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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Introduction to Kelly's Haunted Mansion Comics

Ah, Disneyland. Its place in the Disney Company has always been ambiguous to me. On one hand, a lot of good creativity went there. Disneyland is nice. Disneyland is beautiful. On the other hand… Disneyland is also a big chunk of the reasons why people keep associating "Disney" with "Tasting-like-diabetes kid-friendly stuff". It's also the most commercial part of the Disney Company (aside from the merchandising itself); the comics and the films, even if they are, let's not deny it, meant to make money, are still mostly driven by the purpose of doing good movies and comics, not by the primary goal of earning as many dollars as possible regardless of the work's quality.

However, The Haunted Mansion mostly falls on the right side of this equation (i.e. those bits that have very good creativity), in spite of the recent changes made following of a more commercial approach (like the addition of a new character, Constance Hatchaway). One of the reasons it is is that it was not cashing on a preexisting franchise or movie; to make the attraction remotely interesting, the Imagineers had to create memorable characters, musics and settings themselves instead of just copypasting what the animation studio had previously done. And what they came up here, let's say it out loud, is great.

Such a cast of characters, ideas and design shouldn't be limited to single 20-minutes ride. It is a universe that deserves to be developed in mediums more suited for the purpose of storytelling. Like… you know, comics and movies. We know (or, if you don't, your lucky you don't !) how the movie turned out, so what was left ? The comics. Which, ô luck, ô coincidence, ô destiny, are precisely the subject of this blog. There were four waves of them (the first, two-pages long of which I already covered).

The second wave was by SLG, a comic-publishing company which had been licensed to make a Haunted Mansion title. Various non-Disney artist were hired. The stories, which greatly vary in quality, either invented backstories for the Haunted Mansion characters, or revolved around original characters visiting the house. Some were comical, but others were drawn in a realistic fashion. In the latter case, I don't like them all that much. Too much unlike regular Disney comics for my taste. And too much unlike the real Haunted Mansion ! Let me clear up an issue: the Haunted Mansion isn't really supposed to be scary. The whole thing unravels like a joke (the ghosts seem foreboding at first, but as demonstrated in later stages of the attraction such as the Ballroom scene and the Graveyard Jamboree, they're just a bunch of fun-loving loonies who just want to haunt the place in peace). Making a scary, realistic ghost story about them is completely missing the point. 

The fourth wave, ongoing, is published by the notorious Marvel company as part of their Disney Kingdom series.  I haven't been able to read it yet, but judging by the few-pages previews, they seem to be at it again with the realistic stuff. Bah. 

No, the ones I want to talk about today are the third wave, which is the only one to be unofficial (they're technically fan fiction), but they'd really deserve not to be. The authoress is called Kelly, and publishes them (or rather, used to) on DeviantArt. Unlike all those previous attempts, they're completely whimsical and fun-oriented, as they should be. The art is really excellent (something like Uderzo's art on Astérix, I'd say). This is the comic strip series I was talking about in the Coff-in review. Come on and hitch along for a complete review of this series !

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