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Jack Horner, also known as the Jack of Tales and Jack of Fables is a major character in the Fables series. He is the Literal personification of all tricksters in fiction. The character is based on various nursery rhymes and fables with characters named Jack including Little Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, Jack O'Lantern, and Jack the Giant Killer and others.
As a con artist, he is always looking for quick ways to make a buck. However, Jack also displays a complete disregard for human life or the feelings of those around him, traits most often seen in those with sociopathy. Despite his scheming and reckless personality, he is a devoted foe of the Adversary and a capable combatant in his own right, due to his years of experience fighting giants. He can also have true feelings for others (he asks Beast about Snow White and her cubs, he mourns his wife's death and he considered putting his own safety at risk to protect Gary when the Librarians had captured them and were having a car accident). In the series, Jack creates a film trilogy of his adventures to increase his popularity in the Mundy world making him nigh-immortal (a theory that is still strongly disputed to this day, even by Frau Totenkinder). In his devoted spin-off series "Jack Of Fables", his nigh-immortality seems to be reinforced by other causes as well : he is the son of a literal woman and one of the most popular male Fables (making him a "part-Literal", which is equivalent to a demigod), and he has made countless deals with many devils during his Jack O' Lantern days (provided he was telling the truth). Jack is often presented as believing himself to be far smarter than he truly is and for a man who has lived a long time, has little regard for history (at one point, he compares himself to Sam Bowie and Hector and how "like them, I will be victorious."). The common thread is how Jack honestly believes he is the most important person around and only his needs and desires matter.
Jack arguably has the distinction of being busier than any other Fable, with his assorted escapades, including the famous beanstalk incident and his time as a giant-killer of considerable renown. For a while he gained the Snow Queen's powers, beguiling the still naive Snow Queen into turning him into Jack Frost, the Harbinger of Winter. He would later regret this as he was so cold that no woman would lay with him. Due to breaking his promises to Lumi and his unfaithfulness he turned the Snow Queen into a cold and cruel woman. He also left their son in her care, as he refused to believe the child was his.
Somehow, in a still undisclosed way, Jack forgot about his new powers, retaining his swashbuckling attitude and his resilience. But what happened to Jack when the Adversary first began his assault on the Homelands is unknown. He first appeared in the Mundy World briefly fighting for the Confederate States of America army during the American Civil War, feeling that he might be able to profit from such an adventure. He then went to the Old West and became a prolific outlaw and gunslinger before Bigby Wolf tracked him down and brought him to Fabletown.
During his time in Fabletown, Jack was generally known as a schemer, albeit not a terribly competent one. He started up an online business, at about the time when the market for such things fell apart. One of his default schemes appears to involve the selling of the remaining magic beans, from the batch used to grow the famous beanstalk. However, as Jack's tendencies are well-known in Fabletown, he's never succeeded, which is fortunate as he doesn't actually possess the beans any longer; they're among the magical items held by Fabletown. Bigby Wolf, Fabletown's then-sheriff, has always been distrustful of Jack, never believing anything he says (even when he's telling the truth) and making it a point to hold Jack under suspicion whenever anything goes wrong, even going so far as to arrest him immediately on false charges.
For about four years towards the end of his time in Fabletown, Jack was romantically involved with Rose Red. They were known for their raucous parties and general irresponsibility. When Rose was apparently murdered, Jack was quickly picked up as a possible suspect, although it was eventually revealed that the two had conspired to fake her death in order to get her out of an engagement to Bluebeard that the two had set up for financial gain. Once the plot was discovered, in a chain of events that briefly included Jack becoming a prince, and everything had been sorted out, Rose dumped Jack and moved up to the Farm, where she refused to see him, telling him that one of the main reasons that she hooked up with him in the first place was that he irritated her then-estranged sister Snow White. With the thawing of her relationship with her sister and her new responsibilities as administrator at the Farm, she no longer had any time for him.
With the election of Prince Charming to the position of Mayor, Jack came to the conclusion that Fabletown was finished. Stealing the contents of one of the late Bluebeard's treasure rooms, an amount of money in the region of two and a half billion dollars, he left Fabletown in the company of a Lilliputian named Jill who had assisted him with the theft. (The Jill of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill was revealed in Fables #59 as being a different fable who had also relocated to Fabletown.)
Jack, with Jill in tow, headed for Hollywood, where he used his wealth to set up a new studio called Nimble Pictures, taking the alias of John Trick. His principal aim was to shoot a trilogy of films about himself, which he felt would increase his popularity among the mundanes, making him more powerful. He stayed in Hollywood for around five years, until Jill, fed up with his treatment of her, managed to call Fabletown and ask them for help. Fabletown engineered a takeover of Nimble Pictures, with Jack's right-hand man, Moss Waterhouse, as the new head of the studio. Beast came to Hollywood where he explained to Jack that the Fabletown authorities wanted Jack's head. Beast, however, disliked bloodshed and told Jack to leave, taking just a small amount of money with him, and that he never wanted to see Jack again. Jack, with no options remaining to him, agreed.
The Golden Boughs Retirement Community
Jack began to hitchhike, with no particular destination in mind. He was picked up by a van which, he quickly learned when they put a gun to his head, had been looking for him specifically. Despite attempting to escape en route, Jack ended up in the Golden Boughs Retirement Community, effectively a high-security prison populated entirely by Fables. In fairly short order, he slept with Goldilocks, briefly saw Alice, was severely beaten by Paul Bunyan and met the head of the Community, a man named Mr. Revise. Revise informed Jack that his goal was to rid the world of magic, an aim that he'd nearly achieved before the Fables arrived hundreds of years earlier and that Jack, with his movie trilogy, had also disrupted. Jack immediately swore to escape from the place, asking the other Fables there who was with him. During his stay he also developed friendship with two of the inmates Gary the Pathetic Fallacy and Old Sam who had forgotten he was once Sambo. With assistance from the Tooth Fairy and the fairies of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he and dozens of other Fables escaped The Golden Boughs. He also learned that Goldilocks was a spy for Mr. Revise, though his logic was convoluted (he reasoned that all of Revise's assistants wear glasses). Once again he is hitchhiking across the country, with no particular destination in mind.
Arriving in Las Vegas, he uses the Pathetic Fallacy and his fame as John Trick to rebuild his wealth again, marrying a rich heiress and "talking" the casino equipment into letting him win. Unfortunately, his new bride's family had a very powerful enemy. One who performs rituals and appears to feast on some lucky winners brains, she dons a royal queens attire with Clubs as her main accessories. Some say she may be Lady Luck, which Jack would later discover through her Belgian allies. Jack is now widowed after a bomb killed his father in law, his new bride, and fried Jack himself. Now recovered from his injuries, all of his departed wife's fortune, is now his own, making Jack a very rich man once again. After a confrontation with Lady Luck however, Jack does eventually stop Lady Luck by getting Gary to call Robin, one of the Page Sisters. After deceiving her during one of her rituals, she's apprehending by them.
But he doesn't get to keep his money either, when one of Lady Luck's men are found dead, killed by his deceased wife's lawyer. Mainly because if its thought Jack did something immoral the money goes to him. Hoping to frame Jack, and take the money, he called the police, but with Gary's help he escapes again and is seen once again hitchhiking.
The Bad Prince
After the events in Las Vegas, Jack and Gary are captured again by Priscilla Page who already captured Wicked John. After a fight between Jack and John starts in the van, it crashes off the road into the Grand Canyon. After recovering from the crash, Jack, Gary and Priscilla are sitting near a campfire, when a mysterious man appears. He plunges the sword Excalibur through Jack's chest and dies shortly thereafter. Once John appears with the Gertrude (Priscilla's assistant), Gary explains that Jack is actually a copy of John and Jack, delighted with the news, pulls Excalibur out of his chest and impales John with it. Raven shows up after that and the party decides to move out of the canyon while leaving John behind (as the sword would draw too much attention to his Fable nature). During the trip out of the canyon, Jack tells Raven he and Priscilla had sex. This leaves her shocked and tries denying several times. Jack, Raven and Gary soon ditch Priscilla and Gertrude and end up in a motel near the interstate in New Mexico.
In the motel, Jack does the impossible, and puts Humpty Dumpty (who had died during the Golden Bough breakout) back together again. Jack explains he brought the Humpty Dumpty parts with him, as Humpty promised to lead Jack to a hidden treasure. The treasure lies in Americana, so the foursome breach the magical border by jumping on the Great Train and bump into Hillary and Paul Bunyan.
Once in Americana, they find out that the man Hillary thought to be her father, the "Bookburner", isn't and that he holds a grudge against Revise for stealing her mother away from him. He sends Natty Bumppo and Slue-Foot Sue after them until they finally shake them off and end up on the spot where Humpty's hidden treasure lies. During which he and Hillary have a quick moment of passion, to which he brags in front of her that he slept with Robin and Priscilla as well; much to her anger. While she, Raven, and Humpty try to get rid of him and Gary, they eventually escape. And find Raven waiting, though mostly because his animal spirit threatened him. There he reveals he has all the gold in a suitcase; leaving Hillary and Humpty with rocks and are captured by the Bookburner and he begins his march against the Golden Boughs.
Jack is seen briefly during the Turning Pages story, as it is revealed that he was telling the truth about sleeping with Robin and Priscilla though their reasons were different than in his version. During the Books of War story, Jack seizes control for the battle at Golden Boughs against the Bookburner, however despite his best efforts, they seemed to be losing the battle. Until Jack through pure luck, actually creates a good plan and escapes the Bookburner. But at a cost of Golden Boughs, is blown up by the volcano spirits. Jack would also get startling news that he was the illegitimate son of Prince Charming and Prose Page; the Page Sister's mother; thus meaning he committed incest with his half-sisters.
But then, after Jack took possession of Revise's books which he added to his treasure in his briefcase, Jack Horner lost his immortality due to the greed caused by harboring the treasures, mirroring the story of Fafnir. Gary himself has also lost his Literal powers. Both Jack and Gary don't know what was happening to them, but Gary theorizes that the former artist of the comic did this as a revenge to Jack's insults to him back then. Cursed, Horner started aging and bloating, before finally becoming a dragon destined to be slain by a hero (which turned out to be his own son). Although there was another way to escape the curse by Jack giving up his own selfish ways, due to his nature, it was too impossible for Jack. So both he and Gary had to wait for his destined foe to come and slay him.
Time passed by before a slayer finally came to confront the now-dragon Jack; his own son, Jack Frost. Jack somehow saw the events that would unfold before with his precognition. As the two battle intensively with each other, Jack finally burns the books and his treasure in rage, and Gary and a large number of Fables were killed. Jack Horner, stricken by shock, finally ended the battle by beheading his own son as the latter finally pierced his sword on Jack; killing him. When the Devils came to collect his soul, all of them started arguing to whoever can claim it. Since all of them are too proud to surrender their prize, they were all destined to bicker for eternity. Thus Jack's soul escaped them yet again while they do so. The last panel show Jack's spirit trying to hitch a ride like he did in the first issue of Jack of Fables.
While hitchhiking, the now ghostly Jack Horner was abducted again, this time by the Legion of Devils he has tricked before. They've all decided to put Jack in a specialized Hell custom-made just for him (which was a void after the Universe ended) since none of them can surrender their claim to his soul. However, Jack has again concocted another scheme to escape this. Using his reality-warping powers as a Literal, Jack resurrected Gary to his Hell, and asked his help to use his powers to turn his Hell into another universe where he is a God-King, right after writing down all the specifications and details of it in paper. Gary accepts, and the two now enjoy their new lives in their new universe.
- Immortality: Due to his popularity as a character, he is virtually immortal. But even before that, Jack's Literal nature meant that he was unaging from the start since he was a personification of all trickster archetypes in the world.
- Invincibility: After tricking a whole legion of Devils (including Lucifer, Chernabog, Old Nick and others), he managed to make himself invincible until the day the Devils take their due. But Jack Horner also found a loop hole in this by finding another way of making himself immortal so the Devils wouldn't be able to collect his soul. Other factors also reinforced this as well, such as his Literal nature and and popularity with the mundies. His invincibility come to the point that even the Universe and Fate itself couldn't kill him.
- Superhuman Durability: Jack has survived all manners of harm done to him since becoming invincible. He's survived being tortured, run over by speeding traffic, falling off a building, exploded upon and more. Weapons and magic seem to have no affect on him, like the time where he was shot multiple times in the torso, impaled multiple times and even getting mauled by a yokai and a kaiju. But even so, Jack still feels the pain and damage done to him, and heals only if he wants to.
- Magical Resistance: Magical attacks and weapons cannot harm Jack. Once he was stabbed by the all-powerful Excalibur in the chest and just shrugged it off as a mere nuisance. He once survived getting frozen by his own son Jack Frost.
- Physicality: Being a Fable and a Literal, Jack is superhumanly strong. He is shown to be able to lift heavy objects such as street posts as weapons, and is able to fight Bigby Wolf, Beast, and various Giants in close-quarters combat.
- Magic: Although not frequently, Jack has been known to utilize magic from time to time in his adventures. During his time in the Homelands, he once had the power of winter, summon giant beanstalks with magic, and once beat the indestructible Headless Horseman with a brimstone from Hell. He unwittingly disrupted Mr. Revise's magic, broke the 4th wall, and in the last arc has the ability of becoming a dragon (against his will). As a part-Literal, Jack also inherited a portion of reality bending powers, which he uses to bring back Gary and his powers.
- Dragon form: By utilizing his greed, Jack can turn himself (though unwillingly) into a fire-breathing winged dragon akin to Fafnir in German legends. His dragon form has claws and teeth that can easily rip Fables, can breath fire, has wings to fly, and is also durable. It also gives him a limited precognition ability to know future events. Though his invincibility and immortality disappears the moment he becomes one.
- Summoning: Jack's reality-bending powers allowed him to summon and resurrect Gary the Pathetic Fallacy and restore his powers. Jack then instructed Gary to create a universe for him.
- Swordsmanship: Jack knows how to use a sword during his time as a giant-slayer and in the Civil War.
- Marksmanship: Jack is a superb marksman during his time as an Old West gunslinger. He is very accurate with pistols and fast on the draw.
- Weapons Mastery: Jack is adept in using many forms of weapons from swords to firearms. He has both knowledegable in normal weapons like pistols and shotguns and Fable weapons like twin tommy guns, Goldilock’s shotgun and magical bombs (he utlized the magical spirits Wy’east, Klickitat and Loowit as living nukes to destroy the Golden Bough). He once defeated a trained armed knight with nothing more than a mop.
- Hand to Hand Combatant: He’s an adept fighter who fought giants in his time in the Homelands. He once took on three wooden soldiers and a horde of zombies by himself. Although he is not as talented as Bigby Wolf and Beast, and usually relies on his wit.
- Brilliant Trickster: Although his schemes sometimes fail due to being too confident or lazy, he is still the literal personification of all trickster archetypes in fiction. He has outwitted many of his Fable enemies, and is able to outsmart nigh-omnipotent being such as the Devils, Literal Gods and Death themselves. For example, he once outsmarted a legion of Devils such as Nick Slick, Lucifer, Chernabog and others into making him immortal, outwitted the Literals Mr. Revise and Bookburner, defeated Lady Luck who is a Fable that can control luck, stole the powers of the Ice Queen to become Jack Frost, entrap the Grim Reaper in a sack, and resurrected and summoned Gary the Pathetic Fallacy to create a universe where he is king and his authority is absolute.
- Devil's Burlap Sack: Jack once defeated Old Nick for his prized magical satchel. A powerful sack that can suck everything inside it's powerful vortex. It is inescapable and bottomless in its nature, and even Eldritch Abominations and Celestial Beings such as Death couldn't escape it. Although it was said that Jack Horner lost the burlap sack some time ago, there are also those who suggest that its still with him but he has hidden it. In recent years a similar item appeared in the form of a magical briefcase.
- Colt Revolver and Cavalry Saber: Weapons he got during his time as a Civil War soldier and gunslinger. He brandished similar weapons during the Battle of Fabletown and Bookburner’s War.
- 22 Appearances of Jack Horner (Fables)
- 11 Images featuring Jack Horner (Fables)
- 1 Quotations by or about Jack Horner (Fables)
- Character Gallery: Jack Horner (Fables)