As Fables and Fairest both wind down toward their ending, artist Mark Buckingham is pulling double-duty, putting his stamp on both series set in the world of Fables.
While Buckingham is drawing the final storyline in Fables, he's concurrently writing the last chapter of Fairest, which begins its final arc this week with issue #27.
"Clamour for Glamour" will switch the focus of Fairest a bit, as a male character takes center stage. But as fans know, the fox Reynard fits the description of "fair," and the story promises to feature fan-favorite characters from the Fables Farm.
Created by writer Bill Willingham, Fables tells the story of how there are fairy tale and folklore characters secretly living in the modern day, having been exiled from their fantastical lands by a ruthless dictator.
Having won more than a dozen Eisner Awards, Fables has been one of the best-selling titles at Vertigo since it debuted in 2002, with Buckingham serving as the ongoing artist for much of that time. The series has spawned spin-off comics, novels and graphic novels, including the currently running monthly series Fairest, which launched in 2012.
Newsarama talked to Buckingham to find out more about both final stories and what readers can expect as Fables and Fairest wind down to an end.
Newsarama: Mark, as Fables winds down toward its end, why did you want to be the writer who concludes Fairest? How did that come about?
Mark Buckingham: To be honest, it was more by accident than design... but a very happy accident! The moment Shelly and Bill told me about plans for a companion series to Fables, to be called Fairest, I immediately asked if I might be considered as a writer for the series, having just written the prose story for Bill in Fables #100.
I asked the question, since they had already decided that Fairest didn't have to exclusively be a reference to women, couldn't it also apply to animals and birds too?
I already had an idea for the subject and title, "The Clamour for Glamour." Bill and Shelly loved the name, so they gave me the green light straight away, but with the Fables schedule being quite demanding, it took me a couple of years before I had a chance to really kick a plot into shape, by which time Bill was starting to talk about winding things up, so suddenly, my arc was neatly placed to be the last.
Having debuted on Fables with the "Animal Farm" arc, I had always retained a huge affection for the Farm and all the non-human characters I helped to create there, and there really was no other part of the Fables universe I wanted to write about more. With Fables and Fairest ending, I knew this was my chance to finally give voice to many of the Farm's supporting cast so we could get to know them before the grand finale.
Nrama: So what's the premise of the story we'll see in Fairest with "Clamour for Glamour?"
Buckingham: Reynard, having been subjected to a transformative spell enabling him to shape shift from fox to man at will, is now able to travel freely in the mundane world.
Returning frequently to regale the animals with tales of his many exploits, he delights in rubbing the other Farm Fables' noses in his good fortune. Frustration and anger at their continued restriction to the Farm once again becomes a major issue for the non-human Fables.
The animals begin to insist that the witches honor Prince Charming's election promise to provide glamours that will allow them to leave the Farm in human form...
Nrama: What interested you about Reynard in particular?
Buckingham: He's a great character, and he was an integral part of my first Fables arc, so I've always had a soft spot for him. I felt there had to be more to him than just the cunning and the wise cracks. It occurred to me that the Glamour that Oma bestowed on him had to be both a blessing and a curse that would allow me to explore a more vulnerable side to his nature.
Nrama: How does this tie into the concluding Rose/Snow story in Fables?
Buckingham: Bill and I recently met in Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon and went off for a terrific little writing retreat afterward. We basically talked through the entirety of what needed to happen in the final year of the Fables world and then divided things up between us.
Most of the matters related to the Farm are built into my Fairest arc, whilst everything else goes into Fables. The events in my first two issues tie into the start of the final Fables arc.
Nrama: This final story starts this week, with Fairest #27, but do you know yet when the series wraps up? Will there be an oversized issue or anything?
Buckingham: My story ends in Fairest #32, and the series wraps up with a regular-sized, stand-alone tale that Bill wrote a while back, which will appear in #33.
Nrama: OK, so that sounds like it will be a couple months before the big ending of the main series. But Mark, how in the world are you juggling working on the art in Fables and the writing in Fairest?
Buckingham: It is tough, and It's worse than just juggling those two jobs, as I also have Dead Boy Detectives to handle in the mix too. I'm still painting covers, contributing to the plots, and drawing layouts on that book every month.
On the plus side, every job is very different, and the variety keeps it fresh and exciting. My only problem is that all that work really doesn't leave me with time for anything, including eating and sleeping some days, so I'll be grateful for an easier life when I start to wrap up some of the jobs later in the year.
Nrama: Yeah, but now that Fables and Fairest are both winding down, has it hit you yet that the ending of these series is coming?
Buckingham: Keeping so busy is helping to distract me from that, 'cause if I dwelled on it, I would be terribly sad. I have been immersed in the Fables Universe for nearly 14 years and have been living and breathing these characters for so long that it is difficult to imagine life without them.
Nrama: Looking back, what has Fables meant to you, both personally and professionally?
Buckingham: Fables changed my life dramatically. It was such a perfect fit for me, giving me a subject matter and a supportive environment within which I could grow and develop as an artist and, luckily for me, a huge amount of recognition for my work.
I feel very fortunate to have had an amazing team around me, all of whom I will greatly miss. I am lucky to have such a supportive editor in Shelly Bond, who has championed me and given me opportunities to develop my other skills, such as painting and writing alongside drawing the book. I am grateful to all at DC for the support they have given to me and to Fables.
Most of all, I consider myself truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to build a great friendship and an amazing body of work with Bill Willingham. He truly is wonderful man and an exceptional talent.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming up in either Fables or Fairest?
Buckingham: So much happens in this final year and I really wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone by telling you a thing! Bill is writing some of his best ever scripts and truly putting all our heroes through their greatest ever challenges. If you are a Fables fan, you will really want to read this book month by month! It's absolutely breathtaking!