Everyone loves a good mythical tale, right? You find them the world over – tall tales, fairy tales, folk tales, myths…fables. Every country, every culture, every time period has passed down these stories. Damsels in distress, dashing princes, evil witches, talking animals, genies, daring young peasant boys – all providing both entertainment and morality lessons. But…but what if those characters were real? And what if they weren’t just quite what you’d been led to believe?
Fables, written by Bill Willingham, started in 2003 and is still releasing new issues – which is quite a long run for a non-super-hero comic book. There’s a reason for that, too – it’s really, really good. Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start! [sorry, couldn’t resist]). Fables are real. Yep, all of ’em. Cinderella, Paul Bunyan, all of Aesop’s animals, Aladdin, Rose Red, the North Wind – all of ’em. They have their own worlds with have well-hidden gateways to one another, as well as some gateways to our world, the Mundy world. We’re Mundies (short for mundane – because we’re not magical). There are some inter-related problems, too – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White were all involved with Prince Charming, and are all divorced from the rapscallion nowadays. A lot of the fables have fled to our world because there is a terrible creature, known only as the Adversary, who has been killing and enslaving all the Fable lands for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years now.
So the fables who escaped their worlds into ours have settled in New York city, where they use magic to hide themselves from the Mundies. They have all their own political battles and in-fighting, crime and governance and romance and double-crossing going on, but they’re also aware that someday, the Adversary is going to catch up to them and threaten their existence in this world, the last refuge they have. I believe the theory is that the Adversary is less interested in this world because it’s so NOT magical, but eventually, this will be the last world left for him to conquer. So despite all the drama you might imagine would happen when you shove hundreds of magical people into a small space, they’re still focused on figuring out how they can possibly fight back against the Adversary when the day comes.
The whole series is a really fresh and interesting take on all the traditional fairy tale stories. You’ll love watching the political manipulations of Prince Charming and King Cole; the love-hate sister-sister struggles between Snow White and Rose Red; the uprising of the talking animals living on the Farm in upstate New York. And the artwork throughout the whole series is completely gorgeous. Don’t be fooled by the fairy tale subject matter, though – this series is pretty strictly adults only. I think this is a fantastic first series for any comics-curious grown-up.