This discussion may contain spoilers!
I wrote this for the official Fables forum, so I thought it could be good to repost it here.
Beware that this is, in a really quick way, an overlook to the entire series, spin-offs, and collections, a combination of checklist and spoilers. I have avoided including some big spoilers, but you shouldn't read any of this unlesss you want to know quite a bit about the series. So don't click if you don't want to. There is info here about more than 150 issues.
Or stop after the first couple of paragraphs if you enjoy it.
You can check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fables_(comics) for basic info, but piece of advice, don't go into the Fables characters article.
Time to repost and update... SPOILERS from here, a quick overlook for the entire series:
It all started with the first story arc, Who Killed Rose Red? aka Legends in Exile (Fables 1-5). Bill Willingham, with art by Ian Medina, use a murder mystery as the vehicle that introduces us to the many Fables living in New York. They are forced to live among us in the mundie world due to their own being conquered by the mysterious Adversary for his Empire. Featuring twists, deceptions, and a running subplot that prepares for the following arc...
Animal Farm (issues 6-10), would be the template for future Fable story arcs. A political coup is brewing up in the Farm, where all Fables that can't pass us humans are forced to stay. In the middle of this Snow White and Rose Red arrive, who will become involved in this mess featuring intrigue, rebellion, and a couple of bloody deaths. We also meet Goldilocks for the first time, a crazy revolutionary screaming socialism dogmas, but in truth only seeking power for herself.
From there we get the first one issue breather, Bag o' Bones (issue 10), a flashback issue showing what Jack was doing around the time of the American Civil War. Beating the Devil (one of many), cheating Death and the living dead are all featured in this first solo Jack story (the first of many, to the despair of some).
Next is A Two-Part Caper (issues 12-13), dealing with the extremes the Fables are willing to go when the secret of their existence is threatened by a noisy and little demented journalist.
Storybook Love (issues 14-17)is all about grudges and some romance. Bigby and Snow are manipulated by the current baddies, Blue Beard and Goldilocks, into spending time together (the fiends!), which leads to some unexpected consequences... Also, Prince Charming starts his rise to power by disposing of a certain someone...
Barleycorn Brides (issue 18) is the second breather in the main story, a nice story about some very small people...
With issue 19 Fables starts its first big epic storyline, March of the Wooden Soldiers (issues 19-21, 23-27), in which the Empire, a distant menace so far, decides it is time to make an appearance and complicate the lives of the characters, who are also in the middle of a very important political election. This story arc is one of my favorites, and it ends up with quite a cliffhanger.
Issue 22, Cinderella Libertine, is an interlude story focusing on the comings and goings of Cinderella, Fabletown's secret spy, while she roots out traitors.
After such a long epic, we get a two part story focusing on Bigby's adventures during World War II, War Stories (issues 28-29), including appearances by Nazis, crazy scientists and a very familiar looking monster.
The following arc, The Mean Seasons (issues 30-33), takes us back to Fabletown post-invasion. During the four issues, each named for a season, we see Snow delivering her babies, the exile of Bigby, the arrival of his father, the North Wind, and the discovery of another unintended consequence, with tragic results...
Jack Be Nimble (issues 34-35), takes the focus back to Jack, who takes advantage of the chaos post-Wooden Soldier Invasion to steal some riches and head to Hollywood, to became the biggest movie producer ever. This story takes Jack off the main cast, and he wouldn't be seen in the Fables title for quite a long time.
The next story is another epic, Homelands (issues 36-38, 40-41), in which Boy Blue, the quiet clerk from the Fabletown office, decides to invade the Homelands all by himself in a mission to find two things, his true love and the truth behind the Emperor... he fails quite a bit in one of this aspects. We get a nice tour of the Homelands and the Capital World, along with the origin of the Adversary and the Empire.
Issue 39, Meanwhile, is an interlude, introducing us to Mowgli, one of the Tourists, special agents who monitor the Fables living far from Fabletown. There is a traitor in Fabletown, and he must be discovered... you may end feeling pity for the poor fellow.
Issues 42-45, Arabian Days (And Nights), features the addition of the Arabian Fables to the mix. Currently fighting the advances of the Empire, an alliance between Fabletown and the Arabian Fables could be vital for their mutual survival...
Issues 46-47, The Ballad of Rodney and June, takes us away from Fabletown, and focuses on the love story of two of Geppetto's wooden creations, and the awful price they must pay for being able to love each other.
Issues 48-49, Wolves, is a two-part story leading up to the big issue 50. Mowgli tries to fulfill his task to find where in the world Bigby Wolf has disappeared too, to recruit him for a very special mission...
A very special story is next, Happily Ever After (issue 50). Bigby returns to Fabletown to strike a huge blow against the Empire, and send the Adversary a couple of messages. It also features a big wedding, but that's not important really.
Issue 51, Big and Small, is another Cinderella solo story, an adventure in diplomacy in the wacky Cloud Kingdoms.
Sons of the Empire (issues 52-55) shows us the reaction of the other side involved in the war. The elite of the Empire meets to prepare war plans against Fabletown, which could spell the end for our characters. These issues also feature back-up stories, focusing on Rapunzel, some animal Fables in the Homelands, Kevin Thorn (a fellow we will see a lot more of) and the Three Blind Mice.
Issue 56, Jimmy Christmas, is the big Christmas issue, featuring Santa Claus of course, and a build up to another big epic.
Then we get a nice Mike Allred illustrated two parter (issues 57-58), Father and Son, which deals with the strained relationship between Bigby Wolf and his father, The North Wind, with the cubs in the middle.
Issue 59 is a very special issue, Burning Questions, which is dedicated to answer questions submitted by the readers using some short stories. Of course I really liked this issue because of the first question answered, which was asked by someone I am really familiar with, myself. ;)
With issue 60 the largest Fables story arc starts, The Good Prince (issues 60-63, 65-69). In a story too long to properly summarized, poor Flycatcher aka as Prince Ambrose finally takes the center seat, and embarks on a quest that will take him to the limbo of the Wishing Well, the lands of the Empire and beyond. Featuring the return of some very dead people...
Issue 64, The Birthday Secret, show us how Fabletown is preparing for open war with the Empire, while Bigby and Snow's cubs learn of one peculiar family secret.
Kingdom Come (issue 70), continues the build-up to the war, while Boy Blue gets his heart broken AGAIN. Poor boy.
Skullduggery (issues 71-72) is another Cinderella story, which takes her to my country, Argentina, in a secret vital mission. She ends up matching wits with Hansel and other Empire agents, while securing an important asset.
The big story, War & Pieces (issues 73-75) deals with the war between Fabletown and the Empire. (Hint: the Empire doesn't do too well). Some characters make the ultimate sacrifice; some don't even know it yet. After this, Fables won't be the same.
Issue 76, Around the Town, deals with one of the most controversial consequences of the war, with a new Fabletown resident trying to enjoy a day in the city...
The next era of Fables starts with The Dark Ages (77-81), in which a new foe, Mr. Dark, long imprisoned by the Empire, wakes up and strikes a couple of devastating blows against Fabletown. One of the survivors from the war, thought to be safe, discovers he isn't. Issue 82, Waiting for the Blues, deals with the aftermath of this story, while preparing for the Big Fables Crossover. Issues 77-80 & 82 also featured a back-up in which Mogwli is assigned to explore some of the Homelands.
Issues 83-85 are parts 1, 4 and 7 of the nine part The Big Fables Crossover. It mostly deals with a threat developed in Jack's solo title, so it will be explained more there. Of importance is the appearance of the Cult of Blue Way, a new religion growing among the Farm Fables.
Boxing Days (issue 86), is a story that shows up how Mr. Dark was captured by the Empire in the first place.
Witches (Issue 87-91), shows some old foes returning to wreak vengeance, some internal strife & political machinations among the Fabletown residents, new alliances forming, and a poor winged monkey becoming a hero, ending in a cliffhanger going all the way back to the first arc of Fables.
The following arc, Out to the Ball Game (issues 92-93) takes us back to Haven to witness a nice baseball game, which will have terrible repercussions for Fly’s kingdom. A terrible crime will force Fly to face some hard decisions.
Picking up from the cliffhanger from Witches, Rose Red (issues 94-98) focus on the title character, showing us Snow White & Rose Red’s past in the Homelands, and how their experiences shaped who Rose Red is today. Along the way, we see more of Frau’s preparations against Mr. Dark, Gepetto’s scheming and the growing power of the Blue Boy religion.
Issue 99, Dark City, sets up the scenario for the extra sized hundredth issue. Preparations are under way for one character to face Mr. Dark in single duel, but the cost may be too high, not only for Fabletown, but for the Wolf family.
Issue 100, Single Combat, an extra sized special. A magical combat between two magical forces for the future of Fabletown. This issue also includes Pinocchio's Army (prose story), a Celebrity Burning Questions sections and two After the Duel epilogue stories.
Issue 101, The Ascent, focus on what is going with poor Bufkin, and sets a new status quo for the brave monkey.
Issues 102-106 features Super Team, a crazy plan hatched by Pinocchio to stop Mr. Dark. Lots of small winks to superheroes comics, weirdness all around, a Fable reborn & some long standing father-son issues.
Issue 107, Making Beauty, takes us back to the Imperial City, to catch up with was happening in it.
- A Wolf in the Fold, a special prose short story by Willingham for the first Fables TPB, dealing with Bigby's past.
- The Last Castle, a prestige special that show us the defense of the last gateway to the Mundie world, and the high price that was paid to allow some of the Fables to escape the Empire (should be read before March of the Wooden Soldiers).
- 1001 Nights of Snowfall, a hardcover featuring a wide array of short stories focusing mostly in the past of the Fables characters, as told by Snow White while acting as an envoy to the Arabian Homelands. Should be read (at least Bigby's tale) before Father & Son. Available as Hardcover and Softcover.
- Peter & Max, a prose novel by Bill Willingham focusing on the story of brothers Peter & Max Piper, from their childhood in the Homelands to their final confrontation in the Mundie World. It includes a special eight page comic epilogue, The Price of a Happy Ending, with art by Leialoha, tying the novel with the Fabletown-Empire war. Available in Hardcover, Audio Book (read by Wil Wheaton) and paperback.
- There will be another graphic novel, Werewolves of the Heartland, focusing on Bigby trying to find a new location for Fabletown. Around October 2011.
01. Legends in Exile (collects Fables 01–05 & "A Wolf in the Fold" short story)
02. Animal Farm (collects 6–10)
03. Storybook Love (collects 11–18)
04. March of the Wooden Soldiers (collects 19–21,23–27 & The Last Castle special)
05. The Mean Seasons (collects 22,28–33)
06. Homelands (collects 34-41)
07. Arabian Nights (and Days) (collects 42–47)
08. Wolves ((collects 48-51)
09. Sons of Empire (collects 52–59)
10. The Good Prince (collects 60–69)
11. War and Pieces (collects 70-75)
12. The Dark Ages (76-82)
13. The Great Fables Crossover (collects Fables 83-85, The Literals 1-3, Jack of Fables 33-35).
14. Witches (collects 86-93)
15. Rose Red (collects 94-100)
16. Super Group (collects 101-??) (out in December 2011)
> Fables The Deluxe Editions
01. Book 1 (collects 1-10)
02. Book 2 (collects 11-18, The Last Castle, A Wolf in the Fold)
03. Book 3 (collects 19-?) (coming August 2011)
2. Jack of Fables
After Fables reached issue 50, it was decided to start a spin-off title, and the character chosen was Jack, who was last seen in Fables hiking in a road. For this title, a new co-writer is added to the team, Matthew Sturges, an old friend of Bill Willingham from his Clockwork days.
The first story arc, The (Nearly) Great Escape (issues 1-5), introduces us to a new faction in the Fables universe, the mysterious librarians, led by a strange old guy that goes by the name of "Mr. Revise", and who seems to be more than human. Revise's organization runs a prison camp for Fables, to rob them of their powers and make them be forgotten. Jack is captured, and instead of just going with it, decides to create a really chaotic escape plan, with the help of many new Fables like Raven, Wicked John (who looks a lot like Jack!), Humpty Dumpty, Old Man Sam & others; and an old one, Goldilocks, who wasn't as dead as first thought. Oh, and Jack also meets a strange little guy that goes by the name of The Pathetic Fallacy (or Gary), who can animate any kind of object...
Jack Frost, the second story arc (issues 6 & 11, due to some production problems), take us back to the Homelands pre-Empire, in which a young Jack meets the Snow Queen, steals her powers and ends up making a mess of a lot of things.
The third arc, Jack of Hearts (issues 7-10), sees Jack and his new found sidekick, Gary, head to Las Vegas to make their fortune, while facing off menacing Belgians & a crazy brain eating Fable Queen. Also features a marriage, a couple of funerals, explosions, and romantic feelings with mannequins.
Issues 12-15, The Bad Prince has our heroes Jack and Gary being recaptured by the evil librarians, but of course that goes wrong and they all end up trapped at the bottom of the Great Canyon, where an old man stabs Jack with a sword, secrets are revealed about Jack and Wicked John, and some 4th wall breaking continues.
Jack O'Lantern (issue 16) deals with (you can guess it) Jack's time as Jack O'Lantern in the Homelands, and how he has made too many deals with too many devils.
Time for a road trip to Americana, the American Homeland (issues 17-20), which features big musicals, Indians, gangsters, some nice zombie policemen, cities of gold & strange Canadians. Our heroes meet a new evil guy, Bookburner, another literal concept brought to life who is obsessed with destroying all Fables. The story also features a really high on glue egg.
Issue 21, Gary Does Denmark, is an interlude set before issue one, focusing on Wicked John's escape attempt during an ill-fated production of Hamlet by Gary.
1883, the following arc (issues 22-24), is different in tone than the rest of the series. Set in that year, it shows Jack's post Civil War activities as a desperado, and how Sheriff Bigby Wolf is forced to confront him for the first time ever.
Turning Pages (issues 25-27) centers on the Page Sisters, a trio of sexy librarians sisters who work for Revise and have dealt with Jack. Each issue focuses on one sister, while advancing the plot of the Bookburner invading the mundie world with his army of forgotten Fables to take over Revise's camp. LOTS of breaking the 4th wall here; and more literal concepts come to life, including Deus Ex Machina showing up at the last moment to save the day...
The Books of War (issues 28-32) deals with the conflict mentioned before, Revise vs. Bookburner with Jack trapped in the middle. Acting as a general in Revise's army, Jack creates a huge mess of things, blows up a couple of big things and ends up making everyone read their own books... everything leading to the Great Fables Crossover. Oh, and we meet the FOURTH little pig... and we learn more about Jack's origins, and his parents... and too much incest if you can handle it...
Jack of Fables 33-35 are parts 2, 5 & 8 of The Great Fables Crossover. Jack finally decides to let the Fabletown guys know about all these Literals guys running around, including one Kevin Thorn, who can rewrite the entire universe with his pen. So it is decided to sent Bigby and Snow to deal with this threat, while Jack, tired of being sidelined, heads to the Farm (and the main Fables title) and takes over temporally, where he makes a mess of things and is confounded with Boy Blue by the blue cult. Also, Jack Frost II, his son with the Snow Queen pops up to have some father-son moments, but that doesn't end up well. Meanwhile, Bigby suffers a series of humiliating transformations and tries to fulfill his mission with the help of Revise and the Page Sisters. After this story, the Literals are no more...
The first issue after the crossover (36) is guest-written by Chris Roberson, another Clockwork pal of Willingham and writer of the upcoming Cinderella miniseries. Jack 'n' the Apes shows us Jack stranded in Africa, where he meets some Fable apes and ends up being the inspiration for Tarzan...
The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (issues 37-40) introduces a lot of changes in the series, as Jack Sr. is sidelined and starts getting fat and ugly, while his son, Jack Frost, gives up most of his powers and embarks in a hero career journeying through the Homelands sword and sorcery style, with his faithful companion Macduff (Gepetto's wooden owl). All the 4th wall stuff is gone, and Jack Sr. won’t be the same after this.
In Kings of Earth and Sky (issues 41-45) Jack Frost, now the sole protagonist of the book, embarks on a mighty quest to defeat a tyrant and save some poor maidens. A princess, a forest witch and a magical sword will play a role in this story, but nothing is what it seems at first…
The Ultimate Jack of Fables Story (issues 46-50) is the final arc of the series. A number of years later, if not decades, we catch up with Jack, Gary, Jack Frost, the Page Sisters and many more. A big conflict is brewing, and after this, Jack will be no more?
> SHORT PROSE STORIES
There were two short 100-word stories published in one Vertigo column, around the launching of Jack of Fables (that particular column was in Fables 51 and Jack 01, along with the rest of the Vertigo titles that month). They used to be online at DC Comics before they revamped their site.
Jack in the Devil’s Den, by Matthew Sturges, shows us Jack interacting with the Devil after a heist gone wrong.
JACK IN THE DEVIL'S DEN by Matthew Sturges
"I'm going to let you go," said the Devil, his voice like silk on sandpaper. "But -- you'll owe me a favor." The words echoed throughout Hell's antechamber.
"Whatever," I said. "I suppose you'll want this back?" I held up the object of my abortive heist.
"No, it's fake," he laughed. "The real one is crammed up my ass, where it belongs."
"You're a prick," I said, shaking his hand. I slipped on the fetid stones and fell into him, inhaling the scent of dying flowers. Then I ran.
Screw him. He may have my soul. But I have his wallet.
Why He Quit the Business, by Bill Willingham, quickly explains why and how did Jack quit his giant killing ways.
WHY HE QUIT THE BUSINESS by Bill Willingham
Quite pleased with his work, Jack, the giant-killer of renown, regarded Grumbledump's body and the mountain-sized boulder that had crushed the evil giant's head. A few hacks with his blade opened Grumbledump's huge leather purse, revealing the six Olympian gold coins within—each half a foot thick and as big as an ogre's dinner plate.
"Huzzah! I'm rich!"
But Jack could hardly lift even a single coin. Later he tried rolling them away, which is how they ended up at the bottom of the deep lake down the hill.
"That's it. I'm done with giant killing!"
And so he was.
01. The (Nearly) Great Escape (collects 1–5)
02. Jack of Hearts (collects 6–11)
03. The Bad Prince (collects 12–16)
04. Americana (collects 17-21)
05. Turning Pages (collects 22-27)
06. The Books of War (collects 28-32)
07. The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (collects 36-40)
08. The Fulminate Blade (collects 41-45)
09. The End (collects 46-50)
3- The Literals
A three issue miniseries, it is part of The Great Fables Crossover (parts 3, 6 & 9), where we meet more annoying Literals (The Genres) and have some fun with the Page Sisters.
A six issue spin-off miniseries, Cinderella – From Fabletown With Love, by Chris Roberson with art by Shawn McManus, it shows Cinderella in a spy mission that takes her across the world and the Homelands, and has her cross paths with her Arabian counterpart, Aladdin, and a very important figure of her past.
A second six issue miniseries, Cinderella - Fables are Forever, started in February 2011, pitting Cinderella against another Fable who is her “dark reflection”. The story takes Cindy around the Mundie world and beyond, anf offers glimpses of the dark side of the Fables World.
01. From Fabletown With Love (collects Cinderella – From Fabletown With Love 1–6)
Announced in SDCC'11, Fairest is a new ongoing title focusing, precisely, on the fairest Fables. It will feature different creative teams focusing on different characters.
First arc is by Willingham &,Phil Jimenez focusing on Sleeping Beauty. Second arc, focusing on Rapunzel traveling to Japan is by Lauren Beukes & Inaki Miranda
6- The San Diego Comicon Strips
Since 2007, each Fables Panel at San Diego has given away a Fables one page strip as a gift. The first two were humorous in nature. For 2009, Willingham decided to go in a different direction: “In the past two years we’ve handed out one-page Fables comics at the San Diego show that were basically throwaway gag pages. For the first time we decided to go the other way and do a serious, very dramatic Fables story, one that has far-reaching consequences for the series to follow. This one-page comic hints at what the second hundred issues of Fables will all be about.”
The 2007 one, A Fables One-Page Story!, shows Babe the miniature Blue Ox dealing with the hardships of a signing at Comicon.
For 2008, A One-Page Fables, shows a group of Fables tired of being sidelined, and demanding their own story arc.
In 2009, One Summer Afternoon, shows little Ambrose Wolf meeting with Ozma, who has quite a foreshadowing prophecy about his & his siblings’ future.
In 2011, A Good Head Start features Bufkin trying to recruit the readers for his revolution...
In 2010 there was no strip, the gift was a Blue Boy scarf.