Writer Jim Zubkavich discusses bringing a Disney icon to the comic book page!
Walt Disney Parks inspire legions of visitors to use and embrace their imaginations. The Disney Kingdoms line of Marvel comics spreads that same feeling into the wider world. The latest title will feature the star of the Epcot experience Journey into Imagination with Figment starring none other than the titular purple dragon!
Skullkickers creator Jim Zubkavich—known as Jim Zub to his fans—will pen the new FIGMENT limited series with CAPTAIN MARVEL artist Filipe Andrade providing visuals. The project, which debuts on June 4, marks Zub’s first for Marvel and combines elements from the in-park experience with magic, science and steampunk into an adventurous origin story for the beloved character.
“I was contacted out of the blue by editor Bill Rosemann at Marvel,” Zubkavich recounts. “He’s been handling the Disney Kingdoms comics and, with so many fantasy projects under my belt and with magic and whimsy showing up in other stories I’ve written, he felt I’d be a good fit to pitch on FIGMENT. So far I’m doing my best to prove him right.”
The writer also wants to prove himself to the legions of Disney fans that have been enjoying the films and theme parks for generations.
“Expanding the story of Figment has been intimidating, but I’m genuinely enjoying it,” Zubkavich says. “I want to do right by Disney fans and new readers alike, creating an entertaining story, and that comes from working with engaging characters. Digging a bit deeper into Figment and Dreamfinder has been a fun challenge.”
Part of that challenge revolves around connecting not only to the characters, but to the greater ideas behind them.
“Engaging our imagination is the heart of creativity and the obstacles and fears we have about really embracing that creative process is at the core of the story I’m putting together,” explains Zubkavich. “Figment’s innocence is childlike, and one of the most important elements of that is that children don’t have the limitations the rest of us have given ourselves as adults. They’re free to imagine fully and that definitely has a role to play as the story develops. In so many ways this story really is a ‘Journey into Imagination,’ in both word and deed.”
To get into the world of FIGMENT, Zubkavich and Andrade went to the source material and integrated elements from that in the story.
“The ride serves as an underlying framework for the story, though we obviously have to give it a clear antagonist and build up more challenges than people who went on the ride have seen before,” the writer says. “Even when we’re deviating from the ride I’m looking for ways for it to inform the visuals or appear in other unexpected ways.”
To get an inside track on Figment, the creative team continues to work with the people who actually created Journey into Imagination and the other rides at the Disney parks.
“The Disney Imagineering team has been great to work with,” Zubkavich says. “They have such intimate knowledge of the park and the many elements that went into designing the ride, so that’s been really valuable as we build on that and broaden the Journey into Imagination concept into a fully formed storyline. It’s been a really wonderful experience.”
Zub and company want readers to know that they don’t have to be a certain height to board FIGMENT or even have existing knowledge of the character to enjoy the series.
“I think it’s like any other story,” he says. “You don’t want to assume that readers have a lot of prior knowledge, especially for a character like [Dreamfinder] who hasn’t appeared for some time. The comic is new reader friendly and really easy to dive into, whether or not you’ve ever been to Epcot or ridden any iteration of the Journey into Imagination ride.”
Journey into Imagination has evolved since its 1983 inception. Originally, a person known as Dreamfinder created Figment, but Eric Idle replaced him in 1999. Still, Zubkavich will go back to the roots of the ride to create his story.
“Dreamfinder is an eccentric inventor, an excited adventurer, and an intrepid explorer,” he says. “He’s a bit Reed Richards, a bit Kurt Wagner and a bit Stephen Strange. He’s someone who doesn’t want to settle for a mundane life and the creative risks he takes could lead him to greatness, but those highs have a long way down if he falls.”
The writer goes on to praise Andrade, who captures the steampunk style of the book along with Figment’s innocence.
“It’s still early in the process, but Filipe’s been wonderful to work with so far,” Zubkavich says. “His line work has so much character and emotion that he instinctively puts into it, so I can’t wait to see him tackle the big scenes and wild visuals in the story.”
For most Marvel fans, it’s impossible to think of purple dragons and not have Lockheed come to mind. While nothing has been planned yet, Zubkavich does see potential for crossovers between the huge stables of Disney and Marvel characters:
“I’d love to see all kinds of Disney/Marvel cross-pollination, whether that’s straight out crossovers or delving into the many varied properties both companies have. Marvel super heroes, Disney characters, Star Wars, you name it. This is my first Marvel writing project, and my fingers are crossed that it’s just the first of many.”
FIGMENT #1 debuts on June 4 from writer Jim Zubkavich and artist Filipe Andrade.