This Is Where I Try to Convince a Network to Adapt ‘Fables’


It seems like nowadays we only ever see comic book adaptations.

The highest-grossing movie of all time, Avengers: Endgame, is a superhero movie featuring every superhero we’ve been subjected to in the past decade except for those dark, gritty DC ones.

On TV, we face a true smattering of superheroes, including Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Black Lightning, Titans, Young Justice, and more. And that’s just from one company and studio.

Outside of DC and Marvel and their massive exploits this past decade (well, Marvel especially), non-Big Two studios have had their own successes. Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Vertigo’s The Boys is such a hit that people are even forgetting how trash of a company Amazon is.

Meanwhile, FOX cancelled Lucifer, before Netflix brought it back for a final season, before announcing its end, before then renewing it for a whopping sixth season. All because Tom Ellis is sexy as hell and his abs make us forget about the problems of the world for a bit.

And next year promises to deliver us the long-awaited TV adaptation of Vertigo’s Y: The Last Man, from Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, on FX. Yes, it’s finally happening – after over a decade of development hell, we’re finally going to get to see Yorick Brown and Ampersand on the small screen, presumably sandwiched between Atlanta and the billionth season of Archer.

All this to say, it’s been a great few years to be a comic book fan who loves seeing his favorite series adapted to something other than blockbuster movies. However, there’s been one notable comic book missing from this love.

I speak, of course, of Bill Willingham’s Fables.

Fables, which was originally published through Vertigo Comics from 2002 to 2015, is one of the most legendary non-superhero comics in history.

It follows the classic characters of fairy tales – from Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood to Prince Charming and the Big Bad Wolf – who flee their mythical homes to escape a savage villain named the Adversary. They move, of course, to the Upper West Side of New York City.

Taking place centuries after their arrival and near-total assimilation into the fabric of Manhattan, Fables tells stories involving some or all of the characters, from small one-off romantic flings and comedic tales to longstanding epics.

It’s a series filled with so much heart, humor, and wit that it’s impossible to resist.

And with DC Comics now finally – finally – publishing larger collected editions of the series, from a gorgeous Absolute Edition collecting the first thirty issues to a wonky, oversized compendium collecting the first fifty, it may finally be time to consider adaptation.

After all, the series is hot right now, hotter than it’s been in a good solid decade. Why not capitalize?

If the above premise sounds familiar to some avid TV watchers, there may be a reason why. While Fables has never been adapted, ABC did air a crummy seven-season show that aired for the better part of the 2010s.

Yes, Once Upon a Time, a mediocre show starring the never-mediocre Jennifer Morrison, definitely featured many of the same plot points as Fables, the largest difference just being a move to Maine rather than staying in Manhattan.

Worst part of it is? ABC premiered Once Upon a Time like three years after it had originally greenlit an adaptation of Fables, in the late 2000s. So the show was probably picked up, stripped for parts, then put back down so ABC could claim original concept.

If it sounds like I’m reaching, just remember: after much prodding, the show’s creators did admit to having read a few issues of Fables here and there. Not that it matters much to comic creator Bill Willingham, who replied that it didn’t much matter to him.

So, you might be thinking, if there’s always Once Upon a Time, then why do you need an exact translation of Fables to the screen? Is the comic not enough?

Well, listen. While Bill Willingham’s scripts to Fables are near-untouchable (at least for the first half of the series), and Mark Buckingham’s pencils tight and flawless, the series has been gone for five years now.

And if we’re being honest, we can acknowledge that in the series of 150 issues (which for comics is absolutely insane, when most creator-owned series last like thirty to forty issues tops) there are seventy-five wonderful ones followed by seventy-five less-innovative ones.

So there are still stories to tell in this universe. Telltale Games demonstrated this in 2013, when they put out their serial storytelling smash hit The Wolf Among Us, starring series favorite Bigby Wolf.

A self-contained story, The Wolf Among Us was a treat to fans both new and old alike, as we played as everyone’s favorite wolf detective.

It was a hot burst of energy, both for the now-defunct Telltale Games and for the original series to boot, but it also brought a fresh and interesting perspective to the premise.

And this is what a television adaptation can do. Fables is one of the richest, most well-developed worlds in comics, a virtual goldmine that would write itself due to its episodic, short anthologized storytelling format.

I get that Marvel and DC adaptations are popular, because since 2008 superheroes have been hot as hell. But television networks have a chance to change the game completely here.

As a Vertigo property, like The Boys or Y: The Last Man, a Fables adaptation would be much cheaper to license. It’d be free from the larger editorial oversight of a Disney or Warner Bros., who are trying to incorporate all media into their larger visions for their biggest characters.

And you’ve got yourself a whole storyboard laid out for you already, over a hundred and fifty issues worth.

No, while it’s good to see many independent and creator-owned comics get their hay-day currently, it’s time we all gave Fables the flowers it so clearly deserves and bring it to the small screen (since a movie adaptation would be crazy stupid).

Don’t let the world lose out on TV Bigby Wolf, world. Please don’t.

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