Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Characters of Oz — The Yoops

Up and down they went for hours, with nothing to relieve the monotony of the landscape, until finally, when they had topped a higher hill than usual, they discovered a cup-shaped valley before them in the center of which stood an enormous castle, built of purple stone. The castle was high and broad and long, but had no turrets and towers. So far as they could see, there was but one small window and one big door on each side of the great building.
"This is strange!" mused the Scarecrow. "I'd no idea such a big castle existed in this Gillikin Country. I wonder who lives here?"
"It seems to me, from this distance," remarked the Tin Woodman, "that it's the biggest castle I ever saw. It is really too big for any use, and no one could open or shut those big doors without a stepladder."
"Perhaps, if we go nearer, we shall find out whether anybody lives there or not," suggested Woot. "Looks to me as if nobody lived there."
On they went, and when they reached the center of the valley, where the great stone castle stood, it was beginning to grow dark. So they hesitated as to what to do.
"If friendly people happen to live here," said Woot, "I shall be glad of a bed; but should enemies occupy the place, I prefer to sleep upon the ground."
"And if no one at all lives here," added the Scarecrow, "we can enter, and take possession, and make ourselves at home."
While speaking he went nearer to one of the great doors, which was three times as high and broad as any he had ever seen in a house before, and then he discovered, engraved in big letters upon a stone over the doorway, the words:

"YOOP CASTLE"

"Oho!" he exclaimed; "I know the place now. This was probably the home of Mr. Yoop, a terrible giant whom I have seen confined in a cage, a long way from here. Therefore this castle is likely to be empty and we may use it in any way we please."
So the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Woot the Wanderer entered a giant castle, believing it to be abandoned. Mr. Yoop had been encountered in The Patchwork Girl of Oz as a giant in a caged cave. Being unattended, he ate what he could catch, which was pretty much whatever passed by that he could reach. Dorothy, Ojo and their friends managed to get past by letting him catch the Scarecrow and Scraps, who he refused to eat. He was also very gaudily dressed:
...he was dressed all in pink velvet, with silver buttons and braid. The Giant's boots were of pink leather and had tassels on them and his hat was decorated with an enormous pink ostrich feather, carefully curled.
 So, his castle should be abandoned, right?

Wrong.

He had a wife. And not only was Mrs. Yoop a giantess, she was also a Yookoohoo, in her own words, "the cleverest magic-workers in the world," specializing in transformation.

Mrs. Yoop was actually not upset about her husband being captured and carried off far south into the Quadling Country:
"I must admit, however, that Yoop had a bad temper, and had the habit of knocking over a few houses, now and then, when he was angry. So one day the little folks came in a great crowd and captured Mr. Yoop, and carried him away to a cage somewhere in the mountains. I don't know where it is, and I don't care, for my husband treated me badly at times, forgetting the respect a giant owes to a giantess. Often he kicked me on my shins, when I wouldn't wait on him. So I'm glad he is gone."
So he seems to be an abusive husband.

However, with the power of her magic apron, Mrs. Yoop could transform anything into just about anything she wanted. She talks about gathering things from outside the castle and transforming it into food, even mentioning that she made biscuits of some field mice. (So some of the Queen's subjects were eaten by Mrs. Yoop.) She reveals she has turned Polychrome into a canary, and soon turns the Tin Woodman into a tin owl, the Scarecrow into a straw-stuffed bear, and Woot into a green monkey, having made clear to them that nothing she transformed could ever regain its original shape.

Some fans wonder if Yookoohoo magic has to transform an object into something of similar construction. The Tin Woodman can only be transformed into a tin or metal object, whatever the Scarecrow can be transformed into must be stuffed with straw, while Woot and Polychrome can only become other organic creatures. (But what of the field mice made into biscuits?) Other transformations suggest processes of transformations, possibly making slight variations as you go along, such as how Prince Bobo became a goat. (And vice versa.) Polychrome also makes it clear that Mrs. Yoop needs her lace apron to work her magic, so it seems Yookoohoos need talismans to work their magic.

Aside from the messy business of transforming and imprisoning her guests, Mrs. Yoop is an amiable host. However, despite being transformed to be happy with their new forms, the Tin Woodman and his friends escaped anyway when Woot managed to steal the lace apron.

Later, the transformed quartet run into Ozma, who restores most of them, but when it comes to Woot, Ozma realizes that the shape of the Green Monkey must exist in Oz, and she is unable to simply restore him. However, she takes the suggestion from the Scarecrow and Polychrome to transfer the shape of the Green Monkey to Mrs. Yoop. They are able to observe her in a still cauldron making a new apron as she is transformed.

And then, she never reappears in the Famous Forty Oz books.

There was an Oziana story in which she escapes and frees her husband, only for the Green Monkey shape to be transferred to Mr. Yoop and Mrs. Yoop becomes a turtle.

However, recently Paul Dana's The Law of Oz and Other Stories and The Magic Umbrella of Oz, the nature of Yookoohoos—and of Mrs. Yoop—is explored further. Paul confirms that yes, Yookoohoos need to make a talisman to harness their magic with. Mrs. Yoop—who he names Moyna—was not the most skilled Yookoohoo and couldn't revert her transformations. She serves as one of the antagonists in both "Time Travelers of Oz" and Magic Umbrella.

However, Paul leaves Mr. Yoop shut up in his mountain prison, which reminds me of a joke I made once. Mr. Yoop said he once ate a monkey, so if he met his wife in her current form, he might eat her.

And she'd be sure to disagree with him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Music from Oz: Home by Breaking Benjamin

My sister and her friends didn't believe me when I told them there was a Breaking Benjamin song based on The Wizard of Oz. I guess they hadn't heard their first album Saturate.



The song is a little difficult to figure out if you're trying to pin it to certain Oz characters. Sure, the lyrics start off with the first verse closing with "I'm gonna get you and your little dog too!" But then the singer seems to shift to identifying with Dorothy's quest for home.

Perhaps the song—like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—lends itself to several interpretations. Whatever the case, we see someone expressing themselves through anger like the Wicked Witch, then eventually realizing what they need is peace like Dorothy wanting to go home.

Oh, and the track has got one helluva beat.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Making of the Wizard of Oz

There is one book consistently referred to by fans of the MGM film: Aljean Harmetz's The Making of the Wizard of Oz. Aljean managed to interview some of the actors and many members of the crew as well as extras in the mid to late 70s.

One thing to know about the book is that as new information has arisen, the book has been revised several times over the years, including for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the film. Most recently, it was reissued last year, newly revised for the 75th anniversary. For this review, I read that edition.

My father once checked the library's rebound copy of the 50th anniversary edition, which I remember enjoying looking over. When I got back into reading the Oz books, I checked it out again and gave it minor skimming, barely picking up any information. (Or maybe I remember it poorly as I began my research on the original Oz books about the same time and focused on that.)

When I heard Aljean would be at the 2014 Winkie Convention, I knew I needed to get a copy, but I wound up buying it then, letting her know I'd enjoyed a previous edition as a child, but had focused more on the illustrations. (I'd actually bought a copy of the 50th anniversary edition, but had held off reading it when I heard a new edition was being put out.) This time, I feel I finally gave Aljean's text its well-earned reading.

I have read over the production of the film before and even wrote a couple pieces about it, so if you're already familiar with that, you probably won't find stunning new revelations, particularly since many resources on the film use this book for reference. What you will find is further detail about the creation of the film. Even by the time the book was first published in 1977, movie studios had changed their mode of operation from what they were in 1939 and Aljean discusses that.

Unlike some other resources, Aljean also looks into the major players in the film, from the main cast to the directors and writers. She tells more about their lives and backgrounds, so you can understand what each one would be bringing to their role in the film. Furthermore, she discusses what was going on at MGM as the film was being made and what kind of place it was.

The book has been updated, however, in this edition, it becomes clear where the new additions are. Instead of resetting the text of the entire book (which seems odd as a Kindle edition was released simultaneously), the pages are altered with new type when there's something new to insert. Personally, I would have preferred the text to be newly set so it would have a uniform appearance, but otherwise, it's just fine.

I'd recommend getting this book in this edition if you want to read up on the MGM film. (And for more recommendations, check the "MGM's The Wizard of Oz" tag.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oziana 2014 is coming!

Another year, another Oziana. The International Wizard of Oz Club's next issue of their magazine of original Oz-based fiction, art and poetry will be available in late November from Lulu.com. However, contributors already have early copies and being one of them, editor Marcus Mebes gave me the go-ahead to do an early review to let you know what you can expect in this issue.

The issue features covers by newcomer Oziana artist David Bishop. His front cover offers a very nice, peaceful picture in the Emerald City. The back cover is just about a polar opposite, though it's still in the Emerald City. It illustrates one of the stories, but I won't spoil which!

The issue opens and closes with stories that follow up on Baum's Dot and Tot of Merryland, two years shy of its 115th anniversary. The first, "Lost and Never Found," is by David Tai and myself (though I worked on it so long ago I have absolutely forgotten exactly what my input was). Trot and Betsy Bobbin wind up in the Valley of Lost Things and make a few discoveries as they meet the Queen of Merryland. Illustrated by Dennis Anfuso.

The last story is my new version of "Roselawn." It's 1919, and Evangeline "Dot" Freeland is going home to Roselawn to meet her old friend Matthew "Tot" Thompson, who has come home from serving in World War I. However, Matthew has changed, and while Eva cannot fix him, she might be able to help him heal. Illustrated by David Baker.

So, I've told you about the wrapper and the bread, now what comes between them?

First up is "Labor of Love" by Kim McFarland. The Scarecrow and Scraps decide to take their relationship a little further. And while it might require more from Scraps than anything before, she decides that she is up to any challenge.

"Theresa's Pink Road" is a poem by Theresa McMillan, expressing her own life's road and her appreciation of Oz in it. Illustrated by Arthur Clippe.

"The New Fellow" by J.L. Bell takes the viewpoint of Hank the Mule as Kabumpo comes to stay for awhile in the Emerald City and how he acts with the other animals in Ozma's stables. Illustrated by David Bishop.

Then is the oddball but extremely fun "Rob Zombie in Oz" by Aaron Adelman. In a slightly different version of Oz where elements from the Magic Land series were in the past and elements from the Patchwork Girl of Oz silent film are canon, Jinjur is keeping an eye on Dr. Pipt's daughter Jeseeva when she realizes that the girl has been initiated to become a Yookoohoo! But can Jinjur use this information to her advantage? Illustrated by John Troutman.

This is another issue of excellent artwork and stories for a truly Ozzy treat!

The price of Oziana should be about $10 a copy. You can start planning a Lulu.com order to add it to your collection (do you have Sky Pyrates Over Oz or Outsiders from Oz or previous years' Oziana yet?) and keep an eye here for coupon codes!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sky Pyrates Over Oz

When the Baum Trust announced they would authorize a new series of Oz books, Oz fans were at least interested that there'd be new Oz books coming from a big publisher, but it wasn't as if they'd had a dearth of choices.

Well, the book series didn't quite work out. Sherwood Smith's The Emerald Wand of Oz came out in 2005, soon to be followed by Trouble Under Oz. These books received little promotion, and their handling was a little odd. Sherwood Smith wrote the book, the talented artist William Stout illustrated, the books were packaged by Byron Preiss and published by Harper-Collins. When Preiss died, the third book was left in limbo.

Finally, Marcus Mebes of Pumpernickel Pickle approached Smith about getting the third book out. Turned out, it would be easier than expected. Kim McFarland came on board to illustrate, filling in for William Stout. Smith did some revision so the book would wrap up the loose plot lines in the past two books, and now Sky Pyrates Over Oz is available!

I'd written about the first two books, but it was really brief. I considered re-reading them and doing more proper reviews before this one as a "Smithathon," but wound up with a stack of new Oz reading material, so that's on hold for now.

I'll start off unusually by talking about the art. I like Kim McFarland's front cover better than William Stout's past two simply because it actually shows us the characters of the story. (Stout's elegant and detailed artwork on the past two were pictures of Ozma and Kaliko, which were nice, but didn't really tease much about the story.) However, like Stout, there are very few illustrations, but we at least see all the major characters. The front cover art reveals an unmentioned fact about Smith's main characters Dori and Em: they are of African-American descent. (Smith makes no mention of it, Stout's few illustrations showing the characters were not colored.)

The book opens as Dori and Em go to spend some time with their Dad, but on a balloon ride, they get whisked away to a Sky Island, where Dad is turned into a dog. This begins a series of adventures for Dori, Em and Dad, as they travel through a chain of Sky Islands (turns out Sky Island and Umbrella Island aren't alone), trying to get to their friends in Oz and stay one step ahead of the mysterious Nightmare Sorcerer, who wants to find them.

Along the way, they meet a few of the Snubnosed Princesses, and join up with none other than Scraps, the Patchwork Girl, before joining the heroic Sky Pyrates, who patrol the skies. Soon, with Glinda's help, they're on their way to face the Nightmare Sorcerer and finally discover what happened to Dorothy! (Who's been missing since Emerald Wand.)

While the story is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, it still leaves plenty of options open for future stories. Like the previous two books, Smith writes at a very relaxed pace consistently. Fortunately, unlike Emerald Wand, there's no cases of Dori and Em being stuck in one place for quite too long. Those who like Oz stories that keep up momentum and suspense might be a little disappointed, but the story is nicely done otherwise.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if Smith—and Dori and Em—go to Oz again!

You can order your copy here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Dahm's Oz

In a little Kickstarter news, artist Evan Dahm has re-illustrated The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in his own style. He shared his progress on his Tumblr blog, but is now seeking to get a print version out there.

So, Kickstarter it is!

So far, he's gotten over half his goal of $15,000, but every little bit helps when it comes to projects like this. There's not a lot of perks, just a copy of the book, in just a PDF or with a hardcover with or without a special bookplate. You can get multiple copies to sell off if you're a dealer (and they should be in time for next summer's conventions).

So, go check it out and help a unique look at Oz happen!


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Woot the Wanderer

In little corners of Oz, there are people who haven't heard of the latest goings-on in Oz, and so it was that a Gillikin boy named Woot arrived at the Tin Woodman's castle and was surprised to hear that its ruler was a man made of tin, and to see that his best friend was a living Scarecrow.

Peter Glassman—in his afterword to The Tin Woodman of Oz—suggested that Button-Bright or Ojo could have filled Woot's place. Perhaps, but bringing in a new character allowed Baum to prompt a retelling of the Tin Woodman's origin, which the other two characters would have likely heard before.

In addition, Baum's boys are scarcely clones of each other. Woot, with a fresh perspective on the Tin Woodman, sets off the whole adventure by asking why the Tin Woodman didn't marry Nimee Amee. Button-Bright could have thought of this point, but it's unlikely he would have pressed about it as Woot does. Ojo likewise would have thought little of the Tin Woodman's past romance. Woot instead questions the kindness of the Tin Woodman since he won't return to someone he claimed to have loved. Baum needed a new character who would get more involved in the Tin Woodman's story, though it does stand to reason that he could have used a girl instead. But with four girls in Oz who likely knew of the Tin Woodman's origin anyway, perhaps Baum wished to use a boy this time.

I believe I once heard an argument that one of Baum's boys might have been originally intended to be a girl, but I can't recall if it was Ojo or Woot.

Anyway, Woot proves to be a foil to the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, questioning some of the things they do and being key in their escapes from Loonville and Yoop Castle. Even when he's turned into a Green Monkey, Woot manages to save himself from a jaguar, then dragons he finds underground.

After Polychrome is restored and Captain Fyter joins the company, Woot gets pushed into the background. When the story ends, Ozma allows him to continue wandering (as if he needed permission) and promises to look out for him.

Woot never reappears in the Famous Forty Oz books, but he does appear in Eric Shanower's "The Final Fate of the Frogman," and in a story I was working on but since abandoned, he would have been a captive of a creature who guarded a mysterious fountain.

Has Woot wandered into any Oz stories I'm unaware of? Or perhaps one day he'll wander into another one...

Friday, October 03, 2014

Two small books of Oz

Many Oz fans attempt to write their own Oz stories and some excellent tales have been the result. However, sometimes we are left with a story that is full of enthusiasm and love for Oz but is not quite a masterpiece.

Skeezik and the Mys-Tree of Oz by Marcus Mebes (with additional stories by some friends mixed in) unfortunately falls into this category. Marcus wrote this quite some time ago and has mentioned that the book needed better editing.

A creature called a Skeezik approaches Ozma with a way to save the Kingdom of Meerth, the key being in the Mys-Tree, a dead hollow tree full of strange artifacts and stories that Ozma, Dorothy and their new friends must experience to break the spell.

While the premise sounds great, the book feels unfocused and the ending a little anticlimactic. A rewrite and some extra editing would have helped.

Marcus has improved as a writer since, and the Mys-Tree has appeared in later books from Buckethead Enterprises and Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends, including Melody Grandy's Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy.

Skeezik is now out of print (at least, Chris Dulabone doesn't list it as available), but might be able to be found. Or perhaps it could get its much-needed revision one day.

There's another book from my Lulu.com order that I'll pair this review with, Emeralds: Hearts in Oz. It's a comic book, set in the present day. Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin and Trot have been training to be the new witches of the East, West and South, respectively. (An undisclosed person is training to be the North Witch.) Ozma's friends are heading to the Emerald City for a celebration where Dorothy is taking her new position.

That's pretty much the plot of the entire book. Also, the Scarecrow, Scraps, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and the Queen of the Field Mice have taken human forms thanks to magic, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. Part of the appeal of these characters is how they aren't human but are every bit as important as the human characters. Taking that away makes the characters a little uninteresting.

Perhaps if Emeralds had become a series as planned, this would have developed nicely. As it is, the first issue is all there was and doesn't make for a substantial story on its own. It came out in 2010, written by Jer Alford and drawn by Erin Ptah, and four years later, there's no second issue.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Images of Oz

I recently placed an order from Lulu.com for Oz or Oz-related books I've been waiting to pick up. It was partly prompted by Shawn Maldonado releasing his book Images of Oz, so here's a review of that. (There were four books in my order.)

Images is actually what it says it is. Subtitled The Oz Art of S.P. Maldonado, it features several pieces of artwork by Shawn, some from published projects (such as my Outsiders from Oz) and some not seen before. Some were online at Shawn's blog, others are totally new to me.

I was a little taken aback opening the book as my introduction that I wrote in 2010 is the first thing you see. I'd almost forgotten I'd written it! (It is not the first time I've forgotten I've written something due to be published...) Upon reading it, I decided I was okay with it.

Opening up, there are due title and copyright pages, acknowledgements, and then the art begins. Kicking it off is at least one piece of artwork for each of the public domain Famous Forty Oz books (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz each get two pieces), each one illustrating a scene either not depicted by Denslow or Neill, or one that Shawn has illustrated in his own style. Then there is cover art for the books that Shawn's illustrated, including the artwork for Outsiders from Oz.

Next is a series of illustrations, pictures of characters, sketches, and then the comic page I wrote (and initially drew) back when Shawn first contacted me, which I mention in the introduction. The rest of the book contains John Bell's "The Ransom of Button-Bright," and portraits and other illustrations, including a black and white rendering of the artwork for the exclusive Outsiders from Oz color plate. This all comes packaged in a nice color cover.

My only complaint might have been to include some text as to what the pictures were. It's not a confusing matter, but might have enhanced the enjoyment of the artwork.

Although I'm likely biased, I enjoyed this book and looking over it, despite its short length of 80 pages.

You can purchase the book on Lulu.com. (And if you want a lower price, keep an eye on this page for coupon codes.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Cayke and the Frogman

In a corner of the Winkie Country is the country of the Yips on a high hill surrounded by brambles. Most of the Yips are simple people who live in scattered homes with winding paths between them.

There are—or were—a couple notable citizens among the Yips. There was Cayke the Cookie Cook, who baked cookies for the Yips, but had a secret: her talent for good baking was actually due to her golden, diamond-studded dishpan. So when it was stolen, she had to stop baking cookies. Her first batch without it burned up in the oven, the second one was too tough, and the third one proved edible, but unremarkable.

When the Yips prove to be of no help in finding out who took the dishpan, Cayke goes to the Frogman, who was actually an ordinary frog, but had eaten a magic skosh in his old pond and had grown to man-size. The Yips believed him to be wise, which he decided to maintain. Most of the Yips could be fooled by his talk, but he was no wiser than anyone else.
When Cayke discovered that the Frogman couldn't help her, she decided to set out on her own to find her dishpan. Some Yips (who were quickly dissuaded by the brambles) set out with her, as did the Frogman, who helped her reach Winkie Country proper.

In Winkie Country, the Frogman's pompous nature was soon defeated when he happened to bathe in the Truth Pond and was then compelled to confess to Cayke that his reputation was false.

As they journeyed, the two came to Bear Center, where they discovered that the dishpan was stolen by Ugu the Shoemaker. Being joined by the Big Lavender Bear of Bear Center and the little Pink Bear, they later joined the Wizard's search party for Ozma and assisted them as they could. Finally, Ozma and the stolen items were finally recovered, the dishpan being the last of all.

The Lost Princess of Oz doesn't tell us if Cayke went back to the Yips. It says she was enjoying her visit to the Emerald City and was in no hurry to get back. Perhaps she stayed, the Famous Forty tells us nothing else of her.

Cayke is another strong female character by Baum. She sets out, determining to go alone if she has to. John Bell has pointed out that Neill draws her as rather young, but Baum calls her "dried-up," which suggests that she was older.

The Frogman doesn't have any future Famous Forty roles, but appears in large scenes in the new later Baum books, and Lost Princess says he became a favorite, so perhaps he stayed on still. While outside the Famous Forty, Eric Shanower gives the Frogman a bittersweet tale in "The Final Fate of the Frogman," in which he guards the Truth Pond to prevent anyone who's unaware of what it can do from using it. His reasons are spelled out in the story.