise as well as five Eisner Awards, the comic-book Oscars, along the way.

Yorick's quest to find his girlfriend, lost somewhere in a world forever changed by this mysterious plague, was just as much an international adventure story as it was the tale of the women in his life: his bodyguard, the enigmatic Agent 355; medical researcher Alison Mann; even his sister, Hero, and his mother. Their experiences can be read as parables on humanity in a world where gender has been all but eliminated from the equation.

Now, as their stories come to a close, Vaughan likens it to ending a relationship.

"It'll be a drag not to get to spend more time with these characters," observes Vaughan.

He adds he will also miss his collaborating with Guerra, who has provided the art for the entire series run.

"It's hard to not think about working with Pia, just because I think she is the best 'actor' in comics," he says. "[That's] a weird thing to say, but she captures emotions better than anyone. I'm very hopeful we'll work together again."

Meanwhile, Vaughan's other work in comics, including "Ex Machina" (Wildstorm) and "Runaways" (Marvel), has captured the attention of Hollywood. Both "Y" and "Ex Machina" are currently being developed into films. Meanwhile, Vaughan, a one-time film student, has begun a career in television, working as a writer on ABC's "Lost."

Remaining true to the mysteries of the island, Vaughan says he can share "just about nothing" from the upcoming fourth season of the series, which has been cut from 16 episodes to eight as a casualty of the continuing writer's strike. The fourth season premieres Thursday night.

"Everything is still sort of in flux, sadly, but I know I'm disappointed," says Vaughan, who was a fan of the show before "Lost" producer and fellow "comic book geek" Damon Lindelof approached him to write for it. "I think these eight episodes are eight of the best in the entire series."

As production remains shut down both on "Lost" and the film adaptation of "Y: The Last Man," Vaughan considers himself fortunate. Comic books aren't covered by the Writer's Guild of America, allowing him to continue to work while his colleagues cannot.

Despite the accolades and opportunities, Vaughan sees his growth, both personally and professionally, as very much a work in progress.

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"I was just a kid when I came up with the idea for 'Y' so I like to think that I've evolved as much as Yorick has over the course of the book. But I'm a comic book writer," he continues, "so I'm still a big dumb child, and I think I always will be."

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