Disney and Marvel’s first comic collaboration has a fascinating history. Just as Disney dug deep into Marvel’s well for Big Hero 6, Marvel rubbed shoulders with Rolly Crump—one of the early Disney Imagineers—to create a story based on a scrapped “attraction within an attraction” for The Haunted Mansion. The “Museum of the Weird” was intended to be fitted inside the Disneyland ride and function as a showcase of mythical creatures, unearthly objects, and other fantastical treasures. Crump drew concept images and sculpted models of the items and monsters that would occupy the museum, but the idea was scrapped after Walt Disney died. At last, Crump’s vision of a Cthulhu-esque Curiosity Shop returns with Seekers of the Weird.
Maxwell and Melody Keep are teenage siblings who help their parents run a mystic curio shop in New Orleans. Bookish Maxwell and sporty tomboy Melody are both defined by their personalities, and each excels where the other fails: Melody falling behind in her schoolwork and Maxwell flunking gym class. These seemingly normal teenage problems quickly become insignificant when their parents are assaulted by the malevolent spirits that form the Shadow Society, an antagonistic cult that has sought out the Keep elders to track down an artifact called the Coffin Clock. Melody and Maxwell are saved at the last minute by their uncle Roland, who will no doubt be played by Johnny Depp if Seekers gets a film adaptation. Roland takes the younger Keeps to the Museum of the Weird, a transdimensional storage facility for all sorts of—wait for it—weird objects.
Seekers of the Weird is Hellboy meets Jules Verne with the right amount of 1940s adventure pulp, although the mysticism and supernaturalism that defines the adventure is a hit-or-miss affair. The weaponized artifacts wielded by the Keep siblings—such as a shapeshifting ring, Faberge eggs that contain familiars, and guns that shoot skeletal spirits instead of bullets—are original, cool, and exciting to see in action. The story, on the other hand, feels somewhat empty as the situations in which the characters find themselves aren’t very compelling and things get resolved a little too neatly. The conjuring of the Coffin Clock is a simple matter of practicing feng shui—so simple that I wonder why it took so long for the story to arrive at that narrative junction.
Likewise, the characters in Seekers are not especially original and suffer from overgeneralization. The Reaper King is the prerequisite supreme evil being who is defeated far more easily than expected, while Uncle Roland is a puckish rogue with ulterior motives who plans to fool everyone and save the day. Furthermore, protagonists Maxwell and Melody grated my nerves whenever they interacted with each other. Their banter is written in barbs and jibes that have the same tongue-in-cheek goofiness normally reserved for Scooby-Doo cartoons or writers who don’t know how teens communicate with each other.
The artwork changes hands several times and some chapters are better than others. I’m not sure why the art fluctuates so much, considering the small size of the artistic team, but despite their differences, I appreciated that each artist found a way to integrate Crump’s original Museum of the Weird designs into the story. The book’s appendix offers scans of his sketches taken from the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Collection and, with few exceptions, the modern interpretations are identical to Crump’s work from 1965. For something that was intended to fit within the scope of The Haunted Mansion, Seekers of the Weird inhabits its own world and there is little to connect it with the popular Disneyland ride.
With both Disney and Marvel attached to the new Kingdoms imprint, this book will no doubt elicit some sort of reaction, from “Wow, a new Disney comic!” to “A Disney/Marvel comic? Off with their heads!” However, even with the Disney label, there is nothing beyond the source material to connect Seekers of the Weird with any pre-existing properties, so there is no need to fear any sort of retcon or expanded universe mythos based on the theme park attraction. In other words, you won’t see Mickey Mouse and Doctor Strange using the Hand of Glory to banish away the Haunted Mansion’s hitchhiking ghosts.
Even with its flaws, Seekers of the Weird is a competent melding of the creative minds of Marvel and Disney and there is considerable potential for this series. Much like Vertigo’s House of Mystery, the artifacts within the Museum of the Weird hold the promise of great stories and further adventures. If the characters mature a little and break out of their molds, future volumes could be excellent reads.
Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird
by Brandon Seifert
Art by Karl Moline, Filipe Andrade
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)