Announced earlier this month, Disney Kingdoms: Seekers Of The Weird sees Marvel Comics dig deep into the Disney archives for the first of a series of Disney Parks’ related stories. The seekers in this series are two teens – Maxell and Melody – who find themselves the unexpected visitors to the strangest – and most dangerous – museum ever: The Museum of the Weird.
“Seekers of the Weird is based on a Disneyland attraction that never happened: The Museum of the Weird,” explains Brandon Seifert, who writes the series. “We're taking the ideas and designs that were going to be involved in the attraction and turning them into a fantasy adventure comic, sort of in a Harry Potter-meets-Indiana Jones kind of vein.”
Set to launch in January, the five-issue Seekers Of The Weird pairs Seifert with Avengers Arena and Loners artist Karl Moline. Accorinding to the writer, the series will feature strange monsters, stranger weapons and “all kinds of crazy stuff.”
“Our story is about two teenagers, Maxwell and Melody Keep. With the help of their strange uncle Roland, they have to brave the dangers of the Museum of the Weird, which is basically a repository for the most dangerous mystical artifacts on earth,” Seifert tells Newsarama. “The kids have seven days to find one artifact in particular. If they don't find it in time, there's going to be dire consequences. But if they do find it in time... the consequences may be even worse!”
Maxwell and Melody get into this unlikely adventure after working behind the counter at their family’s occult bookstore in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Seifert describes Maxwell as “brainy and kind of morbid,” leading him to enjoy this after-school job – but Melody, she’s another story.
“But Melody hates it,” the writer says bluntly. “She's on the lacrosse team and doesn't want anything to do with the strange stuff her family's into.”
Melody and Maxwell are forced to delve even deeper into “strange stuff” when their parents are kidnapped by an evil mystical force. If they don’t find a certain arcane artifact in seven days, they’ll never see their parents again.
“Fortunately the kids' black sheep uncle Roland shows up, who knows all about magic,” says Seifert. “Roland takes the kids to the Museum of the Weird and promises that he'll get the kids' parents back for them... but it doesn't exactly go as planned!”
Artist Karl Moline will illustrate the series, and described the Museum as “a cavernous, dark space” filled with all manner of exotic and interesting ephemera.
“The bones of monsters, and the artifacts of lost civilizations. I'm hoping the muse will swoop in when the time is right and help me find all the things that would have delighted me as a child,” Moline elaborates. “I think if I can make it fun and interesting for myself, it will be for the readers as well.”
The idea for the Museum of the Weird was first created back in the 1960s by Disney animator-turned-imagineer Rolly Crump for a planned expansion at the original Disneyland.
“Rolly Crump was one of the Imagineers who were designing the original Haunted Mansion at Disney. But Rolly wanted to go in a ‘weirder’ direction with the Mansion, and started coming up with all these really bizarre designs and effects and stuff,” the writer revealed. “He brought his designs to Walt Disney, apparently without a real sense of what they were or where they'd go at Disneyland. Walt Disney came up with the idea of having a "Museum of the Weird" full of Rolly's designs. The Museum was going to be incorporated into the Haunted Mansion. But Disney passed away before it could happen.”
After decades of being a whispered secret among Disney fans and artists like, fans can now visit the Museum of the Weird as part of Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird.
“To be honest I didn't become familiar with Mr. Crump until I started working on this project. I began to research his life and work, and found that many of the things that hooked my imagination as a child came from his artistry,” admits Moline. “Rolly's designs are being directly referenced into this book, and I'm making it a personal mission to be as faithful to his vision as I can. That being said, my style of drawing is nothing like his. He has a very beautiful and unique quality to his drawings that would be impossible to replicate, but I'm hoping that the end result will be recognizable as a fusion of both his and my work.”
Seifert says that Crump’s ideas such as the Candleman and the Mistress of Evil are “big elements” of the Seekers of the Weird story, and he and Moline plan to include all of Crump’s original ideas in the series in some shape or form. And in addition to going from these rarely-seen 1960s designs, the creators are working closely with current Disney Imagineers to make this quintessentially Disney.
“The Imagineers have been involved at every step of the way on the project, giving notes and offering suggestions and advice,” the writer explains. “One of the Imagineers, Brian Crosby, actually did concept art for the book's leads, and is doing a variant cover for Seekers of the Weird #1 with his design for Roland Keep, our sort of “Indiana Jones” figure. The Imagineers have been very involved — but they've also given us a lot of freedom to doing our respective things in the book. This whole project has been very collaborative, with really good ideas coming from the Imagineers, Bill, and from our series artist Karl Moline.”
The original idea for Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird came about in a chance conversation Marvel’s CCO Joe Quesada had with a group of Imagineers during a baseball game.
“It was a true “What If?” scenario that asked what would happen if the House of Ideas worked together with the Imagineers to create action-packed worlds around Disney’s greatest attractions,” says editor Bill Rosemann, who oversees this title and the line itself. “Fast forward a few years and that question – championed by Marvel’s #1 Disney fan, David Gabriel – has finally sprung to life in the pages of Seekers of the Weird #1!”
Planned as the first of a line of Disney Kingdoms comics based on Disney Parks’ attractions, Seekers of the Weird is just a sample of the variety of ideas waiting to be explored as comics according to Rosemann.
“Personally, I would love to lead readers on a dangerous and thrilling tour from Adventureland to Tomorrowland and all points in-between. Just imagine the Jungle Cruise, the Haunted Mansion or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad transformed into comics in the Mighty Marvel Manner!” Rosemann tells Newsarama. “What are the untold origins of these world-famous locations, and who are the heroes and villains that call them home? Find out in each installment of Disney Kingdoms!”