Tired of Superheros? Want something new to read?

February 10, 2011

Fables.

Fables, Fables, Fables, Fables…and Fables.  FABLES!!

If you’ve ever been in our quaint little store and appeared as though you were looking for something new to read, then we’ve probably already directed you to the Vertigo section, and put a copy of Fables: Legends in Exile in your hands.

Or, if you visited our establishment with a friend or significant other who doesn’t read comics, that friend or significant other has most likely left with either the Free (which is “sold out”) or $1 version of Fables #1.

In fact, if you’ve ever been in our store at all, we’ve most likely have tried to cram this book down your throat, multiple times, but only because it is JUST THAT GOOD.

Of course once we put the book in your hands, the most logical question from you would be, “What’s it about?” There is, unfortunately, not an easy answer without leaving out a whole lot of good stuff. Of course, we could give you the 60-second tour of the book, but I don’t think this quite cuts it:

Any character from any fable, nursery rhyme, tongue twister, ditty, classical work of fiction, or oral traditional storytelling, has left their home world and immigrated to ours due to someone on a conquering rampage taking over all of their individual story book worlds one by one.

They all live on one street in Manhattan, but no one really knows they’re there due to magical spells hiding their existence from us. The Fables that cannot get by as regular humans, live on the Farm in upstate New York.

Example: Little Jack Horner, Jack B. Nimble, Jack & The Beanstalk, Jack of Jack & Jill, Jack O’Lantern, and any other Jack that you can think of…these are all the same Jack (except Jack Frost–that’s his son). When he’s around, calamity and hilarity ensue; so much so, that he got his own spin-off book, Jack of Fables, after he was kicked out of the Main Title for calamity ensuing. King Cole (who is a merry ol’ soul) is the Mayor of Fabletown, while Snow White is the mercurial Deputy Mayor (and is really the one in charge). Bigby Wolf (Get it? Big ‘B’ Wolf? Big Bad Wolf? Ha!) is the Sheriff. Prince Charming, Beauty, Beast, Sinbad, and others, eventually hold positions of public service, as well.

Fables #102 comes out in a few weeks, and Jack of Fables #50 should be out shortly, as well. There is also a novel format book, Peter & Max, for those that don’t like pictures, or are too good for comic books, or are a Fables complete-ist (like me). Also published are a graphic novel called, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, and a mini-series starring that 007-esk Fable-Spy extraordinaire, Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love (also available in TPB).

Obviously, this is a very successful on-going book, and Joe “The Owner” Murray has offered for years (and still does) a money-back guarantee on the first trade paperback.

That just about sums it up; however, Bill Willingham, the author, does a much better and thorough job explaining the concept of the book(s) in Chapter 1 of his novel, Peter & Max. Below is his exposition of his Fables Universe:

(These excerpts were taken from the readily available sample on the Vertigo website: http://www.dccomics.com/media/excerpts/12538_x.pdf)

Somewhere in New York City there’s a tiny, secretive neighborhood no one knows about except those who live there and a few scattered others in our wide world. It’s a private enclave taking up only one modest block along a small side street named Bullfinch, and a few other buildings close by. It’s called Fabletown by its residents and called nothing at all by anyone else, because, as we’ve said, they don’t know of it. Fabletown has been there longer than its general location has been named the Upper West Side, and was in fact the very first settlement in that area, when all of the other dwellings were huddled together down at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Unspoiled fields and forests were Fabletown’s only neighbors at first, way back when New York was still called New Amsterdam. But the city grew up around it over the centuries, as cities tend to do, so that now Fabletown is just a small, quaint and largely ignored little side street in a much bigger enterprise, which suits them just fine. If you were to accidentally stroll down Bullfinch Street – and it would be by accident, because strong spells of misdirection, obfuscation and “there’s nothing important here” have been laid over the place, to keep outsiders out – its residents would look much like us, just normal folks in a normal place. But these people are far from normal. For one thing they’ve been around for awhile, some of them for millennia. The very first founders of the settlement still live there and look no older now than they did then. It’s impossible to say just yet if they’re immortal, because the only true test of that is to see if they’re still alive at the end of time. But so far they seem to be on pace to finish that race in good position.

The Fables, which is what they call themselves collectively, are a magical people who weren’t originally from this world. They arrived here long ago, over a span of years, alone or in small groups, as refugees from their own equally magical Homelands, hundreds of scattered worlds which had been overrun by the invading armies of an ambitious and merciless conqueror, who seemed determined to build himself an empire, killing all who resisted and enslaving those who didn’t.

Once here they discovered their new home to be a small and humble world so excruciatingly mundane, so bereft of natural magic that the Adversary – their name for the conqueror – expressed no interest in it. All available evidence promised that they’d found a place of long-term safety. And so they settled in.

Pretty quickly they discerned a few odd things about their adopted home. Our world seemed to contain miniature versions of every Homeland world they’d originally come from. Here was a small island nation called England that mirrored the entire world they once knew as Albion. And over there was a country called Russia that was a rough sixteenth-scale sketch of the vast old world of The Rus. Ireland resembled the world of Erin, infant America slowly grew into an approximation of Americana, and so on. For some as yet undiscovered reason, or perhaps for no reason at all since some truly remarkable things do seem to be the result of mere (or possibly mighty) chance, our unimportant out-of-the-way little world turned out to be a map of sorts for all of the much grander ones they’d left behind.

Now Fables seems an odd name for any sort of people to choose to call themselves, and especially odd for this group, since the word implies that they’re folks with stories to tell. They aren’t. They were and continue to be adamantly secretive. But this brings us to another weird phenomenon they discovered after arriving here. It may be that when you introduce a number of very magical creatures into a decidedly unmagical environment, some of that magic seeps out, spreading by osmosis into the mundane natives (us) whom they, often pejoratively, call mundys. Perhaps the spilled magic grants the mundys some rudimentary, but unconscious, awareness of their new neighbors. Whatever the explanation, shortly after Fables arrived, mundys all over the world began telling stories about them; stories no one knew were based on actual people and everyone assumed were simply creative and occasionally clever works of fiction. These stories sometimes became distorted, as they were passed from person to person, and those that were finally written down often contained many errors of fact. But for the most part they were accurate enough that our mysterious Fable immigrants eventually realized they were being talked about. They were the subjects of many popular fairy tales – and some did indeed arrive here from the land of faeries. Their private histories were inscribed and revealed in the form of folktales, nursery rhymes, epic poems and doggerel ditties, haunting ballads, ribald songs and, of course, fables.

A thousand different mundy authors scribbled every variation on the story of Beauty and the Beast, for example; how a wicked witch cursed a nobleman with a dire enchantment, but its power was finally broken by a woman’s true love. But no mundy wrote what happened next; how years after they’d married to live happily ever after, all sorts of disturbingly unhappy things befell them, until they arrived here. Now Beauty has an office job as Fabletown’s deputy mayor, and her husband Beast serves as the underground community’s sheriff. You’ve heard many tales of the dashing and heroic Prince Charming, but did you know that he’s been thrice divorced and now runs Fabletown as its mayor?

Elsewhere in Fabletown Cinderella runs a shoe store, the Sleeping Beauty is living off her investments, while trying not to prick her finger again, a certain famous bridge troll works as a security guard, and many a (formerly) wicked witch now resides on the thirteenth floor of the Woodland Building, which, among other things, is the community’s informal city hall.
Fables, the personification of story and song, live among us in New York and we for the most part are none the wiser. Except that some Fables don’t live in the city, because they can’t. Far to the north of Manhattan and the other boroughs, deep into the wider, wilder reaches of Upstate New York, there is a vast area of largely undeveloped land known as the Farm, because some of it has indeed been cultivated. And some of it is occupied by a quaint, rural village of huts and houses, barns and stables. But most of the Farm’s uncounted acreage has been left in its original wild state. The Farm is Fabletown’s sister community, its upstate annex for housing all of the Fables who also fled their Homelands for this world, but who can’t pass as human. Where the human-looking Fables are largely free to come and go wherever in the world they wish, Farm Fables are confined in this one place for all time – a large and comfortable prison to be sure – but a prison just the same.

They’re confined to the Farm because the most vital of all Fable laws strictly forbids anything that might reveal their magical nature to the mundys. And nothing is more immediately and unmistakably identifiable as magical than a talking duck, with a penchant for discussing the collected works of Jane Austen, or a moo-cow who can leap over the moon. Granted it was the moon of another land, which was both smaller and nearer than ours, but still an impressive feat, all things considered.

You can’t find your way to The Farm, even more so than to Fabletown proper, because many more-powerful concealment and misdirection spells protect the place, deflecting all nosy mundys away or around it. But if you could, if you could bring yourself, by some tremendous act of will and raw, stiff-necked determination, to drive along that narrow old road, by the low, moss-covered stone wall, and turn in on the dirt track, where the tired wooden gate sags against the ancient, brooding chestnut tree, you might possibly discover that the Three Little Pigs live in a piggy-sized house of bricks (they learned their lessons long ago) just down the lane from where the Old Woman dwells in her giant shoe. Being perfectly normal looking, she could leave the Farm any time she wished, but not with her beloved shoe-house, where she’d raised so many children, so she chooses to stay where she is.

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