Life in Fabletown doesn’t always include a happy ending — which is exactly what co-writers Matt Sturges & Dave Justus and artist Travis Moore (with covers by Tula Lotay) are banking on for their new Vertigo series, “Everafter: From the Pages of Fables.”
A continuation of the best-selling, Eisner Award winning franchise created by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, the new monthly title, slated to start in September, is ultimately a spy thriller starring some characters that kept primarily to the shadows during the original 150-plus issues of “Fables.”
An unspecified amount of time has passed since “Fables'” finale, and magic is king when we rejoin the citizens of Fabletown in the new series. When this new world order needs saving, they call in The Shadow Players: Bo Peep, Peter Piper, Hansel, and Connor Wolf.
Telling CBR News that Willingham planted too many seeds for future stories in “Fables” #150 that just had to be explored, Sturges and Justus dig into the characterization of the husband and wife team of Bo and Peter, and explain that Hansel hasn’t been so fanatically focused since he turned on his sister Gretel in the early days of “Fables.” Moore also revealed his thoughts on Connor Wolf, the fifth child of Bigby Wolf and Snow White, who just so happens to look a lot like Snow’s ex, Prince Charming.
CBR News: Not a prequel, not a “What If?” story, not an Elseworlds tale — this is new, as “Everafter” takes place after the events of “Fables” #150. Where do we pick up the story?
Matt Sturges: We pick up the story after a little bit of time has passed. We don’t say, immediately, how much time, but enough that the world has managed to catch on and learn that Fables are real, magic exists and magic is something that can be used for good or for ill in big ways and small ways. The Earth that we are encountering when “Everafter” begins is still recognizably our world, but definitely, some changes have started to take place — and not all of those changes have been for the better. We begin our story at a time of uncertainty, when nobody knows exactly what the future holds. Our heroes exist to keep that world from going off the rails.
This team of heroes features quite a few Fables with shadowy pasts — maybe why the group is known as the Shadow Players? It’s Bo Peep, Peter Piper, Hansel and Conner Wolf. Let’s start with Bo Peep, a former member of Assassin’s Guild of Hamelin who later helped rescue Snow White from Prince Brandish in the “Snow White” arc.
Dave Justus: Matt and I both read “Peter and Max: A Fables Novel” that Bill [Willingham] wrote, and we really found the portrayal of Peter Piper and Bo Peep quite fascinating. We wanted to learn more about these characters, and the best way to do that was to start making up more about those characters. What little we knew was that Bo became an assassin and a thief and possessed a lot of skills that really appealed to us. We have really played that up, and have further developed her arsenal and tried to do some really interesting stuff in terms of her character and in terms of Bo and Peter as a team and, also, as husband and wife.
Sturges: One of the things I really love about Bo as a character is, if you’ve read “Peter and Max,” you know that she spent many, many years in a wheelchair. Now, she is able to move again, and she is making the most of that. We often see her in motion, doing really cool acrobatic things that Travis seems to have a lot of fun drawing.
Travis Moore: In “Fables: The Wolf Among Us,” I was trying to stay very close to the Telltale Games style, which was brilliant, but I think with this one, I get to be a little closer to myself and really push what I’ve learned over the past two years while I’ve been in the “Fables” world. Being able to bring that out and show people what I’ve learned in that time is great. I’m really trying to do my very best work to date.
What about Bo’s better or maybe not-so-better half, Peter?
Justus: Peter is very pragmatic. He is going to be the guy who thinks through his moves in such a way that he might even come into conflict with some of his teammates. In his mind, he is making the better and smarter decisions. It’s an action-oriented book. so someone who is maybe reluctant to take action until he’s thought through it is obviously going to butt heads with some of the other people. We are really interested in exploring the idea of someone who thinks through the angles. He also has this incredibly powerful weapon in the form of his flute, Frost, but we can’t just have him bringing that out all of the time. He has to be smart enough to think through several ways to solve the problem or complete the mission before whipping out his flute.
Sturges: He also functions as the conscience for the series. Interactions with these characters is the morality of the things that they have to do to keep the world from spinning out of control. Because there are so many dangerous things out there, sometimes they have to be dealt with with a certain measure of brutality. This is not always a friendly world, and there is not always a happy ending. A lot of time, it’s the lesser of two evils. I think Peter sees himself as someone who is trying to make sure that what they are doing is not only going to be successful, but also the right thing to do.
Hansel, who has also spent some time in a wheelchair, is quite the opposite of Peter. He acts first and asks questions later. Is it safe to say, he plays the role of the man of action?
Justus: Hansel is a true believer to the point of almost being fanatic in getting rid of anything that goes bump in the night, especially if it is a witch. And that extends to any use of magic that he’s not onboard with. It makes him very effective in that he doesn’t have any qualms about what he is doing and will happily be the first one through the door but of course, this always causes a lot of trouble between Hansel and his teammates. He doesn’t feel that they are always as committed to the task as he is and they often think that he is out of his mind.
Rounding out the team is Connor Wolf. I was never able to get much out of Bill and Mark Buckingham about why Bigby and Snow’s son looked so much like Prince Charming — is this something that will be explored?
Justus: We wouldn’t want to say anything about whether or not he looks like Prince Charming. That’s something a lot of readers have pointed out, but in going back to your first question, enough time has passed since “Fables” #150 that when we kick off this series, Connor is old enough to be part of this team, even though he’s young and he’s very green. But we definitely will be going back to talk about what happened to him in the interim between “Fables” #150 and what he is doing now. In a lot of ways, he is going to be our point-of-view character, and there is a lot of his past to be explored. We have also seen his future in “Fables” #150 as a swashbuckling space hero, so it gives us a couple of points on a road map. We get to fill in all of the road in between, which is a lot fun so far.
Sturges: Connor is so much fun to write because he wants to be this person so badly. This heroic, bad-ass James Bond type, but he’s not quite there yet. He doesn’t know how to be that yet, so a lot of what he is and does is bluster. He’s basically faking it until he makes it. While he definitely has his talents — we can see that someday, he will be very good at what he does, but right now, that is not quite the case. Someone whose ego is bigger than his talent is a lot of fun to throw into a mix.
When you draw him, do you draw him to look like Prince Charming?
Moore: [Laughs] When I was designing all of the characters, we went through a bunch of different options of what types of facial features some of them might have to best convey each one’s character. And for Connor, we found kind of a wolf-y kind of look to him. I would say that he is grown up, he’s handsome and has the black hair, but he does now visually depart from the Prince Charming look. His whole style is very different. He presents himself a lot differently than Prince Charming.
Justus: Without giving too much away, I think it is very fair to say that Travis brought a lot of ideas to a lot of the characters, but probably none more so than Connor in terms of visual suggestions, but also suggestions about who the character could be. It changed the way Matt and I thought about him and completely opened up the story possibilities of who the characters were — again, most especially with Connor. He is a very collaborative character.
Sturges: He has some unique qualities that make him a very interesting character to work with. We’ll leave it at that.
What can you tell us about the series’ new characters and new villain?
Sturges: Before we do that, we should talk about the other main character of the series. There is someone who doesn’t show up much in “Fables” but plays a big role in the prose story that shows up at the end of the first “Fables” trade, and that’s Feathertop, who is a really fantastically interesting character to write. He is the head of this team of Shadow Players and he is sort of the mastermind behind the whole thing. We see that he has seen a lot of this stuff coming and has been planning for it for a very long time. Because of what he knows and what he’s seen, he’s a character readers may not know how to feel about at first, until they see exactly what he is after.
And is there a new big villain for the Fables?
Justus: I would hate to talk about that too much, because there is a lot of joy in peeling back the layers and discovering that this person who you thought was the big bad is really just a cog in the watchworks, and this person who you thought was the big bad was actually on the side of the good guys. But yes, there will be bad guys that you know, and bad guys who you have never met before. And like any good spy story, there will be a lot of betrayals and reversals and I think if people are wanting that layer of intrigue and to be surprised by who the bad folks turn out to be in the end, I think we are going to deliver on that front.
Sturges: There is not going to be a spooky adversary and you have to guess who it is going to be. That’s not what we’re after. We’re more about showing how all of the different pieces of this world interact and collide with one another, and who is trying to get what out of it. That said, there are some people out there trying to pull some strings — and there are people pulling more strings than others.
What are Bill’s thoughts on this continuation and how involved is he in the process?
Sturges: We actually worked fairly closely with Bill when we first sat down to do this. We spent the weekend at his house — mostly watching old episodes of “The Sandbaggers,” but also talking about this book. Bill told his story in “Fables,” and at the end of that book he teased some very interesting possibilities about a different story. We thought that was a story that we wanted to take a swipe at telling. We came up with a way of telling that story, and Bill, so far, is onboard with it. We’re pretty happy about that. We’re not trying to do the same thing that Bill did; we’re trying to take those pieces and play a different game with them.
“Everafter: From the Pages of Fables” launches in September from Vertigo Comics.
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