Lately there’s been a three-pronged attack of Fairy Tales hitting me all at once – Grimm and Once Upon A Time on TV, and me cleaning out my comic store box and finding a pile of Fables comics to catch up on. I’ve always been a fan of variations on these fine tales from the Disney to the disturbing, so it’s interesting to be simultaneously ingesting three different takes on similar material. I know which my favorites are, but I find all of them fascinating none the less.
GRIMM – Set in Portland and penned by ex-Buffy/Angel writers, I couldn’t see anything wrong with diving right in to this series. It was pretty gruesome (as promised, I guess) from the start and features a lot of faces-changing-randomly-into-monsters. Our main hero, Nick Burkhard, is a cop squared – a police detective as well as a “Grimm” – a hunter of all the creepy creatures of the fairy tale world. Grimm is familiar monster-of-the-week territory, with each murder case bringing up a new creature and history along with it. There are big bad wolves, three little pigs, rat people, snake people, etc. One of the things that takes some getting used to is the terms they use to describe the creatures they encounter – Blutbards and Lausenschlange and such. It took me a couple of episodes before I was into it and then looked forward to repeatingly barking out each term after them. I’ve found a special place in my heart for Monroe, Nick’s reluctant Blutbard friend who’s learned how to control his vicious instincts. Instead, he wears sweaters, keeps his house tidy, and sits around drinking wine and listening to music all day. I’m a sucker for a werewolf-esque creature who craves the finer things and just wants to be left alone. I also find it amusing that every episode Nick gives his partner Russell the boring job (“Why don’t you get started on that paperwork and I’ll go check out this dude’s house”) and Russell falls for it every time. “Sure, I’ll stay on hold with the insurance company while you embark on an exciting shootout with our #1 suspect.” I’m still waiting for them to give Nick’s girlfriend Juliette something to do besides looking worried, but I have faith that they’ll eventually come around to realizing she’s a character on the show, too.
ONCE UPON A TIME – Originally, I didn’t know what to think of this show or it’s wacky premise. A town full of fairy tale characters, doomed to live in the modern world, with no idea of who they were. -Okay, I can get behind that. A main character, Emma, who’s the adult daughter of one of the fairy tale characters, whose son has been adopted by the Evil Queen and lures her to come live in the town? Nope, you lost me. Gradually, though, the show started to reel me in when it started to focus on the flashbacks of the town residents. I like contrasting the Cinderella we’re familiar with with her modern counterpart – a waitress knocked up by her secret, wealthy boyfriend. Or the star-crossed Snow White and Prince Charming, who were TOTALLY made for each other in the past but now can’t even navigate a date. One of my favorite episodes offered a few glimpses of the world below, proving that they weren’t just whisked into the modern age – they were plunked right down on top of it. I still get confused by who knows their true identity and who doesn’t ( too many characters just wander around looking suspicious 24/7), but I’m willing to stick it out and see what happens. I do wish that they’d stop giving away ALL the show’s secrets already, though. It’s almost as if the writers have no confidence that it will be around for a couple of seasons. In one episode, they’ll delve into a character, reveal their entire backstory, and then kill them off. Wait – we just met that guy! Couldn’t we have let him linger just a bit, it could’ve been interesting! Maybe, since it’s from a couple Lost writers, they wanted to barrage their audience with answers before they started complaining that there were too many mysteries (which – for the record – I LOVED about Lost. That’s right, I thought it was just the right amount of secrets. There. I said it.).
FABLES – Fables is the much much beloved comic book series put out by Vertigo, penned by Bill Willingham and drawn mostly by Mark Buckingham. Naturally, a lot of comparisons between Fables and Once Upon A Time have sprung up, especially considering ABC bought the rights to Fables back in 2008. Recently I caught up on the massive backlog of comics I had and was impressed over and over again by how amazing it is. Willingham has created a massive, complicated world for oodles of fables characters (not just a princess here and a frog there) to bump around in. There are battles for survival, struggles with identity, and showdowns galore. I’m especially impressed by what he’s done with the princesses – Snow White’s strength, Cinderella’s guile, Sleeping Beauty’s nuclear weapon – and the witches, ranging from the terrifying (Baba Yaga) to the downright badass (Bellflower). It’s rare that you get to see such depth wrenched out of beloved, but somewhat two-dimensional storybook characters. I would have much preferred to see Fables take the screen instead of Once, but I’m happy enough just having the comic book series in existence. I’ve long since gotten over thinking every book or comic book I enjoy should be made into a movie or TV show – the medium its already in is wonderful enough. And if the powerful one-two punch of amazing story and great art isn’t enough to reel you in – dear god, look at all the gorgeous covers that series has maintained over the years, done by James Jean and Joao Ruas.