In the first part of our interview with Bill Willingham, he teased the probable New York Comic Con announcement next week of a new Fables graphic novel, in addition to next month's Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland.
Now we're back for part two of our interview, and the creator shared news about what's coming in Fables and Fairest, talked about whether he'll write another prose novel like Peter and Max, and told us what the Fabletown and Beyond convention is all about.
He also addressed whether Cinderella's story will continue, now that writer Chris Roberson has parted ways with DC.
For more of our interview with Willingham, read on.
Newsarama: Bill, how tough was it for you to write "Cubs in Toyland?" Because it just about killed us readers.
Bill Willingham: It was difficult. This, more than any other story with Mark and I combined, we kept asking ourselves all the way through, do we want to get this grim?
You know, if he was wanting to back out at the last moment, I probably would have, and vice versa. Right up until we pulled the trigger on that last page of the next to the last issue, we were questioning whether or not this is really a step we should take.
It was difficult. We like the characters. We have — it's not written down — a policy between us that we don't do "tragic deaths of" with any character we don't care about. We're not about just generating bodies to throw into the thresher. So yeah, it was tough to do.Mark and I are acting, now, as if it's well in the past — and granted, the last "Cubs in Toyland" issue just came out, but we're a few months down the road from that — but we still look back and wonder if we were being just a little too blood-thirsty in this one storyline.
But we're determined to do the best, most dramatic stories we can. And the nice thing is, not immediately down the road, but a little bit down the road, we promise that there's going to be some more light-hearted stuff.
The wrapping up of the Bufkin thing is certainly a light-hearted story to play in counterpart to it.
Nrama: The Bufkin story comes to the forefront in the next couple issues, right?
Willingham: Yes. Following "Cubs in Toyland," which has its final issue out now, we have a two-part issue drawn by Gene Ha, which goes into Fables' past, or at least one important Fable's past. And we simultaneously look at Fables future — not any specific time in the future. Or at least, we're not revealing exactly how far in the future, is what I'm trying to say. And we'll get a peek into the future of Snow and Bigby's family.
But a long time in the past, and an undesignated time in the future, with a story that, if the readers want to know kind of how certain things work in Fables, including how the business office came about and big ticket stuff, like how does destiny and fate work, these are the two issues in which you will get some serious answers and not just raise more questions.
And we will introduce a character here that everyone knows a little bit about already, but who has not appeared in Fables yet, and will be very important in Fables in the issues to come.
And then following that is the one-issue wrap-up of the entire Bufkin "Revolution in Oz" saga, that I think is a total of 15 chapters including the back-ups were appearing in "Cubs in Toyland." And then an 11-page story about what happens after the revolution, starring Bufkin and his supposed girlfriend, Lily Martagon.
Nrama: That relationship is difficult to imagine.
Willingham: And yet... [laughs]... yeah.That happens in #124, and then in #125, we start a new five-part arc called "Snow White," and it's basically the result of all the stuff that's been happening, tragedy coming home to roost and such, from her perspective.
Nrama: With Snow White being such a central character to the series, and with the ending of the "Cubs in Toyland" arc, that next arc feels like that might be a big one.
Willingham: That's a big one. It's a very important part of what's coming in Fables. And it fills in some of what happened in the event of "Cubs in Toyland" while dealing with the emotional aftermath.
Because you don't give a Fables character an arc without throwing challenges their way, we're going to, once again, see what Snow White's made of. And I hope we'll continue to show that there are no such things as interchangeable Fables characters. Snow White going through tragedy will not be the same as, like, Rose Red going through tragedy, for example. I doubt she'll take to her bed for eight months, for example.
Nrama: What's in store for Fables in 2013? You said more light-hearted after the "Snow White" story?
Willingham: Yes, I can promise a slightly lighter turn for our characters after a couple of years of just relentlessly putting them through the ringer. We're going to have a "funner," more joyful episode in someone's life.
Nrama: I know you're involved in Fairest, although you've had guest writers. It was great to see Matt Sturges writing Fables characters again for one issue.
Willingham: Wasn't it?
Nrama: It really was. But next is the Rapunzel storyline in Fairest, which promises appearances from fan-favorite characters Jack of Fables and Frau Totenkinder. And that begins this week?
Willingham: Yes, Rapunzel by Lauren Beukes, which rhymes with mucus. That's her joke. And Inaki Miranda. And it's just lovely. The overall story arc title is "The Hidden Kingdom," aptly named because it is Rapunzel goes to Japan, and as Fables characters are oft to do, starts dredging up secrets that some of those Japanese Fables characters would just as soon not be dredged up.
Nrama: Are you writing any of the upcoming Fairest stories?
Willingham: I will. After the Rapunzel arc, we have one issue that I will be writing. The details of that are going to be ironed out when we meet at New York Comic Con, so I'll have to hold off any details until we actually create some.
And then, we'll have another longer arc that takes place in the Fables version of India, which is the "Indu." And we start playing around with some well-known Indian Fables characters.
Nrama: We talked last year about your plans for Fairest, and I assume they've changed a bit, since Chris Roberson isn't writing a Cinderella story.
Willingham: Yeah, Chris will not be doing a Cinderella story.
Nrama: Will we see more Cinderella?
Willingham: The short answer is yes. Shawn McManus still wants to be part of Cinderella stories in months and years to come, and so we are making plans currently for what we hope will become a new Cinderella arc.
And of course, that will be in Fairest at some point.
Nrama: And what's this I hear about there being a Fables convention?
Willingham: It's called Fabletown and Beyond, and it's coming on March 22nd, 23rd and 24th, in Rochester, Minn. It's a convention devoted to Fables and books like it. Not just Fables itself, but anything within the newly minted genre of mythic fiction. Thank Kurt Busiek for that collective title.Included are Fables, The Unwritten, Fairest, Mouse Guard, Mice Templar, talking animals, fairy tale books, mythology books, and folklore books. Sandman of course is one of the progenitors of the movement and I think it's a pretty vigorous and exciting movement in comics right now. And we're going to have a convention just devoted to those sorts of comics.
Mark Buckingham will be the guest of honor, and there will be various other guests associated with those books. And if your readers will be interested in possibly attending, they can go to the website fablescon.com and get all sorts of information and buy a ticket, rent a hotel room, etcetera, etcetera.
Nrama: Do you think this will be an annual thing?
Willingham: Maybe. You know, already I'm wondering what I was thinking by agreeing to do it once. But since it does cover an entire section of comics and it's not just Fables, it may well be an annual thing, and we'll just let some other group of creators from their book host the next time.
But in any case, I am looking forward to it. We're going to have some interesting programming. We're going to try for unprecedented access to guests. Every convention has the "favorite bar" that people seem to flock toward, but we've decided to do one better and open our own bar for the entire weekend, exclusive only to those of us at the convention. And then pack it full of guests who are required to be there, so that if you, the attendee/the fan/the reader, want closer access not separated by a table, then there you go.
Nrama: I know you've been working on other prose novels, but is there any chance you might write more prose novels set in the Fables universe?
Willingham: I would be more than happy to do that. I did the Down the Miserly River, which was a kids book that's not quite Fables related, although I don't think they'd be uncomfortable in the same neighborhood with each other. And there's going to be at least one more of those coming out, a sequel to that. And there's going to be at least one other non-related-to-Fables novel coming out.
And then, maybe... I don't know. Maybe I'll sniff around DC's door again and see if they're interested in another Fables prose novels.I can give them a chance to repent from the folly of deciding to publish the first one. You know, the idea of the first one way, I wanted to do a Fables prose novel, and out of courtesy I asked DC, just because, well, sure, I should ask them first, but I knew they would turn me down, because they just don't do prose novels. And I think they surprised themselves as much as me by saying, "Sure, we'll give it a shot." I don't know if they've regretted it ever since, like, "Why? Why did we decide to open a whole new category of media?" to get involved in this. But we'll see.
Nrama: Do you have, already, a Fables character in mind or a story in mind for a prose novel?
Willingham: Oh, golly, Vaneta, you're going to get such a "no comment" for that question.
Nrama: That's a yes.
Willingham: Oh, is that what that means? We'll see.FACEBOOK and TWITTER!