Snow White

Costume Couture: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time has seen so many characters from the Disney Princess and fairy tale universe. We’ve seen live action versions of Cinderella, Belle, Captain Hook, and even our Frozen friends. This week, we talk about our favorite and least favorite costumes and styles from Once Upon a Time. We look at the princesses, villains, and sidekicks, hitting on as many characters as possible in a single episode.

Then, it’s our latest Cosplayer of the Week, Yellowbrick Road Cosplay! She’s known for a wide range of characters and specifically performs a lot of crossplay.

So, sit down, relax, and join us for some princesses, villains, and cosplay!

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Costume Couture: Once Upon a Time

SH S3E17: Disney Princess Fan-Casting

It’s all Disney Princess this week as we fan-cast several big animated films for the new live-action Disney Princess universe. We look at The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Frozen, Brave, Snow White, Pocahontas, Mulan, Moana, Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Hercules, casting the Princesses, villains, sidekicks, and more!

We also dive into the news, both good and bad. We talk about some recent sad news including the passing of Roger Moore and Zack Snyder’s daughter, plus the impact on Justice League. We also talk about The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery.

Also, go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

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Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Special Guest
Amber Elliott (Carrie Gunns Cosplay)

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Flying Killer Robots

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SH S3E17: Disney Princess Fan-Casting

In Defense of…Mirror, Mirror

The latest in a line of many I’ll be defending is Mirror, Mirror. The 2012 film by Tarsem Singh starred Lily Collins as Snow White, Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, and Armie Hammer as Prince Alcott.  It received one Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Costume Design. The budget was an estimated $85 million, but only grossed $65 million as of August 2012, and made only $18 million opening weekend, making the film an overall financial flop. It received the following ratings from critics:

IMDB: 5.6 out of 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Metacritic: 46 (out of 100)

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Why Did Mirror Mirror Fail?

There are a few reasons why the film didn’t succeed. The first is the director, Tarsem Singh. I don’t put the blame on him. He didn’t destroy the movie. It’s rather his reputation, or lack thereof, that did it. He went overly ambitious with the film and when you don’t have the reputation to back it up, the flair can come off as trying too hard.  He had a vision that, at a different time, different place, different medium, would have worked.

The second reason is the thematic choices of the film.  It’s a whimsical fairy tale. In fact, the film is the epitome of whimsical. When you think of whimsy, you should think of this movie.  Now, that theme is incredible and difficult to do right (which it did), but it’s no longer the flavor of choice by audiences when it comes to film.  People want dark and dangerous. They really don’t want sweet and bright anymore (there are a few exceptions, more on that later). That is why the film Snow White and the Huntsman did so much better. Queen that sucks souls? Drunken Huntsman? Warrior Snow? Sign the rest of the country up.

It’s also very difficult for anyone to wedge their place in the world of fairy tale cinema since Disney practically owns it. It’s most likely that any fairy tale based film that is not done by Disney will fail as long as Disney continues to remake their animated films into live action. Their movies are magical and bright and fulfill the all the fantastical elements that a movie audience can take each year. Why would we want anything else?

Where Mirror Mirror Succeeded

The number one thing this movie is recognized for is its costume design.  Bringing a new take on the visual perspective of the fairy tale, Mirror Mirror perfectly reflected the director’s overall desired image. The gorgeous blue dress that Snow White wears at the end is absolutely to die for. And Julia Roberts is stunning in everything, as usual.

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The humor in the movie was also a highlight for me. With every other film being dark and gritty, the lightheartedness of the film was refreshing. Better yet, it seemed to come naturally from the actors. You just knew they had fun filming this. My favorite had to have been when the Evil Queen gave Prince Alcott a love potion, but it was puppy love. For the next 20 minutes, Armie Hammer has to play a “dog” and it’s 100% hilarious without being over the top.

Speaking of the actors, they were absolutely fantastic. Each brought something fun to their respective characters. But the dwarves…the dwarves were phenomenal. In a bold decision, Singh cast actual dwarves in the roles and not only gave them different personalities (I know that sounds like an easy thing to do, but you’d be surprised), but each were treated as main characters and given a chance to develop on their own.

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The story itself was impressive as a whole. The Snow White tale has been interpreted and reinterpreted for hundreds of years now, and I always appreciate something new.  The story doesn’t play out the way you think it will, so surprises are always right around the corner. It manages to be familiar without being predictable.

Why You Should Give Mirror Mirror a Second Chance

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For me, this was a very enjoyable film and one of my favorite Snow White stories based on the whimsical nature, visual spectacle, and outstanding casting choices. With so many fairy tale adaptations out there, this film stood out from the pack. If you want the dark and gritty fairy tale, then this may not be for you. But if you want a good laugh and witness some sweet moments, you’ll love this one too.

In Defense of…Mirror, Mirror

The Huntsman, Winter’s War

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all? This week The Huntsman: Winter’s War reunites Charlize Theron along with Chris Hemsworth as Queen Ravenna and Eric the Huntsman respectively in the sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Joining this already star studded cast is Emily Blunt as Freya, Ravenna’s little sister who eventually becomes known to others as The Ice Queen and trainer of the Huntsmen, and Jessica Chastain as fellow warrior and Huntsman who trains with Eric and is banished by Freya when she learns that Sara and Eric have fallen in love, the one rule the Ice Queen won’t have broken in her kingdom. This prequel/sequel is being helmed by director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and is being produced by Joe Roth (Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland) along with Colleen Atwood returning from the first film as head of costume design. Check out the official trailer, posters, and synopsis on The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and tell us what you think about this film. Are you planning on seeing it this weekend? The Huntsman: Winter’s War is in theaters around the country April 22nd.

Long before the evil Queen Ravenna (Theron) was thought vanquished by Snow White’s blade, she watched silently as her sister, Freya (Blunt), suffered a heartbreaking betrayal and fled their kingdom. With Freya’s ability to freeze any enemy, the young ice queen has spent decades in a remote wintry palace raising a legion of deadly huntsmen—including Eric (Hemsworth) and warrior Sara (Chastain)—only to find that her prized two defied her one demand: Forever harden your hearts to love. 

When Freya learns of her sister’s demise, she summons her remaining soldiers to bring the Magic Mirror home to the only sorceress left who can harness its power. But once she discovers Ravenna can be resurrected from its golden depths, the wicked sisters threaten this enchanted land with twice the darkest force it’s ever seen. Now, their amassing army shall prove undefeatable…unless the banished huntsmen who broke their queen’s cardinal rule can fight their way back to one another. 

The Huntsman: Winters War  Queens

The Huntsman: Winters War Eric and Sara

With the film set to hit theaters this weekend, are you making plans to check it out? Comment below with your thoughts!

The Huntsman, Winter’s War

Prepare for Last Lunar Chronicle

As the epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles has finally been released this week, we look back at books 2 and 3 to catch up with what Cinder and the gang have been through and where they are going.

If you missed our review of book 1, Cinder, check that out here.

Scarlet

Lunar Chronicles - Scarlet

As the name implies, Scarlet Benoit is a retelling of Red Riding Hood.  An 18 year old talented farm hand, Scarlet has been looking for her grandmother for two weeks.  Her ID chip was removed and left behind, a dangerous sign of kidnapping in this futuristic world.  Helping her to uncover the truth about her grandmother’s disappearance, is a mysterious stranger named Wolf.  The two of them form a shaky alliance, which is constantly put to the test.

Meanwhile, Cinder works to escape from the New Beijing prison, with devastating news about her unclear past.  She teams up with the dashing, arrogant thief Carswell Thorne and also is in pursuit of the missing Michelle Benoit.

When the inevitable collision of these two couples occurs, it suits both parties to join forces to uncover the truth about Scarlet’s grandmother, Wolf’s motives, and Queen Levana’s ultimate plan.

What Did I Think?

This book was my least favorite in the series, so far.  Scarlet is the least enjoyable character in the Lunar Chronicles, in my opinion.  Her impetuous attitude forces her to make some of the most irresponsible decisions.  It continually puts herself and the people she cares about in danger. That being said, the intensity of the stakes in this sequel are raised to an entertaining level.  You’re still able to predict the safety of the four main characters, but they’re no longer untouchable, as it seemed in Cinder.

Wolf is a very engaging character.  From the beginning, you know there’s more to him and you are anticipating when the rest of his back story will flow out.  Is he good? Is he bad? Is he faking his feelings for Scarlet?  He reminds me of Wolverine, only not as overrated… yet. And even if we only know her for a short time, Michelle Benoit is intriguing to say the least.

As for Scarlet, she isn’t completely hopeless.  Her character growth isn’t much in her own novel, but what she is put through in Cress has such a drastic effect on her that she will most likely be the character with the most amount of change by the time this series is over.  She’s strong and tough and she doesn’t put up with a lot of crap from others.  Even without any Lunar magic, she stands her ground against Levana’s forces.  That’s incredibly commendable.

Cress

Lunar Chronicles Cress

With Cinder and Scarlet being utter badasses, it’s easy to forget that not every woman is strong in the same way.  Cress is not a badass. She’s not a scrappy mechanic who relies on her common sense to pull her through.  She’s not a capable business owner tearing through Europe in the name of family.  She’s a self proclaimed damsel with the intelligence and talent to shut down any Earthen or Lunar internet network, security system, or communications line in less than a few minutes.  It’s why she’s been trapped in a satellite for seven years, forced to spy on the Earthen leaders for Levana and her Mistress Sybil. If you hadn’t been able to guess, Cress is an interpretation of Rapunzel.

We have actually seen Cress before.  She was in one scene in Cinder, communicating to our favorite cyborg that Prince Kai was in peril.  This small tidbit foreshadowed the inevitable trust that would build between Cress, Cinder, and the rest of the fairy tale misfits. While we gain Cress, we lose Scarlet during a battle against Sybil.  She’s taken hostage and given to a Lunar family as a pet, tortured by Queen Levana, and then regifted to Princess Winter, Levana’s stepdaughter.  Cress and Thorne are lost in the Sahara Desert, clinging to life as best they can since Thorne has been temporarily blinded and Cress hasn’t touched a planetary surface in years.  Wolf is mortally wounded and placed in the care of Dr. Erland.  Newcomer Jacin is aloof and rude.  Poor Cinder just can’t catch a break, even for a moment.  At least Iko the android gets the body she’s always wanted.

What Did I Think?

Cress brings some incredible moments and really forces the perspective of the reader.  A young heroine saving the corrupt world isn’t a new concept to youth directed media, but there are enough twists in this book to still make it a real page turner. Events are serious. Characters die (I won’t tell you who, but it’s a war, people). The predictable survival of the main characters isn’t as guaranteed as it has been.  Cress herself is an adorable character.  I’ll never understand the negative stigma recently placed on the archetype of damsel.  Aren’t we all out of our elements at times? Doesn’t everyone feel the need to be rescued once or twice? Cress plays an important role in the group’s dynamic despite feeling scared of the consequences.  She’s a kind of hero not often explored in this modern world of cut and dry feminism.

What to Expect From Winter

Lunar Chronicles Winter

This is the end.  Named for Princess Winter, an incarnation of Snow White, the fourth book will finally see the revolution Cinder has promised us since the beginning.  We’ve got four “princesses” and four “princes” all playing their parts in something much bigger than they could have dreamed. If nothing else, the finale will be entertaining above all else.

Putting aside the heavy reliance of coincidence (it’s such an easy plot when everyone is connected to everyone else already!) and the juvenile style of writing (even for a YA novel), the series is still thoroughly enjoyable.  I know that’s a little difficult to believe. It reads very similarly to a fan fiction, but fan fictions are fun.  And this series is fun.  It’s vivid imagery gives the readers an exact picture of what the author wanted.  With each paragraph you read, you’re more and more convinced this series would make incredible movies.  I’m looking forward to completing the series this week and wrapping what has been a satisfying retelling of my favorite childhood stories.

The finale of the Lunar Chronicles Winter is on sale now – Barnes and Noble

Have you been following the Lunar Chronicles? What are your thoughts on the series so far? What do you hope to read in the finale? Comment below!

Prepare for Last Lunar Chronicle

The End of Fables – A Tribute, Part 3

In the exciting conclusion, I tell you where to begin and how to end! If you haven’t read Parts 1 and 2 yet, find them here: Part 1 | Part 2

Where To Start With Fables

Fables: 1001_Nights_of_Snowfall_Cover

A series such as Fables is incredibly daunting. The 150 issues in the main series alone are enough to keep newbies from getting into it. Which is why I recommend that you don’t start with issue #1. Sure, you could, but I want you to love these characters, not feel obligated to them. Instead, pick up 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Snow White regales the murderous sultan from Arabian Nights fame with the true stories of the Fables. The collection of shorts acts as a prequel, not spoiling anything in the future but rather introducing the multi-facets of these beloved characters. The different art in each story helps set tone as well. This way, if you don’t seem to like it, you’re only one book in, only a few hours of your time at the most. And if you do like it, you now know tidbits that will enhance the story as you go along.

The Extras

If you’ve gotten this far, if you’ve read the 1001 Nights of Snowfall and have started the original series, you may be wondering where to go from here. I’ll be happy to tell you!

If you’d like the story to remain spoiler free, then you’ll want to start the video game, A Wolf Among Us, early on in your adventures. Why? Bigby and Snow are still in the government, and so is Ichabod Crane, which dates the series pretty early (Crane has already been removed by the time issue #1 of Fables has started). The game, however, focuses mostly on Bigby, so no matter where you are in your reading, you’ll be getting new information and new characters. While the game lacks action, it takes new turns based on your decisions. You control Bigby, often given multiple choices of what to say or do in a situation, forever altering the game play. I did my best to make Bigby a good guy (it’s not always easy; sometimes, you just have to smack a toad around).

Jack of Fables

Once you hit issue #50, then you’ll want to start on Jack of Fables. From then until its fiftieth issue, the series run side by side with each other, crossing over at one major point. You definitely don’t have to read them in their coinciding order, but it does make the crossover all that more rewarding and intense.

Issue #75 brings about the end of The Adversary and a good point to take a break from the series. May I suggest you read the novel, Peter and Max. The novel stands out as a highlight of the Fables canon for many reasons. It focuses on characters never before seen in Fabletown and expands on the Homelands at the same time. Most of the story takes place centuries ago, which keeps the whole rest of the comics spoiler free.  Afterward, it’s time to pick up Wolves of the Heartland, another Bigby related story.  He travels America, looking for a possible relocation of Fabletown.  On his way, he comes across other wolves a lot less likely to cooperate than he’d like.

Fables: Fairest

Lastly, between issues #100 and #150, is your perfect chance to read the Cinderella stories and Fairest.  I’ve talked in great detail about the Cinderella spin-off, so let me focus all on Fairest right now.  Realizing that most fairy tales focus on a female protagonist, Willingham created another spin-off to his story where he focuses on characters which had before just been referred to in the background.  We get the back story of Rapunzel, the continuation of Sleeping Beauty, the romance of Lumi, and the hidden darkness behind Beauty.  This is largely my favorite part of the series.  All princess stories with adventure, love, magic, tragedy? Please, there’s nothing better for me.

Whatever you do, save issue #150 of Fables for the last thing that you read.  It makes the rest of the journey that much sweeter.

The Finale

Let’s talk about that ending a bit.  Willingham and company did something so special when they ended the series, something that most writers don’t even think to do, whether they write for comics or anything else, that this finale has gone down (in my opinion) as the best finale I’ve ever read/seen/heard/stumbled upon.  That’s a bold declaration, I know.  But it’s true.  They wrote for the fans.  Before you give me “Sandman this, Watchmen that, TV, TV, TV…,” let me explain.  Countless writers and artists worked on this series and its extensions and Willingham included many of them in the finale.   That’s a huge feat when you think about it.  Name the last series you read in which it included more than 50 writers and artists combined. This wasn’t just a comic; it was a neighborhood mural for the comics industry. It also concluded the stories of hundreds of characters, paying tribute to everyone’s favorites, be they main stars or cameos. No one was forgotten.

My Favorites by Far

The Cubs – While most of the prophecy had become obvious after Winter, Therese, and Darien’s parts were revealed, it was fantastic watching the rest unfold. I enjoyed Ambrose’s the most. He was a character easily forgotten, but maybe more important than the other cubs. He grew to marry Lake (more properly known as the Lady of the Lake), together having their own litter of cubs. I am a sucker for happy endings, and to me, his was the happiest.

Jack – They brought Jack back for a three page spread! This was a huge surprise considering his series had met its end. With the ending of the universe passed and Jack being part Literal, he was able to create an entirely new universe for himself and Gary to command. It was completely charming and characteristically Jack.

Snow White and Bigby – Nearly ending with a war of two sisters, Fables had taken a fairly dark turn. It continued to escalate the stakes killing off Bigby, pitting Rose Red against Snow White, and seeing many Fables lose their lives (some for the second time). With Rose figuring out the happiest of all outcomes for herself and her sister, she traveled worlds away, keeping them apart and the rest of the Fables safe from a world-ending war. Flash forward centuries later, and the Wolf clan had grown exponentially. Every Wolf gathered for a family reunion, making this the first time a Rose and Snow had seen each other since their fateful parting. But this isn’t about Rose and Snow. This is about Snow and Bigby maintaining a love for centuries. This is about the two of them being the heads of a family which spread themselves through hundreds of worlds. This is about that final line they share which sums up them, and the whole series quite well.

Fables Finale

There really aren’t any finales I’m disappointed in, to be honest. The characters that died did so fittingly. The ones that lived, lived on in glory. The ones that were resurrected didn’t know how much they had been missed. The finale of Fables itself was befitting of the decade plus time and gave the world what they had been waiting to see.

It’s a difficult thing, to watch something you love so much end. These characters become so familiar to you that you care for them more than some people you’ve met before. To create that kind of passionate following is no easy feat. It comes along once in awhile and it forever enriches the lives of many. So, thank you, Fables, for enriching mine. I hope my story ends with half as much love as yours did.

The End of Fables – A Tribute, Part 3

The End of Fables – A Celebration, Part 2

Last time, I talked about the power and magic Fables had over me and just how sad it is to see it go.  In Part 2, I want to tell you some of my favorites and not so favorites of the series.  Check out Part 1 here.  And like before, remember there are some spoilers!

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Story Arcs

Favorite – “Storybook Love” – Fables had definitely already proven its intelligence by now but this was the first story from them that I thought brought the charm into the series.  It was defined as a series, so introducing new faces was getting easier for them and expanding on the limited lore became effortless.  The most special part of this arc is the complete game changer this has on the rest of the series.  This isn’t some ripple in the pond; this is a full blown explosion of story! Bluebeard, a renowned villain to us and Fabletown, is sick of Snow White and Bigby always getting in his way.  Instead of hatching some outlandish plan to kill them, he calculates their removal. We see his true cunning.  We also see the first flirtations between Snow and Bigby.

“Jack Be Nimble” – This story line is what created the very first spin-off of FablesJack of Fables.  It’s without a doubt the best Jack story of them all.  Fables are long lasting, living for hundreds of years, but to do that, they must stay fresh in the minds of Mundies (mundanes, or, you know, normal human, us people).  The more famous the Fable, the more immortal they are.  Jack, fully recognizing that he needs to secure his place in the world, moves to Hollywood and convinces studios to make an epic trilogy about Jack’s adventures.  His selfish mindset is both annoying and impressive.  As you’re reading it, you can’t believe that people are falling for his bull, but it’s just so well done that you fall for it too.

Mister_dark

Not so Favorite – “The Dark Ages” – The first story arc after the wrap up of the war against The Adversary was not that impressive.  It’s all because of the villain, Mister Dark (not his original name, he had many over the centuries, but his current alias was just a little silly for me).  He was powerful and terrifying and drawn spectacularly…but, he wasn’t The Adversary.  I’m recalling the story, really trying to figure out if that is my fault for not being able to move on just yet, or if writing about one villain for 75 issues could easily create this problem for a lot of readers.  I refuse to choose between the two and calling it a muddled gray area for the time being.  Mister Dark’s story definitely improved  as it continued, his character being expanded on and more intense, making his exit much more likable than his entrance.

Heroes

Cinderella_From_Fabletown_with_LoveCinderella – I love her character.  Cinderella is an outright, in your face, no apologies badass. She’s the type of hero that you want to read about.  Early in the series, you find out her frivolous life style is merely a front for her level of intelligence and skills.  She’s actually a secret Fabletown spy, carrying out covert missions when the town needs her the most.  Her character was so popular, they gave her a spin-off story detailing one of these crazy adventures, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love.  Then, when that was selling out, they made a sequel which was equally as great, Cinderella: Fables are Forever.  Being the only female Fable to get her own book was a huge deal and the two stories are some of the few I reread.

MowgliMowgli – This incarnation of the little jungle boy was greatly compelling.  He was one of three men called The Tourists, a small group tasked by Bigby to watch over Fables that chose not to live in Fabletown or the Farm (for context, the Farm is a large area in upstate New York where non-human looking Fables can live.)  His main story is one where Prince Charming tasks him with hunting down Bigby since his departure from Fabletown.  While he’s not a prominent character, this story sticks out in my head because of the perfect dialogue and characterization Mowgli had.  I would have loved to see more of him.

Pinocchio – I really disliked this guy.  He was supposed to be hilarious and a little tragic (not going to say why; deal with it), but he came off as an irritating nuisance to the stories.  The gimmick of him remaining a “real boy” and never growing into a “real man” ran thin for me.  I was very happy when his character wasn’t as necessary to the plot beginning somewhere around issue 80.  I will say that he did receive a charming finale.

Villains

fableskindleMax Piper – You’ll never find Max Piper in the actual Fables comic, but you have heard of him. More famously, Max is the Pied Piper who lead all the children of Hamelin to their deaths.  He is the main villain in the novel Peter and Max: A Fables Novel and he’s fantastic.  He has the strong  motivation of being the jilted eldest Piper brother,  slowly tearing a family apart after being denied his inheritance.  I loved the concept so much because, quite often, villains get more and more separated from the protagonists, and this keeps the conflict directly related to the entire Piper family. It’s creates the complexities of loving the villain so much because of how evil he is.  You don’t want him to succeed, but at the same time, you don’t want to see him go either.

Hansel – Did you sit through that awful Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters film?  I’m so sorry.  To wash that taste out of your mouth, read about Hansel in Fables.  When he arrives with Gretel in Fabletown, he becomes vehemently angry with some of the population (you see, Fabletown allowed anyone in that signed the Amnesty Pact; how else do you explain the big bad wolf being a sheriff?); he immediately left Gretel behind and partook in the mundane world’s witch trials.  Globally, he was revered for his cruelty and unforgiving nature towards “witches.”  When he returns to Fabletown, he cements his role as villain among the Fables as well, leaving everyone in Fabletown leery of his presence in the world.

I65_FrauFrau Totenkinder – She’s frightening, I will give her that.  But she’s in everything.  The writers used this character as every bad witch, sorceress, evil doer in every story.  We get it, she’s bad.  I can’t really blame the Fabletown citizens for fearing someone that terrorized such a large chunk of the population at some point.  They built her up with ultimate power and wide connections and an ambiguous sense of loyalty.  In the beginning, it made for an interesting addition to the ensemble, but her shtick played out fast.  She wasn’t as compelling as the other villains, and was never convicted enough to be your favorite hero.  If she had been dialed back a bit, I’d love her.

Life and Death

The most major of the spoilers follow, so just keep scrolling if you’d like to be surprised.

The Cubs –  One of the most interesting parts of the story altogether were the children of Bigby and Snow, better known as the cubs.  Usually a sign of low ratings and a last minute effort to make something successful, the introduction of children generally mean the death of the project.  Instead, the cubs brought a new facet to both Bigby and Snow’s characters.  Their personalities and positions in the comic didn’t change, but merely grew from this new experience.  It was like the writers actually knew that children in real life don’t destroy your previous self, but merely add a different dimension to them. Each of them equally developed into interesting characters to watch as well.  There was one moment in particular that kept me reading to find out what becomes of them, and that, was the prophecy Ozma gives to little Ambrose.  It stuck with me so much that each book I opened, I wanted one of the questions to be answered.  I’ll just leave it here so it can intrigue you enough to read it as well!

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The first child will be a king
The second child a pauper
The third child will do an evil thing
The fourth will die to stop her
The fifth will be a hero bold
The sixth will judge the rest
The seventh lives to ages old, and is by heaven blessed

AHH! Now it’s in your head and you have to know who is who! Don’t google it; just read the books!Boy_blue12

Boy Blue – Out of all the deaths in the comic, Boy Blue’s is by far the saddest.  Why? Because he’s completely noble throughout the book. Because he’s never smug or arrogant, he’s never too perfect for you to trust; Boy Blue is from the start, the kind of person you want in your life.  He is everyone’s best friend, including the readers.  He’s beautifully flawed, so you want him to succeed.  And when he takes it upon himself to face The Adversary’s forces, sacrificing himself, your heart breaks in two.  The absolute worst part about it: he doesn’t come back like the others.  He’s no Prince Charming, no Jack of all Fables.  He dies and he stays dead and both the Fables and readers mourn.

Cameos

Santa – This was just a cute nod to the readers.  It is an American tradition to believe in Santa Claus and then come to the realization that he doesn’t exist and it’s the hopeful spirit in the legend that is important, not the existence of the man himself.  So throwing this character into the mix, appearing maybe 3 or 4 times throughout the entire series, was, for lack of better terms, cute.  He was even included as one of the paladins for Hope (a Fable herself), giving his character just a little more substance.

Wizard of Oz – The Golden Boughs Retirement home was a prison for Fables and had quite the assortment of characters.  My favorite of them all was the majority of the Wizard of Oz cast.  Kidnapped and memory wiped, Tin Man, Lion, Toto, and Dorothy all lived in this horrific place for literary characters.  While most of her cohorts are seemingly forgotten, Dorothy’s character gets expanded on in the Cinderella book, Fables are Forever, proving to everyone that she was never the innocent little girl from Kansas.

That’s it for now; stay tuned next week for the exciting conclusion to the Fables dedication, when I talk even more about a comic you’ve never read!

Continue to Part 3.

 

The End of Fables – A Celebration, Part 2

The End of Fables – A Eulogy, Part 1

Fables has ended.  The 13 year run of the Vertigo imprint, the multiple Eisner award winning comic is over.  And I’m heartbroken.

Fables

When I first picked up Fables, my life was a little lost.  I had recently been dumped, which in turn left me homeless, jobless, car-less…you get the picture; it wasn’t a fun time.  Now, I won’t  lie by saying the books alone turned everything around for me.  No one thing can do that for anyone.  However, I will not discount the significance it had on me.  At that time, I had stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped doing just about anything that provided me with a shred of happiness. So I walked into an incredibly small comic book store in Springfield, MO and the clerk recommended Fables.  Fairy tales have always spoken to me.  I’ve constantly been inspired by the romance, the magic, the underlying darkness. It was an obvious match.  I picked up the first trade and read it in an hour. And I’ve been reading it ever since.

I was reading the comic when I uprooted my life and traveled the country.  I was reading the comic when my nieces were born.  I was reading the comic when I got married.  I read the comic during my divorce.  I connected with the characters the way you connect with family. It’s been an incredibly large part of my pop culture life and I am truly grateful for its existence.  The profound imprint that it has left upon me will never be forgotten.

Do you think I’m being a little too emotional over a comic book? That’s fair. That’s just, like, your opinion, man.  But what started as a comic book erupted into a revolutionary run in comics.  I remember in 2003 that the comics I wanted to collect were few and far between.  I picked up Neil Gaiman’s 1602 and started The Walking Dead like everyone else, but, honestly, that was about it.  Comics was this huge boys club that thought they were being inclusive when really they were making tacky sex jokes and killing off characters without any poignancy. If it wasn’t for Gail Simone, the 2000’s would have been a dark time indeed.  Then Fables came along. It featured a well-rounded ensemble cast of familiar faces with what can only be (poorly) described as twists.  It also featured a woman as its main character and that is incredibly important to a female reader.

I connected immediately with Snow White.  Why? Because I am Snow White.  That is me.  You may never meet me, but if you’ve read Fables, then you’ve met me.  All of her strengths and flaws I see in myself.  She’s a woman hardened by her past but a leader in her community.  She’s trusted, loyal, over protective, scared of letting go and loving others, accomplished… She’s the one in that town that gets shit done.  I wasn’t the only one that connected to her.  Despite valiant efforts to focus on other characters, Fables creator Bill Willingham and his second in command, Mark Buckingham, kept going back to Snow White, and subsequently, Bigby and Rose Red.  She didn’t by any means carry the comic, but she lead it, just like she lead Fabletown.  She was the foundation for hundreds of fairy tale characters to grow.  But more on them later.

This comic was so highly regarded and successful that it spawned two more ongoing series (Jack of Fables and Fairest), three limited spin-offs (Cinderella, which also had a sequel, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, and Wolves of the Heartland), one novel (Peter and Max), one art book dedicated to the beautiful covers produced over the years, and one video game (Telltale Games’ A Wolf Among Us).  At one point, both NBC and ABC held the rights to a television adaptation, and instead of producing the superior Fables, we were given the crude Grimm and the contrived Once Upon a Time, both easily inspired by Fables.  While it may seem that my dedication to this comic book is both extreme and obsessive, I clearly wasn’t the only one.  Without further ado, here is my ode to Fables. Caution: there be spoilers ahead.

fables

The Beginning

Fables starts us off with a small mystery story that gets us familiar with the main players.  It’s opening revolves around Rose Red’s murder, wrapping her sister, Snow White, and the town’s sheriff, Bigby Wolf, into the fold.  The whole story line takes place in the first six issues, what is possibly the shortest story revolving around those characters.

We were also introduced, very subtly, to the characters that would play larger roles in the series: Jack, Flycatcher, Boy Blue, Prince Charming, Beauty, Beast, King Cole. The Manhattan settlement of Fabletown was established as a safe haven for Fables fleeing the Homelands, various magical worlds in which these characters originated. We also got some brief hints at why they came over, but nothing too detailed yet.

To be honest, the story was rough, as most origin stories are.  If I had based my opinion solely on those first six issues, I never would have continued.  It’s brash and clumsy writing, over flowing with curse words and nudity (I’m no prude, but, like everything, moderation is the key to writing).  We have to get the who and what and when and where because otherwise no one will continue.  The problem is, that stuff is boring and reads more like a text book than a comic.  However, I kept going because if there’s one thing Bill Willingham knows how to do it’s create subtext.  Every face in the background was intriguing.  Every side comment from side character from side panel was going to come into play and I knew that.  I wanted to watch where it was going.  From then on, it all just got better.

The Main Characters

Fables Snow White and BigbySnow White – Her origin was peppered over numerous stories, the audience getting a small piece every collection or so.  We saw her early life unfold, the one from the fairy tale which we know and love, beginning with her life as a twin, to her marriage with Prince Charming, and her fight against her former oppressors.  Each part was filled with twists to the familiar story that gave the character more depth than any other incarnation of her has been given to date.  It made watching her grow as Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, leader of the Fables against The Adversary, becoming a wife and a mother, to moving on outside of Fabletown even better because we knew she had to fight for it.

Bigby Wolf – He was constantly misunderstood.  Haunted by his past as one of the most notorious villains in all of Fables’ history, Bigby had to fight for a place in Fabletown.  After signing the Fabletown pact (an agreement of a truce that every Fable had to sign once admitted to the New York neighborhood), he was placed as the town’s sheriff, mainly because of his ability to be both big and bad if needed.   He worked for the trust he gained, and he worked for the love of Snow White.  The overall growth of his character was probably the most satisfying of any out of the whole book.  His roles as devoted son, town hero, fearsome villain, immortal god, father, husband, savage, spy, mercenary, etc., gave each of his fans reason to love him over and over.  I hold a special place in my heart for Bigby since he is my boyfriend incarnate (which he would recognize as high praise if he would read the comic).

Fables Rose RedRose Red – She was never my favorite, which was always part of her charm.  She isn’t supposed to be anyone’s favorite, but as a reader, you root for Red because she’s trying so hard.  She’s impetuous and foolhardy and never fully aware of the whole story.  But her level of passion always got me excited.  I wanted her to succeed. I hoped that each new relationship she threw herself into was going to be fulfilling.  I hoped she would have seen her privilege and grow from it. I hoped she would see herself as an ambitious and determined woman instead of the family screw up.  And the moment she did, all of this relief swept over me as a reader and loved her even more.

Flycatcher – You don’t think too much about him. He’s the janitor of The Woodlands apartments you see off to the side. It’s not until later you see just how much more to him there really is. He was once a king, inflicted with an inconvenient curse to turn into a frog whenever his anxiety levels rise. When The Adversary’s army attacked his home, leaving him without family, he fled his homeland and blocked the tragedy from his memory. When The Adversary turned his sites toward Fabletown, Flycatcher is the first to sign up to fight for his new home. He created the first kingdom in the Homelands post The Adversary, rightfully named Haven. No matter what Fly faced, he was always better than the problem. He remained moral and fair, never wavering.

Fables JackJack Horner – Jack is the antithesis Flycatcher. He’s out for himself, full of get laid, get rich schemes. But you know, somehow that he’s inherently good. Maybe it’s because The Adversary was his enemy too. Maybe because you can see that he truly cares about Gary, the Pathetic Fallacy (his sidekick). Maybe it’s because he gets his comeuppance more than once. For whatever reason we sit through his story lines (and spin off), we can at least all agree that he’s entertaining as hell. Fun fact: main artist Mark Buckingham hated drawing Jack and was thrilled to pass him off to a new artist when he got his own series.

The Adversary – For 75 issues, this character was the biggest bad of them all. He put to shame any other villain who had appeared or would appear in the comic. His goblin and orc decimated homeland after homeland until eventually he came for Fabletown. Once the reveal hit of who was behind the massive attacks on the Fables, the story grew that much more. The fearless wooden army made sense. The true horrors of his crimes were more intense. The cabal of villains he had in his pocket were more frightening. And when he was finally defeated, the victory was sweeter. The best part was the character wasn’t forgotten. Willingham kept him in the mix of things from then on, letting his story evolve like everyone else’s. Most importantly, the story didn’t die afterward, either. To have one villain for so long made me as a reader nervous for what they would do next, but it turned out, I had no reason to be. Fun fact: the Adversary was originally planned to be Peter Pan, however, the character is not free to use so that idea was scrapped when Willingham could not secure the rights.

Look for Part 2 coming soon where we see the highs, lows, and those moments in between from Fables!

Continue to Part 2.

The End of Fables – A Eulogy, Part 1

A Cybernetic Cinderella

These days it feels like we are inundated with re-tellings and re-imaginings of Fairy Tales. Despite very favorable reviews from people I respect, I was hesitant to begin reading Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, because it was (yet another) Cinderella story. Ultimately I decided to take the plunge, and I’m glad that I did.

The Good

The initial setup for Cinder’s story is very easy to map to the elements of the classic story: the step-mother and step-sisters, the prince, the upcoming ball. But as this story is set in a futuristic world of robots and cybernetics, we get some interesting twists on the original story as well.  Instead of talking animals, we get a quirky household servant android.

The primary antagonist for the book, and the series, is the Lunar Queen Levana. A colony, established on the moon hundreds of years ago, has developed into a powerful nation, and the Levana is apparently intent on conquering Earth, one way or another. Part of the reason the Lunars are so powerful is because of their ability to manipulate bioelectric energy, sometimes helpfully referred to as ‘magic’ when discussed by Earth-based characters. This power allows a Lunar to manipulate what another character sees, feels, and does when under the direct influence of the Lunar. The character easily maps to the “evil queen/witch” character found in many fairy tales, and in particular to the queen in Snow White, given the cover text from later books in the series.

One of the interesting twists that I really appreciated is the cultural perception of cyborgs, and how it influences the characters in the story. Cyborgs are literally viewed as being less than human. And as Cinder is a cyborg, that little detail gives the step-mother character an additional motivation for her unkindness, as well as significantly changing Cinder’s motivations. This Cinderella doesn’t want to go to the ball. Cinder has completely different plans for her life. As you might expect, she does eventually attend the ball, but largely for reasons other than what you generally expect from a Cinderella story.

The Bad

There’s an additional ‘special’ ability that Cinder is revealed to have late in the book, and one of the other characters mentions that it is very distinctive and reminiscent of another character, but we get no additional information on what that means. The connection between Cinder and that other character have already been established by that point in the story, so telling us “your power looks a lot like hers”, but not telling us what that means or what it looks like, is frustrating as it feels like the author is deliberately withholding information that you would expect to be revealed at this point.

(I do see the irony in expressing frustration with how vague the book was regarding this point, while myself remaining vague about what that power is and the ‘connection to another character’, but I’m chalking that one up to trying to be as spoiler-free as possible.)

The most frustrating part of the book is how it ends, because it feels very much like the story had just gotten really moving.  In essence, the story ends shortly after Cinder has fled the ball, and nothing has really been resolved. It feels very much like this story was written with the expectation that you are going to have to pick up the next book in the series to see how this plays out, even though the next book in the series appears to center, at least initially, on a completely different character.

The Verdict

Cinder is a very fun book to read, and, in all likelihood, I’ll be picking up the sequel in the near future to see how the story proceeds. Cinder is very much not the traditional helpless girl, waiting for a prince to save her. She’s competent, motivated, and tries to do what is best for herself and the people she cares about. It’s the best kind of princess story these days. The prince is there, and he’s part of the story. But it really is Cinder’s story, and does not revolve around him as the center of her universe. And that’s wonderfully refreshing take on this story.

A Cybernetic Cinderella