9:43am PT by Graeme McMillan
'Fables: The Wolf Among Us': What to Expect From the Digital Comic (Exclusive Preview)
Wednesday sees the launch of DC Entertainment's Fables: The Wolf Among Us, a digital comic based on the Telltale Games adaptation of Bill Willingham's long-running fantasy comic book series. Focusing, like the game, on the early days of Bigby Wolf — literally, the Big Bad Wolf of the fairy tale, although he's reformed and has become a noir peacekeeper in his old age — as he attempts to solve a murder in the middle of a town filled with former fairy-tale characters. The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive preview of the first issue and talked to co-writers Matthew Sturges and Dave Justus about the series.
"Dave and I spent a whole day playing it at my house," Sturges said about the hands-on research the writers did on the Telltale game, "and during the game's climactic fight scene, I shouted a number of choice expletives — the highest praise you can give a game."
Sturges — who has experience in the fictional Fables universe, having co-written early comic book spinoff Jack of Fables with franchise creator Willingham — and Justus had to pare the multiple options available in the game down to one core storyline, a process that Justus likened to " the cruel task of murdering Schrodinger's cat over and over. … There's a chance you played the game and did not pick one single option in common with our comic. So that's a whole heap of dead cats right there." (Sturges jokingly noted that "no actual cats were harmed during the making of this comic.")
For fans familiar with the Fables series — which has been running since 2002 and remains the flagship title for DC's Vertigo imprint — the tone of The Wolf Among Us might come as a surprise, as it is darker than the main title. That noir tone is, according to Justus, "an incredibly natural fit for Bigby. He just seems right in this milieu, with his perpetual five o'clock shadow, cheap cigarettes and casual distrust of everyone he encounters. If Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett had studied up on lycanthropy, you have to imagine that Bigby is precisely the sardonic, ass-kicking justice-seeker who'd have punched his way out of their typewriter."
Although the series is a prequel of sorts to the main Fables series, both writers have worked to ensure that prior knowledge of the world and its characters aren't necessary to start reading — which also means that you don't have to know the game to get started either. "We're making sure to give readers enough backstory in The Wolf Among Us to intrigue but not so much as to confuse," Justus explained.
Both Sturges and Justus see their series — the first digital-first release from Vertigo — as a potential entry point for readers new to the comic format. "Not having read comics until college, the Vertigo books were my gateway drug, something that seemed cool to my pretentious college sensibilities, that introduced me to comics as a whole," Sturges said. "The hope for a project like this is always that it will work the same way for new comics readers: They'll try this, hopefully like it, and then ask, 'What else is out there?' "
"Whatever your preconceived notion is when you hear 'comics adaptation of a video game based on a comic based on old fairy tales,' we move past that very quickly," Justus said, explaining the appeal of The Wolf Among Us to readers. "We're giving you a solid murder mystery, a lantern-jawed (yet vulnerable) hero, a heroine with agency to spare, an intense rogue's gallery of persons of interest (some of whom are not persons, but all of whom are pretty damned interesting). [It's] everything you need."
Fables: The Wolf Among Us No. 1, with art from Travis Moore, Shawn McManus and Stephen Sadowski, will be released digitally on Wednesday. (A print edition will be in comic book stores Jan. 14.)