Willingham headed up the Vertigo panel on the Opening Day of the Con, titled New Blood, immediately explaining this was an out-with-the-old (including himself) and in-with-the-new, sort of panel. (!)
"So why is this called New Blood?" Willingham began. "For one, the old blood is being moved out. I can reveal now that I did not decide to end Fables, I was told to end Fables. You'll notice that the 'Old Guard' like Kurt Busiek and Gail Simone haven't made it here yet because we're old, and we're tired, and our walkers just don't work the way they used to."
...(Eventually) the panel switched gears (away from the new staff and talent), putting attention on the upcoming final issue of Fables. While Willingham spoke, exclusive art from Fables #150 was shuffled quickly across the projector screen.
"The final issue of Fables is 150 story pages long," said Willingham. "So it's a collection and an individual issue, and it's coming out in July. Mark Buckingham is doing the best work of his career here, which is saying a lot. One thing Mark and I promised #150 would do, unlike the Jack of Fables series, is that we wouldn't kill everybody. If someone survives, we've kept our promise. The story spans from when #149 left off to about a hundred and fifty million years in the future. It's gonna be pretty fun."
The floor was then opened up to audience questions..
... directed to Willingham - which Fable did he regret killing off the most?"I know you want me to say Boy Blue because it was a really good death," he replied. "I think we got a good story out of that, so I don't regret it. We got a good death out of Shere Khan, his was the first big death in terms of significance, and the atomic moment that the book was out and we couldn't take it back, I thought of all these things I could have done with him. We try to make the deaths count, so we couldn't bring him back."
"The truth is ideas are easy," finished Willingham. "Very similar ideas come to a lot of people. Execution is everything. That's what you need to know how to protect."
Wow. I can't imagine how that must have been, to be told to end Fables when you weren't really ready to do so. I can only hope that the popularity, excellent reviews and critical acclaim of the video game The Wolf Among Us, and the obvious anticipation of fans for the upcoming movie will mean that perhaps Willingham will be given license to work in his favorite fairy tale world again in some capacity - even if it's in a completely different way to anything ever hinted at before.
I do know he's announced that he will continue writing and creating comics and that he plans to focus on novels for a while. I know there have been plans to create other Fables-based novels, like Peter & Max, that haven't yet seen the light of day, and I know that he remains passionate about fairy tales - in a more serious, critical studies manner than most of his fans have any idea about.
July is going to be a weird month when all this goes down - and that's likely when we'll have a better idea of which direction Willingham goes next. I have a feeling that it will also be around that time that we'll get some more concrete information on the Fables movie - even if Willingham continues to not be directly involved. Bittersweet times.
These end of the era-things can get rough on the tear ducts.
Note: all illustrations are from Fables comics covers from the last arc, titled Happily Ever After, except for the header (which is from a very early issue). We've yet to see if this is a literal description of the end of these stories, or if it's ironic.