Fables & Fond Memories – A Fairytale Ode to One of the Finest Comic Book Series

fabletown

Snow White and Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf, two of the series mainstays. Along with a coterie of supporting Fables in the background.

I read my first Fables comic when I was 20 years old. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I read my first 30 Fables comics.

I started off with #1 on a chilly Atlantic Canadian winter weekend, as I was home visiting from university during my fourth and final year, and I didn’t end up leaving my chair until I had finished the March of the Wooden Soldiers arc, effectively reading every Fables comic that had been published to date. I couldn’t believe what I had just read. Or at least, I couldn’t believe the feeling I got from what I just read. I can’t recall my first experience with a Disney film, but it’s safe to say that Fables gave me that same sense of magical elation, only more… adult.

Here was a world of fairytale characters that didn’t seem like it was made for children. Even though it had the quintessential roster inclusions like Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming and Little Boy Blue, it was clear from the outset these weren’t the Disney-fied versions we find most familiar. Snow White was still the fairest in all the land, but she harboured a dark, sorrowful past; the Big Bad Wolf was a chain-smoking cusser who worked as the sheriff of the magical community affectionately known as Fabletown; Prince Charming maintained his storied charm but now his egregious womanizing was plain to see; and Little Boy Blue, who was thought to be really only known for blowing his horn, was in actuality a tragic soldier of some renown.

Layout 1

A splash page from Fables #1, showing the magical, labyrinthine business office and its boss-lady Snow White. Also featured: Beauty & the Beast, Little Boy Blue and Bufkin (from the Oz Flying Monkeys).

Okay, so even after explaining it like that it still sounds like it could fall into the juvenile category of fairytale bedtime stories, albeit with a bit more of an edge, but believe me when I say it was anything but. Sure it had moments of childish levity, but they were mere pieces of the pie also composed of violence, tragedy, enchantment, intrigue, romance, politics, sex and more, meshing together to create a world at once strangely familiar yet totally fresh and covered in a wonderful, exciting fog of uncertainty.

After that initial reading session there was hardly a series of comics or books that managed to squeeze its way onto the top spot of my anticipation list for years to come. Every few months I would go out and buy the latest collected volume of the Fables world with a ravishing eagerness, devouring the pages in a single setting that maintained its form ever since that first introduction to the series. Of course over the years there were a few downturns and lamentable dips (most Fables lovers agree the Great Fables Crossover is a blemish worth skipping over) but how couldn’t there be in 150 issues? Even the most magical and compelling stories have their doldrums now and again. And why shouldn’t Fables be any different—it only serves to make the rest of the treasure-trove that much more exceptional.

Fables_66_james_jean

A wonderful side benefit of the series was discovering a now-favourite artist in James Jean. He provided the covers until issue #81, earning back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back Eisner awards. Yup, five in a row.

I could spend days gushing praise for my most favourite and fond moments throughout the series, like when Goldilocks tries to lead a revolution at the Farm, the place reserved for those Fables who can’t pass as human, or when Cinderella tracks down stolen magical artifacts (because she’s potentially the world’s greatest spy, didn’t you know?), or how about when Prince Charming runs for mayor, or when the dreaded and murderous Pied Piper was rumoured to be back in the “Mundy” world, or even when the Frog Prince decides it’s time to finally be the Frog King (mild spoilers on that one). And those are just the ones you’d recognize. How about Thrushbeard, Jenny Wren, Dr. Swineheart or any of the myriad other “lesser known” Fables that find their way into this expansive, realized world? The list goes on and on and on. But this isn’t really a review of story or plot points or characters, per se, none of my prattling posts are. It’s simply a place for me to be thankful for finding such wonderful and meaningful works of fiction. Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Lan Medina and the rest of the creative crew created not only a critically acclaimed and award-winning series, but they created a new sort of fairytale that us readers get to claim as our own.

For years I held onto the final volume, Farewell (vol 22), until such a time where I could read the entire series in chronological order. Late last night I finally finished that self-imposed crusade to re-read the entire series, including all its many spin-offs (excluding Jack of Fables, but that’s a different discussion) and it was a bittersweet one. I felt like the longer I held onto that unread volume, the longer I could maintain a sense the series didn’t actually end back in July of 2015. But all good things truly do come to an end.

farewell

One last gathering of Fabletown denizens (at least 177 of them).

After that one blur of an afternoon, where I read 30-some issues in a single stint, I rapidly descended (ascended?) into a love affair that lasted a decade. Actually, it would be more accurate to say it lasted a lifetime. Because even though I’m not dead yet, and even though I might not do another full Fables re-read for another decade or two or three, nothing will cause this series to fall from favour as one of the most magical I’ve been able to experience.

 

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