Now, if the title of this article doesn’t entail an unreliable narrator, or at least false advertising, I don’t know what will. Nevertheless, you read most of that correctly. Not only is Bill Willingham–the creator of Fables–planning to end the entire series by issue #150, but he is even partially retiring from comics writing: so that he can become more “selective” about the projects he takes on.
Fables is a series that operates on the premise that all characters from Earth’s fairytales, children’s stories, mythologies and legends–such as the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming, Blue Beard, and the Frog Prince–actually existed in other worlds and dimensions collectively referred to as the Homelands before they were driven out by the monstrous Adversary and his Empire. These Fables, as they actually call themselves, are immortal beings forced to hide on Earth in a secret colony in New York known as Fabletown, while the less human and more talking animal versions of these beings must live in a place in the countryside called The Farm so as to avoid being discovered by the human Mundies. Also, depending on the popularity of their stories, some of these Fables are not only immortal, but virtually indestructible.
For a long time, I actually collected the series in their trade paperback incarnations. I remember the first story beginning like a gritty noir detective or murder mystery story, only for the next to become one of political intrigue and revolution, and then the rest expanding outward into interpersonal dynamics, secrets revealed, outright epic warfare, terror, awe, and some really satisfying personal moments. Then Willingham also made Jack of Fables: in which Jack of the Beanstalk and so many other tales are amalgamated into one man who is basically an asshole without any of the charm whose personal quest is to gain more money, prestige, and power for himself. I have to say, it was the first comic that I read with a truly unlikable protagonist whom both I–and the narrative–constantly wanted to see get screwed over.
The Fables universe has a prose novel called Peter & Max, a Cinderella miniseries made by Chris Roberson, an anthology named 1001 Nights of Snowfall, the standalone Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, an upcoming graphic novel Fairest in All the Land, and a female Fables-centric series aptly titled Fairest. There is even a video game called The Wolf Among Us created by Telltale Games and its “Episode One” in the mythos to consider as well.
To be honest, Willingham could have easily ended the series after the Fables finally defeated the Adversary in the War and Pieces story arc, but Willingham decided to expand the universe past the war stories and look at each of the worlds in the Homelands as well as some of the more … powerful and truly terrifying forces that exist in the Fables universe. After all, fairytales came from oral folktales which were neither sanitary nor pleasant tales. Even the more modern children’s stories were built on a foundation of cautionary darkness. But that all said, to me it isn’t too much of a surprise that Willingham is going to retire the series. After destroying an Empire, he and Mark Buckingham–with the latter’s lush and vibrant illustrative style–have made and portrayed so many worlds and characters in this one creative universe.
The image below is the cover for Fables issue #137: which is apparently scheduled for January 2014, while Fables itself is projected to end in early 2015. And while I admit that I will miss my favourite characters Prince Ambrose and the Black Forest Witch, and like the dark cautionary tales from around the fire Fables may not necessarily have “a happily ever after” for everyone, it most certainly will be a series that many comics fans will talk and ruminate about for many years to come.