Bill Willingham Explains Why FABLES is Ending with #150

DC Comics' January 2014 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics

Fables, the hit Vertigo series created by Bill Willingham, is ending in early 2015 as it reaches its landmark 150th issue.

Willingham told Newsarama that he and regular series artist Mark Buckingham agreed on when to end Fables, and he confirmed that the current spin-off series, Fairest, will also end in early 2015.

Since the monthly Fables comic started in 2002, it's been a constant best-seller for DC's Vertigo imprint, with Willingham also writing or overseeing multiple spin-off comics, graphic novels and even his tie-in prose novel, Peter and Max. In November, DC will publish the graphic novel, Fairest in All the Land. And just in October, the series wrapped up a crossover with The Unwritten, as Vertigo also released the Fables Encyclopedia.

Credit: DC Comics

Fables is also currently being developed as a film by Harry Potter franchise producers David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford of Heyday Films. Willingham confirmed to Newsarama that the first draft of the script is currently being written.

The comic series is also the inspiration for the new video game The Wolf Among Us from Telltale Games, which is being released in chapters (the first of which came out in October).

Newsarama talked to Willingham to find out more about the decision to end Fables.

Newsarama: Bill, what's the big news you have about Fables?

Bill Willingham: We are wrapping Fables up with issue #150, which is 16 issues away at this point.

Nrama: That's shocking!

Willingham: Is it?

Nrama: It is! What brought about the decision to end it so soon?

Credit: DC Comics

Willingham: Well, a number of things. This was a secret that Mark Buckingham and I have had for awhile. We've been working out when would be a good time to wrap it up, and what events we're doing to bring this to a close.

That was fine, because two people that are close and working together can sit on a secret for awhile. But of course, you can't make plans like that and not eventually bring in people like, oh, the editor, or the publisher, etcetera, etcetera, on board.

So even though we weren't going to announce this officially until, I think we were looking at Emerald City Con next March, the Fables panel there, to make the announcement, the problem is that too many people are getting wind of the rumor. I've heard people who are not supposed to know about it ask questions about it.

And that's why we're announcing it now. That's the practical reason for when to make the announcement.

But the "closing it up at #150" idea… well, #150 is a milestone issue. And it fit pretty closely with a storyline that we've been building up to, that I will tease in a little bit, but which could either just be a kind of dramatic sea change in the way the series is going (one of those truthful moments where things will not be the same after it), or it would be a good time to close it up.

With other things on my plate, and other things on Mark's plate, the decision on those two possibilities was, why don't we wrap it up?

Nrama: Does the storyline that wraps up the series immediately follow the current storyline, "Camelot?"

Willingham: Almost.

Nrama: So there's something in between.

Credit: DC Comics' November 2013 solicitations

Willingham: Well, we have the end of the "Camelot" story. We have, following that, a two-issue story that's sort of a side story, but it sets up the final, big saga. And that story is called "The Boys in the Band." And it's all about Boy Blue's Band up at The Farm. They go off on an adventure together. The adventure sort of lays the groundwork. It asks a few specific questions that, the answer to those questions are the last big Fables saga.

And then that lasts for nine issues, I believe, ending in issue #150, which is going to be an oversized issue.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: Obviously you know, now, how the series is going to end. At what point did you know that ending? You said it could have gone one of two ways — did you have this in your mind as a possible ending for awhile now?

Willingham: This is one of the planned ways to end it. But it's just like issue #75, wherein the war is won and Gepetto signs on to Fabletown, could have been one of the moments of ending. This is one of those situations where you could end it there, or you could find other ways to go on. And we decided to wrap it up.

Nrama: Is Fairest ending as well?

Willingham: If the timing works out, the last arc of Fairest will end one month before issue #150 of Fables.

In that sense, both will wrap up around the same time.

Nrama: There are a lot of threads hanging right now in Fables, like the promised return of Prince Charming, the effect of The Unwritten crossover, or even the giant rats that Junebug saw. Are you trying to wrap up all the loose ends before the series ends? Are all those things I mentioned going to play into this ending?

Willingham: Most of it. The giant rats is dealt with in the new Cinderella arc in Fairest, which is the next major arc coming up in that book. The Prince Charming return is dealt with partially in the Fairest In All The Land graphic novel, about to come out, and will also play into the final big arc of Fables. The Unwritten crossover will be addressed pretty close to the end.

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: I'm just floored. And I'm sure your fans will be too. I mean, I can't speak for everyone, but I just always thought Fables would be around.

Willingham: Well, me too. But you know, the story was good enough, the scheduling kind of fell into place, and I will make one promise — the ending of this will not be everyone dies.

Nrama: Like in Jack of Fables.

Willingham: Right, we did that in Jack. You might be able to get away with doing that once, especially in a story as snarky as Jack's, but you don't get away with that with Fables itself.

So although there will be some catastrophic things that happen, I promise that not everyone will die.

That said, the possibility is open to revisit those characters from time to time, later on, down the road after we've had some time away to kind of re-evaluate things. I hate to continuously draw parallels to Sandman, but just like Neil [Gaiman] coming back from time to time to do a new little things with Sandman here and there, I think that's the way to approach any possibility of doing more Fables in the future, as just special revisit types of things.

Nrama: You've insinuated that you and Mark might have other things that you want to do once Fables ends. I know you're doing Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure for Dynamite, but is there something after? Maybe that novel you told me you wanted to get to? Or a particular comics project that you have in the works?

Willingham: There are specific plans. I will tell you the one that I can tell you. Legenderry, if the timing works, will be well completed by the time we wrap Fables up a little more than a year from now.

Credit: DC Comics

Mark Buckingham and I are not leaving the fairy tale realms entirely. There are specific projects planned, coming up in the future, when Mark and I will work together in a non-Fables, non-DC kind of thing. And I think those need to be announced a little closer to the actuality of them happening. That's a couple of years away, probably.

There are at least two projects that I'm starting up with other artists and such that will continue beyond this.

I'm not quitting the business. I'm working on new things. And as you said, maybe I'll be able to wrestle a little more time for the novel I want to do along the way.

Nrama: I know you can't promise a happy ending for everyone, but dare we hope for the return of a few characters? You've already dangled Prince Charming in front of us as a returning character. And we know there's a possibility of Bigby coming back, although Boy Blue seems to be happy up in the afterlife you showed us last issue. But could we see some other characters, like maybe Bufkin or other fan-favorites, returning for the big, final storyline?

Willingham: Well, I certainly don't want to be guilty of dangling Prince Charming in front of you. As a matter of fact, that might be vulgar.

But we will be addressing some of those things. And hmmm…. what do I want to give away about the final act? The main plotline of the final arc will deal with what's happening with Snow and Bigby and a new conflict involving Rose Red, in a very definite way. And that's as much as I want to say about that.

Nrama: We've already seen Snow and Rose Red at odds with each other. And you know, it's interesting that these characters would finish Fables, because Bigby, Snow and Rose Red were the focus of the very first storyline, when the series started.

Willingham: They were. And the issue that just came out, issue #134, had clues about what the final, big saga is going to be about. I will tease the end by saying that the clues are right there in front of you right now.

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