series supervised by Bill Willingham
This story arc in the Fables-verse illustrates too many of the issues inherent in the Willingham’s universe. To start, Fairest is a series meant to give character to the oft-underdeveloped women of Fables, and the advertising gives the suggestion they’re going for an outdated “Girl Power!” approach.
Let’s look at who was in charge of this series…
1. Bill Willingham
2. Matthew Sturges
3. Lauren Beukes
4. Sean E. Williams
5. Marc Andreyko
6. Mark Buckingham
One woman out of six writers got to partake in a series — created and overseen by one of the comic industry’s staunchest misogynists — about female empowerment.* H
There’s no ditching Willingham’s influence as the creator of Fables, but what’s with the rest of the list? One of the big reasons I had unrealistic hopes for this spin-off was Willingham is fairly well-known by savvy readers for his misogyny. As one of the most prominent faces for “great, mature writing in comics,” that’s a serious concern: His female characters tend to be more flat and more abused and more heavily locked into traditional, submissive roles than any males — and he and his characters outright celebrate it, either through condescending speeches or physical punishment.†
Williams wrote a bizarre entry — he didn’t bother following the titular theme at all and made it about men from page one; women were once again subservient sex objects between condescending “Girl Power!” moments.
And then we got this Cinderella story, a semi-sequel to two limited series from Chris Roberson that laid the groundwork for the Fairest concept.‡ The “Of Men and Mice” arc is bad even for Fables‘ unpredictable standards, and rife with plot holes and inconsistencies in the artwork–and a cyborg chick straight out of Neuromancer.
How does it start for our eponymous spy? She’s tied to a chair being tortured and wearing nothing but a bikini. She’s rescued and murders her captors while spewing one-liner after one-liner after one-liner. Her breasts are barely covered. She pulls every move except the final wink that says Women are strong, too!
That set me on edge. It really did. That’s low even for Fables.
A couple pages later Cinderella gives a smile and says she just slept with a guy to get a free helicopter ride. The context for this was unnecessary and nonsensical. The fact that she gets funding for this sort of thing — explained in these very moments — makes it even more gross.
More pages pass and she’s whining about having to sit in coach instead of her usual first class — “but at least the tickets were free.§“
I don’t want to read about this person anymore.
reviewed May 2015, revised January 2017
* Beukes’ story is also very good, and very different in tone or ideas from any Fables story. It’s arguably the only story in the entire Fables universe to reach for any level of depth.
† I can only think of Snow White as breaking this role, and only if Bigby is AWOL and Willingham needs a mouthpiece to give one of his many Mary-Sue lectures.
‡ Roberson’s two series, From Fabletown with Love and Fables are Forever, were similarly terrible.
§ To be fair, she didn’t sleep with someone for these tickets. With how her ‘free’ rides were introduced, though, narrative consistency led me to assume this until it was eventually explained.