Bill Willingham may be walking away from the fantasy world of his hit series Fables in early 2015, but before the last issue hits readers hands, he'll already have another ongoing comic starting at Image called Restoration.
Set in the present day in a world devoid of magic (much like our own), Restoration starts on a "really bad day" when magic is suddenly restored — and millions of people perish. The gods and monsters from ancient times have been kept in captivity, but now they've returned, and they never want to make the same type of mistakes again.
The comic, which was announced at the 2014 Image Expo, will team Willingham with Barry Kitson, best known for his runs on superhero comics like Amazing Spider-Man and Legion of Super-Heroes.
Willingham announced late last year that Fables coming to an end in early 2015. While he's currently got a seven-issue miniseries for Dynamite coming out (Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure, which re-imagines licensed characters in a steam-pulp world), Restoration represents the one ongoing series that Willingham is writing post-Fables.
Newsarama talked to Willingham to find out more about Restoration, why he didn't take the book to Vertigo, and why he's working with Barry Kitson on the comic.
Newsarama: Bill, can you describe the premise behind Restoration?
Bill Willingham: We explore the idea that, over time, belief in magic has gone away. Back in Roman times and before, ancient times, we believed that magic kind of ruled the world, or ruled several aspects of our lives. And the incrementally, little by little, we've cut away from that.
So in Restoration, the premise is that belief in magic didn't go away — magic itself went away.
It slowly was being removed from the world purposefully. Back in the days when gods and monsters ruled the world, a group of scientific types — those who could envision a better future — got together and slowly started just picking them off, picking off all the gods, all the monsters, etcetera, etcetera.
But they're putting them on ice, because they found out that if you kill them, you may kill that individual, but the magic they contained or embodied is released back into the magiosphere that the earth had.
So they're putting them on ice, putting them in suspended animation. And they've developed sophisticated ways of doing that.
And that happened slowly, over time, because they were meticulous. They had long-range goals.
So magic has dried up and disappeared.
Until we get to today, where it's gone. There's some residual belief about it, but we look upon that as mythology and legends and nothing that was really real. And the magic itself is gone.
Then — and if we do this right, the day that is referred to in the very first issue of Restoration will actually be the day that the first comic hits the stand — but then the world has a really, really bad day. And this takes place in modern times.
And the really bad day is when something goes horribly wrong with the institution – I think we're calling it the Cauldron, for reasons that will probably be explained — but the institution that keeps all these gods on ice, something went wrong, and they all got out.
And they showed up and said, OK, we allowed ourselves to be picked off, one at a time, so we couldn't band together. As a matter of fact, for the most part, we never even believed it was happening.
But now we've learned our lesson. And we're never getting picked off one at a time again.
And all these cities and population centers — those belong to us again.
So it starts with that one really, really bad day, where the population of the Earth — and them showing up and sort of establishing themselves — is reduced by about a billion souls.
It's not pretty. It's not nice. Armies are destroyed in the field and what have you.
And this time, of course, their phrase upon greeting each other is, "No tribes, no pantheons." And that means, we aren't going to form ourselves into little cliques that don't care for everyone else. We are all one group. And if they come for any of us, they come for all of us, to prevent that from happening again.
That's the premise of Restoration — the day that magic and gods are restored to the world. And it's not a good one for us normal folks.
Nrama: And this is an ongoing? So you have plans for this series to continue?
Willingham: Yes. The first issue takes place on the first day. The first arc takes place in the first week or two.
And the end of the first arc is when we find out who our ongoing characters are going to be, and to a certain extent, that's who survives. Who survives the big, messy process of them coming back into the world and taking over.
Nrama: With Fables coming to an end in early 2015, will Restoration be your only ongoing comics project, at least for the foreseeable future?
Willingham: Yes, it is. Legenderry will be finishing up by then, and I'll still do other comics projects on a short-term basis. But this is the only ongoing that I'm working on.
Nrama: So this is a pretty substantial commitment for you. Why did you want to specifically work with Barry Kitson on this?
Willingham: I've known Barry for awhile, and we've been wanting to do something together. It was frustrating, on a couple of occasions, when we wanted to work together, because I was exclusive at DC and he was exclusive at Marvel. And the calendar never really matched up well for us.
But we've been wanting to do something together for some time.
And then, I guess it was a couple years ago now, the one time I attended a New York show, he flew in specifically to talk to me and said, look, I want a book that I will be known for. I do a lot of work, but they kind of shuffle me from book to book, almost on a basis of whatever needs propping up, and I want the Mark Buckingham situation. He [Mark] was very much in the same boat, and then he got associated with Fables and well-known for that. And regardless of whatever Mark does now, he will be "the guy who did Fables.
So Barry wanted the Mark-Buckingham-rich-and-famous deal.
And he said, create a series for us to do. And I said, OK, fine.
And this is what we came up with.
There were delays. The real, heavy work on this had to wait until I'm done with Fables, which is actually coming up a few weeks from now.
And from that moment, I'll plow forward full steam ahead on Restoration
It will open with a 40-page first issue, and then it will go on from there with regular sized issues.
Nrama: And you guys are going with Image, so you truly own the book.
Willingham: Well, we offered it to Vertigo first, only because Barry said he wanted the Mark Buckingham life career. So we tried to replicate it straight down the line.
But, you know, the Vertigo contract has changed. And my desire to have more control over what I do and actually be able to say yes and no to certain outside exploitations of the story has changed.
So we ended up at Image, and it's been a wonderful deal so far. Granted, working with them is a new thing. But so far, it's pretty spiffy.
Restoration, even though it's this year, it's designed to come out late this year. So the real tough work is just about to begin.