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Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross

Written by Arion on Sunday, October 20 2013 and posted in Blog
Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross
Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross
Yuko Shimizu
I’ve often wondered what we can accomplish as writers. Can we create ex nihilo? Or, in order to tell a story, we depend on narrative elements established centuries ago? Writers are considered creators, but hundreds of critics affirm that not even a single new story has been created since Shakespeare’s time, and even before that. So, in many ways, what we do is reinterpret certain primordial tales over and over again. Genres are like paths that we walk together, and what makes a difference between one writer and another is whether we turn left or right when the path leads to a bifurcation. But the trail is already there, it has always been there.

Mike Carey is a brilliant British author that has devoured thousands of novels for decades. He, too, has walked down many pathways. That much is made evident since the opening chapter of The Unwritten. All that knowledge has helped him to scrutinize the nature of writers and the essence of literature in “Tommy Taylor & the Ship That Sank Twice”.

The protagonist of The Unwritten (Vertigo’s best ongoing series) is Tom Taylor, the son of writer Wilson Taylor. Wilson wrote a worldwide success: a series of books about a young wizard named Tommy Taylor who studies in a magical school; helped by his loyal friends, Sue and Peter, he defeats Count Ambrosio, the dark lord. Does it ring any bells for you? Clearly, Tommy Taylor is Harry Potter, he even wears glasses, has black hair, is an orphan, is destined to save the world from Count Ambrosio (the equivalent of Lord Voldemort), and his friends Sue and Peter are Hermione and Ron. Of course, the school’s headmaster is very similar to Albus Dumbledore. 

The Unwritten, however, deals with the life of Tom Taylor, the son of the writer, and how his ties with fiction go far beyond sharing his name with the world’s favorite literary hero. “The Ship That Sank Twice” is an original graphic novel that focuses on Wilson Taylor’s first book. Carey masterfully balances at least three different narrative levels. First, we have the events of the novel (“The Ship That Sank Twice”), illustrated by Peter Gross, Kurt Huggins, Shawn McManus, Gary Erskine, Al Davison, Dean Ormston and Zelda Devon; and then we have Wilson Taylor’s “real life” illustrated by Peter Gross and Russ Braun and finally we have the paratext, the made-up reviews and reactions of readers of “The Ship That Sank Twice”.
Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross
Wilson Taylor, the writer / Wilson Taylor, el escritor

In the first narrative level, Carey pays homage to Harry Potter and follows the initial premises: a boy destined to protect the world is saved by the sacrifice of his parents; then he’s sent to a magical school that reminds us of Hogwarts where he befriends Sue and Peter. But after that the story embarks in its own journey. Like I said before, once we get to a fork in the road we must decide which way to go. Carey explores a fascinating magical world, inhabited by vibrant and unforgettable characters. Reading this made me feel, in a lot of ways, as enthusiastic and awestruck as I was when I first read Harry Potter, 10 years ago. A magician in his own right, Carey captivates the reader with the charming spell of literature.  
Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross
Tommy Taylor, the hero / Tommy Taylor, el héroe

In the second narrative level, Carey gets inside the mind of Wilson Taylor, a writer obsessed with the mysteries of creation. We see Wilson’s first failed attempts at recreating stories we’re all familiar with: The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia or Superman’s origin: “I’m not ruling out plagiarism at this stage. The trouble with these paradigms is that they’ve been plagiarized to death already”. Obviously, while Wilson Taylor points at Tolkien as a reference in fantasy, as readers we must look at how Carey points at JK Rowling as a reference in children’s books. What Wilson Taylor wants is “to make my character such a powerful archetype that he works backwards and erases his own precursors”. 

Many of the secrets of “The Unwritten” are revealed here, and we finally understand why it was necessary for Wilson Taylor to combine the creation of the Tommy Taylor novels and the birth of his son, Tom Taylor. This is a very ambitious metatextual adventure and it does pay off in the end. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the entire series (I haven’t), somehow you realize what the scope is and you feel grateful for finding a writer that trusts in the intelligence of readers and their ability to comprehend and value prose and poetry. 

Finally, in the third narrative level, Carey writes reviews about his own work. We have nonexistent webpages and newspapers talking about “The Ship That Sank Twice”, they analyze plot structure, literary references and archetypes, among many other things.

Mike Carey provides us with a lucid and complex exploration of literature that everyone can understand and cherish. He writes a graphic novel that is at the same time a novel and an academic essay, and thanks to the collaboration of Peter Gross there is an artistic unity, a visual signature that guides the pencils, inks and colors of a dozen collaborators. A truly excellent original graphic novel!


Me he preguntado a menudo qué podemos lograr como escritores. ¿Podemos crear de la nada? ¿O, para contar una historia, dependemos de elementos narrativos establecidos hace siglos? Los escritores son considerados creadores, pero cientos de críticos afirman que ni siquiera una sola historia nueva ha sido creada desde la época de Shakespeare, e incluso desde antes. Así que, de muchas maneras, lo que hacemos es reinterpretar ciertos relatos primordiales una y otra vez. Los géneros son como senderos que recorremos juntos, y lo que diferencia a un escritor de otro es si es que volteamos a la izquierda o a la derecha al llegar a una bifurcación del camino. Pero el camino ya está allí, siempre ha estado allí.
Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross
Tommy, Sue & Peter

Mike Carey es un brillante autor británico que ha devorado miles de novelas durante décadas. Él, también, ha caminado por muchas rutas. Y eso ha sido evidente desde el capítulo inicial de "The Unwritten". Todo ese conocimiento lo ha ayudado para escudriñar la naturaleza de los escritores y la esencia de la literatura en “Tommy Taylor & the Ship That Sank Twice”.

El protagonista de "The Unwritten" (la mejor serie continua de Vertigo) es Tom Taylor, el hijo del escritor Wilson Taylor. Wilson escribió un éxito mundial: una serie de libros sobre un joven hechicero llamado Tommy Taylor que estudia en una escuela de magia; ayudado por sus leales amigos, Sue y Peter, derrota al Conde Ambrosio, el lord oscuro. ¿Les suena familiar? Desde luego, Tommy Taylor es Harry Potter, incluso usa lentes, tiene pelo negro, es huérfano, está destinado a salvar al mundo del Conde Ambrosio (el equivalente a Lord Voldemort), y sus amigos Sue y Peter son Hermione y Ron. Por supuesto, el director de la escuela es muy similar a Albus Dumbledore. 

Sin embargo, “The Unwritten” se centra en la vida de Tom Taylor, el hijo del escritor, y cómo sus ataduras con la ficción van más allá de compartir su nombre con el héroe literario favorito del mundo. “El barco que se hundió dos veces” es una novela gráfica original que se enfoca en el primer libro de Wilson Taylor. Carey equilibra magistralmente al menos tres niveles narrativos diferentes. Primero, tenemos los eventos de la novela (“El barco que se hundió dos veces”), ilustrados por Peter Gross, Kurt Huggins, Shawn McManus, Gary Erskine, Al Davison, Dean Ormston y Zelda Devon; y luego tenemos la “vida real” de Wilson Taylor, ilustrada por Peter Gross y Russ Braun y finalmente tenemos el paratexto, las inventadas reseñas y reacciones de los lectores de “El barco que se hundió dos veces”.

En el primer nivel narrativo, Carey rinde homenaje a Harry Potter y sigue las premisas iniciales: un chico destinado a proteger al mundo y salvado por el sacrificio de sus padres; luego es enviado a una escuela mágica que nos recuerda a Hogwarts donde traba amistad con Sue y Peter. Pero después de eso, la historia se embarca en una travesía propia. Como dije antes, una vez que llegamos a una encrucijada en el camino debemos decidir qué ruta seguir. Carey explora un fascinante mundo mágico, habitado por personajes vibrantes e inolvidables. Leer esto me hizo sentir tan entusiasmado y encandilado como la primera vez que leí Harry Potter, hace 10 años. Como un mago, Carey cautiva al lector con el encantador hechizo de la literatura.  
Tommy Taylor the Ship That Sank Twice - Mike Carey Peter Gross
The secret origin of Count Ambrosio /
el origen secreto del Conde Ambrosio

En el segundo nivel narrativo, Carey entra en la mente de Wilson Taylor, un escritor obsesionado con los misterios de la creación. Vemos los primeros intentos fallidos de Wilson al recrear historias que todos conocemos: "El señor de los anillos", "Las crónicas de Narnia" o el origen de Superman: “No estoy invalidando el plagio en esta etapa. El problema con estos paradigmas es que ya han sido plagiados a morir”. Obviamente, mientras Wilson Taylor señala a Tolkien como una referencia en la fantasía, como lectores debemos ver a Carey señalando a JK Rowling como una referencia en libros infantiles. Lo que Wilson Taylor quiere es “hacer de mi personaje un arquetipo tan poderoso que funciona retroactivamente y borre a sus propios precursores”. 

Muchos de los secretos de “The Unwritten” son revelados aquí, y finalmente entendemos por qué era necesario para Wilson Taylor combinar la creación de las novelas de Tommy Taylor y el nacimiento de su hijo, Tom Taylor. Esta es una aventura metatextual ambiciosa que al final cumple con lo prometido. No importa si es que no han leído toda la serie (yo no lo he hecho), de algún modo, te das cuenta de todo lo que abarca y te sientes agradecido por encontrar a un escritor que confía en la inteligencia de los lectores y en su habilidad para comprender y valorar la prosa y la poesía.

Finalmente, en el tercer nivel narrativo, Carey escribe reseñas sobre su propio trabajo. Tenemos inexistentes páginas web y periódicos que hablan sobre “El barco que se hundió dos veces”, analizan la estructura argumental, las referencias literarias y los arquetipos, entre otras cosas.

Mike Carey nos entrega una lúcida y compleja exploración de la literatura que todos pueden entender y atesorar. Él ha escrito una novela gráfica que es al mismo tiempo una novela y un ensayo académico, y gracias a la colaboración de Peter Gross hay una unidad artística, una firma visual que guía los lápices, tintas y colores de una docena de colaboradores. ¡Una excelente novela gráfica original!

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About the Author - Arion

Arion, who is either from Chile or New York (it’s not really clear) writes a blog that the Outhouse steals on a regular basis.  Arion is by far the nicest of all the staff writers and the most well behaved only having been banned from one country.  One thing we really appreciate about Aroin is that he writes his reviews in English and Spanish and we hope someday he’ll translate this blurb for us.  We’re not so good at languages, just look at how well we write in English if you need proof.  You should bookmark Arion’s blog - – and actually look at it.  There will be a quiz at the end of every month.


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