In November, the legendary Vertigo series Fables will hit 100 issues, and to celebrate, the creative team is switching places.
The 100-page issue will feature a prose story that is written by series artist Mark Buckingham, but illustrated by series writer Bill Willingham.
"Mark Buckingham and I have long thought that it would be fun to change jobs at some point in Fables," Willingham told Newsarama last year when he announced Issue #100.
The issue will also feature a main story written by Willingham and illustrated by Buckingham that will have dire consequences for the comic, as one of the Fables finally confronts the evil Mr. Dark.
"It’s going to have a huge, big, important, this-changes-everything-about-Fables story," Willingham said. "Now, I hope the readers realize that when we say things like 'this changes everything,' that in this series, we actually mean it."
The issue has a few other extras, including a Fables board game, a puppet theater, and other sequential stories.
For Buckingham, the issue represents not only a chance to contribute to the other side of the series' creation, but also the opportunity to celebrate his contribution to one of the most lauded non-superhero comic books in history.
Newsarama talked with Buckingham as the series reaches such a milestone issue, looking back at what he's accomplished on Fables and what he's writing for fans in Issue #100.
Newsarama: How does it feel to be marking the 100th issue of this title?
Mark Buckingham: It's a great moment to have reached a major milestone in the series history, but even after nine years on the book it feels like Bill and I have only just begun to tell the tales of these characters.
Nrama: When did you start on Fables? What has Fables meant to you since you started?
Buckingham: I was actually hired right at the start of the series. Originally it was thought that Fables would follow the Sandman model and have a different or rotating art team for each story arc. Bill and Shelly were keen to have me on the book but as I was the regular artist on Peter Parker Spider-man at the time I felt I'd only be able to commit to a single story arc. Shelly offered me a choice between Legends in Exile or Animal Farm. Most artists would have automatically picked the first issue, but I was already tired of drawing people in Manhattan from all the Spider-man stuff so I asked for Animal farm so I could have fun drawing organic environments and lots of birds and wildlife. After that they went searching for an artist for Legends in Exile and a couple of months later they found Lan Medina. During the first few months of the series we worked more or less side by side, with Lan drawing #1 while I drew #6 and so on.
By the time I'd finished work on Animal Farm I knew I'd finally found a book that really suited both my art style and my tastes in terms of subject matter. It is such a rich and diverse book with a huge and varied cast. I never tire of drawing it! I feel very lucky to have found such an amazing book to work on that is also popular with so many loyal readers.
Nrama: Looking back, do you have a favorite issue or scene among those you've drawn over the years?
Buckingham: I think my favorite single issue has to be #56 our Christmas issue. I love everything about that one. I still have a lot of fondness for Animal Farm but my favorite arcs so far are Homelands, Sons of Empire and The Good Prince ( especially the double page spreads in the later ). Having said that I have a feeling #100 will be a very special issue for me in the future.
Nrama: How did the switch between you and Bill come about for Fables #100? How did you end up writing?
Buckingham: It's something we've been talking about for a few years now. It was during the Sons of Empire arc that I first started to get more heavily involved in plot ideas and story elements for the series, which inspired me to want to start writing again. In that arc we had a series of three-page back-up stories and I suggested maybe in a future issue I could write one of those for Bill to draw. We been mulling over the idea ever since and eventually Shelly Bond suggested it as an extra for Fables #100.Shelly and Bill thought it might be a fun idea to make it a prose story with illustrations by Bill. I was a bit scared as I had written a few short comic scripts recently but this was my first piece of professional prose writing. Thankfully it all seemed to go well and both Bill and Shelly seem delighted with it.
Nrama: What have been the challenges of writing vs. drawing, and how have you approached them?
Buckingham: Writing for comics feels fairly comfortable. I think of my self as a storyteller rather than an illustrator, so I tend to think in terms of the entire creative process rather than one part. Prose writing was tough. A very different challenge after twenty-two years immersed in comic book methods!
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story you're telling in this issue?
Buckingham: I'm giving away nothing! I really want people to be surprised when they read this.
Nrama: What other things are in Issue #100? Any extras?
Buckingham: Lots!! In addition to the main story and my prose story you'll also find a Fables Board Game designed by Bill and fully painted by me.
I have also designed and drawn the parts to create a Fables Paper Puppet Theatre, including 32 little figures of most of Fables major characters so you can act out your own Fables stories. We also have some other amazing guest artists working on short strips with Bill.
Nrama: How's Bill doing on the art?
Buckingham: I haven't had a chance to see anything yet but Bill says he's having fun. I can't wait to see what he does. I know the fans are really eager to see Bill draw again!
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about what you're doing for Fables #100?
Buckingham: I'm trying out a new technique for the art on the main story. I've been painting more and more recently, mostly thanks to Shelly Bond encouraging me and getting me a great regular gig on covers for Madame Xanadu. I had been using grey washes on those and have now transferred that technique to my interior pages for #100. I think its adding an extra depth and atmosphere to the book that will really make our anniversary issue extra special.