Let me first admit that I have never read a comic (other than those in the Sunday paper; I’m pretty sure they don’t count within the context of this class). I must admit that as I read, I found myself surprisingly invested in the story. I was outraged when Tommy/Tom/whatever he thinks his name is was alleged as the Villa Diodati murderer, I was shocked when Tommy’s cell mate turned out to be a reporter, and am still terrified that Count Ambrosia will randomly show up to kill me. I ended up completely loving the story.
The plot unfolded in a really linear and straightforward way, which reminded me of Greg Costikyan’s concept of beads on a string. As Tommy Taylor unraveled one mystery and made choices as a character, the next bead/challenge would reveal itself. For example, the final scenes of Unwritten 2 when the characters are stuck in Nazi Germany, they work as a team to pool their knowledge and escape the dangerous situation (collective intelligence, anyone?), thus leading them to the discovery that Tommy is in fact more powerful than they thought (he defeated the Canker, didn’t he?), and that his father is not going to be easily discovered. Discoveries aside, I am in fact quite frustrated with the beads on the string which ended so abruptly; I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
Also, the Unwritten comics are clearly that of Bartle’s Dorothy world, should the comic strip appear as a video game. Yes, in comics it is innately more challenging for the reader to interact with the story world unfolding in front of them, I don’t deny that.
A comic writer could design a comic version of a choose-your-own-adventure game and allow the reader some choice in the plot development. But like Dorothy, the Unwritten readers must stick to the predestined path, allowing the plot to happen to them, rather than influencing it themselves.
Tommy also struck me as a role playing character, as defined in the artificial reality games we’ve discussed in class. Not only is he fictional to begin with, he must then accept his alternate identity as the true hero of the Tommy Taylor stories. In doing so he takes on a whole new persona: one of power and vast potential, and also that is entirely performative. The power was within him all along, but only when he realized that he actually was Tommy Taylor from the stories was he able to utilize his full strength. When he was told “Hey man, you’re Tommy Taylor,” and was like, “Hey man, I guess you’re right,” his whole identity shifted. What does that say about character? That character is less intrinsic and more prescribed, if you ask me. Tom spent the entire first comic denying his true identity, then with a very sudden shift became the heroic Tommy Taylor of legend. To me, this suggests that character and power are performative in nature.
This comic deals with the concept of transmedia storytelling in the sense that the comic itself utilizes numerous media within its personalized world to construct its story. Not only is it a comic portraying simultaneously both a reality world and a fantasy world, it incorporates the use of parodied news outlets, online forums and pseudo Google search results to develop the plot, for example the allegations made about Tom’s involvement in the Villa Diodati massacre. This to me was ingeniously imaginative. It was part of why I loved the comic so much. I was overwhelmingly impressed with the level of maturity and creativity that clearly went into the creation of this comic.