Today, I'm going to talk about the world of Fables, the concept behind both books and talk a little bit about the recent Great Fables Crossover.
Imagine that every story is true. Imagine that every tale, no matter how tall, is history in places that are both a long time ago and far far away. Imagine that every person who ever existed in a work of fiction is a real person on some other plane of reality.
Now imagine that there is a force of unspeakable evil - one that unites all the other various forces of darkness under one banner and organizes them into an army of darkness the likes of which has never been seen. Imagine that all of these beings - to our minds fictional and in many cases impossible - flee to our world seeking sanctuary against what they now call The Adversary. These beings are Fables. And the world they flee to is our own.
About 400 Years after this occurs is where we first walk into the world of Fables. Where most of these beings who can pass for Human, such as Snow White and Little Boy Blue, live along several city blocks of New York City in an area collectively known as Fabletown. Those who cannot pass for human, such as The Three Bears or The Dish that ran away with The Spoon, live on The Animal Farm - a magically hidden area in upstate New York.
Human or no, most Fables all share a degree of superhuman invulnerability to ordinary weaponry along with whatever magical talents of their own they might have. They can shrug off injuries that would hurt a normal human or animal and even death can only delay the most powerful of them. The Fables theorize this is due to a symbiotic relationship with humanity (or The Mundanes, as they call us), where the more popular a Fable is, the harder it is for them to be killed off so long as humanity remembers them. They have no proof of this but it does fit the evidence at hand.
As the series opens, we are presented with a murder mystery as Rose Red turns up dead. Sheriff Bigby Wolf (gedit?) is quickly on the case, sniffing out clues amongst the numerous suspects. Did estranged sister Snow White get fed up with how her wild sister was ruining their good family name? Did boyfriend and small-time crook Jack Horner (a.k.a. Jack Nimble, a.k.a. Jack Frost, a.k.a Jack O'Lantern) decide to go after bigger stakes than giant-killing and castle-robbing? Did Prince Charming decide to do something about the red-hot redhead, after his affair with her destroyed his marriage? And what about the rumors of a secret engagement to the wealthy Mr. Bluebeard - could he have returned to his old ways and been unable to wait for the wedding night?
The first issue is available for free on the Vertigo Comics website.
Fables has proved to be a critical success, with the book winning multiple Eisner Awards for interior art, covers and writing. It has also been a smash-hit with the fans, being perhaps the most popular series Vertigo Comics has published since The Sandman at its' height. A spin-off was perhaps inevitable under these circumstances so it was no surprise a few years ago when Jack of Fables started.
This book centers upon Jack Horner after his exile from Fabletown in, following an incident involving some stolen treasure, a movie studio and a trilogy of films based on Jack's life. Stripped of his fortune, his name and everything save the clothes on his back and a briefcase full of a cool million in cash, Jack hits the road looking for another adventure. Adventure finds him in the form of a gorgeous redhead, who captures Jack and takes him to a sort of rest home for wandering Fables. Overseen by the orderly Mr. Revise, Jack immediately plans escape and we eventually find out that Mr. Revise and his daughters, The Page Sisters, represent a third faction between The Fables and The Adversary - a group of beings called The Literals.
Literals are living personifications of the elements of a story, similar to The Endless from The Sandman. If the Fables can be said to be characters in a story, the Literals are the parts of the story. The major difference between a Literal and a Fable is that Literals are aware that they are part of a bigger story and can see the readers whereas The Fables do not. The Literals also appear to be more bound toward duty and filling a role in the universe as opposed to the relatively free Fables.
The Fourth Wall. The Deus Ex Machina. Even the various genres of literature are living people, with Comedy looking something like Groucho Marx and Horror looking like an innocent little girl in a pink dress.
The first issue of Jack of Fables is also available for free on the Vertigo Comics website.
The Great Fables Crossover is the first effort to tell a continuing storyline between these two series as well as a three-part mini-series called The Literals. The story starts in Jack of Fables, with Jack having just formed an uneasy alliance with Revise and his team, in the face of a much bigger threat. In this case, Revise's father Kevin Thorn (a.k.a. The Spirit of Creation) has remembered who he is and is now in serious danger of rewriting the universe to "fix" things.
Jack, who has bigger things to worry about (i.e. getting laid and getting out of there) calls Snow White and Bigby Wolf to warn them and "get someone else besides me to solve all the world's problems for a change". (His words, not ours) Eventually they show up, a fist-fight breaks out and Jack abandons his own title in favor of swinging by The Animal Farm just in time to be declared the second-coming of a recently fallen hero and the Messiah of the Fables. And then Jack's bastard son (who is much less of a bastard than his father) shows up...
All of these are long stories that I can't begin to tell, for fear of depriving you of some of the best reading you will ever see in your life.
The Great Fables Crossover is more of the same quality comics we've come to expect of Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Mark Buckingham, Russ Braun, Tony Akins and company. Give the previews above a look-see and start catching up. I suspect you'll be hooked immediately by this wonderful little book that dares ask us all to just imagine.