Since the strip first appeared in 1930 (only two years after Steamboat Willie was released), the Company has been enmeshed in the world of strips and books. With its appearing in books released by various publishers over the decades, Disney has never stopped publishing and/or signing off on comics that feature its intellectual property – and that’s even before Disney purchased Marvel Comics in 2009!
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With almost a century’s worth of books, both in the United States and internationally. a full history of is beyond the scope of any article. But a somewhat rarer phenomenon has been related to Disney Parks. Here, then, is a brief – and, even in this smaller subset of comics, necessarily incomplete – look at the history of , loosely divided into four distinct (and overlapping) phases.
Phase 1: Mickey and friends visit the Parks
For about 70 years, fans seeking out Disney Parks books would find the pickings quite scarce. All that was available were stories in the lines starring Disney’s – especially Mickey, Donald, and – that featured the visiting the Parks or telling stories inspired by the Parks’ lands and attractions.
Over time there were quite a few of these special issues and stories, but some of the key ones include:
- in Disneyland (1955) – Possibly the first , released by long-time publisher Dell, in Disneyland set the template for books about the Parks in the decades to come. We see Disney – in this case specifically and his nephews – visit the parks and have a of adventures themed to or inspired by each land. Sometimes this occurs in the Park itself (where the attractions, without any explanation, come to life), and sometimes they’re just stories that the tell because they’re reminded of an adventure by something they see in the Park. Other Dell Publishing comics to follow in this style include 1957’s Goes to Disneyland (1957) and 1958’s Donald and Mickey in Disneyland.
- Vacation in Disneyland (1958) – Another one-shot from Dell, this issue has the Disney gang watching the “home movies” taken on a recent trip to Disneyland. However, this is just a framing sequence for a of stories themed to the various lands of Disneyland, but not specifically set within them or referencing any of the attractions.
- Disneyland Birthday Party (1958) – Yet another Dell one-shot, this celebration of Disneyland’s third birthday tells a Disney in situations themed to the different lands. of unrelated stories (brought together by a framing story of Mickey leading a tour of the Park) that either feature from Disneyland rides or
- Digest #32 (1971) – This special issue of the ongoing Gold Key featured a framing story of Mickey and friends visiting the newly opened , leading to individual stories set within and/or inspired by the individual lands of the . Not only did the issue revisit the format of the one-shots, it even repurposed some of the earlier stories (set now at WDW rather than Disneyland)!
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Phase 2: Attraction-based comics
As the Parks’ attractions became a greater part of the public consciousness, Disney saw the opportunity to publish books based specifically on some of the most popular (or in one case, the most synergistic) experiences.
Released rather scattershot over the years, from various publishers, these comics included:
- Mickey and Goofy Explore the Universe of Energy (1985) – This free given away at EPCOT’s Universe of Energy attraction featured Mickey and Goofy going on the ride in order to learn more about the history of energy . . . and about corporate sponsor Exxon’s place at the forefront of energy innovation, of course.
- The (2005) – Slave Labor Graphics published this anthology of stories based on the many ghosts in the infamous mansion, along with an ongoing story about the life (and death) of its owner, Master Gracey, which even tied into Pirates of the Caribbean!
- (2014) – This original all-ages science fiction graphic novel published by Disney Press, was set on and around a space station called, of course, . Two planned sequels – Return to and Battle for – never actually materialized.
- The : Frights of Fancy (2020) – Released from publisher IDW, this slim graphic novel was the third , after the Slave Labor Graphics (described above) and the Marvel Disney Kingdoms (described below). The most family-friendly of the three , it focused on the silliness of the rather than the frightening aspects, following a girl who is the newest resident to the mansion (the story wisely avoided focusing on her death) and looking to make some improvements to it.
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Phase 3: Disney Kingdoms
After Disney purchased Marvel Comics, the publisher became the primary home for Disney Parks books (though, interestingly, Disney continued to license out the rights for comics based on its to other publishers). These took the form of an imprint called “Disney Kingdoms,” focusing on five-issue miniseries based on or inspired by specific attractions.
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Here’s a brief list of all the Disney Kingdoms releases:
- Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird (2014) – The first Disney Kingdoms release wasn’t based on an actual attraction, but rather one that was never actually built – the Museum of the Weird, a walkthrough intended to be a companion to the !
- Disney Kingdoms: Figment (2014) & Disney Kingdoms: Figment 2 (2015) – The most popular Disney Kingdoms release (so popular it spawned a sequel!) told a reimagined, steampunk-driven origin story for Figment and the Dreamfinder, taking them from Edwardian London in the first to the present day in the second.
- Disney Kingdoms: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (2015) – A story starring the plucky teenage daughter of the Big Thunder Mining Company’s owner, building up to – of course – a runaway train ride.
- Disney Kingdoms: The (2016) – Yet another imagining of the story, this one focused on a young man drawn into the storied mansion, where he encountered all the abode’s most famous spooks and spirits.
- Disney Kingdoms: (2016) – More of an anthology than a focused storyline like the other Disney Kingdoms releases, this placed the world-famous Tiki Room on an enchanted tropical island and explored the backstage antics of the four central macaws as well as their impact on a variety of guests to the island.
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Phase 4: Marvel and Star Wars Tie-Ins
In the years since Disney purchased both Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm/Star Wars, several attractions have popped up featuring and locations from these popular franchises. Naturally, Marvel has published tie-in comics to these attractions.
In order of their release, these Marvel and Star Wars tie-ins are:
- Summer of Heroes (2017) – This one-shot Disney , featuring Nick Fury working together with all the MCU heroes to face an alien threat. was a free giveaway only available at
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout (2017) – A one-issue adaptation of DCA’s Mission: Breakout, the first U.S. Disney attraction to star Marvel !
- : Hong Kong Heroes (2018) – A one-issue (loose) adaptation of Hong Kong Disneyland’s the Experience, the first Disney attraction anywhere to star Marvel !
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (2019) – A five-issue set in and providing the backstory of the First Order’s arrival on Batuu.
- W.E.B. of Spider-Man (2021) – This mini-. With room to breathe over five issues, this explored the story and relationships of the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (WEB) seen briefly in the attraction’s pre-show. loosely adapts the story of WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, the first attraction at DCA’s
- Star Wars: (2022) – A five-issue miniseries set aboard the Halcyon, the titular ship from experience.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: (2022) – This one-shot introduced the “big bad” featured on Guardians of the Galaxy: , as well as exploring why Xandar would want to create a pavilion on Earth in the first place.
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What does the future hold for Disney Parks books? With the Disney Kingdoms line seemingly defunct, it appears that only time will tell. If this history serves as a precedent, though, in one form or another we’re certain to see many more adventures either set in or based on our favorite Parks, lands, and attractions!