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Interview: Mike Carey & Bill Willingham Talk THE UNWRITTEN/FABLES Crossover

Find out why this crossover event makes perfect sense and how it will change both series.

THE UNWRITTEN is a comic by Mike Carey that focuses on Tom Taylor. He was the son of an author who wrote fiction stories of a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor. As an adult, he can't escape the fans of the series and even made a living appearing at conventions as the 'inspiration' behind his father's work. He soon finds there is some truth to the fiction and magic as the two worlds collide.

In THE UNWRITTEN #49, Tom found himself face to face with some characters from Bill Willingham's FABLES. We had the opportunity to speak with both Carey and Willingham on how this crossover came about and what it could mean for both series.

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Comic Vine: When did this idea come about because, after thinking about it, it makes perfect sense.

Mike Carey: It happened so gradually over a course of time. It started with Peter [Gross] and Bill bumping into each other at the U.S. conventions saying that it might be cool to talk about this. Then Bucky (Mark Buckingham) and I had a similar conversation over here at the Bristol convention. At a certain point within that time frame, Shelly [Bond] took over as editor on THE UNWRITTEN. She was already the editor on FABLES. Suddenly we had this direct channel. We could actually talk about it together. It went from being a sort of pipe dream to being a feasible thing.

Bill Willingham: Yeah, I think the conversation started between Peter and I recognizing either book could actually take place in the pages of the other book. The structure of UNWRITTEN is that it's conceivable they can enter the stories of Fables someday. And the structure of FABLES is that there's so many worlds out there, it's possible that the one in which UNWRITTEN takes place is out there somewhere.

I think it was just that kind of cute observation at first before the light bulb was lit that made us think, "Oh, we could do a story together someday."


CV: With the way UNWRITTEN #49 ended, is Tom in the FABLES world?

MC: It certainly looks like it, doesn't it? He makes this decision that he's already in the Underworld and needs to go deeper still. He's going to try to strip away the veil or illusion to see what the real engine is. He immediately finds himself dragged into a deep dark wood where he meets the Fables.

CV: Could it be possible that Fabletown actually exist in the UNWRITTEN universe?

MC: In a sense, it's inevitable that it does. It can play either way. In UNWRITTEN, all stories create their own worlds just by virtue of being told, often enough to leave that indelible mark on human consciousness. In FABLES, of course, it's the characters themselves that are the indelible and immortal source of the story. There is a lot of conceptual overlap. It's almost inevitable that they would meet up.

CV: How was it decided which Fables would be used?

MC: I begged Bill could i use this character or that character and the answer was "yes." We came up with a story that would make sense for all of the core cast of FABLES to be involved.

BW: He really did create his own opportunity there. Mike did have a list of "These are the characters that I would to use." He and Mark in their talk structured a story that just allowed the entire floodgates to be opened. Any of the FABLES characters could be available.

THE UNWRITTEN #50. Pencils by Mark Buckingham & inks by Peter Gross. Colors by Chris Chuckry.
THE UNWRITTEN #50. Pencils by Mark Buckingham & inks by Peter Gross. Colors by Chris Chuckry.

CV: What sort of threat will they face? Are we seeing the return of Mister Dark?


BW: I think that was the most direct question we've had so far.

MC: I think the only fair answer to that is to just wait and see. The threat that they're facing is huge. It's existential in the sense that it potentially attacks the very basis of the existence of the Fables' world and the existence of Tom's world, in pretty much equal measure. It does bring back an antagonist, a big bad from an earlier FABLES story. It also brings back a big bad from an earlier UNWRITTEN story.

BW: In either case, you are not seeing the same events play out. It's not a flashback in that sense or the same story. Nothing that you've seen yet in FABLES or in THE UNWRITTEN.

CV: What sort of impact will this have on Tom in future stories?

MC: It's kind of a stage in a wider odyssey. He's been given this power, which he very very imperfectly understands. He is at least aware of his limitations He knows what he can do and what he can't do. He's reached the point now where he feels that, going forward, if he acts on this partial knowledge, he's going to mess everything up. He's not going to be able to save Leviathan, he's not going to be able pull the world back from the brink of this disaster. He's trying to understand himself. The events of this arc will answer many of his questions and leave him in a very different place.

BW: Where FABLES is concerned, the impact would be much easier to talk about if the first issue of this event were out already. There's a couple key places in which what's happening here in the story is going to set up potential problems. They'll actually be big problems in the sense that Mark and I have talked about wanting to follow up on these problems in Fables in the future, in very specific points, that I"m not going to talk about.

THE UNWRITTEN #50. Pencils by Peter Gross with inks by Mark Buckingham.
THE UNWRITTEN #50. Pencils by Peter Gross with inks by Mark Buckingham.

CV: What about the idea of other fiction characters? Are other Vertigo or DC characters still off the table?

MC: We were engaged in very tentative discussions to bring Superman into UNWRITTEN. This was a couple years back. In the end, it didn't happen. In the end we kind of withdrew the request. We created the character of the Tinker instead of using Superman.

BW: I hadn't realized it had gone to actual discussion with DC. I thought it was just sort of an idea you played with thought better of.

MC: It only gone to the point of us asking if we asked, would we be allowed. They were prepared to ask but that's as far as it went.

BW: I asked about a Bigby/Batman crossover once.

MC: I would have bought that book.

CV: I would have too!

BW: I just thought, detectives…solving a crime together, both creatures of the night. It just seemed like a thing.

CV: Okay, we can't wait to see how this plays out and what you guys have coming up for us.

BW: I wish we could be more forthcoming with what the actual story is except that it's one of those cases where you tell a little, you tell it all. The "all" is exciting enough where it's worth preserving the surprise.

CV: That's fine, we're willing to wait. Hopefully this opens the door to other things as well. So we'll be patient and wait.

THE UNWRITTEN #50 is on sale June 26, 2013.

Here's a look at some more from the issue:

THE UNWRITTEN #50. Layouts by Peter Gross.
THE UNWRITTEN #50. Layouts by Peter Gross.
THE UNWRITTEN #50. Finishes by Inaki Miranda.
THE UNWRITTEN #50. Finishes by Inaki Miranda.
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