FABLES ENCYCLOPEDIA VOL.1 HC
Writers: Jess Nevins, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Confession time: this is only the second compendium book to ever grace my thousands upon thousands deep collection of comics. My memory is fair, and since I’ve always owned source material I always figured why bother. My other compendium is FABLES-related as well; I loved James Jean’s covers, so I bought that collection book simply to ogle them without sullying the individual issues. It’s a nice picture book, but only has a fraction of the insight, heart and clear creator love that occupies the FABLES ENCYCLOPEDIA.
What amazed me most about this meaty tome is just how far the characters have progressed in the past ten years. Emotional growth can only be measured by reading the book, but stately titles and the literal “where were they then” and “where they are now” can be easily referenced as long as you know the alphabet. Actually, I take that back. With the color commentary provided by WillingBuck, you do get a modicum of the characters’ feelings through the voice of their new Gods.
I wouldn’t recommend reading this in a linear fashion; every stinking character to grace the FABLES pages is in here. These footnote characters, while serving a purpose over the years, are truly red shirts. Unless you have a Germanic folklore fetish they will easily be forgotten and you’ll miss the meat. Instead, start with your favorite characters and you will quickly find yourself traipsing into and across these ancillary figures simply to reach the next impactful character on your list.
Jess Nevins truly did her homework here. There were many times I thought “That character must be made up.” Baba Yaga would be a good one for most. For me, I knew this insane witch well with my Slavic upbringing. Leave it to pollocks to come up with a witch that rides around in a mortar and pestle. Sigh…other characters like Mister (not Master) Dark weren’t made up, either; he was merely an amalgam, similar to Jack of Fables. Nevins peels apart the old tales to find the true source of each character. Did you know Ozma was supposed to be a brunette? I didn’t. They made her blonde because there were already too damn many mousey browns on the page.
WillingBuck did no homework for this book, but I’ll grant them a rest given their ten years of dedication. Instead the boys kick back and give their personal insight behind each character. Flycatcher’s first name is made up, and they never planned for him to be King. Prince Charming was Buckingham’s least favorite character to draw. Pinocchio’s overhaul was also a Buckingham add because he wanted to add an air of toughness to his boyish visage (I guess the cigar wasn’t enough). Speaking of Pinocchio, the wood nymphs that served as Gepetto’s guard popped Buckingham’s full frontal nudity cherry. I could go on, but I won’t since there’s a book for that. These are just a few of the hundreds of stories inside. I’m sure I’ve lost all FABLES fans at this point, since they went over to Amazon to buy the book, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the icing on the cake. To keep this from being a too tex- heavy affair, each page of words is accompanied by a page from past issues of FABLES. They didn’t do it for every character, but many get a nice remember-when moment.
FABLES ENCYCLOPEDIA reminds me of the first time I fired up Encarta: it made learning and remembrance a joyous and fun experience.