Mike Carey and Peter Gross‘s latest installment of The Unwritten (issue 11) muses intriguingly on propaganda and the way that stories can be turned into very different things from the author’s intention. In Issue 10, Tommy Taylor (it would easy to suggest a Harry Potterish figure made flesh but could easily be Christopher Milne – forever associated with the Hundred Acre Wood and other children’s lives – or other children’s authors offspring’s lives) and companions fall through the door to escae the burning prison in issue 9 and find themselves with Joseph Goebbels.
Goebbels is showing Jud Suss, a film which inverted the original intention of the book written by a dissident Jewish author, Leon Feuchtwanger. Where the original novel (and no, I haven’t read but am relying on Carey and Gross here) showed the central character finding redemption through his religion, Goebbels turned it into a master work of anti-Semitic propaganda. After the film ends, Goebbels and Tom are talking when he kills Tom commenting that “I told you that your attention would make me more solid.” (issue 10, The Unwritten). This extends a theme that the imaginative world into which Tom has been thrust can only be made real and tangible through his belief. The shadowy character of Pullman can only be made real through (a perhaps necessary) belief in evil.
In limbo, a Kafka-esque civil service bureaucracy, Tom finds the cancer that the story of Jud Suss has become. Initially he appears to fall into its traps, beliving that it is his friend before seeing through the warped version. Yet as he wanders into its cancerous touches, he sees it for what it is and questions what is realy behind it. After seeing his father’s face in the middle of the storm of images, he says ” No. I get it. I think I get it. This is just you putting me through my paces again, right? Cramming literary bullshit into my head in the hope it will stick!”. He mutates the storm from Nazi narratives into a controlling narrative created by his father from which needs to escape.
He finally begins to see the door as a way of freeing his own imagination, for good or bad. Rather than being somebody who is controlled, he makes his own reality and finds his own path.
I do wonder know if the shadowy Pullman will turn out to be an apsect of his father (rather the somewhat more famous author). Just a thought.