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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

Fables free for all

He couldn’t afford litigation, so creator Bill Willingham put Fables in the public domain

In an unexpected twist, Bill Willingham, the creative mind behind the beloved comic series "Fables," has decided to share this captivating universe with the public after struggling to find common ground with DC Comics.

So, what does this mean for you, John Q. Public? It means you're about to embark on an exciting journey into a world of Fables through a new comic book series.

"Fables" had been part of DC Comics' Vertigo imprint since 2002, enchanting readers with its magical tales until 2023, concluding with its last issue in 2022. In a recent post on Substack, Willingham revealed his reasons for relinquishing his creation to the public domain.

After two decades of collaboration with DC, Willingham felt that the dedicated and honest individuals he'd initially worked with were replaced by a revolving door of strangers, leading to, in his words, a lack of measurable integrity in their dealings. He found that DC consistently interpreted their contractual agreements to their own advantage, often to the detriment of the original creators.

Willingham's decision stemmed from his inability to engage in costly legal battles with DC and his exhaustion from attempting to align their actions with the terms of their agreements. He cited instances where DC violated these agreements, such as not seeking approval for new publications or third-party releases. One notable example was Telltale Games, which adapted the Fables universe without consent, altering its characters and story.

Moreover, DC's delayed payment of royalties further strained the relationship, forcing Willingham to pursue what was rightfully his.

Willingham clarified that, although he can't independently publish more Fables material without DC's involvement, the public is under no such constraint. He believes that the rights to create Fables-related content are now in the hands of the fans. In his words:

"If I understand the law correctly (and be advised that copyright law is a mess; purposely vague and murky, and no two lawyers – not even those specializing in copyright and trademark law – agree on anything), you have the rights to make your Fables movies, and cartoons, and publish your Fables books, and manufacture your Fables toys, and do anything you want with your property because it's your property."

Furthermore, artists like Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha are free to create their own interpretations of Fables, and others are encouraged to do the same.

Potentially, this opens the door for a new era of Fables content, including books, movies, and TV shows. The possibilities are boundless, and the Fables universe may now be yours to explore and expand upon. Of course, DC Comics disagrees and is likely to take action to enforce what it perceives as its intellectual property.

Why It Matters.

Free is good. If you’re a consumer.

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