It was over a year ago when readers first heard about the 100 pages of Fables #100 that will be released next month.
But only now do fans know what will happen inside those pages, and how truly brutal, dark and game-changing it will be.
The main story in Fables #100 is written by series creator Bill Willingham with art by regular artist Mark Buckingham. And, by the end of last month's Fables #99, it had become clear that the much-anticipated duel between Frau Totenkinder and Mr. Dark will be the focus.
Besides the magical duel, Fables #100 will also contain a few extras in its 100 pages, like a Fables board game and characters as paper dolls. Plus, readers will get a prose story written by Buckingham and illustrated by Willingham (see our interview with Buckingham to learn more).
But in this third installment, we turn our attention to the December's oversized Fables #100. Now that we know the battle for Fabletown will comprise the main part of the issue, we talked with Willingham about the showdown and what comes next in the popular Vertigo series.
Newsarama: Bill, now that we've read Issue #99 and seen the cover to #100, it's obvious the main comic story is going to be a showdown between Totenkinder and Mr. Dark. Are we going to see the actual battle? Because I think you'd promised we would.
Bill Willingham: Yes, what I said was that if there was ever another duel, I promised you're going to see all of it.
You know that Issue #100 is 100 pages long. But I don't know if we've mentioned that 60 pages of it is the main story. Yes, there are things other than the duel going on, but the duel dominates the entire story.
So yeah, you're going to see quite a bit of it.
Nrama: Why did Totenkinder warn Mr. Dark that she's coming? The story implied it was related to the way magic works in these cases.
Willingham: What I was trying to get across was... well, the first thing was that, just as in sports games, when the kicker is about the kick the field goal that is going to end the game, the opposing team, if they have a time out, always takes a time out at the last second, just to make the kicker worry about it.
So part of this was to give Mr. Dark time to think about it and get nervous. If you're in a duel and your opponent has started second-guessing himself, then that's an advantage for you.
But also, in addition to that, there's an aspect of trying to — without ever stopping the story long enough to say, "Here's the rules on how magic works and how it doesn't work," because we don't want a textbook lecture — we wanted to see some of the ways in which magic works in this Fables fictional universe.
So we have Totenkinder's strategy that, these great powers basically come by their abilities naturally. They don't sit, in their youth, and learn, "OK, here's how I do this, and here's how I do this," and what have you. They're just hard-wired to do their powerful stuff and they just do it.
So if they were going to have a totally unstructured meeting, the advantage would be to the ones who could just do this stuff on the fly.
Whereas Totenkinder carefully learned her craft over millennia, and so she wants to bring this more into her realm, which is a structured situation. A duel has its formalities. And then there's that speech that she gives to the North Wind, which is that magic is chaos that longs for order. It's the "homeless orphan" that longs for a structured family with lots of rules, etc., etc.
So she's putting the structure there, and as long as she's the one that gets to impose the structure, that gives her the advantage.
And it's the idea that she's fought lots of duels before, so she wants to play on familiar ground.
Nrama: So if you say it is a "duel," it's more structured, and she's got the advantage, because she's not only imposing a structure, but she's experienced within it.
Willingham: Yeah. But we'll see if her plan works at all.
Nrama: He has a good point, though, that it took a lot of sorcerers to lock him up last time.
Willingham: Uh huh.
Nrama: Will the building that we saw Mr. Dark constructing in Fables #99 be complete? And will we see it in Issue #100?
Willingham: You'll see a lot of it, since that's where the duel's fought. You see as much of Castle Dark as you can within the battle. It's like how, in the first Die Hard movie, you get to see that damned building that they were all locked up in together.
It's newly complete at the point when the duel takes place, and that's the setting. It's big, it's special, and you'll get to see a lot of it in Fables #100.
Nrama: Can you describe it at all for us?
Willingham: I want to let it speak for itself. It's big. It's impressive. Bucky [artist Mark Buckingham] designed it. It's spectacular.
At some point, the floor plans and designs that Bucky created for this, because we knew that Inaki [Miranda] was going to be drawing Issue #99, we wanted Bucky to design it, since he's the one who's going to be drawing it in Issue #100. So he produced these wonderful design sketches for Castle Dark.
In whatever collection that this issue falls into, we will run those designs in the back, and the readers will get to "Ooo" and "Aah" as to how wonderful this place.
Nrama: Issue #99 uses several "mundys" who have appeared before as Mr. Dark's zombified servants, and Inaki Miranda even did a blog post about recreating James Jean's cover to Issue #76. Did you describe exactly which characters you wanted in all these scenes?
Willingham: Yes, that was scripted. Maddy the Cat begins to realize these aren't just random witherlings. Each one of these had had some kind of past connection to Fables. That was all designed in the script, calling attention to specific characters. The script even said things like, "Go to this collection, on this page, and that character -- now, turn him into a zombie."
Nrama: This issue also brought back Ghost, the zephyr child of Bigby and Snow, and teased the possibility of a conflict.
Willingham: Yeah, I suspect there's some kind of reckoning coming in the North Wind/Snow/cubs family.
Nrama: You specifically mentioned in San Diego that some catastrophe would cause the cubs to split up. Is this scene in Issue #99 building toward that?
Willingham: I don't know that I said "catastrophe." There is an event coming that causes the cubs to be scattered to the four winds, pardon my pun. Are you asking if this is the thing that leads to that? I'm not going to tell.
Nrama: I figured they were at least connected.
Willingham: Everything's connected.
Nrama: I also noticed during the Rose Red storyline, did we see Peter and Bo during that story? The characters from your prose novel, Peter & Max?
Nrama: Will we be seeing more of them within the Fables comic?
Nrama: Can you give any indication of when that might happen?
Willingham: I can give you enough information that you can guess.
Issue #101 is the "What's been going on with Bufkin during all this?" issue.
Then we have a five-issue arc that I can't even tell you the name for, because it would give something away. But the five-issue arc deals with the change in status resulting from the big duel in Issue #100. Sort of like, what's the future of Fabletown now?
And in that, we start to set up things using some of these characters we've seen little of or not seen in the official Fables, like Peter Piper and his wife, Bo. We told their story pretty much in Peter & Max, but now we have these characters that each have an interesting skill set to draw upon in future Fables comics, and we will be drawing upon them.
And I guess the seeds for what happens there are planted in the arc following Issue #100 and #101.
Nrama: I talked with Chris Roberson about the upcoming Cinderella: Fables are Forever mini-series he's doing. And he indicated this ties into the regular Fables title quite a bit.
Willingham: It certainly does.
Nrama: So this five-issue story arc involves Cinderella, or at least ties into what she's going to be experiencing in the mini-series?
Willingham: Yes, although I'm going to have to fudge exactly what issues are involved in the crossover.
Nrama: Wait, is it a crossover?
Willingham: No, no. It's not a crossover, but there are definitely points coming up where you can see exactly where the Cinderella series ties into the main Fables series. It's either during the first five-issue arc, or right after.
The way we plan these things is, like a given story arc like "Witches" or something like that, is that we have a list of everything that absolutely must get into that story arc, but then there are things that, if there's room, we'll put it into this part of the plotline.
So I can't say exactly where Cinderella's tie-in will fall into the Fables storyline, but it's coming up pretty quickly.
Nrama: Getting back to Fables #100, did you oversee the paper dolls and the board game? I'm just curious how all these extras came together.
Willingham: Well, when we decided to do #100 as a special 100-page issue, we thought that we want to make this have a lot of stuff in it. You know those old comic books from back when that have short stories and prose this and like, a tour of the Batcave and all this extra stuff that you just loved as a kid? We wanted to have some fun extra stuff in here.
So we thought about a Fables board game and Mark had mentioned doing paper puppets. And we decided to do all of it.
Mark took the lead with the puppet theater. As a matter of fact, that's entirely Mark as writer and artist.
And then I took the lead with the board game. Mark took my badly drawn sketch of what the board looks like and turned it into typical Buckingham magic. But yeah, I did the rules and all that.
In addition to the rules that are going to be published in Fables #100, we're going to have some fun supplementary rules on the Vertigo blog, in case you want to, now that you've played it the normal way, have some additional ways to make it fun, that may or may not involved drinking and gambling. We'll see.
Nrama: Then as the last question relating to Fables... these scarves that you gave away in San Diego: What did they say on them?
Willingham: Blue is coming back!
Nrama: Can I quote you on that?
Willingham: Yeah, you can if you want, but you have to also quote the caveat we mentioned at the panel, which is, "This is not a promise of something that's going to appear in the story. This is a statement that you, the wearer of the scarf, are making as in a statement of belief, or at least hope, that Blue is coming back." So yeah, you can quote me if you want.
Nrama: Then to finish up, anything else you want to say to fans about Fables #100?
Willingham: There will be some changes coming after this issue, and I'm sure people are aware by now that, when we say something like that, we mean it. But I think people are going to come away from Fables #100, hopefully, thinking this is exactly the type of issue Fables #100 should have been.
Check back next week as we finish up our discussion with Willingham.