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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Favorite Cover: Fables #1 (And some bonus babble!)

Today I want to celebrate one of my favorite comic book covers. Fables #1:

I just love the composition of the image. It's beautiful. The tree with the little fables peeking out in front of the distant cityscape...

Snow White in her most demure and sweet looking design holding the apple. It's a fascinating juxtaposition with Snow White as she's portrayed in the story...certainly not so sweet demure. In Fables, Snow White's much different, but the traditional image is the emphasis of the cover.

But the cover image is definitely not the same woman. The cover!Snow White is young and guileless. Even her clothing is very demure and childish. She's the traditional image of Snow White...the kind that goes with the tree, the pig, and the others.

And then there's central image. The rough looking human man, cigarette in his lips, emerging from the skin of the fairy tale wolf. Here's where the *point* of the series comes in. He's not particularly rushed, but he's definitely coming out of the damn skin. Moving forward from these "traditional" images. It's just beautiful...and it doesn't hurt that he's nice to look at.

Bigby's always been my favorite Fable, and the most complicated. Where almost all of the others are dwelling in the past, he's the one constantly looking forward, changing, growing. The Fables as a people are growing, but they're growing in spite of themselves. They're still largely clinging to the past, their power, their enchanted property, their identities. They see mundane recognition as power, and they try to live as close to perception as possible in a modern setting. But Bigby's different, he's the wild card that knocks away the game board in the final match.

See Bigby's the only one that's completely divorced from who he had been. Yeah, he can still take the form of the wolf, and huff and puff, but this isn't the same guy that terrorized Little Red or tried to eat the Three Pigs. If you consider fairy tales often originated as warning stories, don't talk to strangers, don't eat things you don't know, don't steal, don't impersonate others... The Wolf is the symbol of chaos and danger. He's the one who'll eat you if you let him, who'll invade your house if you can't defend it. He's unknown, wild, uncontrolled and he'll eat you if you let him.

But in Fabletown, everything changes. Because he's not allowed on the farm with all the other non-human Fables, he's got to live in disguise with the others. And he changes. He's not unknown chaos. He's the Law. He's the right arm of society. He keeps things ordered and structured, even if he's got to do some underhanded things to do it. And he's not even corrupt! He *genuinely* does what he does to make Fabletown a better place, so that the Fables can live peaceful and happy lives, even if he doesn't personally like them. He's even fought in both World Wars. On the side of the Allies. To preserve and protect his adopted land.

They know him. Some of them don't like him, but they all know who he is. And they all respect him, and most even trust him, if only to keep things in order. He's the Patriarch of Fabletown, the equal and opposite of Snow White, and it's him that finally expels Jack for good when the latter goes too far and threatens their way of life. The scary badguy of the old fairy tales, the dreaded outsider has become a leader, and the Giant-Killer of renown has been driven out. And while both he and Snow White withdrew when Charming took over, it's pretty clear that the Beast would not have been able to take his place without Bigby's approval.

When the Frau (another villain who is now on the side of right) fights Baba Yaga, she talks of notoreity versus anonymity, and what she says about herself also applies to Bigby. Neither of them are known by name in their stories, but their presence is felt. But in some odd way, the lack of specific notoreity is freeing. Snow White, Prince Charming, Blue Beard, Boy Blue, King Cole, they all have to correspond in some sense to their original stories. They can reveal deeper aspects of themselves, but from all accounts, none of them have changed much since the Fables first fled to this world. Whereas the Frau and the Wolf have become new someones entirely. And they're the ones that turned the tide against the Adversary's forces. They're unknown factors, and thus they're incredibly powerful.

His love for Snow White has a certain symbolism too. Snow White's, as I said, one of the most easily recognized fairy tale characters. She's still recognizeable, but she's definitely not the demure, sweet thing on the cover. She's a powerful, modern woman. And she's not going to be fooled into taking a goddamn bite of any stupid apple again.

And Bigby is very attracted to her...whereas on this cover, he's emerging from the wolfskin toward *us*, away from the traditional image of the Snow White. He's emerging out of his past role and into something else entirely. He's Order out of Chaos, but he's still Dangerous. And when he comes back again, things are going to be Very Interesting.


  • At March 07, 2006 11:01 AM, Blogger Chris said…

    Crap. Now I want to read Fables.

  • At March 07, 2006 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've wanted to read Fables for a long time. I should do that.

  • At March 07, 2006 12:58 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) Fables is a mighty good thing I reckon. I feel accomplished! :-P

  • At March 07, 2006 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't stand Fables myself, but your essay here makes me want to take a second look at it.

  • At March 07, 2006 6:05 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Aww, I can't imagine not liking Fables, but that's a nice thing to say. :-)

  • At March 09, 2006 1:20 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    I've only read the first couple of volumes of Fables: I liked it, but I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about it; and I'm easily distracted by -

    Ooooh - shiny!

    Where was I?

    Oh right - Fables.

    It struck me as the sort of series which was a little too caught up in the cleverness of its own conceit and not focused enough on the characters themselves. That said, I did rather like Bigby in the first story arc and was a bit disappointed he got sidelined for the second one.

    Anyway: some good "babbling" you had goin' on there. :-) Maybe it's time I got back to reading mo' Fables...

  • At March 10, 2006 12:00 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ferrous: There is that element, but the characters and the relationships are still the primary focus I think. It's just that Willingham is often slower paced than some folk like.

    And Bigby's role later makes up for his neglect in the second story arc. :-)

    And thanks, babbling is a strong suit. :-)


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