Sunday, May 10, 2009

John R. Neill - An Appreciation - Volume 6

I've been meaning to do this blog for awhile...

The Scarecrow of Oz was the the second of three books in the Oz series that some Oz fans take to be written in a creative rut of Baum's. The first of these books was Tik-Tok of Oz, which was based on a play called The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, which was based on the earlier Oz books, particularly Ozma of Oz. The third was Rinkitink in Oz, which was a revision of an unfinished manuscript Baum had tried to sell earlier, and now had Oz characters coming in to save the day.

The Scarecrow of Oz was partly based on Baum's film His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz. While I've never heard anything supporting this, it is also possible that he used the remains of an unfinished third "Trot" book. (Two of the new characters introduced in The Scarecrow of Oz, were Trot and Cap'n Bill, who had featured in their own books The Sea Fairies and Sky Island.)

Whether or not these books, or The Scarecrow of Oz in particular, were written during a creative low for Baum (it must also be noted that he was having health issues during this time), he made them enjoyable like all his other Oz books. And if Baum was lacking in imagination, illustrator John R. Neill certainly wasn't.

Here, Neill's illustrations are a little loose and comical.

This isn't to say Neill doesn't pull off his usual elegance and detail:

The Scarecrow of Oz was the last book by Baum that featured people from the Great Outside World coming to Oz. I noticed that Neill managed to do a portrait of each of all of the girls who featured in Oz stories:



Betsy Bobbin

And of course, Trot herself.

Neill also managed to give us a glimpse of what the Wicked Witch of the West may have looked like had he drawn her (she does appear in an endpaper for The Road to Oz, based on Denslow's version). Blinkie the Witch was based on Mombi the Witch in His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz, whose design was definitely based on Denslow's Wicked Witch.

To finish, while The Scarecrow of Oz may have lacked a bit in the text, Neill didn't drop the ball in his illustrations.


Nathan said...

Hey, I don't remember this book having the first same-sex couple in Oz! Oh, wait. That's just Pon. {g}

J. L. Bell said...

Often Neill’s detailed portraits of boys and girls turn out to be repurposed from illustrations he did for newspapers or magazines. They’re still pretty, of course.

I, too, believe that the first chapters of Scarecrow started as a new Trot and Cap’n Bill (and Button-Bright) adventure. They went into water in Sea Fairies, into the air in Sky Island, and into the earth in this tale.