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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Royal Podcast of Oz — Winkie Con 50 Report!

Jared and guest Colin Ayres discuss the 50th Winkie Convention held in San Diego, California and look forward to next year's convention!

As always, you can listen and download at the podcast site or use the player below.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Taking Greyhound to Oz

I wrote this post on the bus on the way home from Winkies and saved it to post sometime. At least two other people used Greyhound to get to Winkies this year and I had some suggestions I wish I could have shared with them ahead of time. While it might be awhile before you might be using the advice here, I thought it might be worth posting sooner than later.
I recall that my mother once told me she saw a Greyhound bus with a celebratory Wizard of Oz wrap decorating it. I've never seen further confirmation, but it is true that Greyhound is an option to get you to your favorite Oz events. Perhaps you don't want to drive your car that far, or perhaps you don't want to fly, or maybe you've deemed it the more viable option over Amtrak.

But anyway, whether you're traveling from another city or halfway across the country, having traveled to Winkies by this service for five years, I have some advice.

ARRIVE EARLY

Greyhound is notorious for running late. Don't aim for a tight arrival and travel to location time. Choose an earlier route so you aren't pressed for time on arrival. I now attempt to arrive at least the day before the event so if I'm late, I'm not missing anything.

THE TICKET COST IS JUST ONE COST

The cost of your ticket can be quite nice compared to competitors. However, Greyhound will only get you to your destination. However, you will want a snack or a drink at some point, unless your trip is only a few hours. Greyhound does make stops to allow you to purchase food. Alternatively, you can bring your own snacks, but note that you will have to carry these in your carry on and you're allowed one piece. So, budget for stops or prepare something to take along.

PATIENCE

As said, Greyhound is notorious for running late. While sometimes the driver might have gone a different route or made a mistake, more often than not, it's out of their hands. Losing your cool at the driver can have consequences, including being stranded or further delayed.

You are also going to be traveling on a bus with other people. Sometimes you will have to share a seat with someone or be subject to loud passengers or even rowdy children. If you are traveling alone, you might want to bring some headphones and a music player to drown out the sounds a bit.

Always be courteous to other passengers. If they're not so courteous, ignore them and try to enjoy the trip as best as you can. There's no point in starting a war on the bus.

BAGGAGE

If you're carrying luggage (and you probably are) ALWAYS make sure it's transferred when you change buses. Unless they explicitly tell you they are moving it for you, claim it and carry it to your new bus yourself. Lost luggage from not being claimed usually arrives on the next trip, but they are notorious for not notifying you unless you actually visit. A little vigilance goes a long way towards saving you trouble here.

If you're bringing something for sale and you can't fit it with your luggage, you might arrange to ship it to someone to bring, or Greyhound offers a package service and can ship it with you for a fee. Definitely do not attempt to transport fragile items like this.

Finally, if you have a lot of new treasures to take home, you might consider shipping them through the mail if they can't fit in your luggage.

RESEARCH LOCAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Greyhound only travels from station to station, so once you arrive, you still have to get to the site of the event yourself. You could get a taxi, or maybe someone else going might help you out, but a cost effective way is to check local public transportation. It's never been easier as Google Maps has the routes of many public transportation systems added to their site and even tells you how much the fare will be.

Most smartphones have Google Maps and other navigation apps to help you find your way using GPS capability. For those without a smartphone, you can look up directions ahead of time and print them out.

Definitely do your research ahead of time. A good number of Greyhound stations are adjacent to public transportation, but this is not a rule. You don't want to get there and wonder what to do next.

If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, then I'd definitely suggest calling a cab. You should research services and prices ahead of time.

Note: if you'd like to try asking a friend who is also attending to pick you up, ask around and make plans quite a bit of time in advance (try a month or two), and it's always nice if you can chip in a little for gas. Don't blame a friend if they can't do it. In many cases, they have their plans, and so do you, and sometimes they don't quite work well with each other.

OTHER TIPS

If you use your phone quite a bit, I would recommend investing in a portable power bank to give it an extra charge. A lot of new Greyhound buses include outlets for charging devices (and so-so WiFi), but not all do and some of these outlets (and WiFi) prove faulty. They do not promise these services, so you really shouldn't complain if you find you can't use these amenities or if they are not available on your bus. A number of stations also offer free WiFi and charging stations, so if you need to watch your data plan, you might want to limit your phone use to when you're at one.

If you often get headaches or nauseous, carry some cheap ibuprofen and bismuth tablets. Some supermarkets and grocery stores sell value brand packages of these for as low as $1 each. (Note: I do not suggest abuse of over-the-counter medication. Use only as directed and if you're not sure if it's safe for you, consult a doctor.)

Enjoy the view of the country!

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Music from Oz: The Wizard of Oz by Toybox

In searching for Oz videos or music, there's a little song that might pop up: "The Wizard of Oz" by a Danish group called Toy-Box.



The song seems to be a fun bubblegum pop song, a little reminiscent of "Barbie Girl." But a closer examination of the lyrics reveals it to be a little less about the classic Oz of Baum and MGM and a little more of something else... Something more adult. (Lyrics in bold indicate a male voice. Otherwise, it is sung by the female lead.)
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?
Okay, so far, so good. There's some lyrics that might be interpreted suggestively, but it could be innocent.
Will you take me to the land of Oz
Yes, I will, come on (Let's go then)
But that's your house, and not the land of Oz
But this is much more fun (Really)

You can be my wizard
But don't tell anyone
Wait, he takes her to his house? Seemingly against her will, although he's able to talk her into it?
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?

Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?

I am searching for the magic land
Follow me, my girl (Okay)
Do you have to touch me with your magic hands
It's part of the ritual (Hey, hands off, Mister)
Okay, now he's touching her, and she's not cool about it.
Listen to the wizard
And you'll be magical
Do we want to know what "being magical" means here?
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?
(Love you)

Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?

Ho ho ho ho ho
Welcome to the land of Oz

Is this the land of Oz?
Wow! It's so beautiful
It's magical
When I showed the lyrics to my sister, she suggested that the song was actually about sex and drug use, so with this interpretation, she might now be on a trip or a high thanks to some drugs he gave her.
Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?
(Excuse me, which way to fly?)
Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?
(Shh, it's a secret!)

Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?

Wizard, wizard
I have a wish to be, be, be
Be, be, be
Wizard, wizard
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz
Tell me are you the Wizard of Oz

(Of course I am)
You know what? Bravo! Here's a song with a working subtext. And if it disturbs you, good.