Anthology Construction with Fablewood's William Ward

A comics interview article by: Tim O'Shea
Fablewood is a new anthology, published by Ape Entertainment. Consisting of "14 complete fantasy stories, from sword-and-sorcery to slice-of-life, Fablewood features the creations of Ryan Ottley and Manny Trembley, Flight alumni J.P. Ahonen and Sarah Mensinga, and Chris Studabaker with his Day Prize-nominated tale …" SBC recently caught up with William Ward, the anthology’s editor to discuss the project, which is listed in the current (November 07) Previews.

Tim O’Shea (TOS): Not every anthology has the benefit of one of its stories already having been nominated for award. Under the Midnight Sun by Dusty Neal, Artist and Christopher Studabaker, Writer was nominated for Howard E. Day Prize for 2006. Has that served to boost attention for the book, and how did the story end up in the Fablewood Colllection?

William Ward (WW): I have to say, while I was not shocked to hear that Under the Midnight Sun was nominated for an award, I was surprised when I found out because I wasn't aware at the time that the creators had submitted the story for this recognition.

I was extremely pleased with the news of course, and thought that Dave Sim said it well in his speech about the story when he said that "through a balance of pencil and ink on the interior pages and Christopher Studabaker's evocative, austere and expressionistic dialogue and narration, it's a very successful experiment." I think that the award nomination really helped open up a window with buyers that otherwise we may not have had, certainly Sim talking about the story at SPACE was a great spotlight, and that kind of focus can't be bought (at least not cheap).

TOS: Has it also helped to have some of the storytellers that worked in some of the Flight anthology collections?

WW: Flight is not just one of my favorite anthologies; it is one of my favorite books. Having J.P. Ahonen and Sarah Mensinga take part in Fablewood really helps boost the book, as they bring that Flight signature storytelling to Fablewood. Besides the great stories they have created, it is nice to have the support of the Flight community which seems to be responding very favorably to the samples so far.

I know boards are casual, and comments from known creators are not that rare, but it felt pretty great to have [Flight creator and editor] Kazu [Kibuishi] comment “Ooh, this looks nice! I'm looking forward to seeing the book!".

TOS: As editor of the anthology, did any of the stories change drastically in the development/revision process?

WW: I am not much for the idea of changing stories that other people are creating. We did revisions of course, and I offered some suggestions as we went along but I always tried to make it clear that it was the creator's story. One story did change off a comment I made however, a change in setting. There was a story set in a modern setting that I suggested might add some variety to the settings in the book if set in Victorian times. It was up to the artist/creator, and he decided to go with it. I think it came out well.

TOS: Also, I'm sure you have an appreciation of each story, but were there any in particular that you grew to appreciate more as the project progressed?

WW: I have a few favorites, but as far as a story in which my appreciation increased over time, Sarah Mensinga's story really impresses me more each time I see it. She does something with symbols for words that has an incredible amount of depth. I won't say more because it will give the story away, but it really is a nice experience. Her story in Flight 4 did the same for me, she uses complicated methods and tells complicated stories, but it comes through crystal clear when you read them.

TOS: What's been the biggest logistical challenge of making this anthology happen? My guess would be the story Mandala (and it's unique narrative flow).

WW: [Mandala’s creator] Joe Infurnari actually did all the work, so it was perhaps one the easiest stories to get done as far as logistics. Amazingly enough this was true even though he had to rework the layout of the entire story. Mandala was originally a mini-comic with a very different format which Joe released a little over 100 copies of (what I like to think of as free advertising!) and sold himself. I was lucky enough to come along just as he was selling out and thinking of printing more copies. Given the story was obviously very well done (Joe won the ONI TALENT SEARCH, a very well deserved award) and there was still demand I feel it was perfect for inclusion in Fablewood.

I am not sure if there was a single most difficult challenge, though there certainly were many challenges. I think I am most proud of being able to get Ryan Ottley (Invincible) to draw my story and Manny Trembley (Panda Xpress, Sam Noir) to do the colors. Both of those guys are amazing, and it was awesome to work with them.

TOS: How much of a help has it been to gain Ape Entertainment as the anthology's publisher?

WW: Well, when I sent the submission package to Ape Entertainment I had 100 pages completed, with hopes that perhaps if they were interested they would let accept submissions a little longer. They agreed, and now we have a 144-page book and almost another entire book finished of equal size. It was really a huge boon getting a publisher to the ability to recruit, and Ape went that extra mile helping put me in contact with some of their creators (but without any pressure to print anything I did not want to even if it was from their guys. I am still very impressed by that fact—even though it turned out everything that came from Ape was great).

You can actually get a sneak peak right now of another Ape Creator who has a story in Fablewood by picking up the Popgun Anthology from Image. Joe Suitor has a story in that anthology featuring the same character that will appear in Fablewood.

TOS: Overall, how many different genres are represented in the book?

WW: One. Fantasy! Though that assumes that you believe that Fantasy is a huge and amazing genre that can encompass a great deal. High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Sword-and-Sorcery, Modern Fable, Politic Driven Adventure and even a bit of Slice-of-Life set in a fantasy world can be found in Fablewood—-all fantasy tales but very unique in their own right.

TOS: Given that several different types of visual storytellers contribute to the book, in terms of story placement did you have a challenge as to who should follow which story. I assume you tried to package stories with other stories that compliment (rather than jarringly contradict) their tone or style. Am I correct?

WW: I think I tried about ten different versions of the story order before I got one that felt right. I wish I had a more detailed thought process, but for the most part we just worked to make sure that when you jumped to the next story it 'felt' right.

TOS: Do you think you're taking an aesthetic risk by running a black and white tale (albeit it's the nominated Under the Midnight Sun piece) in the midst of full color stories. Or are you hoping the contrast will create even more attention and interest into the tale?

WW: I thought about it some, but the story, being nominated for an award and really standing out in quality, really eased my fears about including a Black & White tale. If it was not such a strong story it might be more a concern, but as it stands I think it really does provide contrast (and great storytelling). It really came down to the artwork needing to stay the way it was—it was made that way for a reason (and the reason was not a lack of colorists).

We received a lot of contacts asking about including other stories without color, and my response was always the same. If the story is better in Black and White I would look at it, it can't be black and white because you do not have a colorist. Telling a story about shadows in Black and White (especially given the style) just made sense and changing it would have made it less effective.

TOS: Anything else you would like to add? When will the book be in Previews?

WW: Fablewood compiles the talents of up-and-comers like 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) with talented newcomers like Chris Studabaker (Howard E. Day Prize Nominee), Kevin Crossley (Event Horizon), Axel Machain (Metal Hurlant), Joe Suitor (Popgun Anthology) and more. Just want to ask people to let their Comic Shops know and to pre-order a copy—it helps a great deal by letting retailers know people are interested, therefore getting more copies on the shelf.

Fablewood GN VOL 01 is in November Previews page 208 (Page 16 on the order sheet catalogue) and its code is: NOV07 3306

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