It’s the end of “The Unwritten” as we know it, and Mike Carey and Peter Gross feel fine. It was confirmed at New York Comic Con during the Vertigo Panel that “The Unwritten” will relaunch in January with a new #1. It was also revealed that the second volume would run 12 issues and would carry the subtitle: “Apocalypse.”
CBR News spoke with Carey and Gross about their Eisner Award nominated series as the long-time collaborators begin the enormous task of tying together the myriad of plot threads they’ve unleashed over the past five years during one final year of the critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling series.
Carey and Gross feel at peace with what they’ve created and are more than prepared to walk Tom Taylor — the believed-to-be boy wizard made flesh — through the final days of his epic story. The question is, of course, is whether or not Tom and Tommy are prepared for what’s lies ahead.
CBR News: So, that’s a big announcement this weekend at New York Comic Con. “The Unwritten,” Volume 2 has a subtitle, “Apocalypse” and will come to its end at the end of 2014. What else can you share?
Mike Carey: This is where everything comes together. The renumbering and the name change and the hiatus are all ways of doing a drum roll and saying, “This is where it ends.” We’re gearing up for the final act and everything that we’ve sown will now be reaped. It’s planned as three arcs, and each of them will expand the scope. The third arc will be the ultimate climax and resolution for Tom and Tommy.
Tom and Tommy?
Carey: Yes, Tom and Tommy.
And “Apocalypse” will run 12 issues.
Peter Gross: Yes, 12 issues, and it’s 22 pages an issue, so the page count is a little higher, which is great. It gives us a little extra time and space to flesh out the story — those two pages makes a huge difference for each book.
Carey: Psychologically more than anything. This is an epic story and what we’ve been building towards all along.
Unlike when a series is cancelled, I’d assume having a planned end date makes things easier creatively. Does it also make it easier to say “Goodbye?”
Gross: It’s not at that point yet, but I expect it will get that way. It generally does when you’re almost done with these things. Right now, I just feel really excited about doing what we’ve been building — and keeping — in our heads for the last four or five years. I’m at that point right now.
Carey: I remember with “Lucifer,” as you close in on the ending, you become acutely aware of the stories that you didn’t tell. Any ongoing book is as much as an un-telling as much as a telling. You choose paths to have your characters tread and you choose to ignore certain events or let them happen off panel, but I’m not feeling that as much with “Unwritten.” I think we’ve done pretty much everything that we set out to do. It actually feels hugely satisfying to be at this point and have everything in the right place.
It’s funny that you say things may happen off panel, because the solicitation for “The Unwritten: Apocalypse” #1 teases, “Lost in the unwritten scenes of all the world’s stories, Tom Taylor is headed back to reality…” If Hitchcock taught us anything, it’s that that’s where the scariest bits happen, don’t they? Off panel?
Carey: I think it’s been one of selling points, all the way through. You have this double vision where our story spans the real world and the story planes, the story places, as well. By the time we get to these stories, it’s clear that’s not a binary opposition. It’s not as simple as things are real or fictional. But it does it give us a potential limitless canvas, and one of the challenges, certainly when we were at the planning stages for these arcs, was deciding, which stories were referred to and which setting we are going to use.
Gross: We’ve always talked like, “We can do this or we can do this,” but now that we are in this end game, it’s time to put up and do those things that we’ve been talking about. I feel like we’ve got a tiger by the tail sometimes. The thrill at the end is to see all of these things that Mike and I have talked about, now we’re doing them. We have to pick the ones that we want to do. It’s a little bit daunting, but I think the final arc, after we establish it and get into it, it’s just going to be going 100 miles per hour.
Carey: To give you an idea of the scope and the pace, the first issue after the break covers things like Aesop’s Fables, a lot of modern fantasy. We go back to Willowbank Wood — there are references to just about every anthropomorphic animal story there has ever been.
This is why I love speaking with you both about “The Unwritten.” During the course of your last answer, I wrote down two things: “binary opposition” and “lions and tigers and bears…” And you, almost as I was writing them down, said “binary opposition” and “tiger by the tail.” We truly are interconnected through stories and words.
Carey: [Laughs] You’ve always resonated on the same frequency as us, Jeff.
I’ll be honest. I was getting a little freaked out. I wanted to ask you about “lions and tigers and bears” because the solicitation also teases, and you’ve just touched upon it, that Tom would face “all the gods and beasts and monsters ever imagined” on the road back to reality. That sounds worse that lions and tigers and bears.
Carey: There are certainly some supernatural moments in this arc. My favorite scene in the first issue concerns the Lion and the Mouse [from Aesop’s Fables] and some weird interactions between them.
At the start of the interview, Mike, you said this final year will feature the ultimate climax and resolution for Tom and Tommy. And I clarified Tom and Tommy, because on the final page of “The Unwritten” #53, Tommy was transformed back to Tom, which may not bode well him for him as he still exists, at least currently, in what is now to him the fictional realm of Fabletown. That can’t be a good thing for Tom, can it?
Carey: [Laughs] No, absolutely not. And when we rejoin him after the hiatus, he is in a very precarious place. He is trying to orientate himself within the world of stories and trying to find his way home but one of things that he learns at the end of “The Unwritten” #54 is that it is problematic, even to know what the right direction is, let alone what he should be aiming for.
Gross: And then once he gets home — the setting for this whole final year is like a big character in the whole thing. I can’t even describe it. I’m struggling in my head with what to say about “home” when he gets there. But it’s a very interesting place. I think it’s a place that culminates everything that we’ve set up about stories and reality.
The final volume is called “Apocalypse” and based on what you’ve said, or not said, I get the feeling that all is not right in Tom’s world upon his return from Fabletown. Yet, I can’t help but think that he is better prepared for what he faces. Because he’s changed, hasn’t he? And he has, or will have, a better understanding of the whole story now, and what role he plays in it.
Carey: That’s very true. And that’s the beauty of the “The Unwritten Fables” arc. The Fables ended up being the perfect vehicle for what he is going to learn. There are some major reveals in “The Unwritten” #54 that will have a big impact on Tom moving forward. Part of that impact is to open up the question, “What is reality?” And we do this in a different way than we have before. It’s difficult to say whether Tom succeeds in finding his way out or not.
“The Unwritten” Volume 2: “Apocalypse” #1, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, is expected on January 22, 2014.