FABLES Issue #32 Page 5 & 6 and FABLES Issue #81 Page 24

Fables #32
©2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha
Issue #32, Page 5 & 6: The Library Splash & Patches
Graphite and ink on board
Signed by Steve Leialoha
11" x 17"

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Fables grave
©2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy
Issue #81, Page 24: The Grave of Boy Blue
Final Page Splash of "The Dark Ages"
Graphite and ink on board
Signed by Andrew Pepoy
17" x 11"

If superheroes are the American Mythology, Bill Willingham’s Fables is a tribute to the building blocks of that lore. Under his guidance, this series centering on the private lives and epic battles of folklore’s greatest stars has been rewarded with close to 30 Eisner Awards.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman had brought a new variety of readers to comics, and when that series ended in 1996, many of those readers left the format altogether. Its accessibility to people who didn’t care about caped crusaders, but who related to its reinvention of classic myths, remained an untapped resource until Bill Willingham launched Fables in 2002. Fables takes the myriad of characters and stories from the wealth of world folklore and sets them in a nearly invisible neighborhood in New York, where their power struggles and mischief go largely unnoticed by the population of normals, and their buildings hide portals to the various dimensions that housed them. The more popular the hero of legend, the more power they yield, so in 21st century America, where cynicism rides an all-time high and belief an all-time low, the challenges are many.

By using only characters from the public domain, Willingham has instant access to already beloved heroes, and his new spin has been received by the same zeitgeist that made Wicked the most successful Broadway show ever. If nothing else he has proven that Legends truly never die –except at the hands of other, more powerful legends. The mature subject matter, which routinely incorporates modern colloquialisms and old time ribaldry, has been embraced by an audience that probably doesn’t read superhero comic books. Of course in the Joseph Campbell sense, that’s exactly what Fables is: a superhero comic book. The costumes may not be as dramatic, but the characters are super powered heroes and villains fighting in an epic struggle for sanctimony and the spoils of war. In that context, the only difference between Bill Willingham’s Cinderella and William Marston’s Wonder Woman is that Cindy isn’t above using a gun.

One of the most awarded series in the history of the medium (surpassing even Sandman), Fables has won the following Eisner Awards: Best New Series (2002), Best Serialized Story (2003, 2005, 2006), Best Anthology & Best Short Story (2007), Best Penciler/Inker Team and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior) 2007, Best Cover Artist (2004-2009), Best Lettering (2003-2008), and Best Writer (2009).

The first page above features elements of three printed pages. The Library splash page featuring Beauty and Prince Charming on their first day as Fabletown’s Deputy Mayor and Mayor was its own splash page (actually a 2/3 double splash page), padded out by design elements, rather than penciled artwork. The top two panels showing Beast (in his human form) interacting first with Frau Totenkinder and then Trusty John, the Woodlands Building doorman, appeared on separate pages and not in that order (or in the order indicated by the pencil notes on the page). When comparing this Fables page with the Grave of Boy Blue page, it’s evident that much more goes into the production of this book than most other monthly comic books. It’s also obvious that Willingham’s scripts allowed a lot of collaboration with the award winning team of Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha.

The second page above is one of the most important single panels of the entire series. Little Boy Blue was initially introduced as Snow White’s shy office helper; a kind hearted boy with classic, nebbish hobbies of music and comicbook collecting. During the March of the Wooden Soldiers story arc, Blue is captured, tortured and inspired toward epic heroics, single-handedly defeating the Emperor, freeing most of the Fable world from the Adversary’s bondage, but sustaining mortal injuries. His last request was to be buried on a hill overlooking the baseball field rather than in the soldier’s field, reflecting his preference for serenity over valor. It’s a beautiful final page to an award-winning story thatmemorializes a beloved character as it punctuates Willingham’s Eisner Win with all the subtle elements of Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy’s historic collaboration. Even the artwork’s position on the page suggests that it was an impossible act to follow.


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