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Posts Tagged ‘Fables

Who says that fairy tales are just for kids? Bill Willingham’s Fables has more than enough intrigue, politics, and drama to fill any number of high-brow literary works. Fables succeeds magnificently at molding the fairy tales you loved as a child into a grown-up saga without ruining your childhood (case in point: Alan Moore’s Lost Girls. Now THAT was a scarring experience). Fables is brilliant because it works on multiple levels. It’s comedy, romance, mystery, and action all at once without denigrating into crass parody. Although some characters are more integral to the story than others, Fables never focuses on just one main character – it’s like a Robert Altman film turned comic book fairy tale. Fables isn’t just a great work of comic book fiction, it’s a great work of fiction, period, proof enough to shut up all the naysayers who believe comics are just for teenage boys and adults caught in arrested development.

Fables begins in modern day New York, where Snow White, her sister Rose Red, King Cole and many others have been exiled after escaping their homelands, fleeing a mysterious threat known only as “The Adversary.” It can be said of many series that they start off a little weak, but only get better as the series goes on. This isn’t quite true for Fables, because while it isn’t weak by any means, the early issues don’t even hint at how rich and complex the world of Fabletown becomes as the series progresses. Volume One opens with Snow White, who is now the right-hand woman of Mayor King Cole, tracking down her sister’s murderer. Things aren’t quite what they seem of course, and as Fables unfolds over 82 issues, events snowball and lead up to the big showdown, in which the villian is unveiled and kingdoms are restored… for a time.

What makes Fables so special is that seemingly minor characters end up as major players later on, significantly altering the lives of the Fable-town residents and becoming more important than they (and the reader) ever imagined they could be. They’re the ones we root the loudest and cry the hardest for. These characters aren’t the elevated paragons of perfection, clear-cut black and white archetypes that we’re used to from traditional fairy tales. They are imperfect beings, with frail relationships handled expertly by Bill Willingham. Prince Charming is a cad who’s had three wives (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, respectively). Snow White and Bigby Wolf have their own relationship problems, him being a wolf the least of them. The most stable relationship in the series is Beauty and the Beast’s. Healthy relationships are almost never interesting in fiction, (and really, who wants to read about happy couples?), but theirs is possibly the most fun, playful and yes, sexy healthy relationship I’ve come across in fiction, ever. No small feat.

And, like any great work of fiction, there is inevitable tragedy. The heartbreak of failed love between two characters is as devastating as the happy ones are uplifting. Late in the series, a final goodbye between a will-they-won’t-they pair ends not in forgiveness, but with one character revealing the hard, unvarnished truth about the other’s shortcomings. And it’s as painful for her to hear as it is for us, as Willingham knowingly wrenches our hearts by wrenching hers. He doesn’t let her off easy, even on his deathbed. And it just breaks your heart in half.

Most series would be content to wrap things up neatly in a bow and leave the residents of Fabletown to their happiness and content, but Bill Willingham never takes the easy route. It doesn’t end in “Happily Ever After” because, just like life, these stories will go on, even after we close the pages of the book.


If you’re not reading Graphic Content, Vertigo’s official blog, you probably should. That’s because along with news and previews from the favorite publisher of, like, all of my favorite books ever, Pamela Mullin and company thrown In some pretty sweet prizes every once in a while. Recently, GC had a contest to give away 20 copies of the Fables Deluxe Vol. 1 autographed by none other than series creator and writer Bill Willingham. The contest was X-Mas themed and everybody who entered went into a drawing for this fancy-schmancy hardcover, perfectly suited for prominent bookshelf displaying to make all of your nerd friends go super-crazy jealous on you. Awesome.

Now, Fables was the first book I picked up in mid 2009 after years of not reading comics, and it pretty much sucked me back into the world of all the great stuff that had been going on during my hiatus. It’s also the first title that I ever used to get my girlfriend into comics, so Fables even has a place in my heart now for bringing me closer to the woman I love, on top of just being generally awesome and already a personal favorite. (Oh, and it’s also featured fairly prominently on HF!C’s forthcoming “20 (Or So) Best Comics of the Decade” list. Stay tuned!)

Well, last month the drawing came and went, and…

Fables Hardcover

What would ya know?

Dreams really do come true, kids.

Sometimes comics make us cry. Here are the top ten comic moments that made Maggie sob, Jonny bleary-eyed, and set ole Rob a-drinkin. These are pretty much ranked in order of how hard Maggie cried. Except one, but she’ll never admit which one.

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(10) Archie & Veronica’s Wedding – Maggie: SHUT UP. This issue will make 99% of women cry like babies, so just -HEY! SHUT UP!

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(9) Beak Beats Beast – Maggie: Cassandra Nova, that twisted, sick bitch, mind controls poor, confused Beak into beating the shit out of his mentor and bestest buddy, Beast. WITH A BASEBALL BAT. No matter how hard he tries, Beak can’t stop beating the good doctor, apologizing to him and crying the whole time. Man, imagine being forced to beat the shit out of your childhood hero.

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(8) Astounding Wolf Man’s Wife, Murdered – Maggie: The weeping moment here was less the murder itself than the fact that Gary was blamed for the murder. Frak, the ONE GUY you trust to help you deal with your lycanthropy (who happens to be a vampire) up and chomps your wife. Then you get framed for it and your ONLY daughter hates you. You also lose your fortune and your home. But man, when Gary didn’t even de-wolf and cradled his dead wife in his arms and shrieked, jeez.

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(7) Reddy Loses His Arm – Maggie: The Red Tornado becomes human, makes real hot sexytime with his wife, truly hugs his kid for the first time – it’s great. Then he gets into a fight with Solomon Grundy, who rips off his arm, practically killing him. While this is going on, his wife has to watch helplessly through an unbreachable portal. I didn’t know what my worst nightmare was until I read this. (Well, until I saw that one episode of Battlestar where Boomer, well, you know, with Helo.)

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(6) Tim Drake’s Father, Murdered – Rob: Pretty much the entirety of Identity Crisis could fit in this post (Ronnie & Sue!) but, when you think about it, nothing is as tragic as the death of Jack Drake. Tim was the only Robin who actually had some family left and that was all taken away from him when Jean Loring sent the original Captain Boomerang to attack. Despite getting shot numerous times, Captain Boomerang managed to throw a boomerang straight into Jacks’ chest, killing him. All the while, Tim is listening in on his dad over Oracle’s frequency, unable to get there in time. OOF.

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(5) Black Canary, Tortured – Rob: Oliver Queen had never killed anybody before. That was before he and Dinah moved up to Seattle, Washington and ended up taking up their own little projects, hers being trying to break up a drug ring. That’s before Ollie happens to hear that the head of the drug cartel was found dead and that he still hadn’t seen from Dinah. When he tracks her down, he finds her strung up, beaten to a pulp, bleeding profusely, nearly naked, and being threatened by a man with a knife. If that image isn’t heartbreaking enough, the only thing she can say to him while Ollie holds her near lifeless body? “Oliver, sorry I missed your birthday.”

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(4) Buddy Finds His Family, Murdered – Jonny: As a man there are certain survival instincts that nature puts in us (by the way I’m a man). Call it God, call it nature; we’re hardwired to protect our “zone” with our lives. Obviously women do this too, but for them it’s a much more holistic experience. Men, we want to fucking DOMINATE and OBLITERATE any perceived threat. We won’t get into the psychology of this. If you’re a dude you know what I’m talking about, and if you’re a woman you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Buddy Baker. He is one of the few, if any, super heroes who had a family integral to his story rather than some minor aspect of his background. Ellen, Cliff, Maxine. I still know the names of Buddy’s family, and as a man who was months away from getting married when I read this comic it was completely devastating to see Buddy’s family sprawled on the ground of his own home and lying in their own blood. This was all the more poignant because this wasn’t just a casualty of some war or what have you. This represented a fundamental failure on Buddy’s part. He chose to follow his dream and be a superhero, and while he was out with HIS dream, the family that he was supposed to protect with his LIFE was butchered in his OWN HOME. As a man I cannot possibly think of a more horrific scene to come home to, and this was the most gut-wrenching piece of literature I’ve ever read.

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(3) Kitty & Colussus in Astonishing X-Men – Maggie: So Kitty phases through about a million feet of metal to find presumed-dead for years Peter Rasputin captured like a lab rat. Imagine finding your long dead first love alive and well. She lands right in front of him when she drops into the sub-basement, he runs through her, she puts her hand to her heart. And then! They get together and it’s adorable. But then Kitty phases a giant bullet through the Earth, saving the world, and Peter loses her again. Fuck. I’m getting upset just typing this.

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(2) Snow Sends Ghost Away – Maggie: Snow & Bigby’s zephyr of a seventh child is a bit, um, special needs. Snow didn’t even know Ghost existed until Frau Totenkinder dropped the hint, but by the time Snow figured it out, it was too late, Ghost was wanted for murder. Snow sits alone speaking to her immaterial child, tells him to go, far, far from here and find his exiled Daddy. She bursts into tears. *I* burst into tears.

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(1) Coast City Solidarity – Maggie: So at the behest of Cyborg Superman, Mongul completely destroyed the place, along with nearly all of it’s seven million residents. As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s champion, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, freaks out in the wake of the destruction, gets possesed by Parallax AND the Spectre and then (mostly) dies. But once he comes back to life, he wants his city back. Coast City is rebuilt, but after the destruction, no one wants to live there.  During the Sinestro Corps War, Coast City is under threat yet again but just when the worst is about to happen and Hal himself has almost given up? Thousands of tiny green lights (shit, I’m getting choked up) start shining through the sparsely populated Coast City. Hal ends up kicking Sinestro’s ass over the rooftops of Coast City, which is reborn as “The City Without Fear.” Aaand I’m officially verklempt again.

Add yours in the comments!

I’d go fucking crazy if I didn’t have friends to rely on. So, really, why should superheroes be any different? As it turns out, a lot of comic characters have a super-buddy that they can sort of relax with and confide in outside of costume heroics (although that doesn’t necessarily mean they take the costumes off). So, who are the best besties to ever be best besties?

bff1(5) Daredevil and Spider-Man – It should pretty much be a given that two superheroes who fight the same criminals in the same city will hang out at some point. The thing about these two, though, is that they always seem to meet under the shittiest, angstiest of circumstances. They are more of a shoulder for each other than drinking buddies. Case in point, when Karen Page got shanked by Bullseye, Spidey brought Daredevil to the spot on the George Washington Bridge where Gwen Stacy got killed. Maybe there’s a reason the soundtracks to their movies were full of Dashboard Confessional and Evanescence (yet there’s still no excuse for the Nickelback).

bff24. Boy Blue, Flycatcher, and Pinocchio – If there’s one thing I can attest to, it’s this: boys love hanging out on stoops readin’ comics and eatin junk food. And seriously, when they weren’t out fighting in epic battles or reigning over their own kingdoms, Boy Blue, Pinocchio, and Ambrose could pretty much always be found on the steps of the Woodlands, listening to Blue’s trumpet and shooting the shit (until, you know, Fabletown got all imploded and Boy Blue got all dead). They were kind of like the Three Musketeers of Fabletown, except the Three Musketeers might actually live in Fabletown. Great, now I’m all nostalgic for my old stoop days.

bff33. Hal Jordan and Barry Allen – Both are original members of the Justice League of America, so it makes sense that they’d be cool with one another despite their differences in personality. But to the extent of going on camping trips on other planets together? Dang, dudes, you guys are such best friends. And now that Barry’s back from cruising the Speedforce for 23 years, he can go back to hanging out with Hal Jordan and doing the stuff they love together (I mean, I assume they love getting the shit kicked out of them by undead J’onn J’onnz).

bff42. Ted Kord and Michael Carter – Oh man, the bond these two had between them was off the fucking chart. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold met, befriended, and eventually bro-crushed each other hard when they both joined Justice League International. After watching Kord take a punch from Doomsday, it turned into full on mutual respect. Later on they formed the Super Buddies and worked together in a fast food restaurant in Hell (really, don’t ask). This duo took one tragic fucking turn after Maxwell Lord shot Kord in the face during “the OMAC Project,” causing Booster and Wonder Woman to investigate the murder which led to Maxwell Lord’s death which led to “Infinite Crisis” which led to the DCU as we currently know it. Didn’t realize that the Booster/Beetle pairing was so fucking important, did ya?

bff11. Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier – “Foul!” cried the readers. “Boo this man! Boooo!” But, wait! Think about it! After meeting each other at the Holocaust survivor clinic in Israel, they TOTALLY became best buds! Which of you don’t ever have little squabbles with your closest friends over ideology? Honestly, the only real difference is that you don’t grow up to try to defend those opinions to the death (usually, I mean). Also, look at the admiration Erik has for the dead-in-this-reality Charles in “Age of Apocalypse.” It borders on being totally get-a-room-you-two creepy! Plus, these two haven’t really ever killed each other. What’s stopping them? Maybe remembering back to when they sailed the S.S. Friendship together?

Here’s a list of our favorite second string couples (when we say second string, we mean lower tier at Marvel or DC, or not from Marvel & DC at all. Mostly we just didn’t want to deal with Lois Lane or MJ or Cyclops & Jean. We pretty much made up the parameters and we’re using the term loosely. Shut up. Who pays for the domain name, you or me?)

When it comes to couples in comic books, it seems like the phrase “opposites attract” is a huge fucking understatement. Despite the fact that getting involved with a superhero is bad news (see: Kyle Rayner and Matt Murdock), they seem to manage to endure through thick and thin, and death after death after death. As a matter of fact, we need to make a game out of this. Every time one half or more of a relationship is dead (or presumed dead), take a shot!

atominvinc(10) Invincible and Atom Eve – This pair went through the required will they/won’t they for about EVER, complete with Invincible’s hot blond jealous non-superhero girlfriend. Invincible goes to the future one day and Future!Eve gets emo and tells him she loves him. When he gets back to the present, Invincible starts mackin’ on Eve, but she gets mad. “You only love me because Future me told you I love you!” which is a pretty stupid reason to bail, but she’s made up for it more than once by pulling a move that most women her age just can’t pull off. Almost every time she starts getting angry at him over something stupid, she takes five and cuts it the fuck out. Invincible will probably be able to punch through a PLANET one day. And then Eve can completely rearrange the molecules like nothing ever happened. Hell yeah, these two! They’re at number 10 though, because they can’t even legally drink yet and this shit could fall apart at any moment.

Incredible_Hulk_124-01(9) Bruce Banner and Betty Ross – Not as second string as the rest of the list, but Hulk and his lady-friend were never quite as in the spotlight as the other Marvel couples, so we snuck them in anyway. Bruce and Betty pretty much had everything going against them. First off, Betty is the daughter of General Ross, one of Bruce’s biggest enemies. After the world found out that Bruce Banner was the Hulk, she freaked out and married Glenn Talbot, leader of the Hulkbusters. After that marriage didn’t work (and years and year of “COME ON, GET ON WITH IT”), Betty and Bruce FINALLY got together and got married. Then Abomination poisoned her with his blood, framing the Hulk, and she died (as comic book wives are wont to do). But she was always the only one who could soothe the Hulk, which made her pretty badass. You know, until she croaked.

hawkeyemockingbird(8) Clint Barton and Barbara Morse – It only really took one mission for Hawkeye and Mockingbird to fall in love. They teamed up, defeated Crossfire, eloped, and started the West Coast Avengers. Then everything totally went to shit. Time travel, cowboys, and Satan (can’t make this shit up) interfered with their lives and the two of them drifted apart. Over time, Mockingbird and Hawkeye split up. She was replaced by a Skrull, he made out with Moonstone, died, and came back. It wasn’t until a Skrull ship with the Real Mockingbird aboard crashed to earth that the two of them were able to come face-to-face and get back that ol’ spark the way that comic book heroes do: beating the snot out of aliens.

ralphsue(7) Ralph and Sue Dibny – No list of comic couples would be complete without this tragic pairing. An inseparable item since the early 60s (that’s a lonnnng time, I wonder how they kept it fresh? [insert elongated man joke here!]), Ralph & Sue were Justice League staples. Then Identity Crisis happened, Sue got raped by Doctor Light and killed by Jean Loring. Eventually, Ralph Dibny sacrificed himself to Neron in 52 in order to reunite with his wife (albeit in spirit form). They didn’t stay spirits for long though, they can currently be found running around ripping out Thanagarian hearts in the name of the Black Lantern (aw, how cute). FLESH!

03_swamp_34(6) Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane – After her husband got possessed and Abby ended up dead, it seemed as if this relationship was put to an end before it really started. Pffft, fuck that. Swamp Thing was serious about this one. He went into the afterlife and dealt with the Spectre and Etrigan to get Abby back. Once he does, she drops her coma-hubby and eats a weird hallucinogenic tuber growing out of Swamp Thing (which apparently means they’re married?). Later still (in a very beautiful story arc), Swamp Thing had to go to Gotham City to bust Abby out of jail after she was arrested for fucking a plant-man, both confronting and eventually getting help from the Batman.

flash165(5) Barry Allen and Iris West – Iris West is the most tolerant woman on the planet. For being married to the fastest man alive, she sure does have to put up with him being late all the fucking time. Hell, she even waited for him for twenty years after he got sucked into the Speed Force and everybody thought he was dead. But it’s totally cool, because when Barry fucks something up, he makes it priority number one to make it up to his beloved Iris. Honorable Mentions? Jay & Joan Garrick. Wally West & Linda Park. The Flashes have remarkably healthy marriages. You know, for superheroes.

Green_Arrow_and_Black_Canary_1(4) Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance – Whenever anything seems to be going right for this pairing, something goes horribly, horribly wrong. Dinah gets kidnapped and tortured in The Longbow Hunters, Ollie makes out with the ONLY other employee at Dinah’s flower shop, Ollie has illegitimate kid after illegitimate kid (including Connor Hawke) come out of the woodwork, Ollie dies, Ollie comes back, and Dinah accidentally marries and kills an impostor Ollie while real Oliver is trapped with the Amazons. Finally, when they do get married, the ceremony is attacked by a ton of villains trying to kill all the heroes at once. Man, I’m pretty sure these two are fucking cursed.

396px-Bigbywolf2(3) Snow White and Bigby Wolf – Snow and the Big Bad Wolf of Fables started sniping at each other pretty much in the first panel of the series, which is how you knew they would hook up. After they got brainwashed and date raped each other, Snow White wound up knocked up with a bunch of wolf/wind/fable babies. Then Bigby and Snow basically saved the world even though they weren’t technically in charge of anything anymore. Snow and Bigby are arguably smarter and more versatile than all of the other Fables (excluding maybe Flycatcher.) I guess they’ll be fighting the Boogeyman now, but they’ve got that killer zephyr of a seventh child, so I’m thinkin’ they’ll be jussst fine.

shadowcat-and-colossus-35963(2) Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) and Peter Rasputin – Shadowcat and Collosus always had a mutual crush on one another, there was just one problem: she was 14, he was 19, and I guess the X-Men take statutory rape seriously. When Peter’s sister, Illyana (a.k.a. Magik) died of the Legacy virus and Peter sacrificed himself to find a cure, his remains were cremated and that’s the end of that. Case closed. No way, just kidding! Turns out aliens had Peter’s body and he was actually just fine. This gave the pair (now both of age) an opportunity to fuck. Hooray! Together forever! No way, just kidding again, Kitty got shot into space in a giant space-bullet. You know, something tells me these two might not be meant to be together.

Mallah and the Brain(1) Monsieur Mallah and Brain – One of them is a gorilla with a ridiculously high IQ and a machine gun. The other is a French scientist’s brain in a jar. And they’re both dudes. Grant Morrison (who else?) made these two an item in his run on Doom Patrol and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t beyond absurd from the start. Unfortunately for this pair, who finally got together when Brain was transplanted into a Robot body; said robot body was rigged to explode if anyone ever put a brain in it. They kissed and KABOOM. If that ain’t love I don’t know what is.

Holy shit, were you actually taking shots? Awesome. I counted thirteen drinks and you must be totally fucked up. Gimme your keys, I’m calling you a cab.

Getting your mom into comics might very well be an impossible task for a lot of people, but here at High Five! we’re always trying to drag others down with us. Here are a few valiant ideas for getting your mom into comics.
Is your mom into 24? CSINCIS Las Miami? Or even just Law & Order? Then give her Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, starring Tara Chace designated Minder One, spy extraordinaire for her royal majesty the Queen of England. She’s a british lady spy, and no one writes strong female characters quite like Greg Rucka. Pick up the Definitive Editio, Vol. 1 from Oni Press. Tara Chace could kick Jack Bauer’s ass and STILL have time to go to the bathroom. From there you could probably get her involved in Rucka’s Wonder Woman work, beginning with Bitter Rivals.
Or maybe your mom is more into the fantastic. Did she like The Princess Bride? Or Labyrinth? Or really any of those weird 80s fantasy movies? Give her Fables. Fables is the story of fairy tale and folklore characters exiled in New York. The first two trades are a bit all over the place, but once Willingham and Sturges got this book going, it rose above it’s premise and became totally awesome. I’ve found that Fables is generally a good entry point for anyone – new readers already KNOW the backgrounds of these characters, there’s no sense of being overwhelmed by decades of continuity and in-jokes.

Getting your mom into comics might very well be an impossible task for a lot of people, but here at High Five! we’re always trying to drag others down with us. Here are a few valiant ideas for getting your mom into comics.

onibk_322Is your mom into 24? CSINCIS Las Miami? Or even just Law & Order? Then give her Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country *, starring Tara Chace, designated Minder Two, spy extraordinaire for her royal majesty the Queen of England. She’s a british lady spy, and no one writes strong female characters quite like Greg Rucka. Pick up the Definitive Edition, Vol. 1 from Oni Press. Tara Chace could kick Jack Bauer’s ass and STILL have time to go to the bathroom. From there you could probably get your mom involved in Rucka’s Wonder Woman run.

fablesOr maybe your mom is more into the fantastic. Did she like The Princess Bride? Or Labyrinth? Or really any of those weird 80s fantasy movies? Give her Fables. Fables is the story of fairy tale and folklore characters exiled in New York. The first two trades are a bit all over the place, but once Willingham and Sturges got this book going, it rose above it’s premise and became totally awesome. I’ve found that Fables is generally a good entry point for anyone – new readers already KNOW the backgrounds of these characters, there’s no sense of being overwhelmed by decades of continuity and in-jokes.

glrebirthWhat about a Star Trek mom? I know people have Star Trek moms, cos I was at a buddy’s graduation party once and I made a joke about Romulan ale. Then his mom bopped over to me making Romulan jokes and I spent the rest of the party talking to her. Oddly enough, I’m going to recommend you take her straight to the super-heroes. Green Lantern: Rebirth. Geoff Johns sets up a great big space opera in this title, and it’s still running to this day. It’s damned good, and I’ve seen new readers who’ve never even HEARD of Green Lantern convert to DC after reading this title. This book pretty much requires a mom that was already a total geek.

Of course, all of these options assume that your mom is already at least a little bit of a media-junkie. If your mom isn’t really into TV or movies, you might be out of luck – some moms are just never, ever gonna read a funny book.

*Queen & Country #1 for free! You’ll need a program to unzip & read it.

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