I, like many other people in the class, never read comic books before Unwritten, and I too was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. The beginning especially was more rooted in reality, and I thought that made it easier to get into the story. I was really interested in finding out how the mystery would evolve and just what happened to Wilson Taylor.
I do have to admit that I enjoyed the first book more than the second. I think the idea of fiction merging with the real world is a really interesting and creative one, but I think I am just drawn to the first one because I generally like stories that are rooted in the real world. Obviously, the first book already introduced that notion and the lines were beginning to blur, but the majority of the story focused on Tommy dealing with the allegations brought against him and their repercussions.
I thought the way Mike Carey and Peter Gross integrated the Tommy Taylor books was really creative. I think this is an example of transmedia storytelling in that the books are books (albeit fictional) within a comic book. Two media platforms are integrated to tell the story. Unlike other examples of transmedia storytelling, however, the two are not separate entities, but rather, one is within the other. The book is not the only other media platform; there is also mention of a Tommy Taylor movie that Tom auditions for.
As Henry Jenkins stated in “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?” “fans are the most active segment of the media audience, one that refuses to simply accept what they are given, but rather insists on the right to become full participants” (1). Even though he goes on to talk about fan created fiction, specifically films, it applies to Unwritten. For one, all the internet message boards and such are fan participation. Also, the guy who dresses as Count Ambrosio is an extreme example of this phenomenon—of a fan who wants to be a participant in the story so badly that he creates a real (in his mind) situation for the characters. The kids do the same thing, but they are, after all, kids.
Throughout the comic, examples of the internet responses show fans responses as well as news stories and other internet sites related to Tom/Tommy and the events of the story. These examples are part of the (fictional) “collective intelligence” that Jenkins talks about in “Searching for the Origami Unicorn.” In the comic book, the Tommy Taylor series functions as a “cultural attractor” and a “cultural activator” because it draws together and creates “common ground between diverse communities” (as evidenced by the different sampling of fans the comics showcase) and sets “into motion their decipherment, speculation, and elaboration” (Jenkins 3). Not only does this collective intelligence analyze the series, but they also speculate the mystery surrounding Wilson Taylor and then Tom’s real identity.
Even though Jane McGonigal is referring to Alternate Reality Games in “‘This Is Not a Game,’” some of the ideas can be applied to the story of Unwritten. As other people have said, the adventure that Tom and company go through is very much like an ARG in itself. It blends fiction with reality and clues abound in all sorts of places. For instance, Tom finds the safe behind Blake’s painting and he figures out the code because of the notes in one of the Tommy Taylor books. Furthermore, the fans in the comic book, like the Cloudmakers McGonigal writes about, gather together to attempt to solve, if only through speculation, what happened to Wilson, and later, Tom’s real identity.