Today, I come offering an apology to Optimistic Chad. In his post, Why I Don’t Watch Storybook Shows On Network TV, Chad argued that NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon A Time “borrowed” elements from Vertigo Comics‘ FABLES. I had not read FABLES, so I still argues (and I still do), that Grimm is a better show, because it dealt with racial identity and justice ideas (something progressive and race in the horror genre): see Why Grimm is Better than OUAT. Chad remains correct in his points, but Grimm has its own world and has more elements and tropes found in Joss Whedon‘s ANGEL (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off)– this has to do more with David Greenwalt, one of the producers of the show working on Angel as well: see my first post on GRIMM’s similarities with ANGEL.
I also want to offer Chad a huge gratitude of thanks, because for my Blerdieth Birthday, well over a month ago, the Optimist bought me the first 3 volumes of FABLES, and I am sooooo glad he did. It is one of the best comics I have ever read. There are so very few differences between FABLES and ONCE, I would almost say Once is a copyright violation if it wasn’t so wonderbread and tamed compared to FABLES.
Let’s start off with the frightening similarities. FABLES is a comic where the characters from our favorite fairytales have been exiled into this world. Those characters call themselves Fables, and regular humans are referred to as Mundies (those who live mundane lives). The correlation between living in exile (the margins), assimilation, and racial identity are fairly obvious. This became clear to me when one character ________________ joins the Confederate army during the Civil War in one of the first`volumes.
In FABLES, the political leader (officially) is old King Cole the Mayor of Fabletown, but he’s never around, so his deputy mayor, Snow White takes care of all of the Fables and their business. Now, she is not exactly an antagonist, but she certainly is not the most popular Fable in Fabletown. Her actions, including marginalizing Fables who do not look like Mundies to The Farm somewhere in upstate New York does not win her any friends. She’s tough, she has to make tough decisions, and she is surrounded by a number of cronies such as Bigby the Big Bad Wolf gone all reformed and nice, as well as Little Boy Blue) to do her bidding.
In ONCE, storybook characters have been placed in exile by a spell. The antagonist is the Evil Queen, Mayor Regina who is surrounded by cronies like Sidney, the Uncle Tom Man In the Mirror, the Mad Hatter, as well as the former sheriff, The Huntsman. Regina marginalizes other fairytale characters by placing them in a secret jail, persons such as Belle. The premise behind OUaT, having had whitewashed the central idea behind FABLES, is that everyone find true love. So much like Doctor Who, Supernatural (SPN), and other shows, the family is affirmed, and loneliness is viewed as some cold isolation. The disappointing thing about ONCE when it comes to race is that one of its key writers Jane Espenson has even lamented over the fact that not enough people of color are represented in the science fiction/fantasy genre, see Espenson’s introduction to Leigh Adams Wright’s essay “Asian Objects In Space” in Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
The wardrobe choices for Regina and Ruby of Once are very similar to those from FABLES’ panels, of Snow White and Molly Greenbaum of Fables. Molly is only a Mundy though, and not a werewolf like Once’s Ruby, but the fashion choices are so much alike, down to the waitress uniform, there is no way one could deny that ONCE is at inspired by FABLES. There is nothing wrong with said inspiration, but they need to give credit where credit is due, to Bill Willingham and his team.
As for now, I’ll still watch ONCE, but it’s no longer gonna record on my DVR.
I’m hoping to read even more FABLES though.