Adapting any project from page to screen is a monumental task. Doesn’t matter if it’s comics or prose, there are always tough decisions to be made regarding what to keep, what to cut, and what should be altered. There are tons of factors that go into choices like this such as time constraints, logistics, and changes in tone to fit the medium. But at the base of any adaptation, the first and probably most important decision to make is whether or not you are adapting a story or an idea. This first decision will dictate the direction of the entire project. And in many cases, it can be the deciding factor between a successful adaptation and a failure.
When it comes to adaptations there are so many different examples to choose from. For comics, we could look at a film like 300, which practically uses the comic as a storyboard and adapts it panel-for-panel. Or, we could examine a film like Big Hero 6, a story that is so removed from the comic it adapted that it has no resemblance whatsoever. But perhaps it’s best to look at a work that tries to walk the line between these two approaches, and that would be the FX series Y: The Last Man.
The show had been anticipated for a very long time, but it’s not the easiest story to adapt. It has a very particular tone that straddles the line between comedy and drama while dealing with very sensitive social issues. But the show takes a much different approach by incorporating political storylines that have nothing to do with the comic. There are some elements of the comic there, but for the most part the show does its own thing, which means it couldn’t necessarily decide whether it wanted to adapt a story or its core concept. For the most part, the show just wanted to adapt the idea rather than the story. And since the story was so successful at threading the needle between drama and tone, the show missed the mark and didn’t quite know how to take the idea and turn it into an engaging story.
Y: The Last Man is streaming on Hulu.