Fables author and artist Bill Willingham – yes, the same Bill Willingham behind Telltale’s game The Wolf Among Us – has placed the Fables intellectual property rights into the public domain.
“As of now, September 15, 2023, the comic book property known as Fables, including all associated Fables spin-offs and characters, is in the public domain,” Willingham wrote on his Substack. “What was once owned entirely by Bill Willingham is now owned by everyone for all time. It’s done, and as most experts will tell you, once it’s done, it can’t be undone. Redemptions are neither considered nor possible.”
Wondering why Willingham did this? You’re not alone. The author said he made the decision to go public with everything for “a number of reasons,” including “practicality” – Willingham feels a lot has changed since he first signed with DC Comics – and ” Philosophy” as his “philosophy” is. Considerations about how to reform trademark and copyright laws in this country (and probably others) have undergone a radical shift.”
“The Fables properties used to be in good hands, and now the Fables properties have fallen into bad hands due to turnover and employee turnover,” Willingham said.
“Throughout the years of my relationship with DC, with Fables and with other intellectual properties, DC has consistently violated its agreements with me,” he claimed in his statement.
Interestingly, Willingham also specifically mentioned Telltale’s first Fables game, The Wolf Among Us, suggesting that DC allowed Telltale to radically alter its “characters, settings, story, and story premise,” and claimed that DC was “trying to… to hide”. “to receive the script from him and to retain “any money for licensing the Fables rights to third parties.”
“DC officials admitted that their interpretation of our publishing agreement and the subsequent media rights agreement was that they could do whatever they wanted with the property,” Willingham wrote.
“They could change stories or characters at will. They had no obligation to protect the integrity and value of the intellectual property, either from themselves or from third parties (e.g. Telltale Games) who want to radically change the characters, settings, story and premise of the story (i saw the script that they tried to hide from me for a few years). They also did not owe me any money for licensing the Fables rights to third parties, since such a license was not provided for in our original publishing agreement.
He further claimed: “When they capitulated on some points in a later conference call and promised on the phone to pay back the amounts owed to me for licensing Fables to Telltale Games,” they later “broke their word and offered the promised amount instead.” as a “consulting fee,” which avoided the precedent of admitting that it was money owed and included a nondisclosure agreement that would prevent me from saying anything but nice things about Telltale or the license.”
Consequently, Willingham chose “give.” [Fables] away to everyone”.
“If I couldn’t prevent Fables from falling into bad hands, this way I can at least ensure that it falls into many good hands too. Since I truly believe that there are still more good people in the world than bad, I consider it a form of victory.
DC Comics has not yet officially commented on the matter.
Telltale Games has pushed back the release of The Wolf Among Us 2 from 2023 to 2024 to avoid studio burnout and crisis.
The Wolf Among Us 2 – the sequel to Telltale’s acclaimed 2013 narrative adventure based on Bill Willingham’s Fables comics – has had an eventful development. It was first announced in 2017, but progress was halted after the studio closed its doors the following year. It was then unexpectedly re-announced in 2019 after Telltale was revived under new management.
This new version – which is being co-developed by AdHoc Studio, which was co-founded by original Wolf Among Us co-director Nick Herman and is made up of almost 50 percent former Telltale employees – was originally scheduled to release in 2023, but has made it now postponed until next year.