Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Sampling Of Oz Comics Over The Years

Hey, I was getting some scans of front covers of Oz comics in for my next Oz video, and thought that I'd share them here, as you probably won't get to see them for very long in the video... (Click on any one for a larger image.)
One of the earliest comic book adaptations of the book. Very abbreviated. The Wicked Witch of the West has the Silver Shoes, and the Wizard is just a man who gives Dorothy and her friends advice.
The official comic book of the TV show. Retells a few of the episodes.
The licensed comic book of the MGM movie, the first ever collaboration between Marvel and DC Comics.
The first in a failed series from Marvel to adapt all of the Oz stories, using the style of John R. Neill and the designs of the MGM movie in the artwork.
One of the first "Adult" Oz comics. The writer had a feel for Baum's world, but also twisted it to the extreme. Some like it, some don't. It's a mixed bag.
Yes, it's Oz, Wonderland, Looking-Glass Land, and Captain Carrot! ("Who?" "SHUT UP!") Actually, Oz and Wonderland were not at war, the Nome King had conquered Oz and the Ozians (or Ozites) were using Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land as a refuge. Yes, they got THAT desperate.
Eh, this is not actually from the Oz/Dark Oz series, it's a crossover they did, but it gets the idea of the series across pretty well if you ask me. Following an invasion from (guess who?) the Nome King, Oz becomes a medieval-style war zone.

Don't let the Japanese-flavored art fool you. This is one of the best freely-adapted comics versions out there.

What happened to this series? It was a little odd, but I liked it! Dorothy is a goth who runs away from home, when her truck gets caught in a tornado and takes her to Oz. Excellent blend of photography and computer graphics.

Let me just say that I'm glad this was a one-shot... Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, and even Toto are out to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.

Not an Oz comic per se, but it was fun! She-Hulk fills in for Dorothy, the Scarlet Witch is the Wicked Witch, Agatha Harkness is the Good Witch, Thor is the Scarecrow, Iron Man is the Tin Woodman, and Captain America is the Lion.

And this is looking like another great Oz adaptation. Great artwork, and Baum's text is adapted very well for the comics medium. Skottie Young does the very original artwork, while Eric Shanower adapted the book. Eric's done his own Oz graphic novels, telling original stories. I just... didn't show any here... (Go buy Adventures in Oz, you won't be sorry.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Glinda the Good?

You know which Oz character I think definitely has some hidden agenda? Glinda. (Well, you probably figured that out from the blog title, but... never mind!)

I mean, take a look at her. No, not the giggly, easily-muddled Billie Burke depiction. She's considered the most powerful person in Oz, has a book that gives her real-time updates on everything that's happening, and yet she never lifts a finger to help anyone unless they ask first.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, she seems to be aware of the events of the adventurers, but waits to act until they come to her. And what's with all those spies she mentions in The Marvelous Land of Oz? Who's to say they don't still work for her?

And does it seem that after Ozma comes to power, she seems to consult Glinda often? And what about Glinda seemingly acting for the good of Oz when she's been unbidden? Take the end of The Emerald City of Oz. She cloaks Oz in the Barrier of Invisibility (which doesn't really keep people from entering Oz, taking The Scarecrow of Oz into consideration) before Ozma asks. Why? It's obvious. She wants to protect Oz from outsiders...

..But the big question is, who will protect Oz from Glinda? That's the same reason she sends Queen Ann and the Oogaboo army outside of Oz in Tik-Tok of Oz! And of course she'd go rescue Ozma and Dorothy in Glinda of Oz. It gave her a heads up on some new magic, and it got some other magic-workers out of the way!

And her training the Wizard? Of course she would! He's her apprentice. She needs a follower.

Think about it, she knows everyone's strength, everyone's weakness. Something sinister in brewing in the south, and no one in Oz sees it coming...

After a few comments, I want to note that I wrote this firmly tongue-in-cheek, but I think my point is valid: if Glinda ever went bad, virtually no one could stop her.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I managed to watch Inkheart yesterday. Sometime back, I posted the trailer for the movie on my blog, which included a scene that included Toto. Yes, Toto.

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Cornelia Funke. It revolves around a family of silvertongues, who make things and people appear from books they read aloud. Father Mo and his daughter Meggie are looking for a copy of Inkheart, a book they had an unfortunate encounter with sometime back, which led to their wife and mother's disappearance. Apparently, when something comes out of a book, something goes in. However, the villain of the book, Capricorn, is finding and destroying all copies of the book to ensure he can never return.

What does this have to do with Oz? I've heard that this wasn't in the book, but one book that features prominently is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While escaping from Capricorn, Mo, Meggie and some friends (some fictional) use the cyclone from the book to distract everyone. Later, Meggie summons Toto, and the Winged Monkeys can be seen in Capricorn's prison. I liked the way the characters looked, but was didn't enjoy seeing their take on Kansas from the book. We see a road and telephone poles outside of where the house was, and a farmer (presumably Uncle Henry) just sitting there. The house seemed very distant in the book, and telephone poles wouldn't be around in 1900.

However, I thought the movie managed to tell an interesting story, and told it very well. The acting was great (at least, so it seemed on the first view), and the special effects and music were done very well and weren't overwhelming.

And overall, I thought it was a good, family-friendly, pro-literacy (yep!) movie. We need more of those...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Behind The Scenes of Yesterday's Post

Here's a few things about the podcast I made yesterday.

  • The raw audio file was one hour and four minutes long. The finished podcast was thirty-eight minutes and eighteen seconds long. That included an added one minute and five seconds of the introduction and closing, and the audio of Al remarking how international the conversation was. (That was from our first conference call.)
  • The raw audio was out of sync due to a program I was running that interfered with my connection. This also caused my computer to freeze when I disconnected a call.
  • I used Call Graph to record. It records the audio in stereo with my audio on one channel and my callers' audio on another channel. Not only does this make a nice sound for the podcast, it was also VERY helpful when re-syncing the audio.
  • Long pauses were edited out of the raw audio. So were unrelated bits of audio, including the actual beginning and end of the call.
  • Al did not mean to permanently leave the call. He had some problems with his hardware that prevented him from returning, so I edited the audio to make it sound like he was leaving. This required a cut where Sam said he hoped Al would return soon and I explained what had happened. (I also had my instant message software going. No, this was not what caused the interference.)
  • All of the software I used to make the podcast is available for free. The call was made with Skype (it's free to call another Skype user, but you must buy Skype credit to call landline or mobile phones), the call was recorded with Call Graph, and the audio was edited with Audacity.
  • We have not yet set a date for the second part.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

John R. Neill - An Appreciation - Volume 5

"Volume 5" refers to the number of blogs I have done about Neill's work. This is the first audio entry I've done.

Get your copy of Ozma of Oz out. In this special audio edition (which also serves as a test version of my podcast idea), Al Cook, Sam Milazzo, and myself discuss many of the illustrations from this book. Al cut out early, but Sam and I stayed in and continued the discussion some more.

I chose Ozma because it's where Neill really came into his own as an Oz illustrator. Sam has studied art, and Al is a professional illustrator, so I thought both would offer interesting insights into the artwork.

For the ease of anyone who wants to follow along with our analysis, I tried to make sure we mentioned page numbers, which refer to the Books of Wonder edition. (The page numbers will also be the same in some other editions, such as an original or Reilly & Britton/Lee reissues, and possibly the Dover edition, though Sam mentions a few disadvantages to that edition in the podcast.)

Al and I were using Skype and I recorded the call with Call Graph, and edited with Audacity. Sam was using a telephone, so that is why he sounds rather different from Al and I.

I hope you enjoy it. I'd appreciate any feedback and comments anyone has.

More links, including download links, can be found here:

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I got the audio for the podcast (see previous blog entry) synced up properly. Some of Sam's audio at the end was missing, but as I won't be using it in the final cut of the podcast, it won't be missed.

What I will be removing is parts of dead silence, parts where I and the other people involved were looking over the illustrations from Ozma of Oz, parts where we went off subject (too bad, as there was one humorous spot where Al remarked I suddenly sounded quite English), and maybe mute some parts that don't need to be heard.

One advantage I have on that last item is that I recorded in stereo. My lines are on one channel, while the people I was talking to, namely Al and Sam, were on the other. If I accidentally talked over one of them or vice versa, it's easy to mute that part without muting the whole thing.

All right, I stayed up way too late taking care of that... Off to bed I must go.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coming Soon...

I just finished recording another Skype call between Sam Milazzo, Al Cook, and myself. This time, it was a test version of my podcast idea, and we made it an audio edition of the John R. Neill - An Appreciation blogs. As Al is a professional illustrator, as well as a fan of Neill's artwork, and Sam has studied art to some degree (as well as having colored many Oz illustrations), I thought both would offer an interesting analysis on the subject at hand.

The book we chose was Ozma of Oz. We didn't do quite as much as we liked, Al had to cut out early (we got about a half-hour of him, though).

I'm not uploading it yet, because the audio may be out-of-sync (if it is, it is easily fixed, but you have to find where it goes out), there are gaps, and there are parts that don't apply to the topic at hand. In addition, I'll be adding an introduction and a closing statement. It'll be up at , but I might be using that only for this, as I'm in talks for a different, permanent host for a podcast.

Anyways, keep your eyes open, it'll be up soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dark Oz - Yeah, Right...

Hey, folks, sorry for not blogging much recently. Haven't exactly kept my head in the Oz world this week. (Save some posts on the Oz Club Message Board and the Regalia mailing list.)

Recently, on The Daily Ozmapolitan, I noticed this article about a movie that's been announced, based on the Oz (later Dark Oz) comic book series. If you plan to read this entry further than this, please see that article, as I will be commenting on it.

Now, keep in mind that the poster is a concept poster. In fact, when I sent a link to Sam Milazzo, he mentioned he'd seen the artwork for it on the internet before, so you likely won't see it up at the local movie theater.

Another thing that stuck out was the 2010 planned release date. It could happen, I'll admit, but they'd have to start filming soon, and they say they're still re-writing the script.

2010 is going to be another major year for movies. In March, we have Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, then in May, there's Iron Man 2, Shrek Goes Fourth, and Disney's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the rest of the summer will likely be filled with action movies and animated family entertainment, headlined by the Disney/Pixar Toy Story 3. Later in the year will bring us the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the Fox/Walden production The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Even though everything is subject to change, the Wikipedia page for 2010 movies gives you a pretty good idea of what other movies are coming.)

And it doesn't end there. Two other Oz movies have also been given tentative 2010 release dates, three if you count The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus. A computer-animated version of that story, John Boorman's CGI-French animated adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alpine Picture's Dorothy of Oz all are expected to be released in 2010. (Dorothy of Oz and Santa Claus are expected for holiday release dates, while Boorman's Wizard has not been given a specific time, and I'm thinking might go straight to home video.)

So, not only is 2010 filled with other adventure/fantasy movies, there are two Oz movies, and another Baum-based movie.

If you look at the plot summary they have for Dark Oz, it sounds familiar. Yes, the plot seems to have already been done in both Disney's Return to Oz and the SciFi Channel's Tin Man. My comment there even helped one fellow come up with this video:

My surprise is that the movie got greenlit at all. The comics it is based on are obscure as anything. I'm not really surprised they're being reprinted as graphic novels, as the publishing industry is largely moving to Print-On-Demand and digital versions. Books can stay widely available because large numbers of copies being printed is no longer required.

However, I'm not saying Dark Oz won't get made, as over the recent years, the price of making a movie has dropped with the increasing number of High-Definition ready cameras, video editing software packages, and more intuitive special effects and animation programs. (This does not mean that a motion picture won't stop costing millions of dollars, but now production costs don't need to be quite so high, save to pay the people involved and other fees.)

Distributing the movie is really the biggest matter here. A lot of fairly interesting films never become mainstream movies. Some independent or "artsy" movies are only released in film festivals and art houses before getting onto DVD. (Which is also easy now due to new technologies and trends.) Even big name actors like Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, and Alan Cumming have appeared in such films. Some movies don't even make it into film festivals and are never seen by the public. Digital distribution, using sites like YouTube, is just about a last, though still viable, resort.

Anyways, Dark Oz may or may not get released, but if it is, it's up for some stiff competition, Oz or no Oz.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What have I gotten myself into?

Hey, been having some technical troubles, so haven't been blogging much this week. (I am on Twitter now, though...) And as one technical issue involved me having to restore my computer to factory settings, I have to re-install all of my video software. Well, not exactly all... But most!

But, anyways, today I got a package from Sam Milazzo for the Wonders special episode about the Land of Oz itself. Not only was there a video disc, but there's a printed version of the script Sam wrote himself. (Sam's calling this one "The Wonders of the Land of Oz.") It's been annotated by hand, and there's also about three other pages of notes describing each shot on the disc and how shots from previous footage I've received will work into it.

The funny thing about the disc is that while it does contain video, I'll be using it mainly for audio content. Sam wrote and narrated this whole episode by himself, but in lieu of a microphone (that will change... I'll see to that!), he filmed video, using book illustrations, liner notes, video clips, even colored illustrations Sam has photocopied and colored by hand.

However, that's very much a pre-visualization of how the episode should look in it's final form. The finished video will be completely different.

There's even a couple quotes from the Oz books, and Sam has his mum voice Glinda. There's also a line by the Shaggy Man, however, we have four takes of that dialogue, two of which we are happy with. One had Sam directing his father reading the line, while we also have a version read by Al Cook that we did during that Skype conference call. Sam says the choice is up to me which one to use, but I might be hard pressed here. Both performances are very good! (I've decided to put the unused version after the end credits of the final video, so in the end, people will hear both.) So does a Scot or an Aussie voice the Shaggy Man?

But above all, I'm floored by the work Sam's already done here! I can say without a doubt that Sam's got a future in this business...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

John R. Neill - An Appreciation - Volume 4

It seems the biggest critic of John R. Neill's work on the Oz series was L. Frank Baum himself. While he probably trusted his publishers with their decision to have the staff illustrator illustrate the Oz books, Baum wasn't too happy with the artwork. To be sure, he recognized Neill's talent, but he felt the Oz books should be illustrated humorously.

Baum wasn't very vocal about his dislike of Neill's illustrations until 1915, when he discovered The Oz Toy Book in a Reilly & Britton catalog. The book was thick pieces of stiff bristol board with the Oz characters from The Marvelous Land of Oz to The Scarecrow of Oz printed in full color on them, ready to be cut out. With bases to stand on, the characters could stand on their own when folded.

Baum sent a letter to Reilly & Britton, demanding why they had allowed Neill to infringe on his rights.

Neill had not of course, the book was entirely the idea of the publishers for an extra item to sell to publicize the series, as well as to prepare the readers for the new characters in The Scarecrow of Oz (the Ork is seen on the last page), which many of them would be receiving for Christmas.

Baum's experience with W.W. Denslow made him refuse to share the copyright of his characters with an artist, as he had done with Denslow, who practically owned half of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Reilly & Britton apologized, and assured Baum that Neill was not to blame, and was not receiving royalties from the book. As a result, The Oz Toy Book saw only one printing, and today, it is hard to find a copy of the original edition of the book completely intact. Books of Wonder is currently selling a copy for $8,500, but for anyone who just wants to see Neill's work, the International Wizard of Oz Club offers a $6 black-and-white reprint. (I once started scanning this in and coloring the pictures on my computer, but never finished.)

The publishers also told Baum they "would impress upon him (Neill) the necessity of having the pictures as humorous as possible."

The next two books, Rinkitink in Oz and The Lost Princess of Oz, didn't offer too many humorous situations for Neill to illustrate, but in The Tin Woodman of Oz, Neill started to get a little more "humorous." The Scarecrow does an inverted bow when they meet Mrs. Yoop:

The Scarecrow's Song falls on Tin Ears:

Jinjur's cleansing of the transformed Woot definitely contains humor:

And the story lent itself well to humor, just look at this:

Baum, however, had resigned himself to the fact that Neill was his illustrator, and even wrote to Neill to offer him to visit so they could work on the Oz stories and illustrations together. "I'm sorry not to have met you personally for so many recent I remember our former foregatherings with real pleasure and think we could harmonize if we were jailed together in the same cell," he wrote, though the mystery is, what "former foregatherings" was Baum referring to? No one has turned up any record that they had ever met.

But, however, the demand for more humor took it's toll on Neill's art. The detailed style so many previous Oz books had enjoyed was now lost. Compare this art from The Emerald City of Oz...

To this art from Glinda of Oz.

(References, introduction to The Oz Toy Book, International Wizard of Oz Club edition, by Barbara S. Koelle, and L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katherine Rogers. All artwork hosted from The Ozmatron.)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Quickie: East & West Observation

Anyone notice that the odd placement of the Munchkin Country on the left side and the Munchkin Country on the right side of many maps of Oz may relate to how the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz flows?

Take a timeline of events. If you placed the events of Wonderful Wizard on one, all events would be flowing left to right. Now, Dorothy arrives in the Munchkin Country, which would put those events on the left side of the timeline. Moving further down the timeline, we'd get to the Emerald City, and further on right from those events, we go into the Winkie Country.

This probably has nothing to do with the incorrect maps, but I thought it was an interesting observation that I've had for awhile now. Now it's out and on the blog, and I can move on with my life.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


For some reason, when I first read The Road to Oz, I thought Polychrome would be dressed in purple. But when I finally saw color pictures of Polychrome later, she was dressed in all colors of the rainbow or plain white.

Polychrome isn't a very deep character. She is one of the Rainbow's Daughters, who dance upon the Rainbow when it appears after a shower.

Polychrome appears in four books by L. Frank Baum, The Road to Oz, Sky Island, Tik-Tok of Oz, and The Tin Woodman of Oz.

She's also a character who hasn't appeared in many Oz adaptations. She was played by Dolly Castles in the play The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, which served as the basis for Tik-Tok of Oz. A rainbow-colored girl who was labeled as Polychrome can be seen in the famous crowd scene of Disney's Return to Oz. (I thought she looked more like Fredrick Richardson's Queen Lulea in Queen Zixi of Ix.) And in The Oz Kids: Christmas in Oz, she flies across the sky with her own daughters. With the exception of the first one, her appearances have mainly been cameos.

Even though she is a simple character, she is a rather popular one. She is probably the closest to the stereotypical fairy that Baum ever got. Her life away from the earth almost makes her feel like an angel.

Polly (as Dorothy calls her in The Road to Oz) seems to be a rather careless sky fairy, as she falls off of the rainbow several times. Her life's purpose consists of dancing on the Rainbow, and when she's on earth, she does so to keep warm.

Her diet consists of things we don't eat, such as dewdrops, mist-cakes, and cloud-buns. When she is offered regular food, Dorothy notes she only eats as much as a fly. Either Baum is saying that Polly is built very different from humans (and much lighter), or she has a terrible eating disorder. (I'll go with the former.)

A little oddity I found when re-reading some of the Oz books recently was that in The Road to Oz, Polly says she does not know how to do magic, explaining "We who live on the rainbow among the fleecy clouds have no use for magic." But later, in The Tin Woodman of Oz, she is able to. While she can't undo the transformations of Mrs. Yoop, she manages to prepare magic meals, removes Tommy Kwikstep's additional legs (and his corns), straightens out dents that befall the Tin Woodman and Captain Fyter, and changes the size of herself and the entire group so they can walk through a burrow made by a rabbit.

I would call this an inconsistency if it were not for the length of time between Road and Tin Woodman. In between them is her appearance in Tik-Tok of Oz, in which some of her friends fall under transformations or other magical traps. Seeing as she has no way to assist, it is possible that she decided to learn some magic so if she was in such a situation, she could help.

I'm not forgetting Polly's appearance in Sky Island, where she is reunited with Button-Bright and meets Trot and Cap'n Bill, but her appearance is little more than an extended cameo, where she seriously helps out by looking up a law. Yep, she appears just for legal advice.

Polly is a great character! She might be a little too quick to make friends, but she certainly manages to ally herself with our heroes consistently. Her beautiful character was yet another wonderful addition to the long list of Oz characters.

(Okay, that takes care of Button-Bright and Polychrome, now to do one for the Shaggy Man.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Last Night Was Great...

... except for the technical difficulties that eventually made my ear ache.

And not everyone had the best time...

And I guess I might as well say what was going on...

Last night, I did my first Skype conference call. It took a bit of planning and arranging, but it connected three countries. It was myself here in the US, Sam Milazzo in Maroubra, Australia, and Al Cook in Glasgow, Scotland. This also meant three very different time zones were to be considered. For me, it was 5PM on Sunday night. For Al, it was 11PM, also Sunday night. And for Sam, it was 10AM on Monday morning! (But when Daylight Savings Time begins, that's going to mess up that system...)

I did record the conference call, but out of respect to Al and Sam, none of it will be online without their full permission. (We did record Al reading a line from The Patchwork Girl of Oz that will be used in an upcoming video.) The call lasted about forty-eight minutes. Al took his leave at about 33 minutes into the call.

We did discuss a few Ozzy things, and Sam brought up an interesting point about Jack Pumpkinhead's house. In The Road to Oz, Baum describes six steps leading up to the house. In Neill's frontispiece illustration of the house, there are only five. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Baum describes only three, and Neill didn't draw the house again.

Al replied that when you're writing a series of books, sometimes you forget little details like that, and these inconsistencies help make the books a bit more endearing. I just commented that maybe the house was sinking into the ground.

What I wonder about Jack's house (but didn't mention) is the stovepipe. Why does Jack Pumpkinhead need a stove? Wouldn't something to make the place cooler be better suited to his purposes, for keeping the pumpkins fresher?

Al was having some technical difficulties that resulted in an echo and delayed audio, which was one reason why he left early. The lad may have also been feeling poorly.

Sam and I talked a bit more, and wound up debating on the correct pronunciation of "Kalidah." *Sigh.* We agreed that there is no definite pronunciation. Ah, well...

EDIT: Looking over the recording, which saved into a split stereo track with me on one track and Sam and Al on the other, they sound great, I sound awful. Just plain awful. Okay, not that bad, I am audible. But there's background noise that I didn't get filtered out from my microphone.