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Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland Hardcover – November 20, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Q&A with author Bill Willingham

Q. Bill, the popularity of Fables hasn’t waned since its debut in 2002. What do you think is the greatest appeal of the title?

A. Bill Willingham: I think a couple of things. Fables draws on folklore, which by definition is stories that everyone owns. Every single person in the entire world owns these stories. It’s not like it’s collectively owned—if we want to do a new Snow White story, we don’t have to all come together and determine “This is what it’s going to be.” It’s individual ownership of this vast, vast library of stories. So everyone, by virtue of being “folk” in “folk lore,” is born rich, because everyone owns all of this, and can do all of this with it. So maybe the loyal readership on Fables is everyone protecting their investment, saying, “This is my stuff and it’s paying off well.” And I don’t think that’s entirely facetious. You know these people; you’ve heard these stories forever (“you” being the reader). It’s like an old friend: “Have you heard what’s been happening to Snow White, lately? I haven’t heard from her in years, what’s she up to?” I don’t trust its popularity though. I still feel like Fables is going to make it some day. I don’t count on the readers being there from issue to issue. I don’t take the reader for granted.

Q. You've touched on almost every fairy tale and literary classic—from Beauty and the Beast to Little Boy Blue to most recently the Wizard of Oz. Growing up, what were some of your personal favorite tales and how has that informed your approach to writing it in this series?

A. Bill Willingham: My personal and favorite tales growing up, possibly my all-time favorite fairy tale character was the Big Bad Wolf because that was the only one I was aware of early on as a kid appearing in more than one fairy tale. Big Bad Wolf went after the pigs and didn’t quite make it there. Big Bad Wolf went after Red Riding Hood, didn’t quite make it there. So, I just love the fact that just like in comics, fairy tales can show up in different stories. Which is probably why I made him into a hero in Fables. He would have made a great villain, still, but I’d use him once or twice and then I’d have to get rid of him. Because the worst thing in the world is the villain who keeps on coming back. Then it’s not really a story about the villain but about incompetent heroes.

I used to love Fractured Fairytales as a kid, so most of those characters had to show up in Fables. I think I got most of them, but I'm not certain.

Little Boy Blue was never meant to be an important character. He was just there, foot in the office, someone for Snow White to talk to. He kind of expanded his character in the book.

Q. As mentioned previously, these characters have existed for a long, long time, and people have a certain level of love and attachment to them. What would you say is some of the most surprising feedback you've gotten?

A. Bill Willingham: Almost none of it comes as a surprise. And I don’t mean that to sound jaded. What surprises me most is that real folklore scholars have done papers on Fables—sometimes I’ve found out about it accidentally, sometimes they let me know. I’m just a guy that’s spinning comic book stories. They ask, “What’s your research methods?” and such and refer to me as a “well-known folklore scholar.” I’m not a scholar on anything. I read the stuff I like, and if it stays with me, I like it enough to spin a story out of it. But the fact that the important intellectual academic is aware of this surprises me.

The thing that doesn't surprise me is that a German folklore specialist will correct me and say that the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the not the same Snow White as Snow White and Rose Red. Even though in English, both translate to “Snow White,” they are two very different names in German. I was aware of this, but we’re doing this in English, so I’m going to make them the same person. They're two fairytales that don’t really match up, but I felt that it was challenging to make them the same person.

Q. Has there been a fjairy tale or literary character that you’ve found challenging to adapt as a player in Fables?

A. Bill Willingham: The humble and obvious answer is all of them. The other answer is a few. Modernizing them without losing what was important about them is always a challenge. Snow White for example. I wanted her as a tough as nails businesswoman, not taking any nonsense from the whiny bastards. The challenges were was there anything in the original stories that predicated this. In the original stories, she had true love. But in our story, Prince Charming is a womanizer, so true love didn’t last a while. Prince Charming had many episodes of “true love” down the road, so she gets betrayed by Prince Charming by her own sister, she gets betrayed by her own stepmother with the poisoned apple, she gets betrayed by her original mom who sent her away. With Snow White, the obvious thing here was “trust issues.” If you have trust issues, you either become the perpetual victim, or you become this strong, “No one’s going to hurt me again because I’m going to become a captain of my own life.” The problem is, when you do a strong “I’m not going to take any nonsense” character in anything, people love that. But there’s always going to be people who will complain that she’s an emasculating hateful woman. I don’t think that’s the case. Luckily the series has lasted long enough where we’ve been able to show many sides to her personality. That was a challenge.

Q. With over 100 issues, two original graphic novels and a novel in the rearview mirror, are there any loose plot threads that you lament not getting to?

A. Bill Willingham: Oh, yeah. Not only loose plot threads that were things that we planned from the beginning, but also every single story suggests so many other stories to follow up on. For example, when the Arabian Fables showed up, we could have changed it to an all-Arabian book; we could have spent a hundred years just exploring that corner. Instead, we didn’t and we went back to our core cast. But it’s like the population grows. The stories are begetting other stories ideas and pretty soon we have this overcrowded earth and there are hundreds of stories that we won’t be able to get to because, unfortunately, medicine is letting us down and I’m not immortal yet. Hal Foster, when he was doing Prince Valiant, was doing this incredible sprawling story that went on for more than thirty years of his life, so we saw Prince Valiant as a kid, we saw him growing up, falling in love and then we saw his kids grow up. This was done in real time, so we didn’t jump ahead years. I would love to be able to do that.

Q. Fairest is a series that serves as a sister series to Fables, focusing specifically on the lovely ladies of Fabletown. What are some of stories you have planned? Will they mostly be present day tales? Flashbacks?

A. Bill Willingham: It mostly is a mix. The first one concentrates on Briar Rose, where we had the present day “what happening in her life,” but in order to explain why she’s in the predicament, we showed her origin with the seven fairies that gave her blessings and then the fairy that was slighted.

We just started a Rapunzel storyline written by wonderful South African writer Lauren Beukes. Once again, it doesn’t exactly take place in present day. It takes place years ago before the first Fables issue. But it also takes place then, and in ancient Japan. Because they are all essentially immortal characters, we have the ability to spill all over the time map.

The one to follow, which will introduce a brand-new East Indian folklore character will once again take place in present day with carefully, strategically-placed flashbacks to see how she got to where she is and how she got to the places she’s been.

Q. In the Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland original graphic novel, you're telling an epic Bigby Wolf story. Why did you decide to spin this off into a separate OGN rather than keep it in the series?

A. Bill Willingham: It’s an epic Bigby Wolf story. For some time—this story is at least three years in production (and then some)—we wanted Bigby Wolf to have this story, to go out and have a story and be the Big Bad Wolf. Since it was a single character and predicated on him leaving the rest of the community for a while, it seemed to natural to spin it off into it’s own graphic novel.

Q. You’ve been writing Fables for a decade now. Looking towards the future, how much more do you have in you? Is there another spin-off you'd love to do?

A. Bill Willingham: I’m very old. I’ll probably die soon before we get to it. There’s always another spin-off I’d love to do. With Fables, we didn’t create a story, we created a setting. It’s a fictional world where all types of stories can take place. People ask me, “When is Fables coming to an end?” The clear answer is that stories end all the time. But then because the stories are in this setting such that it is, we start it all the time. So yes, there’s always going to be a desire to spin off more and more stories.

Q. Which Bigby Wolf will we see in Werewolves of the Heartland? The gruff, law-keeping chain smoker from earlier in the series, or the caring father he's been lately?

A. Bill Willingham: You’re going have references to the caring father he’s been lately. You’re going to see a bit of the gruff Bigby Wolf. But you’re also going to see a good deal of the Bigby Wolf he’s been keeping contained for entire Fables series, which is the old monster he used to be.

Q. Which do you prefer, the original graphic novel format where the story is finite and self-contained, or the spanning Fables series in which the story can go several different directions at any point?

A. Bill Willingham: I love all my children equally. Either one, because either one has freedoms that the other format doesn’t and either one has restrictions that the other one doesn’t. And surprisingly enough, the things that you’re not allowed to lead to better storytelling than the things you are allowed to do.

Review

"Clever, enjoyable.... Willingham clearly has an immense amount of fun playing with these characters and their histories, and the art is a perfect match: clear, fanciful and finely drawn. Fables is an excellent series in the tradition of Sandman, one that rewards careful attention and loyalty."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY on FABLES

"[A] wonderfully twisted concept.... Features fairy tale characters banished to the nourish world of present-day New York."—WASHINGTON POST

"[A] spellbinding epic."—BOOKLIST

"Clever, enjoyable ... an excellent series in the tradition of SANDMAN, one that
rewards careful attention and loyalty."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"One of the best damn series ever written."—AIN'T IT COOL NEWS

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo; First Edition edition (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401224792
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401224790
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Willingham never fought a desperate and losing battle in a good cause, never contributed to society in a meaningful way, and hasn't lived a life of adventure, but he's had a few moments of near adventure. At some point in his life Bill learned how to get paid for telling scurrilous lies to good people, and he's been doing it ever since. He lives in the wild and frosty woods of Minnesota.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Johnstone on November 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a big enough fan to own all the Fables graphic novels so I just automatically preordered this one. Well, it was a Bigby the wolf solo story according to the cover and the blurb and that was enough for me to feel it was worth the money. Whoops, big mistake on my part. The first problem is the artwork, the series regular cover and interior artists are missing and it makes everything seem off. None of the characters carry the weight they generally do so all the story beats you would recognize from the other books are missing visually and the art is a bit weak.

The blame can't land on the artist alone though. The story is very weak, there's really not anything else to find out other than what you see on the cover. Bigby runs into a bunch of other wolves that seem similar to him and he has to fight them.... and there is a blonde to protect. It sounds throwaway and derivative because it is, there's no sense of reason or consequence to anything and I could not find anything to care about. For a series fan, this should be as much of a slamdunk as finding a 4th Eastwood / Leone western, but it's just stale rote.

In short, the story forms a thin grasping link between Bigby's WW2 adventure that acts as the precursor to a town full of werewolves that are related to him. They've been doing their thing in the heart of America for a few decades without any clear plan or purpose other than to be waiting around for Bigby to wander by so he can kill most of them and lament the poorer choices others with some of his abilities and none of his strengths have made before wandering off again. The whole thing is like an unfinished sentence, a half formed idea or partially remembered dream....
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mike Hunt on November 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It pains me to say this being a HUGE Fables fan but this stand-alone graphic novel "Werevolves of the Heartland" may be the single worst entry in the ENTIRE Fables canon. It's THAT weak. The concept is interesting enough: Bigby Wolf encounters a sleepy, Normal Rockwellesque little hamlet in the Midwest populated by werevolves who worship him as a God and have a mysterious connection to his past.

When I first read that tagline I thought "Sweet"! But then I got the book and that's where the hijinks ended and my tears began. The writing is mediocre...huge chunks of the story are told in blocky, awkward narration. "Show, Don't Tell" is apparently a technique this writer never learned in Generic Writing School. The entire first fourth of the book is basically a retelling, almost page by page, of a story we have ALREADY read before in the main Fables story. If this had been a monthly it would mean that basically the first issue would have been a retread. I would have seen red if I had bought it.

The story is riddled with plot holes. One of the key characters regenerates after being burnt to a crisp because of his werewolf blood...but later in the book it's shown that actually werewolves are terrified of fire because it's one of the few things that can hurt them! Say what? What an amateurish mistake.

Bigby meets an old friend, who confesses to terrible, savage crimes and he just shrugs it off as if it was no big deal. This character's wife by the way, is an old enemy of Bigby which he despised deeply...but apparently he's forgotten all about it since it's never mentioned again. The depiction of this couple's first meetings and eventual joining together to create a werewolf town are so terribly written you will struggle not to laugh.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kristy on November 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those Fables fans who wondered what Bigby was up to when he was sent out on his mission to find a new place to settle Fabletown: Bill Willingham delivers with this story.

However, the art is something else entirely. Detail inconsistencies between pages (or lack there-of) and colors between panels. (Trying to avoid spoilers, so I will stay as unspecific as possible.) At one point, I felt they had just blown two smaller panels up, to be full two-page panels, in order to increase the page count. Although the story itself was great, it was hard to follow at times because of the quality of the art and layout.

I hold Fables up to a higher standard than I would other comics. It is, without a doubt, my favorite comic book series. Fables has won 14 Eisner Awards, and honestly, I expect a better drawn book. (Something at least in line with the rest of the series.) However, I still feel let down after waiting over a year to read Werewolves of the Heartland. The drawings felt rushed. This is the first time I have rated a Fables anywhere below 5 stars.

I would not recommend this story for those new to Fables. Start with TPB #1, and move yourself forward to this point in the story. Graphic violence and a lot of nudity as well, so keep away from younger audiences. Again, great story, and less to be desired art (from something within the Fables universe.)However, still worth a read, so dive in.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anthony R. Cardno on December 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have to say at the start that I am a huge FABLES fan, from the first days of the series. The concept hasn't tired for me at all, and I think overall Willingham finds ways to keep the characters and stories fresh -- not an easy thing to do with a monthly on-going series in a field that hates endings and permanent character changes. All of that being said, I felt like this was one of the weaker entries into the series.

There's nothing wrong with the basic concept: Bigby Wolf finding out that there are indeed werewolves in the "mundy" world. There's nothing wrong with the basic problem: as a self-contained and fairly in-bred society with its roots in Nazi Germany, the werewolves are not exactly well-adjusted. And it's not that the story isn't self-contained: the call-backs to previous Fables storylines (including Bigby's World War II service and the early machinations and death of Bluebeard) tell new readers what they need to know without veering off into detailed flashbacks or "you really should read volume xxx" footnotes. Despite all of this, for me the story came off feeling at once too big and too empty. Aside from the always-strong characterization of Bigby (who, let's face it, has been the heart of the Fables story since the beginning, even as Snow White is the soul), the rest of the main characters feel largely interchangeable and stereotypical: the old friend with a secret, the young girl with premonitions, the angry cop, the femme fatale, etc. I found myself not really caring what happened to anyone except Bigby, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't Willingham's intent (considering the strong effort he's always made in Fables to make even tertiary characters stand as individuals).

The cover art is gorgeous.
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