We measure our lives in followers, favs, reblogs and snaps, building up circles of acquaintances on social media. But how truly connected are we? Do we think about the people behind the screen names? If they needed it, would we help or defend them, or would we ignore, disregard or even hinder them? Would we, if it would benefit us, even be willing to kill them?
These are the questions at the core of UNFOLLOW, the new social media-inspired Vertigo series in which 140 people stand to inherit a fortune that becomes even more substantial with the fewer of them that survive. Unfollow raises themes of disconnection, desensitization and class inequality, while spinning a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. But for now, it’s the Unfollow creative team of writer Rob Williams, artist Mike Dowling and editor Ellie Pyle that will have to deal with the hard questions—ten of them, to be precise.
Tell us, briefly, how you would describe Unfollow?
Rob Williams: A social media thriller with a zeitgeist edge and some killer art (and murderous characters).
Mike Dowling: It’s a globe-spanning thriller about escaping the abstraction of the technological age and finding yourself through physical adversity.
What was your first Vertigo comic as a reader?
Mike: HELLBLAZER, issue something or other. It was early on in Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s run – I was hooked.
Rob: Might have been Grant Morrison’s ANIMAL MAN.
Ellie Pyle: I bought a copy of THE DOLL’S HOUSE trade of THE SANDMAN from a used books table. Years later, when I finally bought the full set, I mailed that extra copy to the person I suspect I would meet for a drink every 100 years.
When did you know for sure that comics were the thing you wanted to do?
Rob: Relatively late. I was a professional journalist and was in my late 20s before I wrote my first comics script. I’d always been a fan but hadn’t seriously considered writing comics for a living until then.
Ellie: When I was 11 years old, I wanted nothing more than to make comics, but someone pointed out that I couldn’t draw so I went back to acting class. Years later, after running a theatre for a few years, a comic book editor friend of mine observed that telling stories and managing freelancers were exactly the skills a comic book editor needed. I fell in love with the job and have been here ever since.
Mike: When I found out you could draw pages twice as big as they’re printed–so much easier…
Rob Williams (as drawn by Mike Dowling)
What’s your favorite quote from a comic ever?
Rob: “Gaze into the fist of Dredd.”
Ellie: Favorite is hard, so I’ll go with the first one that made a lasting impression. It was a piece of advice Wolverine gave to Rogue about falling in love (from a mid-90s Gambit miniseries): “Never wait until conditions are perfect, because with the likes of us, they never are.”
Mike: From Lone Wolf and Cub. After receiving a fatal cut during a duel with Ogami Itto, a samurai’s dying words: “M-my neck…it sounds…like whistling…Worthy of…the Shogun’s executioner…my blood spurts forth…the diagonal cut across my neck…keens like the wind in bare trees. They call it…Mogari-Gue…The Flute of the Fallen Tiger. I always dreamed of making a cut that would sing…And now…I hear my own…such irony…” Always makes me smile.
How do you know when to call a page a finished page?
Mike: I’m not sure they’re ever finished – even if you had all the time in the world, eventually they’re not going to get any better and you just have to abandon them.
Ellie: When it’s time to move on to the next one. No, seriously. It was probably time yesterday.
What’s the question about your work you wish you’d never get again? What’s the question you wish people would ask?
Ellie: The best question I’ve ever gotten was “If you want to write or draw, you should write or draw every day, but how do you practice to become an editor?” My answer is that you should consume as many stories as possible (comics, film, TV, books, plays, whatever!) and practice having options about them. Learn what you like, and then figure out how to tell the difference between your personal taste, and whether or not something is well made, because they aren’t always the same thing.
Mike: Drawing comics is fairly time consuming—my friends often ask me what I’m working on and I have to tell them it’s still the same thing as the last 10 times they asked…
What was the last non-comic book you read? (no judging)
Mike: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Rob: Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies Of Grace Adieu.
Ellie: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
What was the last song you listened to? (totally judging)
Mike: “All of Me Wants All of You” by Sufjan Stevens.
Ellie: “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas. (I swear. It was on the radio.)
You're can have one final coffee with 2 people, one living and one dead, before a zombie apocalypse. Who are they and what do you discuss?
Mike: Moebius and Mike Mignola. I would grill them on how to draw comics–maybe they could finally explain it me before we’re overrun by the horde.
Rob: Bill Hicks and Louis CK. I figure we’re screwed and going to die soon anyway, so I’d like to hear them discussing comedy while I had a good coffee and just listened.
What is the stuff that dreams are made of?
Ellie: We are.
Mike: A good night’s sleep, I would imagine. I haven’t remembered a single one since I had kids.
UNFOLLOW #1 will be available on November 4, 2015 in print and as a digital download. For a preview of the first issue, be sure to check out our Vertigo 2015 Preview comic, which you can read for free right here.