Cinderella, Super-Spy: Roberson on the Fables Spin-Off

For those who haven't read Vertigo’s Fables, it may come as some surprise that Cinderella is more than just a pretty face.

In fact, Cinderella is the ultimate bad-ass.

While the Fables version of Cinderella seems innocent enough, running her tiny shoe store on the streets of Fabletown in New York, she has a secret that doesn't seem to jibe with her immaculate wardrobe and perfectly applied lipstick. Despite her "day job" as a divorced princess who sells shoes, she is secretly a super spy whose well-honed sleuthing skills make James Bond look like a pansy.

Because of her adventurous missions, the character has won fervent fans among readers of Fables, the ongoing Vertigo series by writer Bill Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham. Next year, as announced at San Diego Comic-Con, the character is getting her own mini-series called Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love. Written by novelist Chris Roberson with art by Shawn McManus, the six-issue Cinderella series begins next fall.

Newsarama talked to Roberson to get a little more information about the mini-series and find out how he got the job working on Vertigo's kick-ass shoe store owner.

Newsarama: First off Chris, how did you get to know the Fables team?

Chris Roberson: It’s all Bill’s fault (as so many things are). Years ago he lived in Austin, and had the idea of starting a writing group. He mentioned the idea to Mark Finn, who at that time worked at Austin Books (the world’s greatest comic shop) and was a writer of no mean talent himself. Mark and I had been reading each other’s stories for awhile, and he dragged me into the mix, and I brought with me my old college classmate and erstwhile roommate, Matt Sturges. The writing group eventually came to be known as Clockwork Storybook, and for awhile we published a web magazine and even Print-on-Demand editions of books and short story collections by each of us. Somewhere along the way, the writing group had turned into a business, and as businesses have a fairly high mortality rate, CWSB was no exception.

Fast-forward a few years to 2007, and Bill is going great guns on Fables, Matt is doing stellar work on Jack of Fables and Shadowpact and the like, Mark is an award-winning biographer and playwright, and I’m writing novels and short stories. With the addition of comic scripter and publisher Bill Williams, Clockwork Storybook is reborn like a phoenix from the ashes, only this time as a proper writing group again. Since we’re not all living in Austin anymore, weekly meetings are out of the question, and so instead we do annual writing retreats in various far-flung locales.

NRAMA: And how did this evolve into the Cinderella gig?

CR: Just before the 2008 CWSB retreat, Bill asked me if I’d be interested in doing a fill-in issue on Jack of Fables. I jumped at the chance, of course. (Who wouldn’t?!) Everyone seemed pleased enough with the story I handed in (it’s entitled “Jack ‘n’ Apes,” and should be out sometime next year, I think), and that led to me getting the chance to write an inventory story for Fables. A short while after, I was fixing my daughter’s dinner when Bill called up again, and asked if I’d be interested in writing a six-issue spinoff mini-series featuring Cinderella. As I told him at the time, I believe, in front of my four-year old daughter I could not use the appropriate language to communicate the degree to which my answer was “Yes!”

What Bill didn’t realize, of course, was that I’d somehow willed the Cinderella mini-series into existence. Or maybe I wished it into existence, might be the better way to put it. Sturges and I have lunch a few times a month, and about a year ago I mentioned to him that the Cinderella character was screaming out for a mini-series of her own, and even as I said the words, in the back of my head, I was trying to work out some devious plan to trick Bill into letting me write it. I couldn’t work out any suitably devious plan, but apparently just thinking about it was enough, as within a year, the mini-series was greenlit and I was handed the keys. So I suppose I should be thinking about other things I want to get, as well, shouldn’t I? (jet pack, jet pack, jet pack…)

NRAMA: So I take it you were a Fables fan long before this was offered?

CR: I’ve been a Fables fan since before there was a Fables. When I met Bill, he was just starting work on The Proposition Player, if I’m remembering right (and in fact we were first introduced at a signing for the premier issue of Pantheon), and he was starting work on Fables while Clockwork Storybook was still a going business concern. He’d told us about the idea before, but I think the first of it I read were copies of the inked and letter pages of issue #1 that he was proofing when he stayed with me and my wife in Austin. I was sold from the first pages, and I’ve been along for the ride ever since.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Fables-related work I’ve been doing is the “research” phase, having the excuse to sit down and re-read the whole series again (and the attendant one-shots and spinoffs) from beginning to end. Tough job, right?

NRAMA: Oh, very. You said that you always thought Cinderella deserved a mini-series. What's the appeal and strength of the Cinderella character in Fables?

CR: Well, there’s a short answer and a long answer to that question, I think. The longer answer involves the fact that she works on more than one level, and that you’ve got this interesting tension between the somewhat shallow and perhaps even vacuous gadabout that Cindy appears to be and the tough-as-nails espionage agent that she really is. And of course there’s the whole idea of a fairy tale character who in her original story is a pretty reactive figure, only able to respond to the actions and desires of those around her, getting to be a tremendously active and proactive character in the modern day. And there’s the fact that so much of what Cindy does is take the trappings of femininity, so often traditionally viewed as meek and mild, and turns them into strengths (and even weapons in some cases).

That’s the longer answer. The shorter answer is that “Cinderella, Super Spy” is just made of awesome.

NRAMA: What can you tell us about the story you'll be telling in the mini- series?

CR: I probably can’t say too much, but what I can say is that Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love is about spies, sex, and shoes; that we find out what happened to Cindy’s Fairy Godmother, and that Happiness isn’t always forever after; and we once-and-for-all learn the burning question of who runs Cindy’s shoe store when she’s away gallivanting.

NRAMA: What is the feel of the mini-series? Is it different from Fables?

CR: My model for the mini-series is very much the handful of Cindy-centric issues of Fables that we’ve seen. And I think having Shawn McManus onboard, who so beautifully illustrated the Cindy story “Big and Small,” is going to aid immeasurably in that.

NRAMA: What other characters from Fables will we see show up during the mini-series?

CR: There are guest appearances by stalwarts like Beast and Frau Totenkinder, of course, and cameos by a handful of other Fabletown denizens. And there will be featured roles for a number of Fables who have appeared only briefly in the main series, including a character who has been mentioned in one panel and appeared in one other panel, but who has never been given a starring role. There are a handful of other Fables that we’ve never seen before, but who will be very recognizable to anyone with a passing familiarity with nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell fans about the Cinderella mini-series?

CR: It’s six issues of Cinderella, Super Spy. What else can I say?

Twitter activity