Are you watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time? If not, you’re missing out on a guilty pleasure of mine. I don’t watch very much television, but the concept was so original. All the fairytale characters you grew up with, Snow White, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, etc. have all been placed under a curse, and kicked them out of their world and into ours, where magic is nothing more than a child’s imaginative plaything. The show zeroes in on Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter and how she is the only one who can break the curse and return these characters to where they originally came from. The curse made it so that all the fairytale characters have no recollection of what has happened to them who they truly are. Thus, no more happily ever after. All the characters have been transformed into humans, including characters like Jiminy Cricket. Emma, Snow’s child was teleported to our world when she was only a young baby and has no clue about any of this.
Emma’s son, Henry, whom she gave up for adoption, is now back in her life and needs her help to break the curse. She has no belief in the curse, and thinks this is nothing more than a way for Henry to cope with being an adopted child. Sadly for Henry, he just so happens to have been adopted by the Evil Queen, who put the curse on all the fairytale characters, and he knows the truth.
We’re also treated to countless flashbacks to the fairytale world, and are shown more clues as to what lead to this curse being placed on these characters and how everyone is connected to each other. It’s fun seeing how all the characters are transformed into humans, and yet retain that certain something that made them special. It makes for great TV watching, only thing is, haven’t we already seen something like this before?
In 2002 Bill Willingham published the very first issue of Vertigo’s Fables, which is extremely similar to ABC’s new television series. Fables is about all the same fairytale characters like Snow White, Charming, Cinderella, Boy Blue, etc. except no curse was placed on them. They were forced out of their home by some ominous creature known only as The Adversary. We’re not originally told why, but the characters came together and fled to our world.
Snow White is the acting mayor of Fabletown, where most of the fable characters live. She’s responsible for cleaning up the different messes that occur such as scandals, money conflicts. She also has to ensure the mundanes (humans) don’t find out about the fables. The first issue introduces readers to this wonderfully rich world, and several key characters. Snow’s head detective is the Big Bad Wolf, also known as Bigby (who’s now human somehow), and he’s responsible for making sure things never get out of control. Another big difference between the comic series and the show is that all the animal fables remained animals, and were gathered together at a farm so the regular humans don’t hear them speaking to one another. As you could imagine, they’re none to pleased about this situation.
The opening arc deals with Jack, from Jack and the Beanstalk running in to see Bigby, because his girlfriend, Red Rose (Snow’s sister) has gone missing. Meanwhile Snow’s trying to deal with the crumbling marriage of Beauty and the Beast, because the two are no longer getting along Beast is slowly reverting back to beast form. When Snow learns that something has happened to her sister Bigby and Snow check her apartment only to discover blood everywhere and the chilling words “No more happily ever after” written in blood on the wall. Who could have done such a thing, and why? Do the mundanes have anything to do with this, and why? Is there something far more sinister at work?
Thus begins one of the very best adult-themed comic series ever created. It’s incredible to see these characters brought to life like never before. They go through all the same problems we go through. Snow is divorced to Charming, Cinderella is a spy (some of us have to balance being a spy and a having a family), and everyone has money problems and is generally just trying to get by while having some sort of normal life. Of course nothing is normal when you’re a fable character.
If you’re enjoying Once Upon a Time I highly recommend Fables because it’s much deeper and the character development is second to none. I should also add that it’s a creator owned property so if characters die, they stay dead. This isn’t a superhero book.
Fables is available in either volume format or individual issues. Like The Walking Dead it is extremely popular and therefore very expensive to get into on an issue-by-issue basis. The best way to read Fables is digitally as you can have access to all the issues and for only a fraction of the cost. Right now there’s a 72-hour $0.99 sale going on through comiXology so act fast!
I highly encourage all of you to check out the first story arc, called Legends in Exile, which is comprised of the first five issues. If you don’t like those issues I’ll be shocked. This series has become a fable in and of itself, and I believe it’s about time you check it out to find out why.