This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at comic books inspired by Disney attractions! Overshadowed by the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is easy to forget that when Disney purchased Marvel back in 2009 it became owner of the #1 comic book publisher. Now you’d think that comic books go hand in hand with the theme park demographic (who among us of a certain age will ever forget the Mickey and Goofy Explore the Universe of Energy comic that was given away at Epcot?), but it is still rare to see any comic books being offered at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Believe it or not many Disney comic books (including ones based on Frozen, The Incredibles, Big Hero 6, and even Mickey Mouse) are licensed out to other comic book companies despite Disney owning Marvel.
Thankfully over the past several years Disney has started to dip their toe in the pool of comic book/theme park synergy. The house of mouse has been releasing limited series based on some well-known theme park attractions. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorites, starting with…
# 6 – The Haunted Mansion
It is hard to think of a Disney attraction that is more well suited for a comic book than the Haunted Mansion. Despite what the horrible movie would lead you to believe, there are a lot of great stories to mine from the ride. There are also many memorable parts of the attraction, from the outdoor queue, to the pre-show, to the actual ride itself, that you can represent in the story. Our lead character of this particular story is Danny, and he encounters a whole bunch of things that theme park fans will recognize. There is a lot of fan service in the Haunted Mansion comic, and while I’m not sure how that would affect a reader who wasn’t a theme park fan, for people like us, it’s great. A while back we did an article on The Simpsons Going To Theme Parks, and how great it is seeing the parks we love being represented in a whole new way. I had that same sense of fun reading the Haunted Mansion comic and seeing so many elements from the attraction being represented on the page. From the stretching room to Madame Leota, this comic delivers on the promise of seeing The Haunted Mansion.
# 5 – Figment
Everyone’s favorite Epcot dragon Figment became the star of his own book in 2014 under a new Disney Kingdoms imprint at Marvel comics. A five issue limited series that was eventually collected into a single graphic novel, Figment eschewed the more “cartoony” style of previous Disney comic books and does a much more serious take. The comic reveals the backstory of Figment and another popular Epcot fan favorite – The Dreamfinder – in a fun story that thankfully was successful enough to spawn not only a second Figment series, but helped the Disney Kingdoms line continue on with other comics that you’re seeing on this list.
As a comics reader, I never understood why Disney wasn’t offering their comic books at the point of sale counters, much like you see Archie comics sold at supermarkets. They are relatively inexpensive, and something that might help develop reading, writing, and artistic skills. Personally, I think having kids read comic books like Figment rather than playing on their phone with a Play Disney Parks app has a much better chance of inspiring them to create their own art than just staring at a phone. The stories could take them on a . . . a journey into their imagination, let’s say.
# 4 – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
When the first issue of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was released in early 2015, it was exciting because this was the first time in decades that Disney had produced a comic book* based around a theme park attraction. Even better, the comic not only used the Barnabas T Bullion character that was added to the actual ride’s backstory in 2012, but the lead character of the comic is Bullion’s daughter Abigail. We are in an era of female empowerment, and it is nice to see a strong woman character featured in a Western tale.
I’m a sucker for Old West stories done right, whether on the screen in Deadwood or in the creative comic 1872 (which reimagined iconic Marvel characters such as Captain America, Iron Man, and the Kingpin in a whole new way). Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was a nice surprise. The artwork is solid, and the artist Tigh Walker does a good job on the action sequences. Big Thunder does exactly what I would want in an all-ages book based around a theme park attraction.
*There was a graphic novel made based on Space Mountain, but I was not a fan.
# 3 – Enchanted Tiki Room
Disney announced they were making a comic book based around the Enchanted Tiki Room in the summer of 2016. This came as a shocker to me personally, but I couldn’t have been happier hearing the news. A comic book based on one of my favorite attractions at the Magic Kingdom, and I only could have been more surprised if it was a series about the Peoplemover.
For this comic series, the world famous macaws and other birds that make up the Enchanted Tiki Room are just one part of a larger story. Set on a mysterious island in the Pacific, we are told that each week that a group of humans are flown to the island and end up having their lives changed forever by what they experience. If that sounds like the plot to a certain ’80s TV show, you’re not wrong (the issue even has a reference to it).
For theme park fans, the star of the show is of course the Enchanted Tiki Room itself along with the talkative macaws José, Fritz, Pierre, and Michael. We do get to see the Tiki Room in all its glory, and some fun interactions with the birds, but for the most part the issue is centered around the characters visiting the island. There are several “Easter Eggs” throughout the issue for Tiki Room fanatics like myself, and even an appearance by a certain Little Orange Bird from the nearby Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland.
# 2 – Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
When Disney announced its first Marvel attraction in California was going to be a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay on the Tower of Terror, I mocked the idea as much as anyone (actually maybe a little more than most). However, there has been almost unanimous belief that guest experience in Mission: Breakout! is a monumental leap in quality over the Tower Terror (keep in mind the Disneyland version of ToT
sucked wasn’t as good compared to ours in Florida). Having stated that, I am about to achieve something that is rarer than a Walt Disney World construction project being finished early. I’m going to perform a FIRST in the world of theme park blogging… admit I was wrong.
Not only did Disney create a half-hour animated special on GOTG: Mission Breakout!, the company also put out a special comic book on the attraction. The comic actually does a good job getting across the story of the Disney California Adventure attraction. The Collector is displaying his newest pieces, the Guardians of the Galaxy. Like the ride, our heroes escape thanks in large part to the actions of Rocket Raccoon. The actual attraction in California is filled with references to Disney attractions and Marvel movies, but unfortunately the comic book has absolutely none of that. Readers should also know that the GOTG characters in the comic book are in line with how they have been represented on the page for years, which is – visually speaking at least – slightly different than the versions we have grown to love as fans of the GOTG movies.
# 1 – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
When the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge comic book series was announced, I couldn’t wait. On a scale of 1-10, we’re all at an “11” waiting for this land to open, and as a comic book fan this was like the day chocolate met peanut butter, pepperoni met pizza, or Bob Chapek met an original idea (well, maybe not the last one). I’ve read comics based on theme park characters and theme park attractions, but this was going to be a comic based on an entire theme park land! Not only that, unlike the actual Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, this version would feature Star Wars characters such as Han Solo. I was all in.
And then the book arrived…
Opening up the book, I immediately had a moment straight out of A Christmas Story. Remember when Ralphie was using his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring to decipher a message only to discover it was an ad for Ovaltine? Well, check out the first first panel of this comic book.
Why is this robot holding what looks to be a hotdog in a taco shell? Because that’s an item Disney will be selling at Ronto Roasters, a quick-service location in Galaxy’s Edge.
You may be thinking, “okay Derek, but that’s just one panel. Maybe they just wanted a little fan service.” Okay, so let’s look at the next panel…
What in the blue blazes is “Meiloorun Juice?” Well, as luck would have it, that drink is offered in Galaxy’s Edge.
Honestly, at this point I was surprised the comic didn’t mention that mobile ordering was available.
Anyway, turns out that Galaxy’s Edge is only used as the “bookends” of the comic book, as the middle is a flashback sequence on a different planet featuring Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to obtain a baby sarlacc for Doc-Ondar (proprietor of a gift shop in Galaxy’s Edge the theme park land). It was still neat just seeing references to Black Spire Outpost and has me day dreaming of a comic series devoted to Adventureland, Pandora: The World of Avatar, or even a one-shot on Main Street USA.
I’m still looking forward to future issues of Galaxy’s Edge, and maybe we’ll do a special SATURDAY 6 once the series is completed looking back at our favorite moments (due to guest demand of course). All I can say is that there better be an appearance by DJ Rex or we’ll riot.
Honorable Mention – Iron Man: Hong Kong Heroes
Here’s how Marvel Comics billed Iron Man: Hong Kong Heroes # 1…
The Marvel Universe story of Disney’s newest & coolest ATTRACTION!
Here’s the thing though, while I’ve never been on the Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland, I have watched full videos on the attraction. I’ve read the full comic book. Having done both, I can say that I have absolutely no idea what this comic book has to do with the theme park attraction. A large part of the comic takes place in Hong Kong, so it does share that with the ride. The comic does reference Stark Expo, which is a component of the Marvel-themed land in Hong Kong Disneyland. Other than that, there’s not much the two have in common. As a comic book fan, I really loved the artwork as it appeared to be “painted” rather than just drawn. While it may have been overall the least interesting to me in terms of how it relates to a theme park attraction, visually it may have been the best.
Double Secret Honorable Mention: Disney California Adventure’s Summer of Heroes
In 2017, DCA had a “Summer of Heroes” event. There were special Marvel-related food and drink options (such as the awesome I am bread themed to Groot). The park debuted some new meet & greets (including Black Widow), had a kid-friendly show with Avengers Training Initiative, and had a fun “dance off” show featuring GOTG’s Starlord and Gamora. Guests could also go to a Hero Action Center and take an interactive quiz to discover which superhero they were most like (spoiler alert: for theme park bloggers the “hero” was Syndrome from The Incredibles). After the quiz, guests could get free Marvel superhero stickers and this Summer of Heroes comic book.
The book featured character profiles of several characters and a quick story featuring the Avengers teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to defeat a menace. It wasn’t much, but the book was a giveaway so you have to keep that in mind.
So there you have it: Six Comics Based on Disney Attractions! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!