So far, Bayou has been an awesome read. I was a little worried at first that I’d be put-off by reading the comic online; I’m one of those old fashioned types—I love to be able to hold the actual book in my hands. I was also a little nervous about the prospect of navigating the comics on the website. But my fears were completely quelled by the straight-forward, simple, and smooth layout of the Comixology site. Not only was it aesthetically pleasing, but it WORKED—I was never frustrated about how the comics were organized, and there was never any confusion over how to transition between them. I was never “lost,” as I often am when trying to get around any sort of website that relies so heavily on an organized format. It was a seamless experience, which I think is an integral part of any reading, and especially so when reading graphic novels.
So of course, the ease of reading Bayou online made it possible for me to focus on the story being told, and the way it was being told. Bayou recalled some previous texts we’ve explored, mainly Nat Turner for obvious reasons, but some of Swallow Me Whole (the blur between reality and imagination, dreams, insanity, whatever you want to call it) and even Fun Home (the theme of a father-daughter relationship). I’m taking a Southern Lit course this semester with Prof. Anderson, and there were definitely moments when I forgot which class I was reading this comic for—Bayou is rich with elements of Southern literary traditions, exploring ideas about race relationships, allusions to the past, ties to the land, family dynamics, and so on. It’ll be interesting to see if our class discussion explores what Bayou tells us about the South, and how it could possibly be considered a Southern narrative.
And one last note—as I said, I found reading this comic online through Comixology.com to be a very easy and enjoyable experience. Personally, I think it’d be a great tool in a high school or even middle school English classroom. What a great way to introduce kids to the literary merit of graphic novels. Any classroom equipped with a SmartBoard would make Bayou easy for an English class to read and explore together.
One aspect of The Unwritten that I really wish we would have got to explore further were the ideas of fame and celebrity. I do think it was important to talk about the merging of fiction and reality and the influential power of stories over society, but the book also seemed just as preoccupied with how our (western, middle-class) society tends to obsess over the famous, and how public opinion can be so easily swayed by negative press. As I said in my presentation, the general public’s opinion of Tom Taylor was massively affected by the fiction, a rumor, gossip, that he had killed everyone at the Villa Diodati, as reflected in online auctions, message boards, and new forums. This reaction seems typical, and one that we’re used to seeing all the time in an age of tabloids and entertainment news shows. In fact, I think that Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ decision to use a character so familiar to us all, the lovable boy-wizard, is a play on our popular opinion (our popularly agreed upon decision) that Harry Potter, Tommy Taylor, and even Timothy Hunter are genuinely good and trustworthy people, and how if one of them had ended up murdering some people suddenly the public would feel incredibly betrayed because we had got it in our minds, and all agreed, that this boy (or the man based off of him) would never do anything so heinous and awful. By putting Tom through a series of “wrong-place, wrong-time” trials, Carey and Gross are not only showing the reader how easily affected by fictions the public is, but also revealing how personally it can be felt by a society which had uniformly agreed to trust their vision of a person and then to have to doubt that belief (as shown in the Dr. Swann question where the mother equates Tom’s “betrayal” to a rape of her daughter).
For the weekly roundup for Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s The Unwritten, I’ll choose my favorite in-class discussion…but there are definitely a few different blog posts I’d like to touch on.
Probably my favorite discussion/exercise we’ve done in class so far this semester was the one where the class divided into groups and everyone wrote a sentence-long summary of the first volume. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty hard! We couldn’t use the same words and eventually my group’s summary didn’t make any sense, really. I found this to be a useful exercise because it just goes to show how difficult of a graphic novel The Unwritten is to describe in a single sentence. There’s a lot that goes on in it, some of it seemingly unrelated (especially the last twenty or so pages.)
As for my favorite blog post about The Unwritten, I liked what “ahart” said about himself being worried that the novel was going to turn out to be like a manga and “just be about a kids basic life.” I felt the same way upon starting! And, like “ahart,” I was happily proven wrong…maybe I just felt that way by the title page and the back cover. I’m not entirely sure. “Kristine Brown” also brought up a good point — we never really discussed the themes of fame and celebrity and their part in the novel that much in class. I would’ve liked that as well! Lastly, the website that “Michael Gillespie” posted that dealt with Mike Carey and Peter Gross was pretty interesting, I found after taking a look at it.
Something from our class discussions that I found interesting was the possible meanings of the title of the series itself, “The Unwritten,” and what it could be referring to.
I remember it was suggested that “unwritten” could refer to the way that Count Ambrosio can never die as he is “unliving.” Similarly, stories that actually remain unwritten can never “die,” in a sense, since once they are put to paper they become vulnerable to being reinterpreted, or warped, as in the case of Jud Suss.
It may also refer to Tom himself, the “real” Tom, not the one written about in his father’s stories. Although the lines between fantasy and reality often become blurred within the novels…
As a series that is still a work in progress, I guess it also may be too soon to come to any conclusions.
I found this article on Twitter today and thought it would be relevant to share with our class. Apparently Emma Watson has dropped out of Brown because she was getting too much heckling for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series. Sounds a lot like our Tommy Taylor, no? Just shows the relevance of the messages about fame and blurring fact with fiction that The Unwritten discusses.
I found this interesting interview with Mike Carey on Blogtown where he talks about the Unwritten. The interview touches on many things we discussed in class and which is why I chose to share this interview instead of some of the other ones out there. Carey talks about the different forms of media that was used in the book. In class we talked about how Thomas Taylor is the name of the illustrator of the Harry Potter books, well in this interview Carey says who the character Pullman is named after(you’re going to have to read the interview to find out who). In the interview Carey also discloses that Harry Potter wasn’t the starting point of the book and that Tommy Taylor’s character is actually based on Christopher Milne (the son of the author of Winnie the Pooh books). This interview gives a lot of insight into the different parts of the book that we discussed in class.
I found this website to be interesting. It is a website representing Mike Carey who worked on the story and Peter Gross who worked on the artwork for The Unwritten. There is biographical information on both and there is also articles and podcasts that can be listened to. I have always found it interesting to look at the writer of books and whatnot as to see how they act and how they are influenced. It is also cool to see two people come together to collaborate on a project such as this.
I totally agree with ahart9’s claims that this novel is a lot like the Pagemaster. When I was first reading this novel it reminded me of those comics they would pass out to third grader bemoaning the use of drugs. It really took me back to my childhood in a weird way. I really don’t like this graphic novel personally which is not say that it isn’t a good novel but it just don’t cut the mustard for me personally. I also thought Tom was really obnoxious and angsty and I understand that it’s a set up for a character arc and what not but I think it’s always a daring move when an author makes their main character so unpalatable because no matter how the character may change a reader’s first impression is often their last or only impression. For whatever reason I just could not get over the way these pages where set up and the way the characters were developed. I just found it irksome, but I still am glad that I’ve had a chance to read it because it is interesting to look back at all the novels we’ve read so far and notice the different styles of storytelling and artistic interpretation.
I understand that this link is from wikipedia, but I found the information to be pretty concise. I found a connection between Unwritten and Watchmen in the ways that they both involved heroes that are used to “reflect contemporary anxieties and critique the superhero concept.” I feel that in the same mission of Watchmen, Unwritten also takes on the mission of seeking to alternate the views of the original superhero concept. Tommy Taylor, though he is a very popular type of super hero, he is portrayed by a very young boy, yet lives in an alternate reality as Tom Taylor. I found this connection to be a bit askew, but I did notice a relationship between both graphic novels.
So I went rummaging through Vertigo’s blog, Graphic Content, and I found this post about the creative process that goes into making the comic. Looking at these pages, it makes it more incredible to see how the team has to negotiate the lay of each page and make executive decisions about what stays, what gets changes, and what gets cut altogether. It’s interesting to find out how they start from script and work their way up, but I particularly enjoyed the parts that mention the specific details of each panels that you might have missed (or wanted to ignore, i.e. Tommy’s Magic Horn hovering above a kid’s head). I also thought it was interesting to read about their choice to go with water color for the Tommy Taylor pages, which really makes them stand out from the other pages. The last paragraph, though rushed, draws attention to Tommy Taylor’s look differs from Tom’s. I wish there was more detail on that aspect of the book, but it’s enough to make one think about how the two character compare and contrast.
I’m definitely a fan of the Carey/Gross team, so I might be a little biased in saying that this is probably the best graphic novel we’ve read this semester. It’s smartly written and well drawn, with a compelling storyline full of humor, history, pop references, vampires and all sorts of other strange things.
One of the most important elements of The Unwritten is, obviously, the literary references. They are constant throughout the story and there are many hints that Wilson’s training of Tom in “literary geography” will be his salvation, even though the jaded Tom doesn’t believe it (yet). One doesn’t need to be intimately familiar with literary history to appreciate all the references, but it certainly helps.
I especially like the title – the unwritten. It’s mysterious in its own way, and ironic since it’s a graphic novel about written stories and the shadowy cabal that is behind all of them.
The Unwritten is, as we know, an ongoing series and the end of each issue always leaves me waiting impatiently for next month’s release. I just finished reading the latest issue, #24, in which Pauly Bruckner has his triumphant return. Each issue adds significant elements to the plot and there isn’t a single wasted page. I don’t know how many issues will be in the run, but I do know I’ll be disappointed when this one is over.
The Unwritten was one of the few books that I found to be quite exciting. I love the drawing style and how the title fits so perfectly with story but before reading it you would have no idea what it meant. When i first started reading it I was worried that it would be another one of those books about manga writers or whatever and it would just be about a kids basic life. I was happily proven wrong. I didn’t expect what I got from this book at all. It was exciting and compelling. It was cool how the things that were happening in the book were coming to life and how it was surrounding the main character Tom who his father named the main character in the book after. Reading through these two volumes I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Page Master! An old kids movie where Macaulay Culkin gets sucked into different books. I even looked up the third volume and Tom is supposedly going to be in the story of Moby Dick! Just like in the Page Master! I really liked this book and plan to read the rest of the volumes.
Going in I had no clue what Unwritten was going to be about, books I assumed. I was pleasantly surprised with the story and style. One thing I didn’t really like was the main character. There was something about Tom that just seemed annoying. He only really ever talks about how he was left and abandoned by his dad who never said goodbye, did I mention his dad left him? Tom has a little too much angst to go with his abandonment issues. I guess it’s a major part of his life and the story, but it just bugged me. Overall Unwritten was great aside from Tom’s annoying character traits.
While reading both Asterios Polyp and Swallow Me Whole I found myself constantly drawn to the way the authors incorporated much ambiguity within their stories. This left the reader constantly wondering what the true hidden meaning behind the piece was. This led to much discussion on both pieces of work as there were many questions to and thoughts to what these hidden meanings could be. I was interested at how we looked at how in Swallow Me Whole we couldn’t exactly tell if we were in real life or if the visions were schizophrenic episodes. I constantly wondered these things while I was reading through the novel and love the fact that I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. This will allow me to enjoy the graphic novel many more times as I attempt to find the meaning of the piece. The same can be said of Asterios Polyp. We also looked at the used of empty space in Asterios Polyp. This was incorporated into the overall meaning of the piece which allowed us to look at negative space and reference that to Gods’ Man. I liked how off the wall the story was and wasn’t the same as graphic novels like We3 or The Dark Knight Returns. I really enjoyed getting to look at the graphic novels and see what other people thought the hidden meanings were within these pieces. I really enjoy ambiguity as it keeps a story fresh for many reads to come.
“Every memory is a re-creation, not a playback” (Ignazio)
One of the discussions that we had in class this week was about memory in Asterios Polyp. Since a large portion of this book is flashbacks, it was worth mentioning how important memories are for this book. One of the sections in particular that we looked at was the sequence of Hana going through day-to-day activities (bathing, sneezing, laughing, getting sick, etc.). There’re not necessarily the most defining, important, or happiest snapshots of their relationship, but they capture the side of Hana to which Asterios became accustomed—the essence of Hananess. Willy was right when he said, “All movement is arbitrary, it’s repetition that makes meaning,” because these moments of repetition and ritual characterize who a person really is, not the rare, outliers that occur from time to time.
In the same way, the flashbacks may not represent the story of Asterios Polyp in its entirety—did Willy’s show get cancelled, when did Asterios and Hana get divorced, did Asterios quit teaching, etc.—but it gives the audience the highlights and lowlights of what occurred. And because these flashbacks are more or less restricted to what Asterios (and Ignazio by proxy) knows, the full story cannot be fully known.
We brushed a little on Asterios’ video tapes, which can also represent memory. In a way, the documentation of events and one’s memory are similar. Both can be altered, destroyed, or decontextualized. When Asterios watches his videos in the beginning of the book, the reader might think differently of them until their gain context. And when the fire burns his videos, several decades of memories go up in smoke. All memory is fallible.