Bill Willingham puts his graphic novel series “Fables” into the public domain
On September 22, I’ll be livestreaming into the DIG Festival in Modena, Italy. On September 27, I’ll be at Chevalier’s Books in Los Angeles with Brian Merchant for a joint launch for my new book The Internet Con and his new book, Blood in the Machine.
It’s been 21 years since Bill Willingham launched Fables, his 110-issue, wide-ranging, delightful and brilliantly crafted author-owned comic series that imagines that the folkloric figures of the world’s fairytales are real people, who live in a secret society whose internal struggles and intersections with the mundane world are the source of endless drama.
Fables is a DC Comics title; DC is division of the massive entertainment conglomerate Warners, which is, in turn, part of the Warner/Discovery empire, a rapacious corporate behemoth whose screenwriters have been on strike for 137 days (and counting). DC is part of a comics duopoly; its rival, Marvel, is a division of the Disney/Fox juggernaut, whose writers are also on strike.
The DC that Willingham bargained with at the turn of the century isn’t the DC that he bargains with now. Back then, DC was still subject to a modicum of discipline from competition; its corporate owner’s shareholders had not yet acquired today’s appetite for meteoric returns on investment of the sort that can only be achieved through wage-theft and price-gouging.
In the years since, DC — like so many other corporations — participated in an orgy of mergers as its sector devoured itself. The collapse of comics into a duopoly owned by studios from an oligopoly had profound implications for the entire sector, from comic shops to comic cons. Monopoly breeds monopoly, and the capture of the entire comics distribution system by a single company — Diamond — was attended by the capture of the entire digital comics market by a single company, Amazon, who enshittified its Comixology division, driving creators and publishers into Kindle Direct Publishing, a gig-work platform that replicates the company’s notoriously exploitative labor practices for creative workers. Today, Comixology is a ghost-town, its former employees axed in a…