Home » Fun Facts and Hidden Secrets Comic Book Fans Can Discover on Marvel Super Hero Island

Fun Facts and Hidden Secrets Comic Book Fans Can Discover on Marvel Super Hero Island

Sure, The Walt Disney Company owns Marvel, but Orlando visitors will find its collection of superheroes and supervillains at a different theme park. Universal Orlando Resort sagely snatched up the rights for a Marvel-themed land back when the company was in dire financial straits in the 1990s. Today, it’s a highlight of any park visit. Here are a few fun facts about Marvel Super Hero Island.

The land has a comic book appearance

Image: UniversalTo Universal employees, the Marvel licensing was a huge deal. They worked on this property at a time when the comic book industry was in a state of flux, and Marvel had just come out of bankruptcy. The brand was at an all-time low, something difficult to imagine now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the film and toy industries.

Due to their excitement, these Universal workers relished the opportunity to play in the realm of comics. It wasn’t something that they’d done before, and their style is readily apparent. There’s a flat look to much of this themed land. It’s a feature, not a bug. Comic book panels are flat, and so a real-life version of them should look the same.

Other stylistic choices at the park stem from this strategy. The paint on the walls is Chrome-illusion paint, a kind you’ll famously find on sports cars. The genius of this paint is that it’ll change colors in different light, which is to say that it’s like The Dress argument. Car lovers adore the versatility of this paint, but it works even better at the Marvel land since the walls are “panels” that vary in appearance throughout the day.

You’ll remember the shop names

Image: UniversalIn a world that has Photoshop, comic book artists have creative license to name background locations and fill in their details. Back in Marvel’s earliest days, the staff faced tight deadlines and small budgets. They didn’t have time to do one of those The Simpsons jokes with a bunch of shop names like Hairy Shearers and Dead Lobster. They took a simplistic approach, naming the local bar as…Bar. And so forth.

Marvel Super Hero Island honors this bit of comic book history. A quick stroll through this land will lead you past signs that say Comic, Fruit, Boutique, Diner, Arcade, Shop, and Store. Yes, that’s a comic book store, a fruit stand, and five other places that are precisely what their names suggest.

Universal isn’t being lazy with these names. They’re hearkening back to the early days of Marvel. From a theme park tourist’s perspective, these names are helpful, too. “Let’s meet at Arcade” is a statement that lacks any possibility of confusion.

Comic book references are everywhere

Image: UniversalUniversal’s planning team went hog-wild in building the ultimate fan service tribute to the characters of the Marvel Universe. You’ll find a slew of Marvel references throughout the area. Some of them are overt like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, while others only make sense to comic book lovers.

Attentive guests will notice Easter eggs like Osborn Industries. It’s the business run by Norman and later Harry Osborn aka Green Goblin and, well, the other Green Goblin. Stark Industries has signs, too, which is awkward since Disney theme parks are all about Tony Stark.

The unique licensing agreement between Marvel and Universal is what caused this problem. It gives the Universal usage rights to Marvel characters at parks east of the Mississippi. Disney’s exploited that internationally and at Disneyland Resort. But you’ll only find Tony Stark references in Orlando when you visit Universal studios.

Image: DisneyOsborn and Stark aren’t the only titans of industry with a presence on Marvel Super Hero Island. The Baxter Building, home to the Fantastic Four, is too large to construct in the tight space, but it’s still represented here. It’s the one with the doorway sign of Baxter Annex. Reed Richards is the smartest person on Earth and occasionally runs a successful business here when his family isn’t off saving the world.

Amusingly, someone who would dispute his intellect is Doctor Doom. The egotistical supervillain has a secret here, too. His “throne” is in the Arcade. It’s really more of a comfy red chair, though. The conflict between Doom and the Fantastic Four plays out on a nearby ride, Doctor Doom’s Fearfall. The concept of this attraction is different from your average superhero ride. You’re actually helping Doctor Doom try to defeat the Fantastic Four and enslave humanity!

I won’t spoil the location, but one other hidden secret here is brilliant. When you find the right spot, you’ll overhear random thugs discussing a planned job.  Hint: it’s near the Osborn Industries sign.

You can track a narcissist

Image: UniversalThroughout the land, you’ll see cut-outs of Marvel characters. These splashy paintings mimic the action pages from comics. These are the pages that are usually in the middle of the book akin to the old Playboy centerfold. Think of them as the money shot of the comic.

The ones that you see at the themed land share a trait. The same artist designed all of these eye-popping works of art. And they wanted everyone to know it. Should you carefully examine each of these pieces, you’ll find the name Adam somewhere. Yes, the individual responsible for the items signed his name on each one, often in a way that’s easy to miss.

Signs of comic book action are everywhere

Image: UniversalAs you wander this land, you should pay attention to your surroundings. One of the conceits at Marvel Super Hero Island is that violence and unfortunate accidents sometimes take place on the premises.

For example, the grounds surrounding Doctor Doom’s Freefall show signs that you weren’t the first person to aid the bad guy. Alas, the few who came before you didn’t survive. There are markings in the floor that suggest they plummeted to their death.

With tragedy so prevalent, some proactive person figured that communication ports would be a good idea. You’ll find them in the land, and they’re hard to miss since they are giant blue speakers. At these spots, you’ll hear updates about evolving situations in the area i.e. emergencies.

The other humorous touch is a crash site where a meteor shower struck the Earth. The joke here is that superhero origin stories tend to involve ridiculous events…like a meteor shower. Presumably, this event triggered someone’s heretofore unknown superpower, elevating them to the status of superhero or *gasp* supervillain. It’s the perfect touch to reinforce that everyone – or at least everyone in the Marvel universe — is a meteor blast away from superpowers.