I like Bill Willingham’s writing. But I like it more when he’s also illustrating his own stories.
That’s what’s missing from his Fables books. The tales are clever and surprising — Willingham is a great storyteller — and the dozen or so artists I’ve seen drawing the comic books and graphic novels convincingly convey a fairy tale feel.
But I miss Willingham’s own wise-guy touch. I adored his Elementals comic book series from Comico in the late 1980s, and was sorely grieved when someone else took the reins (and before we ever got a resolution to the Oblivion War storyline). And I felt like a victim of a bait-and-switch scheme when he drew fewer than a handful of his Shadowpact series a few years back.
Willingham’s characters can be by turns sexy, self-conscious, ornery and goofy.
In his new autobiography (which I plan to write about in a couple days), Backing Into Forward, Jules Feiffer says of the cartoonists who took over the Superman comic strip after co-creator Joe Shuster was forced out that they “drew better but felt less.” That sentiment can be applied here, too, I think: Bill Willingham might not be the most crafted illustrator to draw Bill Willingham stories, but he “feels more” than they do.