Once Upon a Grimm Fable: How One Comic Influenced TWO TV Shows

Comic fans will tell you that ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and NBC’s “Grimm” are both based off of one comic, Fables. Though neither show directly resembles the book itself, the simple fact that ABC was trying to make a Fables TV show for years and then suddenly releases “Once Upon A Time” can’t be a simple coincidence. Out of the two shows, I must admit though I am a bigger fan of Once… than I am of Grimm, maybe because it is closer in it’s story to Fables than Grimm is. For those of you who haven’t read the book or seen the shows, here’s a quick background for you so you too can see how they all interwine and relate to one another.


FABLES is a comic book written by Bill Willingham that has been published by Vertigo (A DC imprint for more mature readers) since 2002 and as of November was on Issue #110, not including the Jack of Fables spin-off series, the Cinderella miniseries and the 1000 Nights of Snowfall miniseries. Oh, or the novel “Peter & Max” which also takes place in the Fables Universe. The story is that every fairy tale you’ve ever heard is true, except each one takes place in separate worlds. When those worlds are threatened by a powerful and evil enemy known as The Adversary, the characters we all know flee their homeworlds and come to the one place the Adversary would never look, a place completely void of any magic, our world. Here they’ve been hiding for hundreds of years in what would become New York City and after realizing their stories have become tales in our world, they take to calling themselves Fables.


GRIMM takes place in Portland, Oregon and follows detective Nick Burkhardt who finds out he is the last of the “Grimms” and is destined to fight off the evil characters from the Grimm Fairy tales that aren’t actually fairy tales at all! Personally, the show has few ties to Fables but you can’t help but notice small similarities. While the story may be different you can see certain characters drawing on the personalities of some Fables characters. Nick Burhardt especially seems to take certain hints from Bigby Wolf, at least later in the series when Bigby was more “Settled down.”


ONCE UPON A TIME…is essentially Fables re-tooled to be different, but the same. When the Evil Witch from Snow White casts a spell as her final revenge, she sends every fairy tale character from their world to ours. They inhabit a small town where time stands still called Storybrook, Maine. Not only are they stuck there in time, but they don’t know who they really are, what’s going on, or that anything stranger is happening. Until Snow White’s long lost daughter, Emma Swan (played by Jennifer Morrison), is brought to Storybrook by the son she’d given up when he was only a baby. Henry Mills is now the adoptive son of the Evil Witch/Mayor of Storybrook and seems to be the only one who knows what’s going on.

Maybe I enjoy Once Upon A Time so much because it is so similar to Fables but is different enough that I don’t judge it so harshly, or maybe it’s just because Disney owns ABC (or is it vice versa?) so every character is there, even from the more conventional Disney versions like the appearance of “Malificent.” Grimm from the get go seemed to be struggling, like they already knew that eventually they’d run out of story ideas. Once Upon A Time almost has a “LOST” sense in that the story can keep going in different directions for seasons to come.Though that may be because the shows creators were on the writing staff for LOST. Either way, whether you like both, or none of the shows, you can’t deny the obvious ties to the long running comic book. Snow White, The Big Bad Wolf, Witches, Monthers, Trolls and a little wooden boy continue to be engraved in the hearts and minds of the American Population!


PETER consistently rereads Fables from the beginning and never gets tired of it. So take that to heart when you watch Once Upon A Time!

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