Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Esao Andrews, Brian Bolland, John Bolton, Mark Buckingham, James Jean, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Derek Dirk Kim, Tara McPherson, Jill Thompson, Charles Vess and Mark Wheatley
By Owen K. Craig
I’ve noticed lately that many people my age — or at least the people I know — have been suffering from severe nostalgia. I don’t know why people in their twenties feel a yearning to recapture a childhood that is barely ten tears past, but it is unequivocally so. However, finding the warmth that appealed to your inner child is a tricky business. Simply indulging in childish delights often is not as gratifying as it once was — not everything remains as amusing as Super Mario Bros. 3. I find the best solution is to find something with all of the wonder, whimsy, and imagination that our favourite childhood diversions had but with an adult twist.
Leaving aside Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall’s parent title (the compelling, layered, and brilliant series Fables) for now, Bill Willingham has created an amazing book in its own right. Fables is set in a world inhabited by fairytale characters from Snow White to Old King Cole but in modern times. The book begins with Snow White embarking on a diplomatic mission to forge an alliance with the Arabian Sultan against the “Adversary” who has conquered the lands of the European fables. The background of the conquered homelands is merely backdrop for this story (and covered more extensively in Fables), this book focuses on Snow White telling story after story to the Sultan to stave off a rather unpleasant morning spent with the Headsman. The idea of taking Scheherazade’s story and twisting it as the framing device sets up the perverse tales that will delight the adult mind nicely.
Without ruining the stories contained in this gorgeous hardcover volume, I will say that the sinister aspects of the stories we heard as kids are truly spotlighted. Questions are answered: what was Snow White doing in the cabin with seven dwarfs, how did the gingerbread witch survive being put in the oven, and how did the Big Bad Wolf get to be so big and bad? Tone is played with a lot, too. The stories range from mystery to tragedy to light diversion as fast as you can turn the page. Each of the different artists also helps change the tone, and it pays off. Every one of them surprises me with their uniqueness in style and is well chosen to fit the story it’s paired with. If I had to choose a standout I’d go with Mark Buckingham. In this book he shows off some work I wasn’t aware he was capable of. His painted art conveys a lightness of tone making Reynard’s plan for eluding the Adversary’s minions hilarious rather than silly — a perfect fit and a great-looking story.
If you’ve already been exposed to the Fables world than chances are you’re already a fan. If you haven’t, then this would be a great chance for you to test the waters and see if it’s for you. Expect familiar faces from your childhood, but faces now have potholes and crows feet.
Nostalgia cravings, meet Fables.