When Bill Willingham asked me to pitch a FAIREST storyarc on FABLES’ original bad hair day girl, I knew that Rapunzel was going to break all the rules, chafing under the strictest restrictions of all the fairy tale exiles living in secret in New York City.
She has to, you see, because that dead dog know as the past has come to sniff her out. And sometimes the only way to come to terms with your dark past is to turn and face it head-on.
Of course, it’s not a literal dog. It’s a snowstorm of origami cranes that crashes through her window bearing a message that will force Rapunzel to defy Snow White and Bigby, make a devil’s bargain with the wicked witch of the 13th floor, Frau Totenkinder, and go on the run to Tokyo with a terrible choice of companions.
I was interested in what terrible secrets Rapunzel doesn’t confide in her hairdresser, Joel Crow, why we haven’t seen any Eastern-inspired Fables, even during the war, and why hair figures so prominently in so many Japanese ghost stories.
I took inspiration from a range of sources from Tekkonkinkreet to The Pillow Book, Kurosawa,Miyazaki, Miike and the Murakamis-three (Haruki, Ryu and Takashi), The Tale of Genji, Tokyo Vice and The Hundred Demons Night Parade. I researched fairy tales and history and true crime and listened to Japanese punk-pop and drank Japanese whisky and let my hair grow out. Just to get into character.
Artist Inaki Miranda was happy because he got to draw everything from seedy pachinko parlors and karaoke clubs in neon Shibuya to the lavishly corrupt celestial palace of the HiddenKingdom, as well as Harajuku girls, weird monsters, love, sex, magic, violence, and some very cool hairstyles. His artwork made the story deeper and richer and darker. His panels are breathtakingly beautiful. Or utterly horrifying. Or perfectly, subtly nuanced. On some pages all at the same time.
FAIREST: The Hidden Kingdom is about a doomed love affair (or two), the compromises we make and the price of revenge, with shape-shifting yokai, yakuza, hungry ghosts and that amazingly Japanese clash of modernity and tradition where skyscrapers and shrines to the spirits of lost children can coexist on the same street corner. It all begins with issue #8 this October. I think you’ll like it.