Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fables Covers by James Jean (2008) Book Review

Along with my love of film and posters, I also happen to be very into comic books and graphic novels.  While my adoration of comics is a bit more casual, at least at the moment, then my passion for movies, posters, and dare I say it, movie posters, I've always found the comic book / graphic novel a fascinating medium and have spent entire days lost in trades of Grant Morrison's self reflexive Animal Man or Warren Ellis's part paranoid part prophetic Transmetropolitan.  For this reason, I wanted to take a quick detour from my usual film or poster talk to discuss an art book that is near and dear to my heart - Fables Covers by James Jean.

Whether you're a die hard DC fanboy or have never, even accidentally, wandered into the 'Graphic Novel' section of your local Barnes and Noble there's a comic out there specifically geared toward your tastes.  It's true.  Today I wanted to focus on the well known and critically acclaimed comic Fables, and more specifically, the collected cover art for the Fables series.  Fables imagines a world in which familiar fairy tale characters (e.g., Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming) known as "Fables," have had to flee their homeland and take refuge in New York City.  As the characters attempt to fight back the evil forces that forced them from their home, the heroes, heroines and sometimes wickedly evil citizens of Fabletown fight back through political, physical and often magical means.  That premise may sound like a children's tale itself, but these fictional-turned-flesh denizens are fantastically complex characters that often seem as real as you or I.

If you've had the chance to start Fables I'm sure one of the first things you quickly noticed was James Jean's amazing cover work.  James's style is pretty unique; his artwork has an organic almost ghostlike quality to it - as even the most tangible and plain objects are surrounded by an opaque incandescence.  His covers are also often a fantastic combination of the digital and the traditional.  James is able to so perfectly meld these elements together that at times it can be a bit shocking to find out everything wasn't drawn out and painted on canvas.

Fable Covers by James Jean succeeds because it doesn't try to throw everything at you but the kitchen sink.  The folks who put this book together knew exactly what you wanted, James Jean's amazing Fables art work, and did not disappoint.  All his work with the Fables series is documented, including the preliminary sketches, graphite and watercolor drawings, and of course the final product.  The book also features a great interview between Fables creator Bill Willingham and James about their history, the impact that the Fables covers have had on his career and finally his artistic process - it's fascinating stuff.

Unfortunately James is no longer doing Fables covers, but you can pick this book up through for a pretty reasonable price.  For Fables fans this is a must have and for fans that aren't familiar with James Jean or Fables, again, this is a must have (and you should probably buy all of the Fables books currently available too, just for good measure).   Hell, if you have a pulse and/or breathe the Earth's air to survive, this book is a must have.  I think that should cover everyone.  I'd also recommend checking out James's website as he has some amazing original art for sale along with a heads up for any of his upcoming shows.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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