WILLINGHAM, STURGES To End JACK OF FABLES With Issue #50

WILLINGHAM & STURGES End JACK OF FABLES

After more than four years of thrilling readers with Jack's ridiculous, wild, and often borderline-offensive acts, the Vertigo series Jack of Fables comes to an end with an oversized Issue #50 next year.

Written by Matthew Sturges and Fables writer Bill Willingham, Jack of Fables was launched in 2006 as a Fables spin-off, detailing the adventures of Jack Horner after his exile from Fabletown.

Now it comes to an end with an issue the writers promise is jam-packed with just about every character that has ever appeared in an issue of Jack of Fables. And according to Willingham and Sturges, the ending is written "the only way this series could have ended."

Critically acclaimed and beloved by readers — even named by Time as one of the Top 10 graphic novels of 2007 — the series built a whole world of endearing characters outside the main Fables cast. Readers were introduced to the Golden Boughs, Gary the Pathetic Fallacy, Jack Frost, the Page Sisters, Babe the Blue Ox, and a whole list of Literals.

Then in 2009, after Jack of Fables was the driving force behind the "Great Fables Crossover," the Jack series switched focus away from its main character toward the adventures of Jack Frost, who had been introduced as Jack Horner's son.

According to the writers, Jack Frost's story was all part of their plan to take the series toward a final, oversized Jack of Fables #50. They originally wanted to surprise readers by ending it without any warning, but they've kindly been reminded by DC that retailers will want to know about a big, final issue.

In the second part of an extensive interview with Willingham about all his upcoming work — including this week's Warriors Three and December's 100-page Fables #100 — Newsarama talked to him and Sturges to find out more about the end of Jack of Fables.

 

Newsarama: Jack of Fables went through a huge change after the "Great Fables Crossover," making Jack Frost the main character. Now that we're heading toward Issue #50, what's the next phase for Jack of Fables?

Bill Willingham: Now we're going to find out that this mid-course change that some people grumbled and grumped about actually was setting up — because we're those guys who plan things out in advance — this big incident in Jack of Fables #50. And it's kind of cool that Jack of Fables is reaching the milestone of its 50th issue at the same time Fables is reaching 100.

Do you want to say it, Matt? I'll set it up. Jack of Fables #50 is...

Matthew Sturges: ... the final issue of Jack of Fables.

Nrama: Ouch! It's all finished after the 50th issue?

Willingham: It's done!

Sturges: It's over!

Willingham: And it all comes to an end with what we've been working toward. We've been manipulating things toward this moment for some time now.

Sturges: We've spent all this time with Jack Frost for a very specific reason. He figures very prominently in Issue #50.

Willingham: In fact, pretty much anyone who's ever been in the Jack of Fables series features prominently in Issue #50.

Sturges: We checked, and I think we got just about everybody.

Nrama: So is Jack of Fables #50 an oversized issue?

Willingham: Yes. Don't hold me to this, but I believe it's 48 pages, at least 40 of which concern the main story.

Sturges: The other eight pages contain a fully realized, self-contained, Babe the Miniature Blue Ox story.

Willingham: He gets his own story for once! For many — and I think this is a good thing — the one-page Babe stuff was the main reason to pick up Jack of Fables.

Sturges: Kind of like how you buy the newspaper just to read the funny pages.

Nrama: Are you implying there's going to be a Babe spin-off?

Willingham: God no! [laughs]

Sturges: [laughs] That would be horrible!

Willingham: We are implying nothing!

Nrama: Was the decision to end Jack of Fables the result of sales dropping? Is this actually a cancelation?

Willingham: No. Even though sales have not been comparable with Fables, sales of Jack have always been pretty strong. A lot of Vertigo series plan their endings so that they end on a high note, instead of waiting until sales are so low that you have to. So we decided to quit while we're ahead and end on a high note.

Sturges: One of the things that's always been important to us, when we've been writing Jack, is that it's a lot of fun. It's always been something we had a blast doing together. So I think that, as soon as there was any hint that it might stop being fun, we realized that would make it a terrible experience.

It was important to quit while it's still enjoyable.

Willingham: You know, we started asking ourselves, is there a slimy joke we haven't told with Jack? And once you take a guy to the point of sleeping with his sisters...

Sturges: [laughs]... not all at the same time!

Willingham: ... among other acts of depravity, where do you go from there?

Nrama: After Jack of Fables ends, will we see some of these characters incorporated into the regular Fables title?

Willingham: Well, as Matt said at the Fables panel in San Diego, we promise we're not killing everybody.

Sturges: Yes, we did promise that.

Nrama: Will we see some of the "Literals" from the "Great Fables Crossover" show up in Issue #50?

Sturges: We'll see.

Willingham: Maybe.

Nrama: I don't know how well you've memorized every character's appearance, but I imagine you guys having to dig through all the old issues as you write this, making sure everyone's included. How does it feel to look back over 50 issues of stories together?

Willingham: We have a stack of all the Jack issues here, and we're going through them, making sure we haven't missed anyone. And we're starting to reminisce. "Oh, remember this storyline?" and "Oh, how could we have forgotten this character. This character has to play a part." So yeah, we don't have this all memorized. We may be geniuses, but we're not sooper geniuses.

When you write that for the article, make sure you spell that "S-O-O-P-E-R."

Nrama: As opposed to "S-O-U-P-E-R," right?

Willingham: [laughs] Well, that'll work too.

Sturges: Either/or.

Willingham: As long as it's the way Bugs Bunny would have pronounced it, we're good.

Nrama: When does Issue #50 hit? It's early next year, right?

Willingham: Well, when we decided to end Jack of Fables, our plan was to not let anyone know that Issue #50 was the last issue.

Sturges: Until they read it.

Willingham: Until they read it, and you would have realized, when you read it, "Oh my God! This is the end!"

 

The problem is, because of distribution, you have to let the stores have the description, and they want the stores to order a lot of Issue #50. So DC said, you can't just pretend that it's going to continue after this. There would be no solicitation for #51.

But before we decided that Issue #50 was the end, we started slowing down Jack to bi-monthly, planning it so that the solicitation for #51 might not be missed before #50 came out. We thought maybe that would help keep the surprise going.

Sturges: We even talked about doing three extra issues just to keep up the ruse.

Willingham: But the wiser heads at DC prevailed. They said, "No, if the series is ending, you kind of have to let the retailers know. It's not good to play those kind of jokes on the people who actually keep us in business."

I'm not sure that's true. I think you should play lots of practical jokes on the people who have your livelihood in your hands.

Sturges: [laughs] Keeps them on their toes.

Willingham: But that's probably why I've been fired from comics at least three times in my career.

Nrama: Those of us who read Jack of Fables would almost be expecting a practical joke.

Sturges: That's what we said!

Nrama: But you have to wonder if the retailers are with us on that.

Willingham: Well, I know a few retailers that would get the joke and think it was wonderful, but unfortunately you don't get to know all the retailers, and you don't want to create enemies among the people who are going to be selling your books.

I understand that that's a good policy.

Nrama: You never answered the question, though. When does Jack of Fables #50 come out?

Sturges: February?

Willingham: Perhaps. We're not sure. DC has this snotty attitude that they won't actually release the book until we finish writing it.

So right away, there's conflict there.

But the serious answer is that we started spreading out the issues, hoping we could sneak the ending in without anyone noticing the ending was coming, but now that we're admitting to it, I think it's going to be pushed back to January or February, only because we didn't want to steal the thunder from Fables #100.

Sturges: We didn't want Jack of Fables to obscure that.

Willingham: Because the end of Jack of Fables would steal the thunder like nobody's business.

Nrama: Matt, are you going away from the Fables world, or is there something else planned for you?

Sturges: Uhhhh... we'll have to see about that.

Willingham: That's the dirty little secret. The reason Jack is coming to an end, really, is that all of us in the Fables world are just tired to death of Matt. And we just want to ease him out the door. Just kick him out.

Sturges: When Bill says he's been fired from comics three times in his career, I'm working on my first time.

Willingham: Yes, we're working on Matt's first time being fired off comics "forever." That's what I've been told three times. But there are third and fourth acts, apparently.

But um, all I will say, in answer to your question, is that there are ideas in the works.

There are discussions. There are whispers and rumors. But not a damned thing that can be confirmed yet.

Sturges: And apparently, I have to arm wrestle Chris Roberson now for the right to work on anything related to Fables.

Nrama: Looking back at the original decision to do a spin-off from Fables, what are your thoughts on how long Jack of Fables has lasted? Obviously, doing more would be great, but 50 issues is quite an accomplishment for a Vertigo series spin-off, isn't it?

 

Willingham: Yes! It is! And the reason Matt and I are in a room together right now is that we're writing the final issue now.

We're both wistful in the vein of, "Oh, it's too bad this has to end," but at the same time...

Sturges: I don't think either one of us thinks it should go any further.

Willingham: Right. And if we pull the plug, if we do this just the way we plan it, the readers will have two responses: 1) This is the only way this series could have ended...

Sturges: Definitely.

Willingham: And 2) There's no way to continue it.

Sturges: There's no coming back from this ending. There will be no "After Jack."

Willingham: Wait. "After Jack!" That's a great title!

Check back later this week with Newsarama, as we talk with Willingham about Fables #100.

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