Kicked out of their comfortably convenient hometown by the evil Adversary, characters from fairy tales find themselves a part of a covert zone called Fabletown and the ones who stand out in the crowd, horned and furry, are kept safely tucked away in the Farm, far from the prying eyes of New York City.
We’ve all believed in the ‘happily ever after-s’ that fairy tales have introduced to us. While for some, the realm faded into the distant recesses of the memory with time, for some, the realm of fables and folklores never remained forgotten. In a world of magic and miracles, a world borrowed, stolen, yet far moved from the innocence of the happily-ever-afters, Bill Willingham reintroduces us to characters from fairy tales, nursery rhymes and stories of younger days. The series introduces us to familiar faces we have grown up with, but in avatars we could never imagine.
There is the Big Bad Wolf, or Bigby the Sherriff- a man reformed. No longer the blood-thirsty villain, he is surprisingly lovable. There is Cinderella, sword-friendly and stubborn while Snow White and Prince Charming are caught up in the throes of an unfortunate divorce resulting from serious issues of infidelity. In fact, there are quite a few Prince Charmings with vices of their own that can make any nice young girl shudder. And through the course of the journey, we meet Pinocchio, trapped in the body of a young boy- desperately sexual and impatient to get laid. We are introduced to the Pig who has a remarkable taste for adventure unlike his two brothers who prefer to hide in safer areas.
With a bloody scene of massacre unfolding in Red Rose’s room, the very first adventure kicks off when Snow White and Bigby decide to track down the killer. After all, with the Annual Remembrance Day coming up for the good people of Fabletown, a killer lurking around can’t be good news. During the course of the Remembrance Day Ceremony, we are introduced to even more characters- Beauty and Beast, the old King Cole, little Jack Horner and Blue Beard to name a few. As the crime is solved in the course of the evening, the reader gets to know so much more about these fantastical creatures and they are familiarized further with the world they come from.
From inking Dungeon and Dragons illustrations, to Fables, Willingham’s growth as a story has been incredible. No way is Fables the best illustrated series of all time and no way is it the best written. But it most definitely is a series that has done justice to deconstructing characters we had so far seen in the light of untainted innocence. In fact, when you do encounter the full-page illustrations of the characters, you are taken aback by how different they can be from what you knew them to be. With cheerful colours making the gore-laced narratives rather interesting, at one point of time, you cease to believe in the earlier lives of these characters and you begin to trust them for who they are on the mean, unforgiving streets of the real world.
The first issue of Fables was published in 2002, but unlike most other continuing series, Willingham’s creation proved to be one that makes readers wait for the next one, for many, many reasons. For me, it is the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing faces from my childhood be caught in a web of sex, lies, violence and moral obscurity. Quick-paced, it takes one rather little time to get through the books, and when one Fable is over, you can do nothing but start reading the next one. But sadly, all good things come to an end. And so did the series with its 150th episode in 2015.