Created by Bill Willingham
Art: Mark Buckingham + a Wonderland of Artists
ONCE UPON A TIME in the early 1990s, William Willingham produced whole comic books himself in black and white with a fine pencil, a fabulous imagination, and a rare wit. Issues of Ironwood and Coventry were one-of-a-kind classics before FABLES launched in 2002, created with Mark Buckingham leashed to the art table through 150 issues, more or less, finishing in 2015 with a number of guest artists along the way. Mark Buckingham’s penmanship is in the same vein as Bill Willingham’s original work, and thank goodness for anyone in creation to possess and maintain this kind of mastery, giving us fantastic creatures and scenes intimately real, like everyday just down the block, or outside underneath the garden wall.
Guest artists are appropriate in flashbacks of fables in other eras, as we get in Issue 11, the opener in Vol. 3 of the collected paperback Fables. There we find rogue Jack in a rebel uniform in the South playing cards with the ol’ debbil himself, where he wins with four jacks, of course, and manages with his loot to get laid way past exhaustion as usual for Jack, despite his being a total turd. Artists have a blast with these fantasy tales.
Until Fables reappears, we have to stand on what we have, and perhaps newcomers and veterans alike will enjoy a small stroll through “Storybook Love,” an arc that also appears in Vol. 3, far enough along to see how they play. One of the best themes here that lasts throughout, is the bad-ass women that overawe the men. Even Bigby the Wolf quails a little in the presence of Snow White, and it’s not all due to love, as we see here when Snow ferociously plants a hatchet in Goldilocks’s blonde skull.
Just before this, in tandem, we see how Prince Charming kills Bluebeard with a sword thrust and rolls him up in a rug to throw down the witching well. We can live without that jerk.
But Goldilocks? That interspecies-loving slut just won’t die. She taunts Snow, all mangled and bloody, and the hatchet in her head, and you realize she’s right and she knows it. I don’t want to live without Goldilocks. Do you? She’ll be back, while Snow White as fitting becomes one of the most travelled and interesting, and potentially dangerous characters in Fable-land.
Best of all, going back in time to this relatively happy era near the beginning, is seeing all these original characters alive and together, for some do die in the wars that follow and are missed. Apart from the giant scene of Goldilocks in her bra jumping out of Bluebeard’s bed with a hatchet, my favorite moment in this stroll through storybook love occurred at the end with a trio of familiar heroes in a circle, returning from shopping in the mundy world with stacks of comic books under their arms: Little Boy Blue in shorts and Converse All Star tennis shoes, and Flycatcher in his typical orange overalls and frog cap, and in between, stiff Pinocchio, a little gangster half their size, looking all together like an old photograph never to be seen again but in dreams.