Cover to The Unwritten #1.
Art by Yuko Shimizu.
|Publication date||October 2009 – present|
|Number of issues||59 as of December 2013 (#1-54, #31.5-35.5)|
|Main character(s)||Tom Taylor|
|Volume 1||ISBN 1-4012-2565-9|
|Volume 2||ISBN 1-4012-2873-9|
|Volume 3||ISBN 1-4012-3046-6|
|Volume 4||ISBN 1-4012-3292-2|
|Volume 5||ISBN 1-7811-6050-3|
|Volume 6||ISBN 1-4012-3560-3|
|Volume 7||ISBN 1-4012-3806-8|
The Unwritten is an American comic book ongoing series written by Mike Carey with art by Peter Gross and published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. The book follows Tom Taylor, who was the inspiration for a series of hugely successful children's fantasy novels in the vein of Harry Potter. The series deals with themes related to fame, celebrity, and the relationship between fiction and human consciousness.
The plot revolves around Tom Taylor, son of Wilson Taylor, an author who disappeared without a trace at the height of his career. Wilson wrote a series of books about a boy wizard called Tommy Taylor, filled with fantasy, even being compared to the Harry Potter series. Tom is generally portrayed as being somewhat rude and jaded about his status as a minor celebrity. His father had made a fortune off of a character modeled on young Tom, but Tom himself is without accomplishment, even claiming that his only real skill is an encyclopedic knowledge of literary geography. Tom makes most of his money through appearances at comic book and fantasy conventions. At one of these he is confronted by a man dressed as the villain of the Tommy Taylor novels, Count Ambrosio. Believing him merely to be an obsessive fan, Tom dismisses him but he is later kidnapped and held captive by the man, who appears to be a real vampire like Count Ambrosio. Taylor manages to escape with the kidnapper being killed by an explosion. His troubles are just beginning as a young woman named Lizzy Hexam confronts him at a convention where she publicly asserts that Tom is not the real son of Wilson Taylor. A media firestorm ensues in which various theories, such as Tom being a gold digging impostor, or his having been bought by Wilson Taylor from Bosnian refugees, circulate.
Eventually, some fans come to the conclusion that Tom Taylor, who had miraculously escaped unharmed from the explosion which killed Count Ambrosio, was the living incarnation of the fictional Tommy Taylor and would act as some sort of messiah. In an attempt to get away from the publicity, and get to the bottom of the mystery of his identity, Tom retreats to the Villa Diodati, the Swiss mansion where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. The villa is the place where his father wrote the Tommy Taylor novels and the last place where he had been seen before mysteriously disappearing. Unbeknownst to Tom, a small gathering of mystery and horror authors is also meeting at the Villa. While Tom attempts to figure out what happened to his father, the other attendees are murdered by a mysterious assassin known as Pullman. When the authorities arrive they accuse Tom of the murders. As he is being arrested, Tom is shocked to see the winged cat which accompanies the fictional Tommy Taylor in his adventures, perched nearby. Thrown into prison, Tom is put in a cell with Savoy, who turns out to be a reporter who had bribed his way into prison in order to report on Taylor's activities.
In prison, Tom immediately runs afoul of the prison's warden Chadron. The warden's children love the Tommy Taylor books and he hates Tom for potentially sullying their enjoyment of it. Chadron even goes so far as to allow a team of assassins to enter the prison to kill Tom. However, Tom and Savoy are rescued by Lizzie Hexam, who had gotten herself imprisoned in the women's section of the prison in order to help Tom. Using a magical doorknob which he had discovered in the Villa Diodati, Tom, Lizzie, and Savoy escape from prison, but not before witnessing the death of the warden's young children who, enamored of the Tommy Taylor novels and believing them to be real, had attempted to save Tom. After Tom's escape the warden discovers his dead children and, consumed with rage, transforms into Tommy Taylor's enemy Count Ambrosio. Meanwhile, Tom, Lizzie and Savoy, who now mirror the fictional threesome of Tommy and his friends Peter and Sue, find themselves in a ghostly 1930s Germany. Tommy discovers that this is a representation of the creation of Jud Suss the notorious Nazi propaganda film. This is an important event because the original novel Jud Suss involved a positive portrayal of a Jewish civil servant in Germany. The Nazis twisted the narrative to reinforce their antisemitic notions of Jewish villainy.
At this point, we discover that Lizzie is apparently still in communication with Wilson Taylor, a fact which she continues to hide from Tom. Wilson worries that Tom is not ready yet to confront as powerful a fiction as Jud Suss. Indeed, when they meet a fictional version of Joseph Goebbels, the phantom nearly kills Tommy. Lizzie, Tom, and Savoy eventually escape and use the doorknob to travel back to the real world, just in time for the release of the final Tommy Taylor novel.
While many people assume that the story is inspired by Harry Potter, Mike Carey, in an interview with Nicholas Yanes from scifipulse.net, claimed that "the most important reference point is the autobiography of Christopher Milne – who is famous as the Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh books. Milne grew up feeling that his father had stolen his childhood from him, turned a profit from it and then given it back to him in a form he couldn’t use. Our Tom is very much in that situation when we first meet him, although we take his identity crisis a fair bit further than that."
The series is being collected into trade paperbacks:
|Title||ISBN||Release Date||Collected Material|
|Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity||ISBN 1-4012-2565-9||January 12, 2010||The Unwritten #1-5 - 144 pages|
|Volume 2: Inside Man||ISBN 1-4012-2873-9||August 11, 2010||The Unwritten #6-12 - 168 pages|
|Volume 3: Dead Man's Knock||ISBN 1-4012-3046-6||March 29, 2011||The Unwritten #13-18 - 160 pages|
|Volume 4: Leviathan||ISBN 1-4012-3292-2||October 25, 2011||The Unwritten #19-24 - 144 pages|
|Volume 5: On to Genesis||ISBN 1-78116-050-3||January 27, 2012||The Unwritten #25-30 - 160 pages|
|Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words||ISBN 1-4012-3560-3||October 17, 2012||The Unwritten #31-35.5 - 240 pages|
|Volume 7: The Wound||ISBN 1-4012-3806-8||March 26, 2013||The Unwritten #36-41 - 144 pages|
|Volume 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds||ISBN 1-4012-4301-0||February 4, 2014||The Unwritten #42-49 - 176 pages|
|Volume 9: The Unwritten Fables||ISBN 1-4012-4694-X||July 29, 2014||The Unwritten #50-54|
Additionally, Vertigo released in September 2013 an original graphic novel called The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice (hardcover, ISBN 1-4012-2976-X), a standalone story about the origin of Tommy Taylor and his powers.
- Ekstrom, Steve (March 26, 2009). "Life as Fiction? Mike Carey on Vertigo's 'The Unwritten'". Newsarama. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- Arrant, Chris (May 18, 2009). "Peter Gross: The Art Side of 'The Unwritten'". Newsarama. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- Arrant, Chris (February 27, 2009). "PMike Carey & Peter Gross on Vertigo's 'The Unwritten'". Newsarama. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- Renaud, Jeffrey (March 29, 2009). "UNWRITTEN: Mike Carey & Peter Gross". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- Renaud, Jeffrey (March 31, 2009). "UNWRITTEN: Mike Carey & Peter Gross II". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- Hautain, Frederik (May 13, 2009). "Unwritten Ties Between Reality and Fiction". Broken Frontier. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- |Comics Interview: UK Writer Mike Carey On His Career To Date by Nicholas Yanes
- The Unwritten at the Comic Book DB