<i>By Vaneta Rogers, Newsarama Contributor</i> <p>In fairy tales, only one beautiful woman is hailed as the "Fairest of Them All." But in the hit Vertigo series <b>Fables</b>, there's more than one of them. <p>In fact, there's a <i>slew</i> of them! <p>This week, those lovely ladies get their own spin-off series with <b>Fairest</b>, a new title that will feature different stories by creative teams hand-picked by <b>Fables</b> creator Bill Willingham. This week's <b>Fairest #1</b> will begin a story by Willingham himself, with art by Phil Jimenez and a cover by Adam Hughes. "The fairest in the land applies to the artists as well," Willingham joked. <p>In the spirit of the <b>Fairest</b> title, Newsarama is listing the Fairest of the Fables and we asked Willingham to help us out. What follows is a list of our Top 10 Fairest Fables, but we included some hints from the writer about what may happen with these ladies in upcoming issues of <b>Fables</b> and <b>Fairest</b>. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Leigh Sprat may not be beautiful on the inside, but thanks to a deal with Mr. Dark, the formerly rotund nurse has transformed her exterior to emerge as one of the Fairest of the Fables. But honestly, we're including her at the No. 10 spot mostly because of her diligence in acquiring the "fair" looks she desired. <p>"Mrs. Sprat was a grumpy old fat woman who could eat no lean and a representative of every crabby nurse I've ever dealt with in my life," Willingham told Newsarama. "We've seen Mrs. Sprat grow into her villainy over a long period of time, but one thing you can admire is that she has achieved her goals of getting thin and beautiful a goal many of us have. <p>"But she's going to do nefarious things with her new-found powers of attractiveness," the writer added, hinting of more Leigh Sprat adventures in <b>Fables</b>.
Born of the magical barleycorn seeds, these miniature nude maidens are so cute, it's hard not to fall in love with them. We give them the ninth spot on the list because of their courage in the face of Baba Yaga and for the steadfast loyalty of one of them during Bufkin's current adventures in Oz. <p>"We found it necessary to start naming some of the Barleycorn girls, just because being small, it was hard without names to tell them apart," Willingham said. "And Lilly Martanion and maybe take that spelling with a grain of salt is the name of the one little gal who seems to be attracted to Bufkin. She used that attraction and her inherent bravery to earn herself a fairly starring role." <p>Another Barleycorn maiden, Thumbelina, may also get the spotlight in an upcoming story in <b>Fairest</b>, Willingham said, pointing out that she's featured on Adam Hughes' cover image for issue #1. <p>"It will be awhile before she can take the center stage," the writer said, "but when she does, I will probably be writing that one myself, because I have an interesting idea of what to do with Thumbelina."
There are a lot of reasons to love Rapunzel, even though fans of <b>Fables</b> know so little about her. One obvious reason is her famously long hair, although Pinocchio found out in the recent superhero arc that she can't control the movement of her locks. <p>"She is, of course, the fairest in all the land," Willingham said, "or at least she was back in her land before she came to the new world. So she qualifies on that level." <p>Rapunzel will be the spotlight character in the second story arc of <b>Fairest</b> by Lauren Beukes ("rhymes with mucus," Willingham said, "which is her joke, so I feel like we can get away with saying that"). <p>"Lauren had an idea for a wonderful Rapunzel story, which takes her to Japan and we start dealing with some of the Japanese folklore characters," the writer said. "It's a pretty intriguing and exciting tale. <p>"Interestingly enough," he added, "the Japanese Fables, you'll find out, tie in very close to someone or something well-known by Fables readers."
While Red Riding Hood didn't make it onto the cover of <b>Fairest #1</b>, she has a special place in the heart of any <b>Fables</b> fan because of her loving loyalty to Ambrose, the fly-catching janitor-turned-king of Haven. <p>And Willingham said Riding Hood's fans <i>may</i> get to see her featured again. <p>"She is quite a cutie," Willingham said. "She has enjoyed the spotlight a couple of times, first of all when Boy Blue went to rescue her and found out she was not the Red Riding Hood that he met. And then as she became closer, by increments, with Ambrose, and helped him found his kingdom and became, de facto, the queen of that realm, although it hasn't been formalized yet. <p>"When it <i>is</i> time to formalize that," Willingham said, "I think that maybe no promises but that may be when we revisit her."
Her name alone explains why she is on our list of Fairest Fables, but she gets extra points for her loyalty to Beast after all, they've stayed together nearly a thousand years. Beauty and her husband fit quite nicely into their roles as sheriff and deputy mayor, playing key roles in the battle with the Empire. And Beauty has also become a mom, giving birth to little Bliss, a girl with beastly powers. <p>Willingham said Beauty will gets the spotlight in <b>Fairest</b> later this year. <p>"Between each of the six-issue arcs, we're going to do little one-issue stories," Willingham said. "Think of it as a palate cleanser between sumptuous courses in a great, big feast. And Beauty appears in the first of those short stories. And we find out something about her past that will chart the course of her life from here on."
Despite her status as a <b>Fables</b> villain, Lumi is truly beautiful, and she'll get the spotlight in the first arc of <b>Fairest</b>. <p>"We're going to find out far too much about the Snow Queen and her nasty ways," Willingham said. "And I don't think I want to say anything more about it, other thing Phil Jimenez draws her like a dream. <p>"Even though she would crush me like a bug, I wouldn't mind meeting her," the writer admitted. <p>People who read about her origin in <i>Jack of Fables</i> are also sympathetic to her story. After all, if it hadn't been for the cruelty of Jack, she might have turned out good. <p>"As are many things in the Fables universe, it is all Jack's fault," Willingham said. <p>Currently, the Snow Queen has been cursed into a deep sleep. Briar Rose, the legendary Sleeping Beauty, put herself and the entire Imperial Capital to sleep in order to end the war with the Empire. <p>But when that sleeping curse is lifted in the pages of <b>Fairest</b>, things are sure to get chilly.
Fans of <b>Fables</b> have seen much of the sibling rivalry between Rose Red and Sleeping Beauty, so we're calling this one a tie if for no other reason than to preserve the peace! <p>Rose Red was quite a rascal when she was introduced in <b>Fables</b> 10 years ago, but she's emerged as a beloved leader and fan-favorite, having repented for her cruelty to Boy Blue. <p>Going forward, Red's story will focus on her role as an Agent of Hope. "But she's right at this cusp in her life where she's thinking, 'hope for what?'" Willingham said. "It turns out hope can come in many forms, and some of them are pretty sinister.So she is deciding what kind of 'Hope' she is. <p>"And what it comes down to is, what is the bedrock of my character?" the writer said. "What do I really represent? And when we get back to Rose Red, either in <b>Fables</b> or in <b>Fairest</b>, we will explore that pretty thoroughly." <p>Snow White has always been a favorite of <b>Fables</b> fans, playing the part of Fabletown leader, wife of Bigby Wolf, and mother of seven magical cubs. And Snow's oldest daughter, Winter, will become pretty "fair" in her own right as she eventually becomes North Wind. <p>But Willingham said Snow White's role as mother will bring turmoil in the current "Cubs in Toyland" story in <b>Fables</b>. <p>"As we've learned, one of the cubs drops off the face of the earth," Willingham said. "So Snow is not going to go through a really great time over the next few issues, because she is a mom whose child is missing. <p>"I would love to be able to say it all turns out well in the end, or I'd love to be able to say it all turns out terrible," the writer said, "but I'm not going to do either."
Who knew? The old witch, Frau Totenkinder, was born a beautiful girl named Bellflower. And because she has now returned to that gorgeous form in <b>Fables</b>, she ascends to No. 3 on our list of Fairest Fables. <p>Frau Totenkinder has played a <i>major</i> role in the history of Fabletown and the many Fables who live there. And although readers now consider her a triumphant heroine complete with a hero in her lover, Dunster Happ Willingham warns that Bellflower is still a witch to many in the Fables world. <p>"The last time we saw her was Adam Hughes' little three-page vignette that showed how she's the witch that created so many of our Fables characters," the writer said. "She turned Beast into the Beast. She locked Rapunzel away in the tower originally. She recruited the Billy Goats Gruff to take care of the troll under the bridge. She's done so many others. <p>"And what I wonder about her is, when are some of these lively people she's cursed going to demand a reckoning?" the writer teased. "Right now, she's been recently de-powered, in the sense that she squandered her entire fortune of magic energy in her battle with Mr. Dark. So if you <i>were</i> going to try to say, OK, now it's time to make her pay the bill, this would be a good time to do it, before she builds all that power up again. So there might be an interesting story about that coming up soon-ish."
Briar Rose is beautiful enough to top anyone's "Fairest" list, but her No. 2 spot is the result of her self-sacrificial heroism during the war against the Empire. <p>"As much as any single person, Sleeping Beauty is responsible for bringing that evil Empire down," Willingham said. "But the consequence of that, of course, is to remain asleep." <p>That all changes this week, when Sleeping Beauty is the very first star of the very first issue and arc of <b>Fairest</b>. <p>"The last time we saw her in Fables, she heroically condemned herself to a long time of sleep in order to help the war effort against the Emperor," Willingham explained. "But we've seen things happen to her as she's sleeping. She was carted away by some goblins, and the city she put to sleep with her has been burned and ransacked and looted. I think it's time for her to wake up. <p>"And without giving too much away, we'd have a pretty boring Sleeping Beauty story if she didn't wake up in the first arc, so I think that's at least one thing you can count on," the writer added. "What happens after she wakes up is the stuff we will not give away. You're going to just have to see for yourself."
As the only <b>Fables</b> lady beloved enough to star in her own spin-off (or two), Cinderella holds the top spot in our "Fairest of the Fables" list. <p>But it's not just her good looks that make her so attractive. It's the fact that she can kick your ass. <p>"Cinderella is a spy, and we like to say: 'That James Bond fellow is only the greatest <i>male</i> secret agent,'" Willingham said. "She is the apex of the secret agent spy art." <p><b>Fairest</b> will begin with a story arc about Sleeping Beauty, followed by a focus on Rapunzel, and then a third arc about a new Fables character from India. <p>But spy Cindy returns in the fourth arc, written by Chris Roberson, who thrilled fans with his Cinderella mini-series. <p>"In her next appearance," Willingham promised, "Cinderella will continue to amaze us."