After FABLES Game-Changer, UNWRITTEN To Relaunch in 2014

The Unwritten #54
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Mike Carey and Peter Gross have confirmed to Newsarama that the Vertigo series The Unwritten will take a short hiatus in November and December, but will return in January with a new #1 issue.

It all comes after the expected "game-changer" that happens when the current Fables crossover ends in October. The crossover, which started in Unwritten #50 and runs through that title only, has been co-written by Carey and Fables creator Bill Willingham, with shared art duties by Gross and Fables artist Mark Buckingham.

According to Carey and Gross, the Fables storyline will end with something major enough to justify a break for The Unwritten — and the start of a whole new volume.

The Unwritten tells the story of Tom Taylor, a man whose father has written a series of fantasy novels starring a boy wizard named "Tommy Taylor." When the comic began, the world treated Tommy as if he's the "real-life" version of the young hero from the novels.

But since that premise was laid out in the first issue, Tom Taylor has been thrust into an adventure that has explored the amazing power of stories, and the close relationship between fiction and life.

Although the comic will take a two month break, Carey and Gross are hoping the upcoming Unwritten graphic novel will help tide them over. In September, Vertigo will release The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice, a 150-page original graphic novel that ties into the ongoing series and gives insight into its characters and concepts. The OGN will feature a story from the comic's Tommy Taylor books, featuring a young Tommy and his friends Peter and Sue on a "swashbuckling deep sea adventure."

But interspersed throughout the narrative will be notes from the book's author, Wilson Taylor, revealing secrets about the creation of the Unwritten world and then nature of the comic's main character, Tom.

Newsarama talked to Carey and Gross about the hiatus, the launch of a new volume, the upcoming graphic novel — and the fact that there's a real-life Tom Taylor now working at DC.

Newsarama: Mike and Peter, The Unwritten didn't show up in November solicitations, and now DC has confirmed that the book is taking a two-month hiatus. How did this come about?

Peter Gross: Partly, I think it's a blessing for us because we just finished a 150-page Unwritten graphic novel, the Tommy Taylor [and the Ship That Sank Twice] book, while working on the Fables arc, which opened with a double-sized issue.

I think I was kind of begging them for a little time.

And as we were working on the Fables arc, we realized it ended at such a big point — almost like an ending and relaunching point. And we asked if we could start up the next volume of Unwritten with a #1.

And when they said yes to that, we pushed for a little break to get us back on schedule.

Mike Carey: Yeah, it felt like we reached a natural turning point in the story, particularly since the Fables arc was, itself, such a big change of pace and tone.

So there's a kind of natural rhythm to it so the break won't seem like a stop; it will feel like a breather. And it will be very short. It's only a few months.

Nrama: The fact that you say that the end of the Fables crossover arc ends with something that makes sense with a break and a new #1 issue really emphasizes that this storyline isn't just a "side" story. Because I looked at some reviews of the last issue, and there's still the opinion out there that this takes your comic off track. This is still a big part of the ongoing Unwritten story, right?

Gross: Yeah, it really is.

Carey: Very much so.

Gross: And in maybe a more subtle way than they're realizing in the first couple issues of it. But we didn't want to do the Fables story if it didn't have implications for Unwritten.

And as we were working on it, we realized the implications were much, much bigger than we thought.

I mean, we literally, at one point, said "if this is happening here at the end of Fables, then this is what could happen to Tommy afterwards." And that's what led to this relaunch and a new volume.

It's big stuff at the end of Fables.

Nrama: How many months will the monthly be on hiatus.

Carey: It will be two or three months. We'll be back early in the new year.

Nrama: During that time, readers will get this big OGN from you guys, The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice. This is not only a "Tommy Taylor" story, featuring a "swashbuckling deep sea adventure" with Tommy, Sue and Peter, but it also gives some insight into Wilson's thoughts as he wrote the Tommy Taylor novels, right?

Carey: It's almost an origin story for Thomas as well as Tommy. It [gives] insight into where the Tommy Taylor novels came from, what Wilson was doing at that time, and it actually takes us right back to the start of Tom's story.

Gross: I think what we wanted to do when we structured it was — in the early issues of Unwritten, we would do Tom's story, and then we would do a few pages of a Tommy Taylor story. And when we decided we were going to tell the Tommy Taylor [and the Ship That Sank Twice] story, we decided to just kind of flip that formula. We thought, wouldn't it be really interesting to have it be all Tommy Taylor story, but then do a few pages here and there of, essentially, Wilson's story.

So it's the other side of the coin of the format structure we had at the beginning of the comic.

Carey: I keep thinking of the cover of, I think it was issue #16? Where [cover artist] Yuko [Shimizu] portrayed Wilson Taylor as a sort of godlike puppeteer, manipulating the world through puppet strings that were made out of words. It's kind of like that.

We have a complete Tommy Taylor story in there, but we're very much aware, all the way through, Wilson is the master manipulator who's brought this thing into being for his own reasons, which become less and less opaque as the story goes one.

Gross: And I have to say, it's really fascinating because as we worked on it, I saved all those Wilson pages for last. They're interspersed through the OGN, but I saved them for the end when I was working on it. So we worked on the Tommy Taylor story as kind of this straight story, then when we started doing the Wilson pages and putting them in there, it was really fascinating on the way it commented on the Tommy Taylor story and changed your perception of it as you were reading it.

So you could go in and read all the Tommy Taylor pages and save all the Wilson pages until the end if you wanted to, or read them throughout the story and get a completely different take on things.

But it's amazing how a Wilson page can affect the next 20 Tommy pages you're reading.

Nrama: As you've mentioned, you've done Tommy Taylor stories before in the book. But how would you describe the style of both the Tommy and Wilson pages in the OGN, and how are you working with the other artists involved?

Gross: We're working mostly with Kurt Huggins and Zelda [Devon], and they did the first Pauly Bruckner issue — issue #12 of Unwritten — and we really wanted to work with them on something else again.

So the artist tone of the Tommy pages is kind of purposely more innocent, a little more painted looking. And it creates an atmosphere for the Tommy Taylor world.

And then we tried to structure all the Wilson pages as a counterpart to those. So they're more text-heavy. The layout's different. I mean, it's something you kind of have to experience when you're reading it, but the difference in tone is a huge part of the experience.

Carey: I actually wrote the Wilson pages as straight text. I wrote them as his journal entries. And then Peter found a way to weave the images through them in a very organic way. But yeah, it's a powerful contrast to the Tommy story. It's like you're crashing out of this fantasy into a much darker world.

Nrama: In the current storyline — and I'm not going to spoil anything for the trade waiters — but in a very general sense, we've seen a lot from the Fables characters, but there were some comments we saw from some of the Unwritten characters that made it seem like we might see more from the Unwritten side of things over the next few issues. Is that true?

Carey: Yes, we're going to see some more characters from the Unwritten continuity. And we're going to build on the revelations that we've already had about the relationship between the real world and the story world. Tom's perception of that is going to change completely.

Gross: I think that's the pivotal thing, without giving away too much... but the pivotal thing that comes from the Unwritten is Tom's understanding of the story world in relation to our world. And that's the big stuff that happens there.

Nrama: And certainly, the whole concept of Fables would lend a hand to that concept, since it exists plays with that idea of story existing in the real world. Or is "real" the right word? It's so difficult to figure out the way to describe the difference between story and "real" when you're talking about these two series!

Gross: Yeah! It's that way for us. I mean, I think our understanding of what we think stories are is constantly changing as we're working on this, wouldn't you say, Mike?

Carey: Yeah, very much so. You know, to a certain extent, Frau Totenkinder set the tone for this entire arc when she said, "Everything that is story in one place is real somewhere else." It's far from being a simple binary thing.

Gross: Yeah, it's very hard to use the word "real" in any context. You know?

Nrama: I agree. And I want to stop with the story discussion there, although I wanted to point out that there's a DC Comics writer now who is named Tom Taylor.

Gross: [Laughs.] Yeah, we brought him into being.

Carey: He's actually included a character named Mike Carey in one of his story arcs [laughs], just to make it reciprocal.

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