Hearts in Play: Exclusive Preview of "Fables Vol.18: Cubs in Toyland"

It's easily one of the thematically most complex collections of Fables yet, and it's framed by author Bill Willingham's comments (in a rare interview) on his on wrestlings with ideas about Toyland, childhood, the Fisher King, and, surprisingly, kidnapping…

If anything epitomizes my interview with Fables creator and literary comics doyen Bill Willingham (epitomizes that is, at least for me, Bill himself might have a different take on this), it's a conversation strand that begins with Bill meditating on Peter Pan and the act of kidnapping, and ends with some few minutes later with riotous laughter from us both, and Bill tasking me to reenter the world of professional scholarship.

But all of that literary expansiveness, all of that convivial meandering down the back country roads of myth and fable does not relieve one ounce of tension when it comes to how Bill set the stage for this newest collection of Fables. "It's darker", he'd said, "darker by far than the earlier volumes".


Cubs in Toyland picks up on the cubs sired by Bigby Wolf and Snow White. And it starts a little like J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or the Boy who Wouldn't Grow Up, with a kidnapping to a distant land that promises a richer and simpler life that will last forever.

"I never thought of kidnapping as a good thing", Bill admits and already at this point in the interview, I'm getting a sense for a dry, intelligent and above all friendly wit. Things are hardly ever as good as promised Bill reminds me, especially promises of utopias. Getting hauled off to Toyland is no exception.

It's Bill's wrestling with the trope of "benign kidnappings", abductions by fae and other "friendly" spirits that has me excited already. What can I say? I'm a fan. But what he says next just compounds my excitement.

Fables 18: Cubs in Toyland tells the story of a broken Toyland, where things no longer work the way they should, and the happiness has already flown. But woven into its warp and weft is the myth of the Fisher King, something else Bill has struggled with for as long as he cares to remember. He offers in an almost conspiratorial tone, that there doesn't appear to be one definitive reading of the Fisher King myth in scholarship. And that's where the joke comes in, right at the turning of the tide.

A joke that does nothing to alleviate the tension of an ominous warning, that this may be the darkest Fables collection yet.

The rare exclusive with Bill Willingham runs next week in the Iconographies, in the meantime, enjoy our exclusive preview of Fables volume 18: Cubs in Toyland.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.