There are very few graphic novels capable of inducing a sense of nostalgia quite like Fables. Within these pages, fairly tales and reality are twisted together to bring childhood memories straight from our imaginations into the 21st century.
Set in New York, Fables is a reinvention of classic fairy tale characters who have been forced out of their homes and have found refuge in a modern setting. This sense of homelessness is explored during the series, as well as how difficult it is to fit in if you don’t meet societal norms. The cast is filled with familiar faces but set to the tune of our everyday problems; Snow White runs the show (although she has divorced a very promiscuous Prince Charming), Beauty and the Beast are having marital problems, and the big bad wolf has reformed to become the town’s sheriff. While some characters have larger roles than others, Willingham still makes sure that no character goes unaccounted for – you can look forward meeting the Frog Prince, Goldilocks, Cinderella and even Red Riding Hood.
Bill Willingham tries to do something that no one else has really ever done and succeeds without precedent. Each graphic novel really feels like a self-contained story, while simultaneously giving a voice to the smaller characters to make each one of the star of the show in their own way. These fairy tale creatures live and breathe like people, to the point that developing an unhealthy emotional attachment to personal favorites is a regular part of the series.
And what is a comic book recommendation without a mention of artwork? The amount of time and heart put into a single page of Fables delivers instant gratification as a reader. Even if a character is set in the background, he receives just as much recognition by the artists as their cover pages. That being said, there is no better cover art in the business than Fables; it’s worth it to spend a few minutes just enjoying what the Fables’ team has put together for your viewing pleasure – it is nothing short of spectacular. If you need more proof than my word, just take a look at the cover art used for this article.
The books are all very reasonable in price, ranging from $12-$18 each. There are currently 17 books in the series, however the first arc ends at book 12. Book 13 is a “crossover” series featuring characters from various other worlds and is the weakest book in the series – you are fine just skipping it and working on the next arc, which starts in book 14. Remember, always start at book #1.
There is also a prelude to Fables called 1001 Nights of Snowfall which is a fantastic read. Anyone who enjoys the series will no doubt love Willingham’s introduction to Fables (Snowfall also won the Eisner for best anthology in 2007).
Although the series does not have an art team set in stone, the artists that have worked on Fables do a magnificent job. They have been recognized repeatedly for their work and have cleaned up 14 Eisner awards; the award for best penciler and best painter in 2007, best cover artist 2004-2008, and best lettering from 2003-2008 and 2011.
To top it all off, Fables has been nominated four times for the Hugo Award for best graphic story.