Long time fans of Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction will no doubt recall the lame attempt at creating a movie universe to encompass all that is scary about the building. The representation was basically mixing up the Southern American Gothic tradition with the comedic cheekiness that only Eddie Murphy can play up. The scares were minimal, and it was more stylized in the vein of being hilarious instead of haunting. Had that film been more in the style of Tales from the Crypt, then some viewers might have appreciated the movie more.
Slave Labour Graphics Comic’s take of the mansion’s mysterious past (printed 2005-7) is a wonderful treatment. It had a great sense of novelty and esoteric design in the many stories told within its many pages about how each supernatural denizen came to reside here. Sadly this company could not afford the licensing rights to continue past seven issues.
Disney’s interest to reignite this property is different. Instead of stylized one-off tales, the first issue sets up a story arc where young Danny will have to become a hero. Sadly, this series will run for five issues, which is even shorter than the previous incarnation!
Madame Leota (the lady who appears in the crystal ball) knows all and for the time being, she explains that the Pirate Captain holds all the nearby spirits in thrall. Only a mortal can help release them. As for how this building caught hold of the spirit of Danny’s grandfather is a big question that hopefully later issues will explain! After this elder died in a mountaineering incident, just why he’s even here is puzzling. Hopefully, Leota is not lying.
The artwork by Jorge Coelho (Boom! Studios’ “Sleepy Hollow”) evokes a light sense of decay and he must have gone through the attraction many times to recall all the fun transitions in the ride. The style is not brooding and his takes on this building’s most famous ghosts vary, depending on their personality. It has a bit of the EC comics’ supernatural flavour but it is toned down so young kids can read this material without feeling creeped out.
From the elongating paintings to the hanging man, readers will no doubt get to see most of the spirits when they eventually reveal themselves in later issues. The first one only teases at a few of this building’s secrets instead of telling all. One fun series of panels includes a painting of a lady turning into a cat-like creature of non-Egyptian design.
The first issue is quick to read and it does not offer any new lore that is not already known. The introduction by writer Joshua Williamson is one huge setup for the encounters Danny eventually has to face, namely in meeting the Pirate Captain and taking him down. The question of whether this Captain is a member of the Gracey clan is not addressed. The film revealed Edward Gracey as the man who hanged himself after learning Liz Henshaw killed herself. This young man also had a grandfather, the person who built the mansion, Captain Ambrose. In the comics, there was also another Gracey (William) who was a former pirate. Although this lineage is unofficial canon, readers wondering who built or owns this mansion should answers by this new imprint, Disney Kingdoms, to consolidate their universes.
The big question is to wait for the compilations to read this tale or to buy this series as it releases. Because of the nature of the medium, waiting for the latter is the better choice, especially when considering the grouped release might arrive just in time for Halloween 2016. That way, readers can have a light-hearted read come this supernatural time of the year.