Jack of Fables

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Jack of Fables
Cover to issue #1 of Jack of Fables (September 2006). Art by James Jean.
Publication information
Publisher Vertigo Comics
Schedule Monthly
Format Ongoing series
Publication date July 2006 – March 2011
Number of issues 50
Main character(s) Jack Horner
"Gary" the Pathetic Fallacy
Jack Frost
Creative team
Writer(s) Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Artist(s) Tony Akins, Andrey Pepoy, James Jean, Brian Bolland
Creator(s) Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges
Collected editions
The (Nearly) Great Escape ISBN 1-4012-1222-0
Jack of Hearts ISBN 1-4012-1455-X
The Bad Prince ISBN 1-4012-1854-7
Americana ISBN 1-4012-1979-9
Turning Pages ISBN 1-4012-2138-6
The Big Book of War ISBN 1-4012-2500-4
The New Adventures of Jack and Jack ISBN 1-4012-2712-0
The Fulminate Blade ISBN 1-4012-2982-4
The End ISBN 1-4012-3155-1

Jack of Fables is a spin-off comic book series of Fables written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges and published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint.[1] The story focuses on the adventures of Jack Horner, a supporting character in the main series, and takes place after his exile from Fabletown in the story-arc Jack Be Nimble. The idea for the spin-off comic came when editor Shelly Bond suggested to put Jack in a separate comic after Willingham planned to write him off the series.

While Jack of Fables focused on the eponymous Jack Horner, the spin-off also allowed Willingham and Sturges to expand upon the Fables Universe and add more elements like other literary characters and anthropomorphic personifications in the series. A preview of its first issue was shown in Fables #50, and the series itself debuted in July 2006. It ran for 50 issues from July 2006 to March 2011, and received positive reception from critics and fans alike during its release, though overtime would be criticized because of the main character's abhorrent sociopathy. In 2007, it was nominated for numerous Eisner Awards and won Best Lettering for Todd Klein and Best Cover Artist for James Jean.

Publication[edit]

The decision to kick the character Jack Horner off the series came from artist Mark Buckingham who proposed to expand the Fables' logic of "popularity equals power". He and Willingham decided to use Jack in showing how a Fable might use this theory to further his/her own gain.[2] This led to the two-part story arc entitled Jack Be Nimble where Jack managed to elevate his popularity with the Mundies by creating an action film trilogy of himself which increased his powers as well. This story arc was supposed to be the last time Jack Horner would appear in Fables, and Willingham initially wanted to write him off the series. However, editor Shelly Bond suggested that Horner be put in a separate comic instead, stating that she did this because she didn't want to see her "favorite" character in the series disappear.[3] Jack of Fables was first previewed in Fables #50 before finallybeing released on July 2006.[4] With the new series in publication, Willingham decided to use Jack of Fables in introducing other literary characters in the Fables mythos, and also as a chance to expand its universe to the Old West, the Folklore of the United States and to other elements as well.[2][5][6] The new series also gave Willingham and co-writer Matthew Sturges more freedom in writing its universe than in the main series.

Jack of Fables was the first project that Sturges worked upon in the comic book industry. Bond and Willingham originally chose Sturges to act as a second voice in deciding for the upcoming new series.[2] He and Willingham previously founded together the independent publishing label Clockwork Storybook before they got into the mainstream industry.[7] Sturges remarked that in writing Jack of Fables, he would increasingly put the character Jack in more and more dilemma that he and his team found amusing.[8] Others who worked on the main Fables series also worked on the spin-off, including long-time Fables inker Steve Leiahloha as penciller and inker in two issues.[5] Artists Tony Akins, Andrey Pepoy, Todd Klein, Russell Braun, Andrew Robinson and Brian Bolland also worked on the series as well. Todd Klein in particular, was chosen to add humor in the story, and Sturges praised him for his work while also not making it too "cartoony". In writing the story, Willingham and Sturges both made sure to keep the spin-off as its own independent character and not to be too connected to the main series like, as Willingham described, a "Fables Jr. kind of book."[9]

Plot[edit]

Jack Horner[edit]

Like in Fables, the series takes place in the contemporary world, albeit with characters from fairy tales and folklore living alongside normal humans in secret. The story follows one such popular Fable named Jack Horner who is known from stories such as Little Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, Jack O'Lantern, Jack the Giant Killer and others.[1][10] Jack is typically portrayed as a "nigh immortal" trickster who's always looking for quick ways to make a buck. His nigh-immortality came from his scheme that involved creating a film trilogy about himself to raise his popularity in the Mundies, and is also reinforced by other causes as well such as his part-literal nature and his deals with many devils during his Jack O' Lantern days.[2] Before the start of the story, Jack stole some money from Fabletown in order to create these films and make a name for himself in Hollywood. The Fables soon found out about his deed and they sent out the town sheriff Beast to apprehend him for his crime. Unfortunately for Jack, Beast managed to find him in Hollywood, confiscated all the money and properties he had built, and was told that he can never set foot on Fabletown again. The series then starts off after Jack left Hollywood.

While hitchhiking, Jack was captured by an armed group of magical creatures calling themselves Literals. They imprisoned him in a place called the Golden Boughs Retirement Village; a magical community owned by Mr. Revise where Fables are trapped and censored.[11][12] Although incarcerated in the village, Jack managed to rally up all the other imprisoned Fables and helped him escape. Afterwards, he befriended a Literal named Gary the Pathetic Fallacy and together they became entangled in further more adventures. Jack's adventures consisted of him getting married in Las Vegas and fighting a Fable mob leader named Lady Luck, getting stabbed by the Excalibur in the chest and finding out that he was just a copy of another Fable named Wicked John, heading out into Americana to find lost treasures with Humpty Dumpty, and returning to the Golden Boughs in time to lead them in a fight against a powerful Literal named Bookburner.[13][14] After successfully defeating Bookburner, Jack and Gary then promptly left the Golden Bough to finally enjoy their new found treasure. However, the treasure they've hoarded had a drastic effect on the two, and Jack himself suddenly lost his immortality and started aging and bloating.[15] Gary theorized that these were probably brought by the spin-off's artist taking revenge on Horner's horrible remarks about him, before Gary lost his powers and memories as well. After taking refuge in a cave to stash their treasure, Jack was then transformed into a dragon (similar to Fafnir) and forced to stay in that form until the day a hero comes and slays him.

Jack Frost[edit]

The story then shifts to Jack's son Jack Frost, who was born from his brief romance with the Snow Queen before the events of the overall series. After learning of his mother's apparent disappearance, Frost, who's been locked up in her castle since birth, finally left and set out on his own adventure. He let go of his winter powers that he inherited from his mother, and travelled into the Homelands in order to become the legendary hero he's always dreamed off.[16] His first battle as a hero was against a group of scavengers he came across in the capital city. Though he found difficulty fighting without his powers, he nonetheless killed them all with the help of a mechanical owl, whom he named MacDuff. His next adventure came when a girl hired him to save her kingdom from monsters they called Night Walkers. Unfortunately for Jack he was soon trapped and captured by these monsters. However, he also discovered that they too were being tormented, this time by a powerful sorcerer who ruled both the lands of the monsters and the humans they were preying. He agreed to save the Night Walkers from the sorcerer, but in return they must also learn to coexist with the humans in peace. Jack then tracked down the sorcerer in his own castle, killed him and finally freed the two races, which turned him into a well-known hero in the process. He and MacDuff continue their adventures, making new allies and lovers, discovering new weapons and battling other monsters from both fantasy and science-fiction.

Finale[edit]

After becoming the legendary hero he always wanted, Jack Frost decided that his final quest before retiring was defeating a ferocious dragon, rumored to be hiding inside a cave filled with treasure, which he didn't know was actually his own father Jack Horner.[17] Horner himself had a premonition that he and Gary will be defending their treasure to the death from intruders, who would turn out to be minor characters that have appeared in the series. They nonetheless prepared to defend it and each other to the very end.

Meanwhile, Frost successfully tracked him down alongside other supporting characters, who also ended up in the same location. Both Jacks then fought a duel that resulted in their deaths and those who were present. After Jack Horner died, the devils that he tricked in his Jack O' Lantern days finally came to collect his soul. However, all of them ended up bickering to which of them can claim it, and this gave Jack the opportunity to slip away and escape. The small story arc from the main series entitled The Very Last Jack Of Fables Story Of All Time revealed the fate of Jack and Gary after their apparent demise.[18] The devils did recapture Jack and they all agreed to put him in a black void alone to write down all his sins and repent. While locked away, Jack discovered that he actually had a tiny portion of reality-bending powers because of his half-literal nature, which then he used to resurrect Gary and restore his powers. With Gary's powers, Jack recreated the void into his own universe where "he is king, tacos are grown in trees, everyone has a pet dinosaur, and every woman is buxom and in heat all the time." Both friends successfully created this universe and finally get to spent their eternity in luxury.

Theme and style[edit]

A panel in Jack of Fables # 33 showing the characters in the series, including both the Fables and the Literals.

Unlike Fables which was written as a mature comic with serious human drama and a gritty tone, Jack of Fables was written as a comedy story with slapstick, violence and fourth wall breaking.[19][20] Josh Flanagan of IFanboy remarked that it pokes fun on the serious premise of Fables by being a "bit sillier" and having a less-serious tone than the main series.[20] Matthew Sturges actually wrote the story with focus on putting the character Jack Horner into an ever increasing number of mishaps and troubles as the series went on.[8] Willingham and Sturges decided to kill off all of the characters in the series by the last story arc, as a sort of a final humor that was known in Jack of Fables.[2][6] They originally wanted to end the series abruptly in order to prank its readers but the idea was rejected by DC editors.[21]

The spin-off series also gave Bill Willingham more freedom in expanding the series' universe. At one point, the editors became concerned when Bill Willingham added the character of Sam from the controversial book Little Black Sambo. But Willingham pushed on with the character in order to explore and add more concepts in the overall series.[9] Jack of Fables further introduced other locations, ideas and fables into the main series, such as the Golden Boughs Retirement Village; a prominent location where Fables are locked away so they disappear from public consciousness and thus lose power.[1] The place was named after Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough, a wide-ranging comparative study of mythology and religion. Americana is the American Fable-land from which characters such as Paul Bunyan, Natty Bumppo and Huckleberry Finn came from.[1] These locations are controlled by a number of literals who were written off as physical embodiment of literary techniques, metaphysical ideals and genre.[22][23] Examples of these characters include Mr. Revise who is the embodiment of censorship and revision, his brother Bookburner who is the personification of book burning, their father Gary the Pathetic Fallacy who is the personification of anthropomorphic non-living objects, Dex the Deus Ex Machina, Kevin Thorne who was the embodiment of actual writing and his archenemy Writer's Block. There were also personifications of genres as well such as Comedy, Horror, Westerns, Science-Fiction, Fantasy and others. These characters are separate beings from the Fables whom they interact with authority.

Critical reception[edit]

After the release of its first issue, Jack of Fables was received positively by critics and fans alike. While not attaining the same large sales as its parent Fables, Willingham described the series as a "pretty strong" seller.[21] It was nominated for an Eisner Award in Best New Series, and Best Writer for Bill Willingham in 2007.[24][25] The creative team behind the spin-off series also took home Eisner Awards in two different categories: Todd Klein in Best Lettering and James Jean in Best Cover Artist. Time magazine's Lev Grossman named it as one of the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007, ranking it at #5.[26] Brian Cronin from Comic Book Resources listed Jack of Fables as #5 in its "Top 5 Current Vertigo Ongoings", calling it Fables II and how "Bill Willingham [did] a nice job of surrounding Jack with as many other intriguing characters as possible."[27]

During an interview with Willingham, Vaneta Rogers from Newsarama praised its four years of "thrilling readers with Jack's ridiculous, wild, and often borderline-offensive acts."[21] Eric Sunde of IGN described the spin-off as either "a cheap cash-in on the Fables name" or "others that seem far more relevant and add to the Fables-verse." He also praised it for having "an identity and cast of its own, and is on a nice, steady upswing" and how it "can continue upwards to the point where it can stand shoulder to shoulder with Fables."[28] Author Matthew Peterson of Major Spoilers, gave issue #50 a 4 out of 5 stars, saying "the saddest part of all of this is the knowledge that it’s all perfectly correct, giving Jack not only an ending, but the kind of classical old-school ending that Jack deserves, in all senses of the word." He also praised the writers for pulling off a "qualified win" in its last story.

However, the series also drew negative criticism from comic book reviews as well, particularly on the character Jack Horner and his detestable, selfish and sociopathic personality. IGN journalist Jesse Schiedeen praised issue #33 which he described as a "certain sense of fun and whimsy" but was critical of the character Jack, whom he thought as an "annoying braggart who did well to get himself booted out of the main series."[29] He also admitted on how he enjoyed issue #33 which showed Jack being beaten up by Bigby Wolf and finally having what "was coming to him." Richard Eisenbeis of Kotaku commented on how hard it was to root for Jack because of his personality. He also had a mixed review of the spin-off comic, describing its story as fun but not as good as the original series. He compared both Fables and Jack of Fables in his review, and he described the former as a gritty, realistic series focusing on human drama", while the latter was just a "side of slapstick humor with fourth wall-breaking moments and a focus on comedy."[19] Josh Flanagan of IFanboy criticized the story's distinct tone from the main series, which he described as a "fierce counterpoint to how the story eventually end." But he nonetheless praised it for its fun and interesting ideas about fiction, writing, and genres.[20]

Collected editions[edit]

It is worth noting that Jack of Fables #33-35 is collected in Fables Vol. 13 Fables: The Great Fables Crossover.[22][23]

# Title ISBN Release date Collected material
1 Jack of Fables - The (Nearly) Great Escape 1-4012-1222-0 February 28, 2007 Jack of Fables #1–5
2 Jack of Fables - Jack of Hearts 1-4012-1455-X October 3, 2007 Jack of Fables #6–11
3 Jack of Fables - The Bad Prince 1-4012-1854-7 June 25, 2008 Jack of Fables #12–16
4 Jack of Fables - Americana ISBN 1-4012-1979-9 December 16, 2008 Jack of Fables #17-21
5 Jack of Fables - Turning Pages 1-4012-2138-6 March 10, 2009 Jack of Fables #22-27
6 Jack of Fables - The Big Book of War 1-4012-2500-4 October 7, 2009 Jack of Fables #28-32
7 Jack of Fables - The New Adventures of Jack and Jack 1-4012-2712-0 June 23, 2010 Jack of Fables #36-40
8 Jack of Fables - The Fulminate Blade 1-4012-2982-4 January 26, 2011 Jack of Fables #41-45
9 Jack of Fables - The End 1-4012-3155-1 July 13, 2011 Jack of Fables #46-50

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Irvine, Alex (2008), "Jack of Fables", in Dougall, Alastair, The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 100–101, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015 
  2. ^ a b c d e Renaud, Jeffrey. "THE GREAT "FABLES" CROSSOVER INTERVIEW". Comic Book Resources.  December 8, 2010
  3. ^ Willingham, Bill. Sturges, Matthew. Jack of Fables #50. Vertigo (March 2011). Chapter: "This Grand Fiasco". ASIN B00NG1HV5M
  4. ^ Willingham, Bill. Fables #50: Happily Ever After. Vertigo (August 1, 2006). ASIN B00169L5GC
  5. ^ a b Goldstein, Hilary. "COMIC-CON 2006: RECONSTRUCTION OF THE FABLES". IGN.  July 24, 2006
  6. ^ a b Luna, Keri. "CCI: "FABLES" PANEL". Comic Book Resources.  July 31, 2010
  7. ^ Rogers Vaneta. "From Comics to Novels: Matt Sturges on 'Midwinter'". Newsarama.  March 23, 2009
  8. ^ a b Richard, George. "SDCC 07: FABLES DRAWS HUGE CON CROWDS". IGN.  July 29, 2007
  9. ^ a b Robinson, Tasha. "Bill Willingham Interview". A.V. Club.  August 6, 2007
  10. ^ Nevins, Jess. Fables Encyclopedia. Vertigo (October 29, 2013). p. 110. ISBN 978-1401243951
  11. ^ Willingham, Bill. Jack of Fables: Volume 1. Vertigo (February 28, 2007). ISBN 978-1401212223
  12. ^ Mandelo, Brit (June 23, 2011). "Fables Reread: Jack of Fables–-"The (Nearly) Great Escape" (V. 1)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  13. ^ Mandelo, Brit (July 7, 2011). "Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—Jack of Hearts (V. 2)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  14. ^ Mandelo, Brit (July 21, 2011). "Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—Americana (V. 4)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  15. ^ Mandelo, Brit (August 11, 2011). "Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (V. 7)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  16. ^ Mandelo, Brit (August 11, 2011). "Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (V. 7)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  17. ^ Mandelo, Brit (August 25, 2011). "Fables Reread: Jack of Fables—The End (V. 9)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  18. ^ Willingham, Bill. Fables Vol. 21: Happily Ever After. Vertigo (May 12, 2015). ISBN 978-1401251321
  19. ^ a b Eisenbeis, Richard. "Fables: The Kotaku Comic Review". Kotaku.  August 21, 2015
  20. ^ a b c Flanagan, Josh. "FABLES SUCKS NOW!". IFanboy.  May 28, 2009
  21. ^ a b c Rogers Vaneta. "WILLINGHAM, STURGES To End JACK OF FABLES With Issue #50". Newsarama.  April 19, 2007
  22. ^ a b Doctorow, Cory. "Great Fables Crossover: Fables goes even more meta, stays just as rollicking". Boing.  March 25, 2010
  23. ^ a b Mandelo, Brit (May 19, 2011). "Fables Reread: The Great Fables Crossover (V. 13)". Tor.com. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  24. ^ CBR News Team. "2007 EISNER NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED". Comic Book Resources.  April 19, 2007
  25. ^ "2007 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. 
  26. ^ Grossman, Lev (December 9, 2007). "Grossman, Lev; Top 10 Graphic Novels;". Time. Retrieved January 14, 2016. 
  27. ^ Cronin, Brian. "Top Five Current Vertigo Ongoings". Comic Book Resources.  October 25, 2006
  28. ^ Sunde, Eric. "JACK OF FABLES #26 REVIEW". IGN.  September 24, 2008
  29. ^ Schiedeen, Jesse. "JACK OF FABLES #33 REVIEW". IGN.  April 22, 2009