Fables , Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham's series about the secret lives and modern intrigues of characters from legends and fairy tales, recently hit its 75th issue—the same milestone at which Vertigo's two best-known earlier fantasy series, Sandman and Lucifer, concluded. But Bill Willingham, interviewed over the summer, emphasized that "assuming I don't walk in front of a bus or Buckingham doesn't quit on me, then we're gonna keep going." Besides the ongoing Jack of Fables spin-off title, written by Willingham's frequent collaborator Matthew Sturges, and an upcoming book collecting artist James Jean's covers for Fables itself, there are three more Fables-related projects coming in 2009.
The first is Peter and Max, a Fables prose novel by Willingham, extensively illustrated by Steve Leialoha. "He's known to the Fables audience mostly because he inks so well over Bucky, but he's an incredible draftsman in his own right, and we wanted a project to showcase his abilities," Willingham said. "It features characters who have only each appeared in one panel before. Peter is Peter Piper, of pickled pepper fame, and his older brother Max became the Pied Piper of Hamelin. It's a novel about them growing up, falling out and going their separate ways; it takes place in modern days, ancient days, and everything in between, including things like the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak in New York."
2009 will also see a crossover between Fables and Jack of Fables, along with a third miniseries, The Literals, about the incarnated guiding forces of literature. "We're going to find out what happens when you discover your own gods are living just down the street," according to Willingham. "Since Jack is involved, it's not going to be entirely pleasant and peaceful. At one point, I think, Jack's going to get upset and walk out of his own book. There'll be lots of explosions and fun and a little bit of hanky-panky."
Finally, Sturges and novelist Chris Roberson will be writing a six-issue miniseries called From Fabletown With Love. "This is the first time we've done something by popular demand," Willingham said. "We did a two-part Cinderella spy story recently, and the readers have been hankering for more Cinderella and more spy stuff. It's gonna be tremendous. The only thing I can give away is that people have been asking how Cinderella fell out of contact with her fairy godmother, and if they'll ever come back into contact. Well, the answer is yes."
So how much of Willingham's waking time is spent thinking about the Fables world? "Well, if Shelly [Bond, Fables editor] gets her druthers, all of it," he laughed. "I've always read fairy tales and folklore; this is really the first time in my life when the time I spend doing that isn't really dodging work like it used to be. And that's exacerbated by the fact that friends now know what to give me for Christmas or my birthday--they find old fairy tale collections, and they just keep showing up."