Fables in Angels: Willingham & Jean talk "Fables"

This Sunday, September 30, 2007, at the West Hollywood Book Fair, Golden Apple Comics proprietor Ryan Liebowitz is set to moderate a panel spotlighting Bill Willingham's acclaimed Vertigo series, "Fables." Joining Liebowitz and Willingham at the Comics/Sci-Fi/Horror Pavilion will be award winning "Fables" cover artist James Jean. CBR News sat down with Willingham and Jean to catch up on the popular long-running series.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, "Fables" tells the continuing adventures of familiar fairy-tale characters such as Cinderella, Prince Charming, Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf – all of whom live in our world and in our time. "These are essentially immortal characters who've continued to live on since their medieval days and are now living together in an underground refugee community in modern day New York City," Bill Willingham told CBR News. The series is about the trials and tribulations of the denizens of Fabletown as they struggle to fit into our mundane world and remain unnoticed by the villain who exiled from their homeland in the first place, a tyrant known as the Adversary.

A steadfast supporter of the plight of the Israeli people, Willingham likens the fables' situation to that of the displaced Israelis, inasmuch as "they are a community of refugees, sundered from their homelands, surrounded on all sides by vast and powerful enemies, and determined to someday win their homelands back." That said, the politics of Fabletown are far from controversial; for Willingham, entertaining his readers is the order of the day.

"Fables" grew out of Willingham's long-time fascination with folklore, myth and fairy tales. "Characters and concepts from these literary realms kept finding their way into my other comic stories," Willingham said. "'Fables,' I suppose, was mostly a matter of finally accepting that this sort of thing was what I was interested in writing about. I constructed a series specifically around these ideas, rather than finding ways to sneak them into other projects."

Willingham gave CBR News a peek behind the curtain at upcoming "Fables" storylines. After the current story arc, "The Good Prince," wraps up, Willingham launches into an espionage tale starring everyone's favorite "Fables" spy, Cinderella. "It will have lots of chases, shootouts, narrow escapes and various forms of skullduggery," Willingham promised. "Following that tale is another fairly short tale that well and truly throws a giant monkey wrench into the current status quo of the series, which should -- if we've planned things well -- wrap up in a double-sized issue # 75."

Willingham would not reveal any more about the future of "Fables," save that the seeds for the next 50 issues are being sown in the current issues of the title. "It's all there for anyone to see," the writer teased.

James Jean, who has produced the covers for all 60-odd issues of "Fables," first met Willingham six years ago when the series began, and the artist intends to continue to lend his artistic talent to the series for as long as it's on the shelves. "Fables is a book that grows and changes over time," James Jean told CBR News. "Unlike many mainstream comics, it's not a variation on a theme, but a long narrative with a rich cast of characters. Consequently, I'm able to experiment and evolve each month when I create a new cover."

Whenever possible, Jean likes to have a full script in hand before sitting down to design the cover for a particular issue. "If the script isn't ready, I'll usually take Bill's pitch and try to create an innovative visual solution," Jean said. "But I much prefer reading the entire story to conceive the most interesting image possible." When asked if he had a favorite "Fables" cover, Jean singled out the covers for the "Animal Farm" trade paperback and issue #54.

In addition to "Fables," Willingham continues to work on the "Fables" spin-off "Jack of Fables" with co-writer Matthew Sturges. And, added Willingham, "I'm currently writing a series for DC called 'Salvation Run,' which follows the adventures of many – even most – of the DC Universe's villains when they're put in a situation where they're forced to rely on themselves and each other. The outcome isn't pretty."

As for James Jean, his new art book "Process Recess 2" was just published by AdHouse Books, and he's working on a hardbound "Fables" cover collection.

The "Fables" spotlight panel runs from 2:15 to 3:00 p.m. at the Comics/Sci-Fi/Horror Pavilion at this year's West Hollywood Book Fair (Sunday, September 30), and Bill Willingham and James Jean will be signing autographs afterwards at the Golden Apple Comics booth.


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