Willingham: "Fables" Pilot a Surprise

"Fables," one of the most celebrated and beloved comic books of the past decade, is moving closer than ever to finding a home on network television.

The Hollywood Reporter first announced Monday that ABC, no stranger to genre/fantasy adventures, having produced breakout hits over the years like "The Outer Limits," "Batman," "The Invaders" and "Lost," had granted the DC/Vertigo title a pilot commitment for the upcoming season.

Created by writer-artist Bill Willingham and illustrated by primarily by Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha with covers by James Jean, "Fables" has garnered an incredible 14 Eisner awards since its debt in 2002. Willingham's wondrous stories feature hundreds of classic fairy tale characters (all in the public domain) living in a pseudo-society called Fabletown, which itself is magically weaved between the fabric of modern day New York City.

In Willingham's world, Snow White is divorced from Prince Charming; Old King Cole was the long-time mayor; and the Big Bad Wolf brings new meaning to the term alpha male in sheep's clothing.

The title has already generated 11 top-selling trade paperbacks in the last five years, and yet when the American Broadcasting Corporation assembled its team to bring Willingham's stories to television, the real-life mayor of Fabletown was left off the agenda.

In an exclusive first interview since the pilot was announced, Bill Willingham told CBR News that he knew DC Comics had signed a deal, but he was unaware of any specifics and to date, and is in no way involved with the televised "Fables" project.

"I was told some time ago that a deal had been made and [I was] asked to keep mum about it. That has been the sum total of my involvement in the project so far," said Willingham. "The news that the pilot has been announced did come as a surprise to me."

Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner, the duo who penned the Jennifer Garner-starring "Elektra" and have been tapped to write a screenplay for "Deathlok," are scripting the "Fables" pilot. David Semel, whose credits include "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "House" and the pilot for "Heroes," will direct.

"I'm not involved with the TV series," explained Willingham. "I've had nothing to do with the pilot screenplay that I understand has already been produced and accepted. I've not been consulted on the pilot. There have yet to be discussions on whether or not I'll be involved in any series that comes from this."

Willingham also confirmed that none of his "Fables" collaborators - artist Mark Buckingham, cover artist James Jean and spin-off title "Jack of Fables" co-writer Matthew Sturges - are involved either.

The writer admitted that because he has not been involved in talks with ABC, he hadn't heard about Zicherman, Metzner or Semel until Monday morning. As to which direction the creative team was heading, Willingham has no idea.

"They have not clued me into what their plans are. I've had no conversations with them," said Willingham.

Apologizing for sounding like a broken record, Willingham further stated that he was unaware whether or not the anthropomorphic characters of the series like the Three Little Pigs would be live-action, computer generated imagery or left out all together, or whether the proposed series would follow his storylines and arcs strictly, or who would be considered for roles; relative unknowns or veteran actors.

This is the second time a major player has attempted to bring "Fables" to network television. In 2005, NBC looked at the property for possible inclusion in its 2006-07 schedule, which is the same lineup that eventually produced "Heroes."

"Fables" #79 goes on sale this week from Vertigo.

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