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Sunday, October 28, 2007

On the Horizon: Fablewood

As you might have heard whisper of lately, Ape Entertainment is publishing a comic anthology this January titled Fablewood. The project is conceived around the notion of bringing the magic of Fantasy back to comics, exploring not only swords, sorcery and epic heroes but hopefully finding much more along the way. Says the Fablewood team, "Magic is not just spells and wizards - it can also refer to a feeling [or] an experience." It's cheesy sentimental statements like this that lead to fantastic work, and that's certainly appearing to be the result here.

The project brings together a wealth of talents including up-and-coming names you know as well as newcomers you'll soon be glad to (believe us). If you've followed the Flight series you understand what a compelling read an anthology collection can be. Fablewood is looking to be at least as good, as you'll soon understand when you take a peek at the preview pages below.

We're so excited about this release that we're planning a series of previews and discussions with contributing writers and artists. We're not the only ones amped either, as creators are lining up to be a part of Fablewood
and a follow-up book is already said to be on the horizon. We wanted more information, but there wasn't any to be found. So we asked for it. Willing to donate his time and knowingness was editor William Ward. He said the following;

Tom Mattson (newseed): You’ve said that Fablewood was designed with the intention of reintroducing the fantasy genre to comic books. What does this mission mean to you personally? Is this dear to your heart and something you initially set out to accomplish or was it more of a torch that you took up over time?

William Ward: Well, certainly there are some excellent fantasy comics out there today like Conan, Fables, Mouse Guard, Flight, Artesia (and some others) so I don’t want to give the impression there are not good books out there. However, there just is not as much work coming out as I need to keep satisfying my need for fantasy comics. When I started recruiting, “We need more Fantasy” was basically what I went to creators with and it appeared I was not alone—the project idea received a lot of positive reactions and I think it really is because people are starved for more fantasy books.

Explain what makes fantasy such a captivating and effective storytelling realm. What can it provide that has been missing from the current fantasy-lite comic universe?

There were once a much larger number of classic fantasy titles out there—covering a wide variety of styles (Sandman to Bone). I think it is the range of stories you can tell in Fantasy that make it so captivating. High Fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings can stand in contrast to gritty Low Fantasy stories like Conan. You can tell a mystery, an adventure, or a slice-of-life story that just happens to take place in a fantasy world. Endless possibilities.

Other than ‘fantasy,’ did you try to maintain any specific type of aesthetic with the stories you chose to include? For example, did you have a specific age group in mind as a target readership? Did you ever find a story to be too violent, inappropriate, etc…?

It is difficult for me to add a ‘rating’ to any work, as I believe that parents are the best judge of what there children are capable or reading and seeing. Most of us certainly watched films before we reached the recommended age. I did avoid a few stories during the process that I believed were beyond the audience I wanted to be able to read the book—I was shooting for teenagers and up when I was organizing the book.

Some mature, slightly younger children may be able to read the book as well, and there are definitely stories appropriate for all ages. The sample artwork on our page shows the range of material in the book, and parents can judge by that if it is appropriate for their children. We included images that I believe represent the range of stories.

From an editor’s standpoint, what have you found to be the most frustrating aspect of putting together a big conglomerate project such as this? Was there anything that took you by surprise or that you wish you’d approached differently?

This was a huge learning experience, and while there were not a lot of frustrating issues, there are a ton of small things I learned along the way that I feel would save me time and effort in a future project. Being the editor is definitely a difficult job, from saying “This isn’t for me” to keeping up with hundreds of e-mails—I certainly gained a lot of respect for guys like Kazu and Jason Rodriguez.

Conversely, what was the easiest and/or most rewarding aspect? Was this different than what you expected it to be?

Originally this was supposed to be a small project, but over time it grew because people were more interested than I anticipated. What really surprised me, and maybe it should not have, was the interest and cooperation that Fablewood got from creators already working on higher profile projects. Ryan Ottley (Invincible, Superman/Batman Annual #1), Manny Trembley (Panda Xpress, Sam Noir: Samurai Detective), Joe Infunari (Oni Talent Search, Borrowed Time), J.P. Ahonen and Sarah Mensinga (Flight 4) certainly all had other work they could be doing, but they got involved and have really proved helpful through the whole process with marketing and advice even beyond their submissions.

The book just ran in the most recent edition of Previews. Prior to now, what have you found to be the most effective marketing strategies? Have you been seeing an increased level of awareness and interest as the shelf date grows nearer?

Early on I was worried, but it appears that the advice from Ape Entertainment and some of the more established creators on timing is proving true, as in recent weeks I have started to see an increase people contacting me about Fablewood. It has been a steady and as it continues I expect we will be in good shape. Our marketing is getting out more now throughout November (i.e. the solicitation period) with interviews, advanced previews and reviews. Of course our biggest push will be when the book hit shelves, to push people towards their local retailer.

You’ve revealed that a follow-up is in the works already, or will be shortly. Can you provide any further details? Are there any creators confirmed to be returning? Have you considered who will be doing the cover design (and may we recommend sticking with whoya’ve got)?

Volume #2 is actually a sign of how far our recruitment effort went with Fablewood. When it was all said and done we had enough material for nearly two full 144 page books. Due to the great turnout of material we decided to divide the material for balance and recruit some new talent for the last 40 pages of Volume #2. As far as the cover and more details, I think I will have to ‘Plead the Fifth’ for now. Perhaps I can stop in again to talk about it more.

In a recent interview you agreed that comic anthologies deserve a bigger piece of the market. With the boom of manga and the popularity of the Flight books, a huge portion of the comic market is starting to show up in large book retailers such as Borders or Barnes n Noble. With this new breed of customers in an expanding market, do you see the comic industry undergoing any major changes, with anthologies perhaps playing an increased role?

There appears that as far as anthologies go, the increased role may be starting already. Afterworks, 24Seven, Postcards, and Popgun (check out Fablewood contributor Joe Suitor in Popgun, with a story that features the same character as seen in his upcoming Fablewood tale) are just a couple examples of books that have received attention that in the past may not have existed for anthologies.

As far as large book retailers, they are definitely useful markets, but I really think that the comic book retailers are likely going to remain the initial source for books like ours. For all you hear about what retailers will and won’t order, every major independent book I am aware of made it mark in comic shops before hitting book chains.

At this point do you know whether Fablewood will be receiving a hardcover release?

We don’t have plans for a Hardcover release, however if we get a few volumes under our belt and the demand is there, who knows what could happen.

With this project now under your belt and moving forward from here, where do you see yourself focusing most of your creative efforts in the future? Is story writing your primary outlet or do you think you may now turn more toward editing?

Story writing is what I want to do most of the time and I was fortunate enough to gain some attention from Fablewood and land my first paying writing job just a month ago. We are not announcing yet, but it is for a small press publisher and I am very excited about it. Editing is hard, but rewarding and I think I will do it again some day, but nothing immediate is coming up.

Thanks for your time William. Fablewood looks to be coming together fantastically and we can’t wait to get our grubby hands on it!

Thank you for your time and questions. FABLEWOOD GN VOL 01 has officially hit Previews with an order code of NOV07 3306. Stop by your local retailer, order a copy, and talk it up. It is a HUGE boost for us (and any indy) for people to pre-order, and we appreciate the help.

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As you can see, this is one to get excited about. Here are some other resources if you want to keep checking this puppy out, and land back here sometime soon for further coverage and information! Fablewood will be released 1/30/08.

Official Fablewood Site

Justin Boatwright (Wednesday Is My Sabbath) w/ William Ward

Jazma Online w/ contributor Joe Suitor

Jazma Online w/ contributor Joe Infurnari

Jazma Online w/ contributor Azel Medallin Machain

Ape Entertainment

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