‘The Happiest Place:’ Graphic Novel Review

I think the best audience for this comic is the diehard Disneyland fan who still has a sick and twisted side. I have several friends who fit this description, and, believe me, I’m going to be telling all of them that they need to read The Happiest Place.

Miles used to be a promising young animation artist. Now, he’s middle aged and bitter, working as an undercover security guard for Garveyland, everyone’s favorite theme park. He’s not happy with his job, but he’s resigned to it. At this point in his life, there seems like little else for him to do.

Then, one day, his friend and mentor, Cobb, turns up dead, and Miles’ whole world is turned upside down. What deep, dark secret about the Garvey empire was Cobb keeping, and what will it end up costing Miles if he uncovers it?

The comic starts off like a classic, hard-boiled noir story, then gets progressively weirder as it goes along. It’s definitely not for children. There’s a lot of pretty messed up stuff in here. But if you do like to indulge that sick and twisted side, you’ll find it very entertaining and worth your time. And the bigger a fan you are of Disney and Disneyland, the more you’ll find to appreciate. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, of course, but almost everything is a thinly veiled reference, from the rides to the people to the characters and more.

For instance, just about everyone will get that Garveyland’s seemingly omnipresent mascot, Waldo Rabbit, is a stand-in for Mickey Mouse. But a keener eye may notice that Waldo is a dead ringer for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey’s predecessor. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to references.

Another hallmark of this graphic novel is the art. While the whole story was written by one person, each chapter is drawn by someone new, showing us the increasingly disturbing world of Garveyland from a variety of different perspectives. Most notably, one of the artists is Terrence Zdunich, the writer and star of the cult classic film, Repo! The Genetic Opera. If you’re familiar with the film, that should give you at least a vague idea of the kind of ride you’re in for in this comic. And Terrence’s chapter isn’t even the weirdest or most disturbing one in the book.

There’s a lot to like about this comic. The story unfolds slowly, but it grabs you right from the very beginning and keeps your interest all the way through. And the all-star roster of artists makes it visually incredible, as well, bringing to life the world that author Harry Chaskin has created in a variety of different ways. All in all, I highly recommend this graphic novel.


Creative Team: Harry Chaskin (writer, illustrator), Todd Ulrich (illustrator), Jasey Crowl (illustrator), Terrance Zdunich (illustrator), John Sumner (illustrator), Bernie Gonzalez (illustrator), and Seth Armstrong (cover art)
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