Friday, November 1, 2013

Breaking News: "Fables" Series End Planned (NOOooooo! *cue sobbing*)

I'm being a little dramatic, I know. In truth, we've been lucky to have fairy tale retellings from the Fables world for as long as we have (over ten years!), and there had to be an end at some point. Turns out, that end point will be issue #150, which will be in about one year.

I've been wondering if something like this would happen soon, since Mr. Willingham has been increasingly busy over the past year with a movie finally taking off*, a critically acclaimed video game, a new Fabletown & Beyond convention, spin-offs like Fairest doing really well and more. Deciding to finish on a high note is hard. It means you have to stop doing something that you love and is going well/is profitable, but it's smart if you care about your work and are lucky enough to have the choice.

It doesn't mean there won't be Fables-esque properties appearing here and there from various corners, nor does it mean Mr. Willingham will never return to working on a Fables story. It does mean that we won't have monthly installments of tale retellings and new fairy tale art each month from one of the most respected teams in the comic book world though.

Here's the official announcement from Bill Willingham's website (via talking comic books):
Bill Willingham
“After more than ten years of publication, and hundreds of issues of Fables, and various Fables-related works, I have decided the time has come to begin the process of bringing our sweeping story to a close. And, along the way, I’ve decided to retire from a great deal of my comics work. 
Retirement in the storytelling trade means, still working and writing every day, but being a bit more selective in what projects I take on. Pushing 60, I thought it would be a good time to start making concrete plans for those remaining good writing years. 
Fables will end with Issue 150, which will be a larger than usual size, as were many of the other milestone issues. Fairest, our companion series, will also come to an end just before the big final Fables issue. 
Both DC and I will announce more details later on, but first and foremost I wanted to let our wonderful readers know about this as soon as I could, and note that our story plans leading up to Issue 150 made it increasingly clear that this upcoming saga should naturally be the final story. 
Of course Mark is already well aware of this and said, “I respect Bill’s decision and am looking forward to working with him on the book’s epic final year, leading to the series’ grand finale.” 
Newsarama is going to have more details, and I’ll link to their story as soon as it’s ready to go. (FTNH Update later in evening: That interview is now live and I'm including excerpts of the interview below as well.)
Let me restate my thanks to the best, sustained readership in all of comics. I promise to do my best to make the coming year in Fables a great one.”
And here are some excerpts from the newly posted Newsarama interview, beginning after the initial announcement of wrapping up the series is addressed, when questions turn to the arc and plot lines:
Willingham: Well, we have the end of the "Camelot" story. We have, following that, a two-issue story that's sort of a side story, but it sets up the final, big saga. And that story is called "The Boys in the Band." And it's all about Boy Blue's Band up at The Farm. They go off on an adventure together. The adventure sort of lays the groundwork. It asks a few specific questions that, the answer to those questions are the last big Fables saga.And then that lasts for nine issues, I believe, ending in issue #150, which is going to be an oversized issue.

Nrama: Obviously you know, now, how the series is going to end. At what point did you know that ending? You said it could have gone one of two ways — did you have this in your mind as a possible ending for awhile now? 
Willingham: This is one of the planned ways to end it. But it's just like issue #75, wherein the war is won and Gepetto signs on to Fabletown, could have been one of the moments of ending. This is one of those situations where you could end it there, or you could find other ways to go on. And we decided to wrap it up. 
Nrama: Is Fairest ending as well? 
Willingham: If the timing works out, the last arc of Fairest will end one month before issue #150 of Fables.In that sense, both will wrap up around the same time. 
Nrama: There are a lot of threads hanging right now in Fables, like the promised return of Prince Charming, the effect of The Unwritten crossover, or even the giant rats that Junebug saw. Are you trying to wrap up all the loose ends before the series ends? Are all those things I mentioned going to play into this ending? 
Willingham: Most of it. The giant rats is dealt with in the new Cinderella arc in Fairest, which is the next major arc coming up in that book. The Prince Charming return is dealt with partially in the Fairest In All The Land graphic novel, about to come out, and will also play into the final big arc of Fables. The Unwritten crossover will be addressed pretty close to the end. 
Nrama: I'm just floored. And I'm sure your fans will be too. I mean, I can't speak for everyone, but I just always thought Fables would be around. 
Willingham: Well, me too. But you know, the story was good enough, the scheduling kind of fell into place, and I will make one promise — the ending of this will not be everyone dies....I think that's the way to approach any possibility of doing more Fables in the future, as just special revisit types of things....Mark Buckingham and I are not leaving the fairy tale realms entirely. There are specific projects planned, coming up in the future, when Mark and I will work together in a non-Fables, non-DC kind of thing. And I think those need to be announced a little closer to the actuality of them happening. That's a couple of years away, probably.There are at least two projects that I'm starting up with other artists and such that will continue beyond this.I'm not quitting the business. I'm working on new things. And as you said, maybe I'll be able to wrestle a little more time for the novel I want to do along the way.
Cover art for the current issue: #137
In which Rose Red finishes up the Camelot arc -
at a cost...
And hmmm…. what do I want to give away about the final act? The main plotline of the final arc will deal with what's happening with Snow and Bigby and a new conflict involving Rose Red, in a very definite way. And that's as much as I want to say about that. 
Nrama: We've already seen Snow and Rose Red at odds with each other. And you know, it's interesting that these characters would finish Fables, because Bigby, Snow and Rose Red were the focus of the very first storyline, when the series started. 
Willingham: They were. And the issue that just came out, issue #134, had clues about what the final, big saga is going to be about. I will tease the end by saying that the clues are right there in front of you right now. 
You can read the whole interview HERE. (Note: if you're not up to date in reading Fables, there are some spoilers.)

Did you take note of the section I put in bold and dark red? The part about "not leaving the fairy tale realms altogether"? Hah. Yes. If you truly love the tales, how could you? Fairy tale addicts unite. *solidarity fist-pump*

In fact, as a good example of just how into fairy tales Willingham has delved over the years, the newly released Fables Encyclopedia has over 230 characters profiled (groups like the 3 Billy Goats Gruff are listed under a single entry so in reality there are a lot more) and that doesn't cover all the characters included to date either, since there are more issues out than are referenced in the volume. Almost all these characters are from fairy tales and folk tales (ie only a small few are original creations by the Fables writers) and many of them are surprisingly obscure inclusions most people who aren't fairy tale readers would never have heard of. For example, have you ever heard of "Fair Katrinelje and Pif-Paf-Poltrie"? It's a tale from Grimm's Children's and Household Tales. For reason of this example alone and as a fairy tale reader, if you only ever acquired one volume from the Fables realm, make it the Encyclopedia. It breaks down where each character originated with a very brief tale history as well as how they are used in the Fables world, and makes for a handy reference of characters that have found their way out of lesser known texts and into the hands of comic book lovers (and many more) everywhere.   

As someone who loves fairy tales, and is particularly excited to discover any new works (or uses) today by people who research the early versions really well, I can't describe how grateful I am to have discovered and delved into Fables while it is still being created, to see that universe actively expanding into spin-offs and to cross over into other mediums of novels, art and film. Being able to explore all this when the sky was the limit truly made the stories and characters feel alive, rather than reading history and a tale already told.

I'm glad Mr. Willingham has left room to consider other Fables projects in the future, so it's not exactly as if we will be without Fables ever after. Thank goodness. Writing "The End" on fairy tales like these doesn't feel quite right.

In the meantime, we're currently at Issue #137 newly released, leaving us 13-ish monthly updates to go to the finale. Let the countdown begin...

Fairy tale news extra:
Bill Willingham on Fables video game & the Fables film (Oct 15, '13)
"[The Wolf Among Us video game is] unlike the first two attempts at a pilot for a Fables TV show that people have produced," Willingham said. "In those cases, there were loads of things I could have done, loads of notes I could have given them — you know, you missed this here, you violated this here, etcetera, etcetera. But luckily neither of those two pilots were produced because they bore only a passing resemblance to Fables. I asked myself with those two pilots, 'Did these guys even read the book?

"Unlike them, the writing team at Telltale Games really know the stuff," the writer said. "They knew the stuff backwards and forward. So even though I'm going to take the money for helping to keep them on the right track, I feel like I'm stealing most of that, just because I've had very little to do in the sense of correcting them, in the sense of, you know, 'you can't do that' and reminding them of things in the series. They know it. They know the material backwards and forwards.

In June, Warner Entertainment announced that Fables is also currently being developed as a film by Harry Potter franchise producers David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford of Heyday Films. Heyman, while promoting the film Gravity, has confirmed that the first draft of the script is currently being written.

"If the movie plans come as close to the material as this," Willingham said, "and as faithful to it as this, then I will be as happy as can be." (source)

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