The (Possibly) Unnoticed in The Unwritten

As is now becoming a habit, I’d like to point out a few interesting details in Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity. If you noticed them, I congratulate you and feel free to ignore this blog! If you are interested in other elements of The Unwritten, vol 1, check out kkutnak’s post on Fonts.

The first thing that stood out to me a hilarious and nearly hidden detail is the porn poster in the background of the Polaroid Tom Taylor poses for with his young fan.

background porn


“Tommy’s Magic Horn”, when paired with an image of a naked back, signifies pornography to me. In the diegetic universe, this is just one more way that the Tommy Taylor hype has gotten out of control. It also contributes to the discomfort of Tom Taylor who must now deal with people associating him with both a boy hero and a sexual fantasy. He moves further and further away from the possibility of normal life. What’s more, the innocence of the snapshot adds to the humor — I can’t help but imagine the mother’s reaction later when she looks back at the picture later. Hopefully, she would manage some spluttering and righteous indignation.

Another expression of the presence of the Tommy Taylor series in the world of the narrative is the award in the office of Wilson Taylor’s editor, ‘Miter Cole’ at Queensberry Publishers.

all the awards

Interestingly enough, the exact title of the work in question isn’t clear, only Tommy Taylor and the is visible. It can be inferred that it’s not any of the ones frequently referred to in the text — both Tommy Taylor and the Rain of Salt and Tommy Taylor and the Golden Trumpet (and Tommy Taylor and the Last Gorgon, the book Count Ambrosio mentions at the Q&A) are too long. Regardless, the award indicates critical acclaim on top of simple fame. Also, the presence of the award in Cole’s office shows that he is still proud of Wilson Taylor’s involvement with Queensberry Publishing, despite his sudden absence. This continued positive attitude will help with the undoubtedly dramatic publication process for the draft Cole receives in the next panel. Unfortunately, the other award cannot be for anything Tommy Taylor-related because the Orange Prize for Fiction is only awarded to female authors.

As a fan of word searches, this graphic novel was a delight. One micro-puzzle that I particularly noted was little Tom Taylor’s adorable alphabet pyjamas.

pj party

They include the word “STORY” very prominently across his chest. In a work like this, there is no such thing as a coincidence. Whose intent is behind the shirt, though? Is it a custom sleep top that his father slipped the word onto or is it the author alone that made that section less than random? While the answer is nearly unknowable, the shirt provides a moment of foreshadowing for Tom Taylor as stories will become “the only thing worth dying for” as the Count shouts in Tom’s face.

One last close inspection, but this one is arguably the most fun and the most important: the book shelves of Wilson Taylor’s inner sanctum.

even more books more books look at that library

In a universe where literary geography could end up saving your life, the books a man reads are clues and hints at what might happen next. Plus, I always make a point of browsing other people’s bookcases to see if we have any works in common. Wilson Taylor has a vast collection, so I’ll restrain myself to only a selection. He owns C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape LettersPeter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCanghrean, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel, Dracula, Gibson’s Idoru, The Mists of Avalon, The Last Unicorn, Inferno, The Neverending Story, and a lot of Dickens (middle image). The shelves in the leftmost image include The Princess Bride, Lolita, Ulysses, Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Steppenwolf, Byron’s The Giaour, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Return to Neverland, and quite a few of the Oz books. The rightmost image reveals Walden, Moby Dick, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, Pride and Prejudice, Les Liasions Dangeureuses (in French, though he owned other French works in English), quite a few of the Tarzan books, and, a personal favorite of mine, The Blue Sword. (I had to use my magnifying glass to read a few of these, by the way.)These titles are presented in a wide range of fonts and sizes and some have no readable title at all. The level of detail here is amazing and it rewards a close eye and promises a variety of allusions in the following volumes. This collection also allows the reader to get a glimpse of the personality and literary influences of Wilson Taylor, a largely absent but hugely important character in Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity. Which reminds me, none of the Tommy Taylor books can be seen on these shelves. I don’t know if they’re on one of the other shelves in the room, but there absence in these highly visible shelves is telling.

In a graphic novel as rich and fast-paced as The Unwritten, the little details can fade into the background, but they add nuance and complexity that makes the novel even more impressive and fascinating. After this close inspection of this first volume, I am even more excited to read the next volumes!

  2 comments for “The (Possibly) Unnoticed in The Unwritten

  1. ldry
    April 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    It is interesting that you point out these hidden details because that was one of my favorite things about reading this particular graphic novel. I actually didn’t notice any of the things that you drew attention to in this blog post except that the words swirling around Tommy’s arm on the cover say “stories are the only thing worth dying for.” Just like many of the background details in Watchmen, the ones in this story have just as much significance and add to the novel’s complexity. One of my favorite details to decipher was the letters that appeared in the items that the villain Pullman melted with his hand, which we touched on in the 10 o’clock section a little bit. First of all, there was the cell phone that, when melted, simply spelled “cheap cell phone.” Again when Pullman ruins Sue’s pottery, the words “man made vessel” are depicted in the remaining liquid. Perhaps the most interesting instance of all is when the housekeeper, Mathilde Venner’s, severed head dissolves in Tommy’s hand dripping the words “unanswered questions,” because that is exactly what she represents for Tommy. These small details give the reader more insight into the mystery behind Wilson Taylor’s Tommy Taylor series and how and why it came to be written.

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