Bill Willingham's Vertigo series "Fables" has been built around his encyclopedic knowledge of classic folktales and mythologies, and much of that comes from his work at TSR, Inc., the company that first launched Dungeons & Dragons. The writer and artist recruited is former TSR colleague Stephen Sullivan to moderate a spotlight panel Sunday at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, and they got into it, Willingham made good on promises to deliver spoilers for his three biggest projects in comics right now - "Fables," "Justice Society of America" and "Angel."
"Fables," which is on pace to hit issue #100 soon, received the bulk of the attention during the panel. Willingham said that he plans to change some things in a big way when the book hits triple digits, and while he didn't get into specific, his spoiler for the series was twofold, and both should be serviceable conversation starters for speculators.
"Some of the people that you think are dead in 'Fables' are not, and some of the people that you don't think are dead in 'Fables' are," he stated.
That remark followed a question about the status of Boy Blue, who is currently dead in the ongoing story.
"Stinky the Badger has started a religion around the longed-for return of Boy Blue, and they indicate their membership with him by wearing a blue handkerchief," he explained. The writer then pointed to an upcoming cover that clearly displays Rose Red wearing one of those signifiers. Willingham wouldn't go into specifics beyond that, but he did say that he was open to passing around blue handkerchiefs as a promotion at Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer.
Willingham's second reveal addressed Snow White, with the author declaring, "We're gonna get Snow White married." Asked if she wasn't already married, he stuttered a bit, but re-emphasized, "Snow White is getting married in a very-soon upcoming "Fables."
As for his "Justice Society of America" spoiler, Willingham revealed that he will be taking a note from a previous storyarc in "Fables" and seeing how the same approach works in the DC Universe.
"Currently, the JSA is about 20 years in our future where the Fourth Reich, the Nazi superheroes, have taken over America, and Mr. Terrific is collaborating the Nazis," he explained. "We will be returning to our present day soon. In 'Fables' land, I have a lot of fun taking their vilest villain, The Adversary, and making him a member of Fabletown, and I thought that was really fun. I'm going to copy myself, do it again, and take the JSA's most dangerous, horrible villain and make him a member of the JSA."
He did not, however, say which villain specifically would be involved in that experiment.
In "Angel," Willingham's IDW comic based in the "Buffy" universe established by Joss Whedon, he announced another plot point that will deal with issues regarding villain and hero roles.
"The spoiler for this is that Spike from the 'Angel' series has been wondering for some time why prophecy never works out for him, why he's never the good guy," the writer said. "He's been looking into who gets to write prophecy. Do you go to school? Do you get a certificate? Is there a board of prophets that licenses you to?"
Circumstances will soon present Spike with the opportunity to tip prophecies in his favor, according to Willingham.
"One, he comes into a bit of money, and two, he has access to tons and tons of out-of-work Hollywood lawyers, so he starts hiring them to write prophecies where he's the star," he explained.
In addition to talking comics, Willingham also discussed his newly re-written novel "Down the Mysterly River."
"Before starting 'Fables,' I wrote the novel 'Down the Mysterly River,' and it got a small kind of boutique release, mostly sat on the shelf for ten years, and then recently we sold it to Tor Books for a major release."
The book, which follows a young man sent to wrong afterlife to live among wild animals, played an important role in Willingham's creative timeline, giving him a place to trying out story elements that he went on to use in "Fables."
"Those that read it will see a lot of the ideas that became 'Fables' in proto-form," he said.
As for how long Willingham plans to spend expanding is increasingly epic world in "Fables" itself, he used another famous comic as an example of his lofty goals.
"Hal Foster wrote 'Prince Valiant' for 33 years, so if I use the Hal Foster template, I still owe you 24 years," he concluded.