When readers found out the creators of Fables and The Unwritten were planning a story mash-up for their characters, little did anyone expect just how innovative — and fun — it would turn out.
For the most die-hard fans of Fables and The Unwritten, those adjectives are probably an understatement, because The Unwritten #50 (the first issue in the Fables/Unwritten event) featured several scenes that were downright cheer-worthy.
[And here we warn you, Newsarama readers, that there be spoilers ahead for The Unwritten #50! Go read it, you fools!]
For loyal Unwritten fans, the magic of the Fables world brought to life the heroes of the Tommy Taylor novels, including young, bespectacled Tommy himself, fighting against demons, goblins and vampires.
And for Fables fans, not only was there an all-out battle between the good and evil of the Fables world, but there were gems like Snow White turned dark, Pinocchio gone Rambo, and Flycatcher in command.
But the final page in The Unwritten was, fittingly, the biggest shocker for readers. [Last spoiler warning!] It promised a resurrection of Boy Blue, perhaps the most beloved Fables character — and the most missed, since he's deceased in main continuity.
Writers Mike Carey and Bill Willingham united to create the comic, with creative assists from artists Peter Gross and Mark Buckingham. And their love for both worlds was clear on each page, as they found a way to make story sense of how the characters from two different Vertigo series might come together. The five-issue story continues within The Unwritten, but it will feature the assist of both Fables creators for its entirety.
So what does the final page appearance of Boy Blue mean? Will he play a role in the story? And how will this affect the future of Tom Taylor in The Unwritten? We talked to Carey to find out all about the first chapter in the Unwritten/Fables event.
Newsarama: Mike, I think the biggest surprise of the first issue of the crossover — outside the final page — was to see that this takes place in the Fables universe with all the fan-favorite characters, but it's almost an alternate timeline, like a "What If?" or "Elseworlds." Is that the right way to describe it, and how did you come up with this idea?
Mike Carey: Yes, that's a good way to describe it, although I have to say that it was Mark Buckingham who originally had that brainwave, that we could play off the situation in The Unwritten — the wave of chaos that's caused by Leviathan's wounding — to visit Fables continuity by way of this weird tangent. So yeah, it's much like an alternate Fables universe. I think "Elseworlds" is a good analogy, or something a little bit like the X-Men: Age of Apocalypse.
Nrama: The central change seems to revolve around the survival of Mister Dark. Was that the catalyst, or do you ever spell out what made this alternate timeline so different?
Carey: It's probably a series of things, rather than one root thing. Definitely, nobody challenged Mister Dark — neither Frau Totenkinder nor the North Wind — and sort of taken him down. And therefore, he's been able to consolidate his hold on this world.
Lying underneath that, there are some other changes, like the fact that he's chosen Snow White as his consort, and that's all sort of bound together to create the situation where Mister Dark is a perfect storm, with everything going his way, and nobody mounting an effective challenge for him.
Nrama: As you mentioned, Snow White is evil. And we've learned that one of her children was killed. Are those related? Or is it simply because of Mister Dark's powers?
Carey: It obviously has to do with Mister Dark's powers of corrupting innocents, which he does in a variety of ways, from the subtle to the monstrously overt. And yes, it also has to do with Snow White's psychological state in the wake of her child being effectively executed. We don't fill in those details. It's kind of an implied backstory.
Nrama: Right. It's so much fun to read all these characters together, and I think one of the most fun moments in the comics was seeing the "Boys Blue" fight during the battle, as some of our favorite characters clearly paid homage to Boy Blue. Who came up with that, because it was a great moment!
Carey: To be honest, I can't remember whose idea that was. It might have been mine. But if it was mine, I was definitely riffing on some of the wilder stuff that was happening in the "Super Team" arc in Fables, because it is kind of a reimagining of those characters, almost as if they were superheroes.
Nrama: Obviously, Tom Taylor played a huge part in this first issue, but only after Frau Totenkinder.... what did she do to Tom? Pull out the essence of the "story" that lives within him?
Carey: She kind of tweaks him, doesn't she? She's aware that what she's got is not quite what she needed, but also that it's very, very close — as she puts it, "only a world away."
But underlying that moment, there's kind of a revelation that we're building to, which is about the true interconnectedness of reality and stories. And we've always assumed — at least, we in The Unwritten have always assumed — that it was kind of a binary thing, that there was a real world and then there was a realm of story, which is inside Leviathan. And that the two things are not directly connected, or rather, if they are connected, it's only through the human unconscious mind.
But we're about to show that that's only a part of the bigger story — a part of a bigger picture.
Nrama: And that brings us to the final page of the first issue. You surely shocked some Fables fans with that cliffhanger, as we saw Boy Blue. Are we going to get to see him play a role in the story going forward? Although, is he just a twisted version of Boy Blue, since he'll be under Mister Dark's influence?
Carey: We're definitely going to see him play a large part. And yes, initially, he's just another "witherling" solider for Mister Dark's army.
But he has a great deal to do going forward. And there is a reason why we wanted it to be that character and nobody else. It wasn't just my Fables fanboy coming out. There's more to it than that. Although, I'll admit I was very keen to see Boy Blue in play again.
Nrama: Oh, I think we all were. I know we've talked about this before, but since you're a little more into the story, how's it been working with Bill Willingham and the artists on this jam session you've got going in this story?
Carey: It's been hugely enjoyable, the whole thing. And it felt incredibly organic. There were two mini-collaborations going on. Bill and Peter were kind of talking together, and I was talking to Bucky over here, and we had some very enjoyable brainstorming sessions in those sub-groups.
But watching the artistic jam between Peter and Bucky is, actually, amazing. Watching as they're working over each other's layouts and throwing the ball back and forth creatively has been enthralling. And I think, just on that level, it's kind of a huge excitement to me, to be part of that team, and to see that come together.
Nrama: Then to finish up, although you already kind of touched upon what we're learning about the nature of story and reality, can you speak to what role this story plays in the ongoing discoveries that Tom is making? In issue #49, he said he wanted to go back to, was it the "source?" But instead of going to the source, he was thrust into the world of Fables. Is this just a tangent for Tom, or does this play an important role in the future of The Unwritten?
Carey: It's hugely important. And yes, he talked about going back to the "source," going as deep as it was possible to go. And obviously, he feels, at the moment, that he's been pulled wildly off that course.
But he has more to learn than he realizes, in this reality, and there's a sense in which... there's just going to be a turning point for him. It's going to be a crucial turning point.
I think Peter said it best when he said, if we hadn't been able to use the Fables characters, and if we hadn't been able to do this event, we would have had to invent something very, very similar to it, because it just fit so perfectly into the arc we already had planned for Tom.