Writer Bill Willingham’s Fables, from DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, is one of the longest-running and most popular creator-owned comic-book series of all time. The story of folklore and fairy tale characters making their way in the modern world has gone on for more than 120 issues and spawned spin-offs including comics series Jack of Fables and Fairest, prose novel Peter and Max and now the graphic novel Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, which finds popular Fables character Bigby Wolf confronting a town full of werewolves. Willingham talked to Kirkus about the inspiration for the new book, its place in the Fables universe and the real-life setting of Story City, Iowa.
What made this particular story right for a standalone graphic novel?
When some of us realized that Bigby was one of the standout stars of Fables, at some point, just like Snow White sort of got her special thing with [graphic novel] 1001 Nights of Snowfall, we wanted Bigby to have his own standout thing. And the werewolf story seemed fitting – in Fables we sort of hinted and teased at Bigby’s very violent past, but we really didn’t show a lot of it. So that’s something I wanted to do. And putting Bigby out in the middle of the heartland, smack dab in a community of werewolves that don’t seem to like him very much, if you can judge by the cover, just seemed the thing to do.
What makes Bigby such a popular character with Fables fans?
I suppose to a certain extent it’s the cliché of liking the bad boys. Or in this case, the reformed bad boys. I hate to make broad generalizations about our female readership or females in general, but if I were to, I might comment that for some reason the reformed bad men are like catnip to half our readership. So that might be it. Or who knows why. He’s the big bad wolf.
Are there any particular werewolf stories that you’re fond of, or that inspired you here?
Like every kid, I grew up loving monsters. But one might say vampire and werewolf stories have been done to death. Werewolves are kind of always done, with few exceptions, as a counterpoint to vampires. You have your vampire community, oh, and they’re fighting werewolves. Which has become a bit of a cliché now, with the exception of the movie The Howling, which I thought was very good (and which starred a far-removed uncle of mine, Noble Willingham, as the evil werewolf rancher). He kept the whole community in good beef. Apparently with all of our other sins, the Willingham family was involved in keeping secret werewolf communities afloat. So part of that is just going into the family business, I suppose.
As a standalone release, is this a good introduction to Fables for new readers?
Well, sure. At least it’s a good introduction to Bigby, because it is, where the rest of the Fables cast are concerned, a one-man show. Even more than 1001 Nights of Snowfall, you do not need any previous experience with Fables to read this. You get a full story regardless, and even the flashback stuff to the World War II experience with Bigby is largely repeated here, so you don’t even have to skip out on that much. I think it’s a no-commitment trial. If you like it, if you’re interested in the character and the situations, then you can go look for more Fables stuff.
Will we see the characters from this story again in the main Fables series?
Without giving anything away, anyone who survives this, I think you can almost bet that they would show up in other things down the road.
Are people in the real Story City aware of the book coming out? Have they seen it?
I have no idea. But I’ve got my comp copies now of the book, I’ve got a few, and so as soon as I can spare a day or so, I’m going to make a trip down there, have lunch ... and accidentally leave some of them here and there in the town, and approach it that way.
Josh Bell is the film editor of Las Vegas Weekly, and has written about entertainment for About.com, Comic Book Resources, FilmCritic.com and other publications. He blogs about movies, TV and comic books at signalbleed.blogspot.com.