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 was a spin-off of the comic book Fables, both of which were published by DC Comics as part of that company's Vertigo imprint.[1] It shows the adventures of Jack Horner that take place after his exile from Fabletown in the Fables story-arc Jack Be Nimble (Fables #34 and #35). A preview of the series was shown in Fables #50, and the series itself debuted in July 2006. It was written by Fables writer Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges.


After the success of Fables, writer Bill Willingham decided to write a spin-off series starring Jack Horner; a character well-received by fans of the comic.[2] The decision to kick Jack off Fables came by after artist Mark Buckingham proposed to expand the Fables' logic of "popularity equals power", and use Jack to show how a Fable might use this theory to further his/her own gain. Both he and Willingham created a two-issue story arc entitled Jack Be Nimble where Jack manages to elevate his popularity with the Mundies by creating an action film trilogy of himself, therefore increasing his powers as well. This story arc was supposed to be the last time Jack Horner would appear in the series. Willingham initially wanted to write him off but editor Shelly Bond suggested to put him in a separate comic instead. Bond herself stated that she did this because she didn't want to see her "favorite" character in the series, Jack Horner, disappear.[3] 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][4][5] The new series also gave Willingham and co-writer Matthew Sturges more freedom in writing its universe than in the main series. At one time, the editors became concerned when Willingham added the character of Sam from the controversial book Little Black Sambo, but he pushed on with the character in order to explore and add more concepts in the overall series.[6]

Jack of Fables was the first project that Sturges worked upon in the comic book industry. Bond and Willingham originally chose him to act as a second voice in deciding for the upcoming new series.[2] Sturges remarked that in writing Jack of Fables, he would increasingly put the character Jack in more and more dilemma. He did this because he and the team found it amusing to harm him in every story.[7] 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.[4] 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".

Mark Buckingham also commented on how Bill Willigham worked in making of the story.[7] While the series had two writers, he stated that one of them, Willingam, had the lead on the story. He commented that Willingham would joke about submitting and re-submitting scripts of the stories filled with misspelled words and accusatory grammar. Shelly Bond herself, also commented on how she would use Willingham's scripts in showing "new writers how to [properly] construct their scripts." 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."[6] By the last story arc, both Willingham and Sturges decided to kill off all of the characters in the spin-off series as a sort of a final humor well known in Jack of Fables.[2][5] They originally wanted to end the series abruptly in order to prank its consumers but the idea was rejected by DC editors.[8]


The series follows Jack's adventures following his time in Hollywood where he successfully completed a hugely popular series of movies based on himself and his life. However, he had his power and money stripped from him by Fabletown authorities.[1]

In the first issue Jack was abducted while hitch-hiking across America and taken to the Golden Boughs Retirement Village, where he is essentially held prisoner. Following his first encounter with "Revise", who wants to purge the world of superstition by locking up Fables until the world forgets them, he then plans and executes the first successful breakout from the Golden Boughs. While some of the escapees were captured or killed, many are now free and on the run from Revise's team.

Following his escape, Jack met up with some other refugees in the Rocky Mountains and hid there, until he made his way to Las Vegas. After meeting up with the Pathetic Fallacy, he decided to swindle The Grande Duche de Luxembourg casino, only to find a bride in Holly Wagner, the daughter of the owner. Tragically, Holly and her father are killed by Belgian mobsters working under the orders of Lady Luck.[1]

After the events in Las Vegas, Jack and Gary are captured again by Priscilla Page who already captured Wicked John. After a fight between Jack and John starts in the van, it crashes off the road into the Grand Canyon. After recovering from the crash, Jack, Gary and Priscilla are sitting near a campfire, when a mysterious man appears. He plunges the sword Excalibur through Jack's chest and dies shortly thereafter. Once John appears with Gertrude (Priscilla's assistant), Gary explains that Jack is actually a copy of John and Jack, delighted with the news, pulls Excalibur out of his chest and impales John with it. Raven shows up after that and the party decides to move out of the canyon while leaving John behind (as the sword would draw too much attention to his Fable nature) but Jack, Raven and Gary soon ditch Priscilla and Gertrude and end up in a motel near the interstate in New Mexico.

During these events, Hillary Page cooks up a plan to venture in the Fable Land of Americana and blackmails Paul Bunyan to go with her.

In the motel, Jack does the impossible, and puts Humpty Dumpty (who had died during the Golden Bough breakout) back together again. Jack explains he brought the Humpty Dumpty parts with him, as Humpty promised to lead Jack to a hidden treasure. The treasure lies in Americana, so the foursome breach the magical border by jumping on the Great Train and bump into Hillary and Paul Bunyan.

Once in Americana, they find out that the man Hillary thought to be her father, the "Bookburner", isn't and that he holds a grudge against Revise for stealing her mother away from him. He sends Natty Bumppo and Slue-Foot Sue after them until they finally shake them off and end up on the spot where Humpty's hidden treasure lies. In the end, Humpty and Hillary are captured by the Bookburner and he begins his march against the Golden Boughs.

The first issue also sees the return of Goldilocks, who seemingly died in a much earlier issue of Fables.

After the events of Americana, a Literary character explains the back story of the Page sisters (Robin, Priscilla, Hillary), as well as sets up the march of the Bookburner's Eidolon army arriving at the Golden Boughs retirement center to destroy all the Fables there.

In Volume 6: The Big Book of War, Jack leads the Retirement Village against the Bookburner's siege, in an ironic twist as he works together with his former captors.

The Bookburner is defeated and Kevin Thorne is revealed as a threat to all of existence. Thorne is the son of Gary, the Pathetic Fallacy. In a literary sense; "Pathetic Fallacy" is the assignment of human characteristics to inhuman objects or animals. Hence Gary brought Thorn into existence out of nothingness to be the creator of the multiverse. Unfortunately for the inhabitance of the multiverse; Thorne has decided to star over by obliviating everything that he has created.

Jack decides to pass the responsibility of saving the multiverse to the Fable-town Fables.


An important location for the series is the Golden Boughs Retirement Village, named after Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough, a wide-ranging comparative study of mythology and religion. Despite its innocuous name, not all the residents live there voluntarily. In the first issue Jack is abducted to there while hitch-hiking.

Americana is the American Fable-land. Home to such luminaries as Paul Bunyan and Babe, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, etc. It's accessible only through the "thin places" where magic bleeds through into the mundy world, because Mr. Revise long ago destroyed all the gateways leading to it. The primary way of accessing the "thin places" is by hitching a ride as a hobo on the Great Train — which Jack does along with Gary the Pathetic Fallacy, Raven (his newly acquired Indian sidekick), and Humpty Dumpty. They arrive on the train at the same time as Hillary Page (the librarian) and Bunyan. Jack subsequently throws Raven, Hillary and Bunyan from the train.

Story arcs[edit]

The (Nearly) Great Escape (issues 1 to 5) is the first story arc, detailing Jack's capture and time in the Golden Boughs.

Jack Frost (issues 6 and 11) tells the story of Jack's identity as Jack Frost.

Jack of Hearts (issues 7 to 10) recounts his trip to Las Vegas after escaping from the Golden Boughs.

The storyline titled The Bad Prince (issues 12 to 15) is a counterpart to the Fables storyline The Good Prince and involves Jack and his relationship to Wicked John.

Jack O Lantern (issue 16) tells the story of Jack's identity as Jack O'Lantern.

Following this, Americana (issues 17 to 20) focuses on the "American Fable homeland".

Gary Does Denmark (issue 21) is a flashback story set in the Golden Boughs Retirement Village.

The fifth story arc, 1883 (issues 22 to 24), is a flashback story set in the Old West.

The sixth story arc is called Turning Pages (issues 25 to 27), detailing each of the Page sisters' past and personality.

The seventh, The Books of War (issues 28 to 32), is about Bookburner's war against the Golden Boughs Retirement Village.

The eighth storyline is part of The Great Fables Crossover (issues 33 to 35) and takes a twist as Jack is not present in the second and third issues during the story-arc, instead focusing on Bigby Wolf and Snow White joining Mr. Revise, The Pathetic Fallacy, and Babe The Blue Ox in stopping Kevin Thorn.

Jack 'n' Apes (issue 36) tells the story of Jack's identity as "Jack of the Apes".

The ninth story arc is The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (issues 37 to 40) which focuses on the new Jack Frost, Jack Horner's son.

Jack's son remains the principal protagonist of the next story The Fulminate Blade (issues 41 to 45).

Jack Horner returns in the eleventh and final story arc, The Ultimate Jack of Fables Story (issues 46 to 50), collected in the trade paperback The End. The series concludes with a chaotic battle in which most of the series' characters are killed.

The true conclusions to the Jack Of Fables spinoff, however, are finally disclosed in the Happily Ever After story arc of the main Fables series and reveal the fates of Babe, Jack, the devils and Gary the Pathetic Fallacy. These conclusions are shown through The Very Last Story Of Babe The Miniature Blue Ox and The Very Last Jack Of Fables Story Of All Time.

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.[8] It was nominated for an Eisner Award in Best New Series, and Best Writer for Bill Willingham in 2007.[9][10] 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.[11] 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."[12]

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."[8] 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."[13] 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 borderline 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."[14] 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."[15]

Collected editions[edit]

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

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


  1. ^ a b c 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 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. ^ a b Goldstein, Hilary. "COMIC-CON 2006: RECONSTRUCTION OF THE FABLES". IGN.  July 24, 2006
  5. ^ a b Luna, Keri. "CCI: "FABLES" PANEL". Comic Book Resources.  July 31, 2010
  6. ^ a b Robinson, Tasha. "Bill Willingham Interview". A.V. Club.  August 6, 2007
  7. ^ a b Richard, George. "SDCC 07: FABLES DRAWS HUGE CON CROWDS". IGN.  July 29, 2007
  8. ^ a b c Rogers Vaneta. "WILLINGHAM, STURGES To End JACK OF FABLES With Issue #50". Newsarama.  April 19, 2007
  9. ^ CBR News Team. "2007 EISNER NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED". Comic Book Resources.  April 19, 2007
  10. ^ "2007 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. 
  11. ^ Grossman, Lev (December 9, 2007). "Grossman, Lev; Top 10 Graphic Novels;". Time. Retrieved January 14, 2016. 
  12. ^ Cronin, Brian. "Top Five Current Vertigo Ongoings". Comic Book Resources.  October 25, 2006
  13. ^ Sunde, Eric. "JACK OF FABLES #26 REVIEW". IGN.  September 24, 2008
  14. ^ Schiedeen, Jesse. "JACK OF FABLES #33 REVIEW". IGN.  April 22, 2009
  15. ^ Eisenbeis, Richard. "Fables: The Kotaku Comic Review". Kotaku.  August 21, 2015