Fables: Covers by James Jean
The unsung hero of the Fables success story takes his last bow with a bedazzling collection of fantasy art
Author James Jean his is not the first release collecting together the exquisite cover designs of Taiwan-born, US West Coast artist James Jean. But if the insistence is true – that the Fables series really has been drawn to an absolute conclusion after 13 years – it may well be the ultimate collection.
With small-screen adaptation potential headed off by the likes of Grimm and Once Upon A Time, this may be it for Snow, Bigby Wolf and their brutal and sexy Fables kind. But then it wasn’t truly unique to bring together figures from literature and mythology in a gritty, adult narrative – it just so happens Fables caught the concept from just the right angle, and found a vast, adoring following.
TPublisher Titan Books
Bound in muted greys though it is, this update is a deserving tribute to James’ years of compelling artistry, considering how up-front credit and praise for the hit series has always gone primarily to creator Bill Willingham and artists Lan Medina, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton.
James has followed in their wake, but in the process, honed their strips into brilliantly accomplished standalone art. The breadth of artistic style displayed throughout the book is impressive, from vibrant cartoon to mournful old master to dazzling manga – and although the lack of cover context for any but the most clued-in Fables fan is slightly regrettable, the quality of his vision for each and every issue makes this a worthy perusal, even if you’re more of a Grimm fan.
With each spread laid out by James himself, what commentary we do get to accompany each cover is worth its weight in faerie dust – such as the artist’s voluntary admission that he largely suggested wraparound covers to earn a bit more money, or Willingham’s direction for the first appearance of Flycatcher that he should resemble “Alan Moore at his most visually maniacal”.
Nonetheless, Willingham’s attempts to wring any telling observations out of James in the afterword interview only speak volumes by their failure: James insists he’s, “Merely an artist… My physical body is divorced from my body of work”. He concludes, gnomically: “The association between the two is uncomfortable for me.”
By all means get hold of a copy, but don’t expect to get it autographed by the gifted but shy cover artist.
James Jeans’ striking cover for Fables #75, War & Pieces.