Monday, April 21, 2014

New from Fairylogue Press

Sometime back, I reviewed Namesake Book 1. Well, now I have Book 2 in hand. The collected print edition of this popular and well-done webcomic is nicely presented and matches the first Book well. Megan Lavey-Heaton continues some great writing, working with Isabelle Melancon's beautiful art for a gripping fantasy epic.

The story of Namesake continues as Emma and her friends in Oz head to the Emerald City to try to find Ozma. Along the way, the mystery of Emma's presence in Oz deepens and we learn more about Warrick and Selva, the Tin Woodman's grandchildren.

Meantime, Emma's sister and friends try to figure out how to get Emma back. Also, we see Alice and Mr. Dodgson, who attempt to go to the mysterious organization Calliope for help.

Book 2 also contains a bonus story about Warrick that was not released online.

Namesake improves on the concept of crossing over fantasy worlds by largely keeping them separate. In this way, it avoids problems other crossover tales—such as ABC's Once Upon A Time—encounter. Large, complicated casts of characters with backstories are not a problem here, the focus being more centralized on Emma and her friends, many of which are original characters and are free of expectations of previous incarnations.

Namesake has been developing much more from the point where Book 2 ends and plans are already in place for Book 3.
Also available from the same crew is a little comic titled Knot, which can be neatly described as a traditional fairy tale for the 21st century. Isabelle Melancon writes and draws this 11 page tale.
A princess' parents call for sorcerers to find a cure for her sadness. No one seems to be helping until the smallest sorcerer gets caught in the knots in the princess' hair. Untying one, he begins to get to the bottom of the princess' trouble. (Namesake fans will easily spot Warrick making a cameo in the tale.)

Both Namesake and Knot are highly recommended. It's refreshing to see quality storytelling and art in a highly-available format.

Namesake is available in three forms: e-book ($5 each), softcovers ($20 each) and hardcovers ($30 each). The entire comic can also be read for free online through the archive. Knot is available in a standard comic book, printed on high quality paper. ($5) Both titles (as well as Book 1, an upcoming comic, and art prints) are available in Fairylogue Press' online store.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stealing the Ruby Slippers

So, recently we helped promote a Kickstarter for Who Stole the Ruby Slippers? The documentary will cover the 2005 theft of a pair of screen-used Ruby Slippers from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The case is notable for being unsolved, with no leads and no arrests made. Just the thing for a nice crime story, right?

Amanda Moon thought so and has turned out her first novel Stealing the Ruby Slippers, which creates a fictional tale about what may have happened to the historic pumps. The book follows the viewpoint of Jared (...) Canning, who breaks into the museum and makes off with the Ruby Slippers.

Moon opts to open the story with the theft, throwing the reader right into the action and following the aftermath. She reveals backstory and motive throughout the novel instead of loading the reader with it near the beginning: Jared is not an Oz or Judy Garland fan, he is doing a job on behest of someone who will pay him so he can pay off his gambling debts. There's just one major snarl in his plan: his buyer is in New Orleans, and as Jared tries to keep the shoes hidden, Hurricane Katrina strikes.

Complicating matters is Jared's girlfriend Kelly, who discovers the shoes and—being a fan of the movie—is excited that these are actually in her reach. Also, a couple friends of Jared's saw the shoes when Kelly found them. Also, the guy he owes money to is impatient for reimbursement, and isn't afraid to rough up his debtors. As matters grow worse for Jared, it's all he can do to try to keep the Ruby Slippers from being discovered or himself intact.

While I don't want to spoil the ending, the fact remains that it's based on a true unsolved crime, so there are a couple twists awaiting the reader. The book is mainly told from Jared's perspective in the first person in present tense. However, due to the way the story flows, this changes. It's not usual, but it does heighten the suspense and make the character feel a little more relatable. Moon certainly is invested in her storytelling, making the text enjoyable to read. Overall, it's a fine first novel.

Since we're an all-ages blog, I need to warn that this is not a book for young readers. It is not an Oz book, nor even a piece of Oz-themed fiction, such as Wicked or Was. This is a crime novel. There's violence, frequent uses of profanity, and references to sex and drug use. Kelly is described as attractive, and there are several low-brow comments made on her figure and her intelligence. This is a novel for the mature reader.

Stealing the Ruby Slippers is set to be released next month, and copies can be preordered from the author for $10 each. For a crime novel with a hint of Oz in it, check it out!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview with Danielle Paige, Author of 'Dorothy Must Die'

I recently got to interview the wonderful Danielle Paige, author of the new book Dorothy Must Die.

Give us a quick rundown of the premise of Dorothy Must Die. 
Short version: Another girl from Kansas lands in Oz via tornado and learns she has to fight an evil Dorothy. Long version: Amy Gumm lands in Oz and is inducted into the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, a group of not-so-wicked witches that are determined to rid their land of Dorothy. But first, she has to take the Scarecrow's brain, the Tin Man's heart, and the Lion's courage. 
How did you approach writing this book? It's a rather drastic departure from the Oz everyone knows and loves. Was it difficult to find a good balance between staying true to that and creating something new?
I was terrified at first of stepping onto Baum's Yellow Brick Road. But once I got started, I did so with abandon. I enjoyed pushing the characters to their limits, but I think that each character still possesses, at his or her core, something of what we first fell in love with in Baum's original. Dorothy may now be wicked, but she is still loyal to her friends. 
Were you at all influenced by the original Oz books? Or is the story mostly derived from the 1939 movie and your own ideas?
I read all fourteen Baum books, and I've seen the movie so many times, but the books have a wealth of amazing characters and lands to explore. I was so lucky to have so much to work with. 
It was reported last year that The CW was planning a TV series based on Dorothy Must Die. Is that still in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
I can only say how much I would love to see it on screen!
There have been plenty of revisionist takes on Oz over the years, from Wicked to the Syfy Channel's Tin Man. What makes Dorothy Must Die unique? Why should Oz fans check it out?
I love all things Oz, too! Wicked and Tin Man and Return to Oz are all fabulous. But I think there's a place for my Dorothy, too. As a writer, I felt like there was another story to tell. And as a fan, I could not let go of this idea of what happens after Dorothy goes home from Oz and has to go back to being a normal girl in Kansas. Could she leave Oz behind? I think she can't. I think she longs for the beauty and the magic and, to a degree, the fame she achieved there. I think she longs for it, and out of that longing, a new Dorothy begins to form.
Your first book was just released, but are you already planning on writing sequels?
There will be two more books! Working on book two now.
The original story was written 115 years ago, and is still relevant and popular today. Why do you think Oz has withstood the test of the time?
It's America's fairy tale. The theme of good vs. wicked is timeless, and Baum's characters and settings are among the most imaginative in all of literature. I hope he wouldn't mind the update.
Thank you so much, Danielle! 

Dorothy Must Die is now available from Harper Teen wherever books are sold. Click here for more information.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Bungle, the Glass Cat

So, Dr. Pipt knew how to make a powder that could bring things to life. But if he knew it could do that, he must have used it before, right?

Indeed. It seems he would have had more than one test subject, but the only one we meet is Bungle, the Glass Cat.

Bungle began as a glass ornament shaped like a cat. It featured emerald green eyes, a ruby heart, a spun glass tail, and tiny pink balls in its head for brains. When it was brought to life, the cat adopted a female gender.

The Glass Cat was tasked with catching mice, but she refused to as they would be clearly visible inside her body. Thus, as she wouldn't serve the purpose that she was brought to life for, she was considered a "Bungle," thus her name.

Bungle wasn't an entirely useless creature and would provide company for Margolotte as Dr. Pipt worked. As she did not need to be fed or cleaned up after, she made an ideal pet.

However, Bungle was also a cat and acted as such. Her decision to come when called was entirely voluntary and she often enjoyed going out on her own. Being able to speak, she would express her opinions, her vanity, and her believed superiority, particularly over her pink brains, which would move, leading her to point out, "You can see them work!"

When Dr. Pipt had to send Ojo to the Emerald City, he sent Bungle along with them, thinking that he might be rid of Bungle. Aside from her snarky commentary, Bungle adds little to Ojo's team and is left behind once Ojo reaches the Emerald City. The Wizard changes her pink brains out with clear ones to reduce her vanity, but by her next book appearance, they were pink again.

Perhaps her feline shape mixed with the Powder of Life helped Bungle not break so easily, because she soon began exploring Oz independently, her small size and transparency likely helping her observe without being seen. In this way, she learns many things about the Land of Oz, and it is this exploration that leads to her second Baum role in The Magic of Oz, in which she tells Trot and Cap'n Bill about the Magic Flower and leads them to it. She winds up having to rescue them as well by having to find the Wizard for help. But then, the Wizard needs some help himself when she finds him, which she's able to.

The Glass Cat didn't reappear in the Famous Forty Oz books. Typically, I avoid mentioning other works, but she is the main character of the story "The Ruby Heart" in Oz-Story 5 by Michael O. Riley which finally addresses what would happen if Bungle broke. It's also a very good character piece for her. She also makes a notable appearance in Eric Shanower's The Blue Witch of Oz. Finally, Gina Wickwar's The Hidden Prince of Oz reveals where the Glass Cat was actually made.

Like Eureka, Bungle is once again a feline character based on the way cat owners interpret their cat's personality. Bungle is vain and haughty and has a very high opinion of herself. The fact that she is also an animated glass ornament only ties in with her vanity. Bungle's vanity makes her a little difficult for other characters to work with, but she is not condemned for her attitude: this is simply who she is.

Friday, April 04, 2014

News!

Marc Berezin reports that a new film adaptation of Volshebnik Izumrudnovo Goroda (Alexander Volkov's The Wizard of the Emerald City, his Russian rewrite of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) is set for release in 2015. And it even has a teaser trailer!



The Royal Blog of Oz friend Zach Allen and his fellow Oz crew have their eyes turned on to helping Oz-stravaganza in Chittenango be even better with their presence. But they need funding for travel expenses and have turned to Indiegogo for help.



Finally, I'm sad to report that a friend and Oz fan has crossed the Shifting Sands. John C. Ebinger was literally the first Winkie I ever met. When I first attended the Winkie Convention in 2010, he picked me up from the Greyhound Station in Salinas and took me the rest of the way to Asilomar. In the next three years at Asilomar, I'd keep an eye open for him and say hello and chat a little. He told me he was working on an Ozopedia and he always had his camera ready.

Last year was the last Winkies at Asilomar, with plans to meet in San Diego this year. Even though I knew that someday I wouldn't see some beloved faces return to Winkies, it'll be very sad not to see John among all the familiar and new faces.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

New 'Legends of Oz' Stills & Clips!

The UK website for Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return has launched, and with it, some new stills and clips!

In this first clip, Dorothy (Lea Michele), Wiser (Oliver Platt), and Toto are arrested by Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) for eating candy.



In the second clip, Dorothy and friends encounter fireflies while on board Tugg (Patrick Stewart).



Check out some of the new stills below, and see Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, opening in the U.S. on May 9, and in the UK on May 23.






Tuesday, April 01, 2014

More Kickstarter Updates!

Well, I wound up signing up for another Oz writing project that has a deadline, so... Yeah...

Anyway, here's updates on Ozzy Kickstarters that are running we've talked about in the past.

First up is Who Stole the Ruby Slippers? It has less than two days left and they are still quite under the minimum goal! They've added some cool new perks (including Ruby Sneakers and a poster) to entice pledges. Help this dream go over the rainbow!



The Tik Tok Man of Oz is still doing quite well, and is hopefully on its way to meeting its last couple stretch goals! Which could be covered if a couple people could go for the $1000 pledge, which nets you all of the souvenirs AND an original painting of an Oz character by Eric Shanower. That alone would be worth $1000! Eric doesn't do private commissions, so this is a rare opportunity to get your hands on some of his actual artwork.



Finally, Polychrome managed to meet its minimum goals, but you can help make the book even more elaborate and get a few perks. While the book doesn't seem to be set in Baum's Oz, it has been getting some good press, even by Mari Ness, who is a Baum fan.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Looking Ahead: 'Legends of Oz'

In a little over a month, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return will make its debut in theaters nationwide.



As some of our readers know, I have been following this project for years... since 2007, actually.

I would constantly be searching through the internet, looking for new information on the film. I would tell all of my friends in 4th grade about this awesome new movie that was being made- letting people borrow my copy of Roger Baum's Dorothy of Oz, showing off my so-called 'fan-art,' getting excited when one of the producers emailed me back, etc.

I feel a bit nostalgic when I see Legends of Oz toys at Toys R Us, when a commercial comes on TV, or when I see a poster up at the movie theater, because to me, this film represents my passion for Oz and film-making in general. It was so much fun dreaming about what the film would look like and be like. I remember thinking to my eight-year old self, "I want to make movies like this. I want to be a part of this."


I would constantly email people involved in the film, telling them who I thought should be cast, and how it should be released. It was interesting seeing the project evolve even just from what was on the internet; from storyboards, to the casting process, to animation tests, to concept art, and now the final product.


I've gotten into some trouble through all of my information-hunting antics, and I haven't always had the most positive things to say about the film, but the eight-year old in me is still rooting for this project, and though I'm not going to the red carpet premiere, I will be at my local movie theater opening day. And probably a few times after that.

Legends of Oz opens in theaters in the U.S. on May 9.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

UltraOz

During the lead up to the big re-release of MGM's The Wizard of Oz on Blu-Ray last year, I mentioned that certain sets comes with a code for an Ultraviolet copy of the movie. And then when I reviewed the set, I didn't even mention it. Shall we rectify that?

Ultraviolet is the film industry's answer to illegal streaming sites and the interest in digital copies of a film. The concept is that you set up an Ultraviolet account and an account with a content provider (of which there are several: Vudu, Target Ticket, Flixster and CinemaNow being just a few). Any Ultraviolet codes that come with a DVD or Blu-Ray you own can be redeemed for access to that title through the Ultraviolet service, creating a "locker" of films you can watch with an internet connection and an Ultraviolet device, including a computer. Even better is if you use multiple content providers, your movies are accessible on all of them. (Unless there are licensing issues.)

Ultraviolet access can also be purchased, either by buying the film or putting a DVD copy in your computer with the service's program (Flixster and Vudu have this), and get a Ultraviolet copy in standard definition for a few bucks or a high definition version for a couple more. Alternately, Blu-Ray copies can be brought to a merchant (Vudu is owned by Walmart, for example) and high definition Ultraviolet access bought for title for a few dollars. This access also lets you download the movie to a portable device for internet-free playback later.

Basically, with a portable device, you can watch some of your favorite Oz films on the go or bring them up on your home theater system without grabbing a disc, if you have a compatible device (more recent TVs, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles and other streaming video devices have some sort of Ultraviolet capability).

There aren't a lot of Ultraviolet Oz titles available right now. There's MGM's classic film, and Warner Brother's Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz. There's also the film version of The Wiz. There are a number of other Oz titles available from these providers, but they're not Ultraviolet compatible: they'll be tied to the one content provider unless they eventually do get added to Ultraviolet. This includes The Witches of Oz, the Disney Oz movies, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime series.

Disney has recently launched Disney Movies Anywhere, which they hope to connect to more content providers, but is currently tied to their site and iTunes. (And yes, all three of their Oz titles—Return to Oz, The Muppets Wizard of Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful—are available on it.) Still, it's a separate service from Ultraviolet.

As you can imagine, depending on your internet strength (if you're streaming it), most Oz titles look as good as their DVD/Blu-Ray counterparts (or better, if a title is available for streaming in HD, but not available on Blu-Ray).

MGM's The Wizard of Oz is a different story, though. Unlike recently-produced theatrical titles, it wasn't made in an widescreen aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is almost the shape of a CRT ("box") television set. Almost. The image is actually a little wider than such an image. Thus, when you watched the MGM film on VHS and DVD, a tiny bit of the picture was actually cut off.

With Blu-Ray being designed for widescreen televisions, the 2009 home video release was actually the first time the entire picture was released to home video. And this same high definition print is what is available on Ultraviolet. If you were to view it on a widescreen television or a portable device, you would see black bars on the sides of the image.

However, with me still having a CRT TV, my experience watching the Ultraviolet copy through my Blu-Ray player's Vudu support was different. At first glance, the image appears identical to a DVD copy (aspect ratio-wise), but taking a closer look, there were tiny black bars at the top and bottom of the picture. Thus, without an HDTV, those little bits of frame were all visible.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing a prequel to Oz

So, people write Oz stories. I write Oz stories now. But most new Oz stories tend to pick up where Baum or the other Royal Historians left off and tell further adventures.

Still, there are some who go back and tell stories of Oz's past. Perhaps as a midquel, happening in between previous Oz books (often patching up what seem to be continuity gaffes), or perhaps even before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, making it a prequel to the Oz books.

I'm actually now responsible for two prequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: "The Way of a Lion," published in Oziana 2013 and "Aunt Em and Uncle Henry," a little story I posted on this blog not long ago.

Very much, both of these prequels were based on concepts I'd had for a film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that would flesh out the backstories of the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy. The Scarecrow tells how he was made and informed that he was brainless, and the Tin Woodman tells how he became tin, but the Lion simply tells us how he lived day to day, while we are told little information about Dorothy.

To me, what made the lion unique is that he wasn't cowardly, he simply misunderstands what courage is. According to actual accounts about male lions, they largely allow the females to do the hunting and only defend their prides when the need arises. So, it seems the Lion was actually a well-depicted anthropomorphic lion, that is, if you consider Dorothy and her friends the lion's "pride."

Since the story would start when the Lion was a baby, I had to change some things about real lions. Cubs are often raised together by a group of mothers for defense. This is because young lions are delicate and need protection, though. However, lions often live in the plains, and not in forests as lions in Oz seem to do. Thus, I assumed, given that animals in Oz speak and have come to respect each other, the danger to a cub is reduced, except from a kalidah. The trees and other features of a forest might allow a single mother to care for her cub on her own.

As one reads my story, I reveal that the Cowardly Lion is not a native Munchkin lion, but actually a Quadling. Due to a tragic point of the story, he flees to a new forest, and somehow manages to miss all other forests (I did trace his route on the International Wizard of Oz Club's map) until he comes to the Munchkin forest Dorothy will one day travel through. The main part of him being a Quadling lion was so that he actually has a story arc that begins in my story and reaches its triumph in one of the final chapters of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. So it's as if I began a story and then let L. Frank Baum finish it, except he'd already done it over 110 years ago.

Dorothy's backstory, I knew, did not need to be complicated. I cordially dislike prequels that make out Dorothy's coming to Oz as predetermined or prophesied, or that her parents were tied to Oz somehow. What I enjoy about Baum's stories about someone from the United States going to Oz is that they were no one special when they arrived, but become known for their actions. Dorothy and the Wizard are similar in this regard, except that the people believed the Wizard to be a Wizard, but then, Dorothy was also believed to be a sorceress, the only difference is that she denied it.

The backstory for Dorothy that I wrote was actually folded into Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's, because I knew they had to be tied to each other. How they met was actually based on how my maternal grandparents met. All the names I gave them were either from Baum's life or my grandparents. "Carpenter" was the married name of one of Maud Baum's sisters, so I gave it to Uncle Henry, while Em's maiden name "Stanton" was from an uncle of Baum's. Aunt Em's middle name "Marie" was my grandmother's name. "Matilda" is of course the name of L. Frank Baum's mother in law, while "Charles" is from Charles Dickens, one of Baum's favorite authors. (It's also been suggested that "Oz" came from Dickens' nickname "Boz.")

The difficult part was finding out how Dorothy became an orphan. I had decided to tie Charles' death to the sinking of the USS Maine, the event that set off the Spanish-American War. This was with the idea that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz takes place in 1900. Matilda's death was harder to decide on. I suppose I could have made it easy and had Matilda die during childbirth, thus Charles had to leave Dorothy with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry when he had to serve his country anyway, but I'd decided that Matilda would die after Charles.

My main intention was that after Charles died, Dorothy and her mother would move in with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Matilda would die on the farm somehow in an accident that Uncle Henry could have possibly avoided. He'd then blame himself for her death, leading to his rarely speaking in Wonderful Wizard. But there wasn't really a good opening without making him look like a really negligent farmer. I did once take a page from Baum's short story "The Diamondback" and have Matilda save Dorothy from a rattlesnake that bites her instead, except that snake venom isn't that fast acting, and surely Uncle Henry and Aunt Em could have been informed and treated it before it proved lethal.

One person suggested that a sinkhole open on the farm and Matilda gets caught in it while rescuing Dorothy. That seemed a bit much, however. So, in the story I posted on the blog, Matilda's death is left vague. I just can't seem to kill Matilda...