Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, and others

So, when you're a big corporation devoted to exploiting intellectual property that you've accumulated over the past seven or eight decades, and you have a new piece of IP that's doing decently, what are you going to do?

Exploit it, obviously.

DC Comics [1] didn't own Fables, as far as I know -- I haven't seen the contracts personally, but Vertigo was famously a creator-owned shop -- so that means writer Bill Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham (or maybe just Willingham, because what's comics if not a chance to grab all ownership for yourself?) had to go along with the exploitation as well. But who doesn't like a little tasteful exploitation, especially when it puts money in your pocket?

So Fables begat Jack of Fables, which was never as good as it should have been, but it exploited a fair bit of change back to DC and its creators. And, after that ended, and with Fables still chugging along towards an eventual-but-still-comfortably-in-the-future ending, DC must have been looking for a new way to exploit it.

And what's the most obvious thing to exploit in comics?

Attractive women, obviously. If they're posing wearing not-too-much, all the better.

So, in 2012, DC launched Fairest, featuring sidebar stories about the female fables. And, five years later, I finally read the first collection, Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake. This one collects the initial six-issue story written by Willingham and drawn by Phil Jimenez, plus a single-issue story written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Shawn McManus. (And, as far as I can tell, Willingham just wrote that first arc -- after that he presumably just OK'd other people's writing and cashed the checks.)

This is basically "what happened to Sleeping Beauty after she was used as a weapon of mass destruction," with Ali Baba and a pre-Frozen Snow Queen as the other components of the main triangle, plus an annoying loquacious Bat-Mite-ish genie and the inevitable Eeeevil Scary Woman Villainess. As is usual with Fables stories, it pretends to be much tougher and nastier than it really is: things work out very well for the good characters and very badly for the bad characters. (Because that is what fiction means, as the man said.)

I understand this series has ended, too, so I don't know if I'll bother to continue. I might just dig up the end of Fables itself -- I missed the last five or six collections. This was entirely pleasant Fables product for the year 2012, but it's pretty disposable now, unless you're someone working through the Fables-verse or deep in a master's thesis on the presentation of fabulistic characters in modern graphic literature.

[1] Every so often, I need to remind people that "DC Comics" stands for "Detective Comics Comics," because that's how I roll. Put it up there with "Amazon AWS."

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