Now that Rob Williams' Vertigo series Unfollow has finished its first storyline, the series is utilizing guest artists to tell some up-close stories about the people who populate the world that's been upturned by a social media mogul who wants to give his money away.
Williams launched Unfollow in November with artist Michael Dowling, but in this week's #6 he's paired with acclaimed artist R.M. Guéra (Scalped) for a story that continues to move the title forward while also profiling one of the 140 people who have been affected by the events of the series' first five issues.
Unfollow tells the story of how a dying social media mogul leaves billions of dollars to be split evenly between 140 random people. It all sounds nice until the folks on the list learn that if any of them die, each person's portion of the prize gets bigger.
In a follow up to our interview talk with Williams about this week's Harley Quinn & Suicide Squad April Fool's Special, Newsarama talked to Williams about his collaboration with R.M. Guéra in Unfollow #6 and what's coming up next in the series.
Newsarama: Rob, you collaborated on Unfollow #6 with artist R.M. Guéra of Scalped fame. Besides having a guest artist, how does Unfollow #6 stand out as an issue?
Rob Williams: We just finished our first arc, really, with #5. So we knew we had two issues where I wanted to do character studies, but also keep the momentum of the series going.
If you do a completely sideways vignette, you kind of kill the momentum. So there are two storylines running through this issue. The central storyline continues through it, but you also see a flashback storyline as well.
Nrama: Were you a fan of Guéra's work?
Williams: Yes, I love his work on Scalped, which was phenomenal, and Scalped's one of my favorite books of recent times. And I'd worked together with Guéra on a Judge Dredd story as well, which was fantastic. We got on well, and our styles — I felt, I hope he agrees — with our styles, I felt like we were coming from the same place.
So I asked him. And I was just blown away when he accepted. It's a thrill.
He's ridiculously good. His storytelling instincts on every page and every panel are amazing. They're so deeply thought out. There's a reason for everything he's doing, and I think he's coming at it from a very cinematic place. Mood and tone — all those things. Yeah, he's just one of the best.
Nrama: For people who might not have read the first five issues, how would you describe the book overall?
Williams: It's a contemporary social media thriller. The overall idea is that there's a Mark Zuckerberg-type figure, who in our story invented social media to help the world communicate and bring the world closer together. But when he finds out he's got terminal cancer, he's got these billions of pounds and dollars, and he wants to do an experiment to find out who we really are.
And social media, you know, was supposed to sort of open up a brave new world unlike anything with human beings. But what it did was show all the facets of us in a different kind of way.
So what he says as a rather sick test is, he's going to give his money, when he dies, to 140 characters that are spread around the world. And they're going to get an equal share of his money. It's like a Willy Wonka golden ticket type of deal. You'll get an app on your phone if you've been chosen. And you're suddenly going to be a millionaire and your life's going to change.
But what he also says, which you found out in issue #3, is that among the 140 people around the world, if one of you dies, then 139 of you will get an equal share.
And if two of you die, 138 of you will get an equal share.
Nrama: And of course, the share gets bigger.
Williams: Yeah. The more people die, the more your money goes up.
Of course, like you and I and the majority of people would go, "I would never do something like that. You've just given me millions of dollars. Why would I need to do that?"
But it's human beings. There are always going to be people who want more and are willing to do anything to get it.
And so the overall theme of the book, as Mike Dowling and I came up with it, it's all about how, as human beings, we never left the food chain. And that's really what Unfollow is about. It's about how you can give us all this amazing technology, but at the end of the day, human beings are exactly the same as we were when we were in caves and hitting each other with rocks because we wanted that piece of meat or whatever.
Nrama: So does this week's "vignette" part of Unfollow #6 focus upon a certain character?
Williams: Unfollow #6 is about the character Deacon, an ex-Special Forces soldier who's been off the grid for many years and has been living in Alaska. He has a slightly eccentric view, in that he believes that God talks to him, and that he has a holy mission to protect certain members of the 140.
Nrama: With Unfollow #6 out this week, what's coming up next in the comic book?
Williams: What's coming up? Well, in Unfollow #7, we've got another guest artist who's superb again and very different: Marguerite Sauvage.
Nrama: From DC Bombshells?
Williams: Yes, and she's terrific. That one's largely based around Courtney and the fashion industry in New York.
So I love the tonal difference of going from Guéra, who has this earthy and guttural style in #6, and then going to Marguerite's #7, which is just a beautiful, pretty looking thing.
And then when we come back with issue #8, Mike and the creative team are coming back. And what you see is that the 140 have split. They've gone back to their homes, all around the world. And we see what they do with the money and the threat.
Some people are going to take up arms and try to protect themselves and others are going to try to deal with it in a very peaceful way and try to rise above it.
And you're going to see how that works out for both sides.