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Y: the Last Man annotations
By Ido Reif
Issue #1: Unmanned I
Panel 1: I probably needn’t say it, but Yorick is the late court jester in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By the opening of the play he is already dead, and one of its most famous scenes depicts Prince Hamlet holding the jester’s skull and describing him to his friend Horatio. He begins with the words: “Alas, poor Yorick...”, a line quoted later in the series.
Yorick gradually twists himself into a Y shape during the course of this page (hat tip: Martin Larsen).
Panel 2: “He has that Marlowe class tonight…”: Christopher “Kit” Marlowe was an Elizabethan playwright and a friend of William Shakespeare. He is the most famous playwright of his time, excluding Shakespeare himself, obviously, and best known for his plays “Faustus” and “The Jew of Malta”. He appears in another Vertigo comic, Sandman #13. Apparently Prof. Brown lectures on the entire Elizabethan theatre, not just on Shakespeare specifically.
Panel 2: POTUS in an abbreviation for President Of The United States.
355 is first mentioned here,
probably in reference to her mission in
Panel 1: Congresswoman Jennifer Brown, Yorick’s
Panels 3-4: this is the first of many references to Ampersand’s fecal matter and his pastime habits concerning it. This is foreshadowing, since it will become more important as the series progresses.
Yorick’s DVD collection consists of: “Juliana Chen Magic”, Stanley Kubrick’s 1983’s “Full Metal Jacket”, and “Wages of Peace”.
His books: “Man out of Time”, “In the Skin of a Lion” (Sonia will reference a lion in a future issue), “LAYAP”, “Fellini” and “Michelangelo” (either autobiographies or critical analyses), Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”, “The Films of Antonioni” (it’s possible that “Michelangelo” refers to this Italian director as well), “Hollywood”, “Gibson – Doro” (possibly William Gibson’s “Idoru”).
His videotapes, with the (possible) exception of the last
one, are all of renowned magicians: “Kreskin
(undecipherable)”, “Copperfield”, “Houdini – Curtis”, “Penn +
Panel 5: “Scully”: the well-known female half of agents Mulder and Scully, of X-Files fame. A better analogue would be Agent 355. She was played by Gillian Anderson.
Panel 1: one cannot
“get a drink” in most parts of the
Panel 1: “Private Benjamin” is a 1980 comedy starring Goldie Hawn as a spoiled high society woman who joins the army. It has since become a slightly derogatory term for women in the military in general, and towards spoiled bratty ones in particular. I doubt Alter would appreciate the joke.
Panel 2: she doesn’t. Note that Alter uses no abbreviations: “I am” instead of “I’m”, “I will” instead of “I’ll”. Some time ago, I’ve come to the belief that American and English writers simply can’t conceive of any person whose native tongue isn’t English as being physically capable of speaking in shorthand.
Rubber bullets, incidentally, are part of standard IDF anti-riot procedure.
Panel 3: the IDF did
in fact abolish its women’s corps as an unnecessary bureaucracy around that
Her rank as colonel would translate to an Aluf Mishne – very high on the IDF rank scale. There are only three higher ranks - Brigadier General (Tat Aluf), Major General (Aluf), and General (Rav Aluf, equal to a Lieutenant General on the American scale) – the rank she’ll assume as the Chief of Staff. However, she doesn’t appear to be wearing her ranks here. They should be visible as three distinct “pinecones” on each shoulder.
Panels 5: “Bo’u nelekh!” – “Let’s go!”
Panel 1: this panel is drawn from the POV of the cameraman.
As to Alter’s (lack of) name and the story behind it
– I have lived in
Panel 2: “Alter” means “Old One” in Yiddish, not Hebrew (Thanks to Nicolas!). It could also, however, be shorthand for “Alternativi”, or “Alternativa” as in an alternate name for someone whose real name cannot be used.
Panel 4: “Daughter of
“All is quiet on the Western Front” alludes to both WWI and
WWII, where the Western Front was
In 1948, during
Panel 3: Yorick claims he has become agoraphobic for weeks. This is the first of a number of possible explanations as to why he had survived the plague (in this case, lack of exposure to the virus).
Panel 2: Al Karak is Kerak, near the eastern shore of the
Panel 3: “Frozan” sounds unlikely for an Arab name, particularly since Arabic simply utilizes no “o” or “e” vowels. There is an Arabic version of the same name – “Farzoon”.
Panel 2: how the Amulet of Helene came to
Panel 2: the identities of these men and why they want the Amulet goes unexplained. Possibly they are members of the Setauket Ring. They appear to be saying the same word in Arabic: “kaf” or some variation of it (the word is unpunctuated). Whether there is any meaning to it or if it’s just random letters to show us that the assailants speak Arabic, I don’t know.
Panel 4: Miller’s Crossing is a 1990 gangster film, directed by the Coen Brothers and starring Gabriel Byrne and John Turturro.
Panel 4: Hero is the name of a female character in William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado about Nothing. She is the spurned fiancée of Claudio, who mistakenly believes her to have committed adultery. Eventually the two of them are reconciled by their friends, who trick Claudio into believing that Hero had died, and thereby forcing him, in the throes of guilt and grief over her death, to reevaluate his opinion of her. In Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation, she is played by a young Kate Beckinsale.
Panel 4: do I really need to elaborate on the identity of Lara Croft, Or to mention that she was played (if that’s the right word) by Angelina Jolie in two unbelievably bad films?
Many of the men on these pages form Y shapes, although not all are distinctly recognizable as such (thanks to Martin Larsen). I find it interesting to note that the most noticeable Ys are in Page 20, panel 3, and most aren’t of human beings.
Panel 2: this is the first indication that the astronauts in space had survived. Of course, the voice could belong to a female astronaut, but not necessarily so.
Panel 5: the Hebrew in this panel is horrible. The soldier
on the left speaks in an extremely literary, almost archaic phrasing (“Anu” instead of “Anachnu”), as
well as disregarding common gender (“tsrichim”
instead of “tsrichot”), while Alter answers back to
her in male form, as if that soldier was a man – somewhat ironic, given that
all the men had just died! There is simply no chance
Issue #2: Unmanned II
Panel 2: the tree makes a distinctive Y shape (hat tip: Martin Larsen).
Panel 2: observe the teddy bear nailed to the hood.
Panel 4: Lucy Lawless played Xena, the Warrior Princess, on the spectacularly historically incorrect TV show.
The driver wears a mask around her throat, presumably to shield her against the smell and airborne bacteria, but she never uses it. Perhaps she’d grown accustomed to the scent of rotting flesh.
Panel 6: this panel implies that Yorick wears the mask not only to avoid detection – he’s at least somewhat concerned that the plague could still get him.
Panel 1: the puppies Frank, Dean and Sammy stand of course for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. The names would have been more apt if they were rats.
Panel 5: this seems like a good summation of 355’s beliefs.
Panel 5: it appears the driver took more from the dead cop than just his gun, although why she’s driving around with a pair of handcuffs is unclear.
Panel 5: such bad luck, the one man left on the planet turns out to be an escape artist.
Panel 4: obviously, Representative Brown had paid attention at her Tae Bo classes.
Panel 5: as is by now clear, Prof. Brown died on his birthday, as did Pompey Magnus, Julius Caesar’s arch-enemy. Caesar himself would be mentioned in a future issue, and was of course the titular character in a play by Shakespeare of his assassination. Another person who reportedly died on his birthday was Shakespeare himself.
Panel 5: Yorick’s “magic” ring provides a second possible explanation to his survival.
Panel 3: “Bring out your dead” is a joke from the film Monty Python & the Holy Grail (1975).
Issue #3: Unmanned III
Martin Larsen notes the Y shapes on the car crash scene here.
Panel 3: Yorick’s mom refers to
the 1812 Anglo-American War, the last war fought between the
Panel 3: we’ll see Hero use the same trick in a future issue, further establishing the similarities between them.
Panel 2: McGuyver was a popular 1980’s TV show. Its eponymous character, played by Richard Dean Anderson, was famous for his ability to construct complex devices out of ordinary, everyday materials.
Panel 4: by this point, I think it’s safe to say
Panel 1: the teddy makes another appearance.
Martin Larsen notes that Yorick and the columns create more Ys in these pages.
Panel 2: I think it would be redundant at this point to remark that the supermodel is the driver who attempted to take Yorick hostage.
According to Wikipedia, “the Culper
Ring was organized by Benjamin
Tallmadge under the orders of General George Washington in 1778. The Ring was
tasked with infiltrating British controlled
Panel 2: the map is crude at best.
Panel 3: it seems
rather odd that
Panel 4: while it may have a Jewish ring to an English speaker’s ear, “Sadie” is neither a Jewish, Israeli, nor even a Hebrew name. It would amount to a run-of-the-mill Irishman being called “Jean-Francois”. More of Mr. Vaughan’s unfortunate ignorance, it seems.
Panel 1: “Halo” is the Hebrew variation of “Hello”, used almost exclusively when answering a phone.
Panel 2: notice
Issue #4: Unmanned IV
Panel 3: Yorick is referencing the well known Paul Simon song “You Can Call Me Al”.
Panel 2: the Three Stooges, a 20th century American comedy act (most widely remembered as featuring Moe, Larry and Curly performing in a great deal of slapstick humour) are mostly favoured by men, because of the extremely physical comedy involved. I have, however, met a few female fans here and there.
Panel 4: Attack of the Clones is the secondary title of the film Star Wars, Episode II (2002), directed by George Lucas and starring Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson. It is less than critically acclaimed.
Panel 6: another Star Wars refernce. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa are the protagonist siblings of the second (chrologically-wise) trilogy of films, infamous for an incestual kiss that takes place before they become aware of their common parentage. They were played by Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
Panel 3: the 555 feet (169 meters) high, very phallic-looking obelisk named the Washington Monument was built between 1848 and 1884 by Robert Mills, to commemorate President George Washington.
Women from all walks of life can be seen in the crowd in this page, including (in panel 2) a nun and a Muslim woman in hijab.
Panel 2: it’s interesting to note that of all the female names Yorick could have selected, he picks “Beth”. Perhaps it implies that he believes he shares a special kinship with Beth, beyond their romantic relationship. Or perhaps he just showing his devotion to her.
Panel 3: “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a 1960 novel by Harper Lee, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It’s a coming-of-age story, which sets up an interesting parallel with Yorick’s tale. It was adapted by director Robert Mulligan into an award-winning movie, starring Gregory Peck, in 1962.
Panel 4: Mick Jagger is the lead singer of the Rolling Stones, for those of us who preferred to live in a cave for the last forty years or so.
Panel 2: “Kurt” is Kurt Cobain, the lead of Nirvana. He committed suicide in 1994, by a self inflicted shotgun blast to the head.
Panel 3: “Dylan” is Bob Dylan, the stage name for Robert Allen Zimmerman.
The Rest of the Beatles, at this stage, include Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, born Richard Starkey.
Eels are an American Rock band formed by singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett, better known as Mr. E or simply E.
The Who are a British Rock band still active, much like the Rolling Stones. Their most famous members are Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle.
U2 is an Irish Pop-Rock band active since 1976. It’s members are Bono (Paul David Hewson), The Edge (David Howell Evans), Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr.
Radiohead is a British Alternative Rock band comprising five members: Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway.
Tom Petty is an American musician best known for his work in the band Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. He’s been active since 1976.
Tom Waits is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor, whose music has earned him a cult following. He started recording in 1971.
Neil Young is a Canadian singer-songwriter who came to prominence with folk rock band Buffalo Springfield in the mid-1960s
I’m unsure what Yorick means by: “the mother-fucking D”. I suppose it could be Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ band Tenacious D, but it hardly seems to fit in such august company. In any case, they’ve been active since 2001.
Panel 4: “Bye bye Miss American Pie” is a line from the 1972 hit song “American Pie” by Don McLean. It is sometimes mistaken for the 2000 cover version recorded by Madonna.
Panel one: a lot of misuderstanding occurs in this panel.
Janis Joplin was a renowned American rock singer. She died of a heroin overdose in 1970, and is still mourned.
Panel 2: Tori
Amos is an American singer-songwriter, although she is more widely known in the
Panel 1: this is our first introduction to the Amazons. Their self inflicted mutilaition is a reference to the classical Amazons of ancient Greek literature, a legendary nation of warrior women, who cut off or burnt off their right breasts to be able to draw a bow better.
Panel 2: Mad Maxine is a Yorick-invented joke - a female version of the Australian post-apocalyptic hero Mad Max, played by Mel Gibson in three films: Mad Max, Mad Max 2: the Road Warrior, and Mas Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Panel 3: every male fetus begins its life as female, before the genetic intructions contained in the Y chromosome cause him to develop male genitalia. In this sense, it’s distantly possible to view males as “deformed females”. It is also a reversal of the Aristotelian view that “women are incomplete men”. Both views are equally false, however, since the male/female division is a natural and necessary one. Without it there could be no progeny for any species more complex than single-celled organisms, a fact that proponents of these views often seem to forget.
Panel 4: rise up, indeed.
Panel 4: Yorick seems capable of throwing away his life very carelessly. This issue will be expanded upon later in the series.
Panel 1: “The Stepford Wives” is a 1972 novel by Ira Levin which was the basis for two film adaptations: one in 1975, directed by Bryan Forbes, and one in 2004 which was more of a parody, directed by Frank Oz. All versions deal with a fictional town where the men had replaced their wives with obidient, submissive robots.
“Beantown” is the slang name for
Panel 1: Bobby Fischer is a grandmaster and and former world chess champion, the first American to win the title. I am not aware of any such statements he might have made, but he is known for eccentric beliefs and irrational behavior, including at one point belonging to a cult.
This is the first time of many where Victoria will allude to chess, thereby indicating a world view consisting of two sides composed of absolutes fighting for dominance: white vs. black, good vs. evil, and in this case, female vs. male. It is a worldview frequently espoused by fanatics of all sorts.
Panel 5: the series seems to imply that Victoria is English – her use of the word “love” in causal conversation to refer to her interlocutor, her later remark and familiarity with the use of the word “cunt” in Britain, and her name – after the famous Imperialist English monatch – all point in this direction, albiet inconclusively.
The structure of the Center creates several “X” shapes in the background. Martin Larsen supposes it signifies strong or singleminded women.
Issue #5: Unmanned Conclusion
The blood pouring out of Beth’s eyes and mouth is
reminiscent of the way all the men died. Beth herself will have a matching
dream in a future issue where she sees Yorick
dripping blood out of his own eyes and mouth. Interestingly, Yorick’s dream here is warning him away from Beth and
Panel 3: is 355 horny, or simply agitated?
Panel 1: “guydar” – guy radar.
Perhaps the term does exist, but I personally believe that
Panel 2: 355 must have some bad experiences with the South to carry such a strong negative impression.
Panel 3: and the “male” puns keep on coming. This time it’s “Mann-hunt”.
Panel 5: it’s often said that women who were abused as girls tend to have abusive relationships. This may be the first hint about what happened between Hero and her grandfather.
Panel 1: as we can see, cutting off the right breast isn’t strictly an initiation rite for the Amazons – they’ve adopted the traditional bow and arrow of their mythical namesakes as well.
Panel 2: here
Panel 3: radical feminists occasionally blame men for social changes and attitudes that sometimes take place over centuries. One might think that there is a sinister council of the Elders of Malekind somewhere.
Panel 1: note that
Panel 2: Harry Houdini, born Ehrich
Weisz in 1874, was one of the most famous magicians
and escape artists in history. He was born in
“Dash” was Houdini’s brother, Theo Weisz. He performed Houdini’s entire act, including escapes on a coordinated but separate tour schedule under the name "Hardeen".
Panel 4: the RMS Titanic, for the sake of the two people who have never heard of it even after the James Cameron movie, was a British luxury liner, the biggest at the time, who sunk after colliding with an iceberg in 1912.
Panel 1: another possible explanation for the plague. However Mann neglects to explain further why her fetus would be so lethal.
Panel 5: I assume Yorick is referring to the 1988 George Romero film Monkey Shines, in which a quadriplegic man has a trained monkey help him with his daily tasks so he could be more self dependent, until said monkey becomes obssessed with him and rage against those who hurt its master, and not the 1997 video game.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first in the Indiana Jones trilogy of films, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas in 1981. It starred Harrison Ford and quickly became one of the most popular and quoted films of all times.
Panel 1: I suppose this could count as another explanation of the plague, but Dr. Mann doesn’t explain what she means (or if she even has a theory).
Panel 5: having Alter use the Hebrew greeting is a neat way of making the act of showing us who’s there seem more interesting, but why would she want to announce both their presence and national identity to anyone who may be listening on foreign soil?
Panel 2: Sadie is referring to Pinocchio, who was made “a real, live boy” by the Blue Fairy.
Panel 5: “Sirfi et zeh ha-yesod”: “Burn it to the
ground.” Alter must be either completely psychotic, an utter moron, or some
combination of both. Nothing else could account for the insanely idiotic
decision to destroy information she knows to be vital to the very continued
existence of humanity,
According to Wikipedia: “Chim-Chim is the chimpanzee character from Speed Racer who is a family pet and mostly seen with Speed's younger brother Spritle sneaking into the trunk of the Mach Five.”
Besides this page being a fork in the road, both literally and figuratively, it’s also a great, big Y!
Issue #6: Cycles I
Panel 4: Häagen-Dazs is an American brand of ice cream, established by Reuben and Rose Mattus in The Bronx, New York in 1961. Contrary to common belief, the name is not Scandinavian; it is simply two made-up words meant to look Scandinavian to American eyes.
Panel 3: Butch Cassidy, born Robert LeRoy Parker, was a 19th-century notorious train and bank robber. He fromed the infamous Wild Bunch robber gang, and was immortalized in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which he was portrayed by Paul Newman.
P 5 Panel 5 – P 6 Panel 1: pigs aren't. As a side note, I assume the gendercide had caused the price of beef and pork to skyrocket, since once all the female cows and sows die there will be no more. Humanity must be subsisting on non-mamalian meat, such as poultry or fish.
Panel 4: the Clone Wars took place in the Star Wars universe, more than ten years before the beginning of the first trilogy. They were seen, in part, in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
The National Medal of Science is an honor given by the President of the United States to individuals in science and engineering who have made important contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics since 1959.
The Presidential physical fitness award is given to children by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports since 1972.
Panel 1: The Mossberg 500 is a shotgun manufactured by O.F. Mossberg & Sons. This model is intended for use in harsh and dirty conditions, such as waterfowl hunting or combat, and is designed to be easy to clean and maintain.
Panel 4: Grauman's Chinese Theater, known from 1973 through 2001 as Mann's Chinese Theater, is a worldwide-famous movie theater located at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It opened in 1927.
Panel 5: Florence Nightingale was a 19th-century English pinoneer of modern nursing. She became famous during her time as a field nurse in the Crimean War.
Panel 3: Four Seasons Hotels are an international luxury hotel chain, based in Canada.
Panel 1: Yorick seems to have some skill at pickpocketing, which is not uncommon for an illuisionist, but if so he doesn't want to let anybody in on that, preferring to blame Ampersand instead.
Panel 2: I'm not sure if Yorick is referring to Al Sharpton, the Democratic presidential candidate of 2004, or to someone else. I also have no idea if Al Sharpton used to wear a medallion or not. If someone could fill me in, I'd be obliged.
Pamel 2: "slit" must be the Gendercide world's equivalent of "dick" or "prick".
Panel 4: Natty Gann was the titular character from the 1985 movie, The Journey of Natty Gann. She was a young woman in the Great Depression, who is abandoned by her unemployed father and runs away from home in order to find him. She was played by Meredith Salenger.
Boxcar Bertha is the title of Martin Scorsese's 1972 film, an adaptation of a fictional autobigoraphy of radical and transient Bertha Thompson.
Panel 3: the Soyuz ("Union") spacecraft have been in operation since 1966, more-or-less paralleling the Apollo series of spacecraft.
These annotations are copyright 2006 & 2007 Ido Reif.
© 2006 & 2007 I. Reif.
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