CCI, Day 2: 75 Years Of Disney Comic Publishing

Steve Behling headed up a panel on the future of Disney's comic publishing arm Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. In attendance were many of Disney's creators. He spoke about how "Disney Adventures," a monthly magazine for kids, has "20 pages of comics," and spotlighted their monthly comic magazine "Comic Zone," from which four of the strip have been released as graphic novels: "Gorilla Gorilla," "Kid Gravity," "Tall Tales," and "Lilo & Stitch." He stressed that while they do comics based on Disney movie, they also do "home grown" comics like those seen in "Disney Adventures."

He then introduced the panel, and asked them to introduce the titles they're working on.

First up was Garry Black, who writes "Jetpack Pets." They're the "heroes of Sky City, the house pets of the people in office," he said. They fight "animal villains, just crazy villains. They try to resolve the mess that came to Sky City that the people in office can't manage all the time." Supporting characters include Professor Backfire, who is a scientist that provides them with gadgets, and the Jetpack Pals, the children fans of the Jetpack Pets. What's important to Black is to "try to have them save the day without violence."

Rich Geary writes "Society of Horrors," a series about three young monsters who "have ambition and pretenses to being very scary but they can't quite make it." There's Headless Headsman, who has no head of his own, so he uses basketballs, soccer balls, and a beachball for his head. Space Freak has three eyes and a wraparound mouth, and the top of his head comes off. Then there's Fish Boy, and "he's a fish boy." They never seem to scare anyone.

Art Balthazar is the creator of "Gorilla Gorilla, who is "a little gorilla who happens to become savior of the earth." He chases away an alien invasion, gets a cellphone and apartment, and all he has to do is answer when the president calls. His little lizard roommate is secretly the evil Lizard Lizard, his archenemy. They both can grow huge, but neither realizes the other is his archenemy. The aliens zap stuff, turning stuff into monsters.

John Green does "The Last Laugh" strip, a page of gags. Generally it's "just zany crazy things that mock stuff that kids would encounter daily." Teachers, authority, various different types of subjects that kids have interest in. No ongoing character involved, but there is some recurring stuff: aliens and pets, making fun of movies, music, pop culture, and Chewbacca.

Eric Jones and Landry Walker create the strip "Kid Gravity." He attends the Hawking School of Astronautics and Astrophysics. There are no adult teachers, the kids are taught by robots and television. Gravity is good at heart and studies to be a space hero, but "he's not real sharp." He's constantly trying to save the universe, but he never does so by his own doing, "he bungles into it." His arch-nemesis is Kid Apocalypse, who is studying to be a space villan. "They're enemies, but they end up hanging out a lot." Another strip they created is called "Little Gloomy," about a little girl who lives in a world populated by classic movie monsters. One monster always tries to kill her, much to her irritation.

Jones and Walker are also working on "Tron," a comic book based on the 80's movie. The comic "follows the storyline of the film, 25 years later." It's a "what is reality" story. How you are actually interpreting what's happening to you, "when you're wandering around a computer, you're not really wandering around inside the computer." You're interacting with programs. "When he starts to break down mentally, so does his reality." The title is being published in conjunction with Slave Labor Graphics. The first issue out now, the second issue hits next month, and the series will be "roughly six issues."

Another Slave Labor Graphics project is "The Haunted Mansion," which is a take on the Disneyland version of the ride. Right now, they're throwing around ideas for what the stories of all the characters are, such as the ghosts who hitch a ride out with you. Dan Vado, the owner of Slave Labor Graphics, "is doing an origin for the mansion itself."

Other upcoming titles:

  • "Wonderland" – a hybrid of Disney's and Lewis Carroll's, written by Tommy Kovacs. Alice does not appear, instead, the main character is Mary Anne. In Carroll's original novel, everyone mistakes Alice for Mary Anne, "and now we find out who she is."
  • "Gargoyles," based on the Disney show from way back in 1994, the comic picks up right where the television show left off.
  • A joint publishing deal with Dark Horse comics, "Gremlins" was a concept created by Walt Disney and Roald Dahl. It was lost to everyone, in the archives, and Dark Horse brought it back. They will be publishing a facsimile of the original book, comics, and sculpts.
  • Tokyopop will continue to publish Cine-manga, "screengrabs from our films and cartoons," where they "stick word balloons in there and make comics." Tokyopop will also publish "Princess Kilala," about three teens who find themselves in the world of Disney princesses. It is similar to the videogame "Kingdom Hearts," for an older, adolescent audience.

"We produce a lot of comics based on Disney standard characters. In most, we try to achieve a good mix of classic stories as well as more modern, contemporary stories." These include classic "Duck Stories" by Carl Barks, and "Mouse Stories" by the classic creators form the 40s and 50s. Also, stories by Don Rosa, William Van Horn, Shelly Block, and a whole host of European creators. The digests are "more for kids, not collectors."

In a recent one-shot special, "Mickey Meets Blotman," Mickey was transported to an alternate dimension where his archenemy, The Phantom Blot, is a superhero. A sequel is in the works.

Also recently published was a compilation of "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck" – the 12 chapters by Don Rosa. They will be releasing a companion to the volume soon, which contains "all of the sequels, prequels, and in-beteequels," and a new story, about "what Scrooge and Glittering Goldie did in the Klondike."

They're working on a series of Walt Disney retrospective books. This year was on the history of comic book publishing, which has been 75 years. Next year, for his 60th anniversary, there will be a Scrooge retrospective. There's some other stuff in the works for Scrooge's 60th as well, but they couldn't say more.

Disney has also started a partnership with the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, for a groundbreaking set of graphic novels based on historical figures. The first two will be "Houdini and Satchel Page," which will be released in Spring of '07. They won't be "typical George Washington fare," and Disney and the Center are giving the artists complete freedom in choice of subject.

They are also in discussions with Slave Labor Graphics to print new works based on classic Disney villains, and they're talking to Pixar about using their characters.

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