"bill willingham"

Vast Humble Comics Bundle

The latest Humble Bundle features an indescribably vast array of comics from Mega, including work from Mark Waid, Darick Robertson, Garth Ennis, Gail Simone, Kevin Smith, Alex Ross, J. Michael Straczynski, David Mack, Howard Chaykin, Bill Willingham, Sean Phillips, Tim Seeley, Chuck Dixon, Andy Diggle, Duane Swierczynski, Joshua Hale Fialkov and others. Read the rest

Fables: Cubs in Toyland

Bill Willingham's amazing graphic novel series Fables is one of those unbelievably, game-changingly epic series, one where I'm just as excited to get a peek at the edges of the world and the backstory of the characters as I am to see how the grand sweep of the plot turns out. The last one of these I can remember is Stephen King's Gunslinger books, where the sidewise discursions were as exciting as the forward movement.

Volume 18 of the Fables was published last week, and it's definitely more sidewide than forwards. Cubs in Toyland is a blood-freezingly scary episode exploring the ancient parent's nightmare of a child spirited away, one that combines the inherent creepiness of anthropomorphic toys (Chucky, anyone?) with the mythic resonances of the Fisher King.

By the time it was over, I was wrung out, but not exhausted. For all that my emotions had been taken through the gamut of wonderment, fear, disgust, suspense and triumph, I wanted more. Specifically, more about the future of the Fables, and the place where they will all go when the tale has run its course. In other words, this is yet another volume where Willingham hits it out of the park; it's reason enough for you to start reading the series, or to keep up with it.

Fables, Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland Read the rest

Gift Guide 2012

Welcome to this year's Boing Boing Gift Guide, a piling-high of our most loved stuff from 2012 and beyond. There are books, comics, games, gadgets and much else besides: click the categories at the top to filter what you're most interested in—and add your suggestions and links in the comments.

Fairest: the women of Willingham's Fables stories get their own comic

Fairest centers around the lives of many of the great women of fabledom: Briar Rose, Sleeping Beauty's fairy godmothers and the frost queen, merging their stories with the tale of Ali Baba (albeit a different Ali Baba than the one you may have encountered in legends).

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

Fables creator Bill Willingham continues his impossible run of prolific, high-quality, highly varied stories based on the idea that all the fables, myths and stories of the world are secretly true, and that they all live together, hidden among the real, "mundy" world. The hardcover Werewolves tells the back-story of Bibgy Wolf -- his time as a crack Nazi-hunting guerrilla in the dark forests of Germany. This past comes back to haunt him when he discovers a midwestern town populated entirely by werewolves that have been created by a beautiful, ruthless Nazi scientist who isolated a serum from blood that Bigby left behind when he helped foil a Nazi attempt to revive Frankenstein's monster to fight on their side.

Werewolves draws on the likes of EC Comics' Two-Fisted Tales and other hyper-violent war comics, with plenty of gory decapitations, ruthless executions, suicides, immolations, and tough talk. It's just the right kind of story for Bigby, who's one of the best characters from Fables, which has lots of terrific characters to choose from. The book could conceivably stand alone -- it has its own complete storyline -- but it's much richer in the context of the wider Fables universe.

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland Read the rest

Fables 17: Inherit the Wind

The latest installment in Bill Willingham's astonishingly, consistently great, long-running graphic novel series Fables is volume 17: Inherit the Wind.

The premise of Fables lets its creators use any mythos, any tradition, any narrative, and mix and match as necessary, and Willingham and his illustrators continue to show that these possibilities are indeed endless. While the long arc of the story continues in this book -- movingly along very snappily and satisfyingly -- the real delight is that what that Oz, Dickens, and highbrow narrative theory all climb around on top of each other in a squirming puppy-pile of greatness.

If you've been following the story for all these volumes, then you can rest assured that the Fables are really cracking along -- but you can also be assured that you'll find all the characteristic funny asides, meandering noodly mini-tales that are there for the sheer exuberance of the thing, and sly asides are not set aside for mere plot.

I'm told that this story definitely has an end, but it's hard to imagine. As Fables subsumes literally every other story ever told, and as Willingham shows no sign of boring with his creations, I can easily imagine reading this until Willingham breathes his last (and may that day come a very, very long time in the future). If he keeps writing them, I'll keep buying 'em.

Fables 17: Inherit the Wind

See also: My reviews of the previous volumes Read the rest

Fables Super Team: turning the Silver Age superhero inside out to find the fables within

The sixteenth collected volume in Bill Willingham's long-running Fables series is Fables Super Team, and Willingham uses the volume to demonstrate his absolutely catholic approach to mythmaking and storytelling. The Fables, faced with an impossible fight, decide to plumb new mythologies to find ways of overcoming the odds, and hit on the idea of creating an archetypal, X-Men style Super Team. They hold tryouts, locate their miniature person, their giant, their vulpine berserker, and all the other necessary personas for completing the Silver Age formula. This is a lovely bit of inside-out storytelling, a sly way of calling our attention to the ways in which the earlier comics creators filed the serial numbers off the Old Stories for the raw materials to make their spandex-clad heroes. But it's more than a conceit -- because this is Willingham, who never lets it rest at a mere conceit -- and Super Team is actually a suspenseful and sometimes scary story about hopeless bravery and impossible choices. The literal Deus Ex Machina is a rather nice touch, too.

I wouldn't try to read this until you've read the other fifteen volumes in the series. But if you haven't read those, you should.

Fables Super Team Read the rest

Willingham's Down the Mysterly River, a kids' novel that captures the glory of Fables

Up the Mysterly River was Bill Willingham's first kids' novel, published by a small press in the 1990s, long before his multi-award-winning (and most excellent) Fables graphic novel got underway. After languishing out of print for many years, Tor Books has finally brought it back to shelves. It's high time, as this is a ripping good read that explores many of the themes that make Fables such a tremendous read, but in a form that's accessible and appropriate for younger readers.

Mysterly River opens with Max the Wolf, a young cub scout, wandering in a mysterious forest with no memory of how he got there. We quickly learn that Max the Wolf is an accomplished boy detective of the sort that ripping kids' books are written about, and it seems reasonable to assume that this is going to be a book in that mold.

And then Max meets the talking badger, Banderbrock, who is a fearsome warrior himself, and who believes that he has come to the badger afterlife (he can remember dying). Just as Max and Banderbrock are getting their bearings, they encounter McTavish the Monster, a foul-tempered tomcat who is fleeing from a savage hunter and his baying hounds. The hunter turns on Max and Banderbrock, and they overcome the odds to best him, and they escape him with their lives, now a company of three.

So begins a fast-moving, utterly charming fairy tale about a mysterious land populated by speaking animals and the wicked cutters -- a brotherhood of vicious swordsmen who use their magical blue swords to cut away at their prey, turning them into inoffensive, narratively convenient literary constructs in keeping with whatever the current storytelling vogue demands. Read the rest

Cory at the Edinburgh Festival tonight, Reno WorldCon this week

I'm about to fly to Edinburgh for a gig at the Edinburgh Festival, tonight at 8:30PM. There are still a few tickets left.

From there, I'm headed straight to Renovation, the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, where I'll be doing a ton of stuff:

Wednesday, August 17 11.00-11.45am - Author in the Library, Sierra View Library (off site), 4001 S. Virginia St, located in the Reno Town Mall across the street from the Reno Sparks Convention Center -- reading, autographing, and Q and A with library community, host: Christine Johnson

2.00-3.00pm - Reading, Reno Sparks Convention Center room A05

Thursday, August 18 8.55-10.00am - Stroll with the Stars, (off site) meet at Stroll Meeting Spot (Walgreen's parking lot, 3495 S Virginia St, about 5 minute walk north of Atlantis), will stroll down to Reno Sparks Convention Center, with Stu Segal, Bill Willingham, Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Lawrence M. Schoen, Lauren Beukes, and Ellen Datlow Read the rest

Rose Red: the Fables fight fear itself

I gobbled up the fifteenth Fables collection this weekend: Rose Red raises the stakes yet again on the Fables -- the mythical creatures long exiled to the human realm. Having fought their battle against the Empire, the Fables now face the dark powers that were suppressed by the Emperor and his sorcerers, and the darkest power is Mr Dark, the embodiment of fear. Mr Dark (whose story is detailed in volume 14, Witches) is one of the great immortal powers of the universes, and Bill Willingham and company do a hell of a job in embodying fear in a genuinely scary villain. Mr Dark's presence coincides with a series of vicious, bitter struggles among the fables, a fight for leadership of the Farm (where nonhuman fables are sent to live), another for the leadership of the witches' coven (Frau Totenkinder having gone off to do battle with the dark one) -- and the leadership of all fables. Add to that the ecstatic cult around the martyred Boy Blue, and some awful, grimmer-than-Grimm backstory for Rose Red herself, and you've got another knock-out volume in this epic, eminently pleasurable and exciting series.

Fables Vol. 15: Rose Red Read the rest

Wil Wheaton reads Peter and Max, a Fables novel

Last year, I reviewed Peter and Max, the excellent novel based on Bill Willingham's Fables graphic novels. I've just got through listening to the Brilliance Audio unabridged audiobook, read by nerd icon and kick-ass voice-actor Wil Wheaton. Highly, highly recommended: Wil's interpretation makes this feel more like a radio drama than an audiobook. Read the rest

Great Fables Crossover: Fables goes even more meta, stays just as rollicking

I just finished Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover, the latest collection in Bill Willingham's superb Fables series. This is an incredibly complicated, long-running story in which all the fables of every time and land have been chased from their dimensions by a dark power, and have gone into hiding in NYC, where a final battle is brewing.

The last Fables volume, War and Pieces, had enough finality in it that I erroneously believed it to be the end of the series -- for one thing, I couldn't imagine what else could come to top it. I was bemused to discover that the series was only half-done, and that the real action was only getting started.

Crossover marks a transition to a different kind of second act for the storyline, I think. As the title suggests, the story is a crossover between the main Fables serial and one of the spinoffs, Jack of Fables (which depicts the many adventures of the roguish Jack of Beanstalk fame).

In Crossover, the Literals (literal embodiments of philosophical and literary ideals, such as the Pathetic Fallacy and a trio of beautiful, ass-kicking embodiments of librarianship) suck the Fables into a new kind of fight -- a fight against the Writer, himself a Literal, bent on rewriting reality and making a better one, in order to rein in the characters and situations who've run away from him.

As with previous volumes, it's whacking great fun, as well as being an education in the ways of storytelling and a philosophical rumination on the nature of belief, reality, and the power of stories. Read the rest

Unwritten: spellbinding graphic novel about narrative's secret place in the world

Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity collects the first series of Mike Carey and Peter Gross's Unwritten comic. It's a fine, mature graphic novel in the tradition of Bill Willingham's Fables (Willingham wrote the intro to the collection): Tom Taylor is best known for inspiring his father's character "Tommy Taylor," the star of a mega-best-selling series of kids' fantasy novels. Now a young man, Tom earns his keep through depression convention appearances, fending off questions about his father's mysterious disappearance.

It's a crappy living, but it's a living. Until a pseudonymous grad student in the crowd accuses Tom of being a cuckoo in his father's nest: the kidnapped son of a Serbian family, "borrowed" to help market the books, and then never returned. Inconsistencies in Tom's life come to light -- inconsistencies even Tom wasn't aware of -- and his adoring fans turn into a lynch mob.

Thus begins the saga of Tommy Taylor, who must answer the riddle of his father's disappearance before his disappointed fans (and insane stalkers) tear him to pieces. Before long, Tommy is at the center of a supernatural puzzle, stalked by far more dangerous things than disgruntled trufen -- shadowy conspirators from an ancient order that has secretly controlled the world by controlling its stories, leaning on writers from Kipling to Twain to force their prose to serve their agenda.

Unwritten manages to tell a fast-paced supernatural horror story while musing philosophically on the role of narrative in our lives and nations. Read the rest

Peter & Max: the Fables comics jump to novel

The Fables comics are an infinitely entertaining and moving series of comics about a world in which every fable, legend and belief of humanity has been chased from the worlds of fantasy to exile on Earth, hiding in a secret side-street in Manhattan. The chaser is The Adversary, an evil emperor, and his numberless goblin shock-troops. This is such rich material, as it allows for tellings and retellings of every beloved story of humanity.

In Peter & Max: A Fables Novel, writer Bill Willingham tells a key piece of the story in prose form, and proves that he's every bit as wonderful a prose-writer as he is a comics-writer. Peter and Max is the story of two brothers, Peter (Piper, also Pumpkin Eater) and Max (the Pied Piper), who grow estranged from one another on the eve of the Adversary's invasion of their homeworld, and lose themselves in a blood-soaked Black Forest, where they are both fired by the crucible of war and magic into men whose innocence will never be recovered.

Max is the villain here, jealous of Peter's inheritance of Frost, the magic flute of their father. Max acquires Fire, another powerful magic flute, from Frau Totenkinder, the evil witch of the Black Forest, and he and Fire warp each other into something monstrous.

Peter, meanwhile, is orphaned in Hamelin, where he becomes an accomplished thief, escaping from the worst circumstances with the help of Frost, and forever pining for his lost love, Bo Peep, disappeared into the evil woods. Read the rest

Jack of Fables versus Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu meets Fables

Fables: War and Pieces -- a fitting resolution to a marvellous graphic novel series

Update:: OK, I'm an idiot. This sure seemed like the ending of the story, but apparently, they're only halfway through. Eek!

One of the most rewarding moments of my winter holiday was the morning I found to read the final installment in Fables, Bill Willingham (and company)'s long-running, brilliant graphic novel series.

Over 11 volumes (plus a few very fine spin-offs), Fables has treated us to a cracking story about the exiled community of mythological creatures living in secret in Manhattan -- a motley cadre of legendary figures who were chased from their homeland by an evil emporer bent on multiversal conquest. From Sleeping Beauty to Little Boy Blue and the Big Bad Wolf, the legends have lurked in our human society, mingling with us, sometimes acting as our friends and sometimes as our enemies.

Building from a series of clever little vignettes to an epic tale of war and betrayal, revolution and politics, Legends became one of my favorite graphic novel reads. The authors rarely strayed into the realm of the silly, playing their Big Idea as straight as a ruler, drawing me into the lives of these vividly realized, striving people who struggled to get along -- and get home. On the way, the authors fluidly change comic styles, flipping from simplistic children's comics to elaborate oil-paintings to stylized manga, choosing the style that suits the present storyline best.

With the final installment, the Fables go to war, and adopts the conventions of war comics. The story is big -- huge -- and the battles are nail-biters. Read the rest

Scherezade meets every fable of every land - comic

Bill Willingham's Fables is one of the select, wonderful group of long-running graphic novels that I follow religiously. The premise is that all the mythical creatures of our fables have been chased from their homeworlds by the Adversary, a shadowy figure who sends an army of goblin warriors before him to rape and plunder. The Fables have settled on our world, in New York, back in the days when it was New Amsterdam, and they have lived there ever since, hidden in plain sight.

A new volume in the series, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, has just been published. It is set outside of the main action of the series, with Snow White visiting Scheherezade's Sultan to beg his help in rallying the Arabian fables to fight the Adversary, who even now marches on their worlds.

The Sultan imprisons and threatens to kill Snow White, but she charms him with her life's story -- a retelling of the Snow White myth from the dankest, filthiest Grimm rendition, mixed with enough vivid detail to curl your hair. The Sultan spares her life, but promises to kill her the next night if she doesn't have another story. So the next night she tells the origin stories of two more of the Fables whom we've met through the long-running series, and then again the next night, and the next.

I love origins-of comics, Peter Parker and his radioactive spider and all that. But this is absolutely the cleverest frame for an origins story I've ever read, capturing (as all the Fables storylines do) the true feeling of old legends and the odd dissonance of imagining them unfolding today. Read the rest