Jim’s Attic: The Only Magic Kingdom Comic Book
By Jim Korkis
Every two weeks, Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World.
I was an avid comic book collector. I still have boxes and boxes filled with Disney comic books that I enjoy reading on rainy days.
Western Printing and Lithographing was the parent company of Whitman Publishing and Simon & Schuster, Inc. and had the exclusive book rights to all the Walt Disney characters beginning in 1933. Over the decades they used these characters in coloring books, sticker books, storybooks, Little Golden Books, games, puzzles and more including comic books released through Dell Publishing from 1940 to 1962 when Western took over producing their own comic book line and called it “Gold Key”.
Western Publishing invested $200,000 to the building of Disneyland for a total ownership of 13.8% in the new theme park. Western produced the guide maps, brochures, menus, premiums and more for Disneyland. They even had their own shop (the Arcade Bookstore) inside the Crystal Arcade behind the Upjohn Pharmacy that was stocked with Disney related books including comics on Disneyland’s opening day.
Between 1955 and 1960, Dell produced ten special Disneyland Giant comic books containing nearly a thousand pages of new, original content of Mickey Mouse and the gang visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.
However, just like re-purchasing ABC’s investment, the Disney Company bought back Western’s investment at a premium price by 1960 as well.
Western continued to produce the regular profitable Disney comic books but there seemed to be no urgency to create any more comic book stories about Disneyland to help support Western’s investment in the park.
In the late Sixties, comic books (because of their small profit to retailers compared with magazines) were having difficulties finding distribution outlets. Gold Key tried several different formats including oversized comics, three comics bundled in a plastic bag, squarebound paperback comic book collections, and the digest format.
The digest format had proven a gold mine for Archie Publications since the smaller size could be displayed near the checkout cash register at supermarkets like issues of TV Guide for an impulse purchase and primarily, the contents relied on reprinted material saving on production costs.
Walt Disney Comics Digest was published for 57 issues from 1968 to 1976. The contents consisted (with few exceptions) mainly of reprints from the various previously published licensed Disney comics. In the beginning, the issues were about 192 pages in length.
Walt Disney World fans should be on the lookout for issue number 32 dated December 1971 although it was available in October. It is the only comic book that has the Disney characters exploring the newly opened Magic Kingdom in Florida.
For the reprinted stories (re-using a Fantasyland story from a previous comic for instance) a new opening splash page was drawn by well known Disney comics artist Tony Strobl (with the realistic backgrounds most likely done by artist Dan Spiegle who drew some of the more realistic live action Disney comic book adaptations).
The book is filled with new and reprinted game pages and puzzles as well. There were two original stories. One featured Scrooge McDuck going back to the Main Street of his youth drawn by Disney comics artist Pete Alvarado. Alvarado also drew a nineteen page Frontierland story where Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck go to enjoy the Country Bear Jamboree except three of the bears (Ernest, Big Al and Teddi Barra) have disappeared and must be found for the show to go on. This is the only comic book appearance of these beloved audio-animatronics characters.
So, for the WDW collector who thinks he has just about everything in his book collection, here is a little “hidden treasure” waiting to be re-discovered.
Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.
He is the author of two new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
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