Fables creator Bill Willingham has made a nearly unprecedented move, allowing his creation to enter the public domain.

Fables Vol. 1 #18 “Barleycorn Brides” (2003), DC Comics. Cover art by James Jean.

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Willingham announced the move via a press release shared on Substack, stating, “As of now, 15 September 2023, the comic book property called Fables, including all related Fables spin-offs and characters, is now in the public domain. What was once wholly owned by Bill Willingham is now owned by everyone, for all time. It’s done, and as most experts will tell you, once done it cannot be undone. Take-backs are neither contemplated nor possible.”

Fables Vl. 1 #28 “Dog Company: War Stories, Part 1” (2004), Vertigo Comics. Words by Bill Willingham. Art by Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Daniel Vozzo.

“Since I can’t afford to sue DC, to force them to live up to the letter and the spirit of our long-time agreements; since even winning such a suit would take ridiculous amounts of money out of my pocket and years out of my life (I’m 67 years old, and don’t have the years to spare), I’ve decided to take a different approach, and fight them in a different arena, inspired by the principles of asymmetric warfare,” Willingham declared.

He added, “The one thing in our contract the DC lawyers can’t contest, or reinterpret to their own benefit, is that I am the sole owner of the intellectual property. I can sell it or give it away to whomever I want.”

Fables Vol. 1 #136 “1st Story” (2014), Vertigo Comics. Words by Bill Willingham. Art by Mark Buckingham and Russell Braun.

He goes on to answer why he made this move, which is partly to do with his feelings on copyright and trademark law being broken and his desire to fix the system by leading by example, but the majority of the press release is then dedicated to calling out bad business practices by DC Comics.

“When honest people occupy the corporations, they often do the right thing. When those honest people are replaced by low character thugs over the span of years, the corporations become incapable of doing the right thing,” Willingham said in a tweet to one of his fans.

@BillWillingham calls out bad business practices via X

His post on X echoed his press release, which cites current DC employees as being “revolving door of strangers, of no measurable integrity, who now choose to interpret every facet of our contract in ways that only benefit DC Comics and its owner companies.”

“At one time the Fables properties were in good hands, and now, by virtue of attrition and employee replacement, the Fables properties have fallen into bad hands,” Willingham continued.

Source: Fables Vol. 1 #36 “Homelands, Chapter One: Death and Taxes” (2005), DC Comics. Cover art by James Jean.

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While a lawsuit might settle matters of contractual dispute, the Fables creator believes it to would take far too much money and far too many years for him to be able to properly fight. Since the contract lists him as the sole intellectual property owner, placing the characters in the Public Domain is his way of fighting against the current DC Comics regime’s predatory business practices.

Willingham states the egregious behaviors of DC Comics regarding Fables are too long to list. However, he offers some highlights.

Batman vs Bibgy! A Wolf in Gotham Vol. 1 “Chapter One: Bat, Wolf, Worm” (2021), DC Comics. Words by Bill Willingham. Art by Brian Level, Jay Leisten, and Lee Loughride.

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First, he accuses DC Comics of making creative decisions on the Fables property without his consent over the years. Then, he claims, “they tried to strong arm the ownership of Fables from me.”

Fables #162 cover, art by Corinne Reid, DC Comics.

Finally, Willingham says, “DC officers admitted that their interpretation of our publishing agreement, and the following media rights agreement, is that they could do whatever they wanted with the property. They could change stories or characters in any way they wanted. They had no obligation whatsoever to protect the integrity and value of the IP, either from themselves, or from third parties (Telltale Games, for instance) who want to radically alter the characters, settings, history and premises of the story.”

The news comes as a surprise to fans, as Willingham returned to the Fables story after a years’ long hiatus. In 2022, he launched a new arc, which was slated to go twelve issues but is, as of current, incomplete. DC Comics still has the planned finale of issue #162 solicited for September with a release date of 11/14/23. Willingham tweeted when a fan asked if they would still be released, “I’ve (long ago) finished my part of them (prior to wiping the dust of DC from my feet), and been paid for them. I guess it’s up to DC.”

Source: Screenshot, Twitter

Regardless, Willingham gives the public rights to do their own works with his creations, with the press release stating, “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.”

What do you think about Fables entering the public domain? Leave a comment and let us know!

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 Bill Wilingham put out a press release making Fables public domain in the latest move in a long battle with DC Comics over IP rights.  Read More