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Fables, the richly intricate fairy-tales-in-the-modern-world comic created by Bill Willingham and various, was first denied and perhaps “tributed” in an attempted TV series version, but it’s back on the Hollywood radar as a feature film. Danish director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) and screenwriter Jeremy Slater are attached—Slater’s previous credits include working on the Fantastic Four reboot.

Fables has been eyed as IP fodder since it came out. Previous attempts include a movie version developed by Henson Films in 2004 and in 2008, a potential pilot at ABC that would have been directed by American Horror Story’s David Semel.

Although the Fables thing never happened, ABC’s Once Upon a Time did. Both tales deal with fairy tale characters living in the modern world and trying to reconcile their mythic natures and conflicts with everyday life. There’s also NBC’s Grimm, another similarly themed story. And the work of Neil Gaiman, and countless other fantasy authors.

Whatever the sturdiness of this theme, Fables is definitely one of the best and has one of the most fervent followings, so a movie is a pretty good idea.

What do you think, readers?


  1. Too little, too late I’m afraid.

    They release this – people are going to turn their noses up and claim that’s it a riff on ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm.

    Willingham should have filed suits on both productions. Same goddamn thing with Books of Magic and Harry Potter.



  2. If the film keeps the characteristics that make Fables a distinctly Vertigo book, it’s going to find a very different audience than Once Upon a Time or Grimm.

  3. From Neil Gaiman’s blog:

    Which, given that I don’t own Sandman or Books of Magic/Tim Hunter – they were both work for hire and are owned by DC Comics, a Time-Warner company, have been since they were created in the 80s — have never “squealed plagiarism” except in Nancy Stouffer’s sad mad mind and given that both Sandman and Books of Magic were first optioned for films by Warners some years before the first Harry Potter book was published, is not just astoundingly badly written lunatic conspiracy theory nonsense, but easily disproven creepy nonsense.

  4. >> Willingham should have filed suits on both productions.>>

    On the grounds that, he being the 637th guy to do fairy tale characters in the modern world, the 641st and 642nd must owe him money?

    FABLES is one of my all-time favorite comics, and it’d be great if there was a good film adaptation, but the idea that there’s some common idea there that Bill owns is just not supportable. GRIMM barely has any similarities to FABLES at all (it’s far more like BUFFY, with a hereditary hunter of creatures of folklore), and ONCE has some tangential similarities (there’s a locale that they live in, but it’s not a city neighborhood or a farm, and unlike FABLES they’re stuck there), but not enough to create a greater resemblance than to previous stories in which fairy-tale characters have come to the mundane world.

  5. @Kurt

    While all the 636 previous guys before Willingham all worked for Zenescope, right?

    I’ll meet you halfway Kurt – having devoured every single episode of Grimm myself, I’ll admit it has slightly deviated somewhat from the investigative procedural norm of Bigby Wolf and it has developed it’s own unique sense of mythology – but I’m NOT so forgiving on OUAT (and isn’t there a sequel series coming up spotlighting all the female characters? Yeah, way to go all FAIREST there, ABC) which is so cringeworthy to me, that I wince in pain every time I even so much glance at an episode (chopping off Gennifer Goodwin’s locks off is a crime in itself, being a big fan of her work on Big Love.) knowing that I’ve read this in a issue of Fables before.

    And if my memory serves me – BOTH Grimm and OUAT came into development after networks had passed on a pitch for a FABLES show – deeming it too expensive to produce – so here’s the next big thing.


  6. Heck, no. Fairy tale characters in the modern world predate Zenescope. TV and movies about them predate FABLES.

    And GRIMM is about a hereditary monster-hunter, not a wolf-man, who has a job with the human cops. The idea that its actionably close to the Big Bad Wolf acting as the sheriff of Fabletown is just silly. Solving crimes and hunting monsters among the creatures of folklore is, again, an idea that predates FABLES. Even the idea of Grimms as monster-hunters, which isn’t in FABLES, can be tracked to another source, if you’re determined to find antecedents. So there’s far more to link it to THE BROTHERS GRIMM, BUFFY and ANGEL (where significant parts of the show’s staff came from) and even shows like FOREVER KNIGHT before ascribing it all to FABLES.

    Fairy-tale-based books, movies and TV have been proliferating, dating back to the 1980s (and with predecessors before that) and FABLES is a great example of it, but not the sole taproot of it all. These characters and ideas are in the public domain, which is why so many people can use them when they catch the public fancy, from Charles de Lint and Terri Windling to Terry Gilliam to Mercedes Lackey to Bill to the creators of GRIMM and ONCE. And Zenescope, apparently; I’ve never looked beyond the covers.

    And even if people look at what Bill and crew gave done and think, hey cool, let’s us do something with fairy tales too, whether it’s SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN or HANSEL AND GRETEL or whatever, that’s legal — this stuff is public domain. That’s why Bill could use them, that’s why others, before and since, can use them too. If the Big Bad Wolf falls for Snow White in one of these things, if they invade the fairy tale land to wrest them from a dictator — heck, if Cinderella turns super spy, then those would be examples of people lifting from FABLES. Using a bunch of fairy tale or folklore characters in the modern day simply isn’t, not by itself. And a hereditary monster-hunter with a job as a homicide detective is hardly the same thing as the Big Bad Wolf being sheriff of a community of legends in exile.

    But feel free to check out what Bill’s said on the subject before you continue to insist he’s been plagiarized, much as Neil has long debunked any notion that Harry Potter was swiped from him.

    You see loose similarities and conclude theft. But that’s not how it works — whether the similarities come from sources common to both, or even are a sign of one work inspiring another, you’d need things to be much more direct and much more specific before you’d be able to creditably call it plagiarism, or win a lawsuit. And what with all the other material, from fairy tale mash ups like SHREK to fairy tales in the modern world like THE CHARMINGS and whatever that movie was with the same idea to urban fantasy stories about folklore creatures among us to fairy tale updates like JACK OF KINROWAN and the Elemental Masters books and on and on, this is a rich and fertile vein of storytelling, not something FABLES is the sole source of.

    I mean, how could former BUFFY writers come up with a show about a hereditary monster hunter fighting creatures in a modern setting if they didn’t get it from Bill? Surely they’d never seen anything like it before. Or writers who worked on LOST; could they have come up with the concept of people trapped in a strange and unsettling place hat boring secrets, trying to solve the dilemma as recurring flashbacks flesh out their past lives and relationships? They couldn’t have gotten that from anywhere but FABLES, just as Disney had no history with fairy tale characters they’d have an interest in cross-promoting.

    Pardon the mild sarcasm. But there’s just no there there — at most you’ve got “This is similar so they must have stolen it” but every point of similarity can be traced to other sources just as easily (and many far more easily).

    Yeah, they’re in the same general territory, in varying ways. But that territory was there before Bill got there, and it’s free to all to play with it. He got to, and others get to as well.

  7. There are three principles that one needs to keep in mind in matters like this: 1) Ideas are not protected by copyright. 2) Copyright does not protect ideas. 3) Copyright leaves ideas unprotected.

    Ideas get “ripped off” all the time. Or different people get the same idea from the same sources. At any given moment there are at least two conceptually-identical movies filming in Hollywood. But even if you can draw a connection showing that A got the idea from B … see points 1 thru 3, above.

  8. OTOH I know of at least one indie comic with a fairly distinctive plot that got inquiries from a production company and got turned down. There is now a TV show with the exact same gimmick airing from the same production company right this minute.

    And Fables was in development at ABC and now Once Upon a Time airs on….ABC.

    Are these actionable? No. As Kurt says, the fairy tales in the modern world idea is a trope in urban fantasy. And as for the other…well how many comcis writers have been inspired by an existing film or movie to tell a revised version of the theme?

    It happens. The way to survive is to have os many good ideas that one getting “borrowed” doesn’t hurt you.

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