FABLES Finally Going Live-Action?

Writer-artist Bill Willingham's Eisner award-winning comic series Fables is getting a second shot at TV with a pilot episode greenlit by ABC. The creator is understandably cautious in his optimism.
He'd known for some time that DC Comics, who owns Fables publisher Vertigo, had made a deal with ABC for a pilot commitment in the upcoming season. But The Hollywood Reporter's Monday announcement took Willingham by surprise.

"[The] story took everyone at DC by surprise as well," he told Newsarama's VANETA ROGERS. He hasn't been directly involved with the project -- nor have comics co-writer Matthew Sturges or artists Mark Buckingham and James Jean -- and he was ignorant of the show's producers until he woke up Monday.

Veteran TV helmer David Semel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will direct from a script by Six Degrees creators/executive producers Stu Zicherman & Raven Metzner. The two "lifelong comic book fans," who also penned Jennifer Garner's disastrous Elektra feature, said they fell in love with Fables when it greeted the world in 2002.

Willingham's most beloved project centers around a secret community in NYC called Fabletown, home to an astonishing number of classic (public domain) fairy tale characters who fled their own worlds -- the "Homelands" -- to escape the mysterious conqueror known as The Adversary. Vertigo has put out 11 best-selling trade paperback collections of the series, which has earned 14 Eisner awards and the devotion of countless fans.

ABC's effort actually is the second attempt to bring Fables to the small screen. In 2005, NBC considered including a version written by Craig Silverstein in its 2006-07 season, but "that didn't go any further than the pilot screenplay," recalled Willingham, who thinks the new script will make it before the cameras. However, he's "cautiously optimistic" because "it takes a thousand stages to greenlight a production, and any one of them can bring the process to a screeching halt."

Willingham was aware that several drafts of the Zicherman-Metzner script had traveled the halls of DC Comics and Warner Bros and gotten story notes. Then, DC Creative Exec Ivan Cohen mentioned that the latest version looked "really good," so, after Monday's bombshell announcement, Willingham asked him "OK, when do I see a copy of the script?"

As of his Newsarama interview, the Fables creator still had not seen the screenplay. But he was told by Zicherman and Metzner that it draws upon Willingham's first storyarc: Fabletown Sheriff Bigby "Big Bad" Wolf's investigation into the apparent murder of Snow White's sister Rose Red.

Among the concerns of NewsOK.com's SADIE MATTOX is how the TV version will handle the anthropomorphic animal fables who live at the secluded Fabletown annex known as The Farm. "In the second volume [of the comic series], they attempt a rather bloody coup. It will be hard to take this to real life without making it look like Babe meets Rob Zombie."

Willingham doesn't know if those characters will be computer-generated, live-action (?!) or absent all-together. But the hurdle of adapting talking animals to a live-action production without looking silly brings up another of Mattox's concerns: the atmosphere.

"Fables is, at its heart, a story about war and loss," she wrote. "There's lots of humor...but most of the original series is covered in a sense of fear. How do you...have Snow White fall in love with the Big Bad Wolf without going all Lois & Clark?"

Her third problem concerns the sheer number of characters integral to the storyline. Semel directed the pilot episode of Heroes, a show of broad scope that's been criticized for having too many characters to develop them all sufficiently. (Another ironic connection: Heroes made it onto the same seasonal schedule for which NBC originally had considered Fables.)

Surprisingly, the father of the series is taking such issues in stride, reminding anxious fans that "the Fables comic book will always be the official Fables story. [Even] if this is the greatest epic ever put on the small screen, it's still going to be the comics first."

[Thanks to CASEY SEIJAS of MTV Splashpage.]
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