Anyone who has ever attended a panel run by “Fables” writer/creator Bill Willingham knows it’s an entertaining time. Willingham makes a real effort to make sure fans that turn out have a chance to ask questions and he makes a fun atmosphere, teasing plot details, criticizing his bosses, giving out prizes and telling jokes. For many fans, much of the panel is dedicated to asking questions that, on rare occasion, get a straight answer.
For the “Fables” Tenth Anniversary panel at this year’s New York Comic Con, Willingham was joined by Vertigo Editor Shelly Bond, writer Matthew Sturges (“Jack of Fables,” “Fairest”), Sean E. Williams (“Fairest”) and artist Phil Jiminez (“Fairest”) in a panel moderated by John Cunningham.
Willingham said that in all seriousness, he would be happy to write Fables for ten, twenty, thirty more years if it meant that the fans came along for the ride.
There was some talk of “Fairest,” the first story arc of which was drawn by Phil Jiminez, with upcoming arcs being written by guests Sturges, Williams and the South African novelist Lauren Beukes with a few images shown but little being spoiled or discussed.
When the conversation turned to the upcoming graphic novel “Werewolves of the Heartland,” Willingham had the other panelists choose volunteers from each section of the room and in order to win a copy of graphic novel, told them that the three had to sing, simultaneously, the “Werewolves of the Heartland” theme song.
“Whatever that is,” Willingham said.
The result was hilarious.
The graphic novel, on sale November 14, is about Bigby Wolf and his previously-alluded monstrous past. “We’ve never really shown that monstrous inner beast,” Willingham said, “shown it turned lose and how close to the surface it is. And what says Christmas like a bunch of Nazi werewolves?”
The cover to the upcoming “Fables” #125 was a giveaway at the DC booth for NYCC and is the first issue of an arc titled “Snow White.” The panel joked that one of the worst things in “Fables” is to have an arc named after you. “We’ll see if she’ll do a Rose Red and go to bed for nine months or step up to the challenge,” Willingham said.
“Some of you may have heard we’re going to do a ‘Fables’ and books like it-centered convention next year,” Willingham said, referring to “Fabletown and Beyond,” which he described as “a celebration of the mythic fiction movement in comics and in entertainment.”
The major “Fables”-related announcement of the convention — an event in conjunction with Mike Carey’s “The Unwritten” — had already been discussed. Willingham explained that the announcement was originally not going to be made by order of higher-ups at the company, but after going out and drinking, they agreed to do it. He described it as a “Fables” event that takes place so far outside of “Fables” that they lost control of it. The event will instead be overseen by “those rascally devils who do ‘The Unwritten’ every month.”
In the event, which the audience was repeatedly told was not a crossover, one or more characters from “The Unwritten” find themselves in the “Fables” world and “horrible things ensue,” according to Willingham.
Bond added Mark Buckingham and Peter Gross will both provide pencils for the story and will ink each other.
“If you like that Boy Blue is buried on a nice hill, he won’t be alone for long,” Willingham added in a sinister fashion. After the audience gasped, Willingham noted both Mike Carey and Peter Gross will be at Fablescon in March and people can go to fablescon.com for more information.
With that, Willingham turned the floor over to the fans for questions. The first fan to the microphone asked about the video game project from Telltale Games, which Willingham took care to emphasize will be canon.
“I’m not a computer games guy,” he said, “so I have to guess on whether the gaming aspect works, but the story is masterful.” He joked that some of the people at Telltale came up with such good ideas that he had them rubbed out — because everyone who lives in Las Vegas is assigned a few mob guys, and that his biggest problem with the project is that DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns get to see the project updates first. “Other than the fact that I have to wait,” Willingham said, “I’m loving it.”
When asked if the player could be Bigby in the game, Willingham hesitated. “I know the answer, but I don’t know if I can say it,” he said. “I’ll say this, how cool do you think it would be if you could?”
Asked about the many other television shows and comics that similarly draw on fairy tales and folklore and whether he’s ever worried about others coming up with similar stories, Willingham took the chance to make a larger point.
“They’re not ripping off ‘Fables,’ they’re taking these characters we all own,” Willingham said. “This is folklore, literally, stories owned by the folk. Every person in the world owns one hundred percent of every one of these stories and get to use these stories anyway you like. We’re all born rich because we own this wonderful treasure.”
When asked whether the characters Peter and Max from the prose novel of the same name would return, Willingham said while there may be more “Fables” prose novels in future, he’s currently writing another novel. Following that novel, Willingham will write a sequel to his young adult novel “Down the Mysterly River.” While it may be a few books down the road, Willingham said he would love to write either a “Peter and Max” sequel or another “Fables” prose novel.
“Isn’t one of the characters from ‘Peter and Max’ going to be in ‘Fables’ soon?” Bond asked Willingham, who responded by way of another question.
“Did a character from ‘Peter and Max’ survive?”
In terms of more “Cinderella” stories, Willingham said Shawn McManus has expressed an interest in drawing more Cinderella, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
When asked what was his favorite character to write, Willingham said that the true answer, that sounds like you’re sucking up to the crowd, is whatever character he’s currently writing. “You have to love the cranky bastard,” he said, “especially if you’re going to do something evil to him or her.”
“I personally liked Babe the Blue Ox,” Sturges said.
“Babe the Blue Ox is a joy,” Willingham said. Those who liked Babe, will be interested in another project that he and Sturges are working on. Sturges suggested that people follow him on Twitter as he will be posting something about the project soon.
When asked whether he’ll bring back Prince Charming, Willingham hesitate. “I swear to you on a stack of anything you want to stack up that I have no plans to bring back Prince Charming,” he said, emphasizing the “I.” “I don’t. I won’t be bringing back Prince Charming.”
Willingham also revealed an actual — albeit, small — spoiler, stating “Fables” #125 will mark a return to New York City.
As a final word, Willingham thanked everyone for supporting the book, adding, “If we do let you down, we’ll do it for good purposes.”
“And he’ll probably blame me,” Bond said. “Thank you, ‘Fables’ fans, for ten years and counting. Thank you Bill Willingham for being so awesome.”
“Fables” #125 hits January 23 and “Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland” releases November 14.