By Tahlia Merrill Kirk
In case you haven’t heard–fairy tales are hot right now, and not just for kids either. Fans have flocked to TV shows such as Once Upon a Time and Grimm, and there’s been a steady stream of fairy tale movies such as Maleficent, Into the Woods, the live action Cinderella, and even the upcoming Pan (http://www.panmovie.com/) . Oh, and remember how a few years back, there were TWO Snow White movies released within months of each other?
But before all this hype started, there was a comic book series started in 2002 known as Fables. Everything we’re now used to seeing in fairy tale movies–especially the trend of throwing characters from multiple tales together–started with Bill Willingham’s creation.
After a long and successful run, the series is finally coming to an end this year, and since I consider myself something of a folklore connoisseur (I run a fairy tale/mythology retelling webzine), I figure it was high time I bought a copy of Fables. After being saturated in fairy tales for so long, would Fables have anything new that I hadn’t seen a hundred times already?
After reading Volume 1: Legends in Exile (http://www.amazon.com/Fables-Legends-Exile-Vol-1/dp/140123755X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432911158&sr=8-1&keywords=fables+comics), my reaction is mixed. On one hand, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about putting undercover folklore characters in a modern day city. Similarly, the premise of these characters’ lives being not so “happily ever after” has also been done to death. Annnnnd since I’ve pretty much seen every possible twist on the Big Bad Wolf already, having him show up as a scruffy hard-nosed detective was kinda meh for me. However, there were a few fresh concepts such as:
- While you are stuck with most of the famous/cliche characters (Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Prince Charming), there are plenty of not-done-to-death characters here too including Bluebeard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluebeard) , Rose Red (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow-White_and_Rose-Red) , Little Boy Blue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy_Blue) , and Old King Cole. Many of these aren’t from fairy tales, but from nursery rhymes and the broader field of folklore.
- The series doesn’t shy away from the non-human characters in folklore. Even though Bigby Wolf is able to shapeshift between wolf/human form, he’s the exception, not the rule. The Three Little Pigs, Puss in Boots, and anyone else whose appearance would not settle well with “mundanes”, are forced to live on a private farm. This leads to all sorts of possible plot points that I can’t wait to see explored.
- There’s an intriguing twist with the Fables’ system of government because, while they technically live in New York City and can’t get caught breaking our laws, they have their own mayor to follow. You see, before these characters came to the mundane world, many of them were murderers and thieves, but when everyone moved to NYC, they made a special Amnesty law which prohibits pre-migration crimes from being held against them. So everyone is supposed to be starting with a clean slate, but at the same time, everyone has a past.
So the bottom line is that the jury is still out on Fables. I’ll pick up the next volume when I can and see what direction it takes. Until then, if modernized edgy fairy tales are your thing, you’ll probably enjoy these, but otherwise, I doubt the first volume will be enough to really hook the average comic book fan.