Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Little Adventures in Oz — To Buy or Not To Buy?

Have I mentioned I'm a fan of Eric Shanower's Oz work? I'm a fan of Eric Shanower's Oz work. When I got back to Oz about ten years ago, aside from Baum's work, his books were the first ones I re-read and finished reading.

Shanower broke into the Oz scene in 1986 with his series of Oz graphic novels. The only Oz comics before them had been adaptations of the books or films, or stories with an Oz theme. Shanower's Oz graphic novels was the first time an original story intended to take place in Baum's Oz was created for a comic book format. (Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew in the Oz-Wonderland War Trilogy came out later that year.)

The original publisher for the graphic novels was First Comics, who published the first four volumes. After they closed shop, the fifth and final one was published by Dark Horse.

In 2006, IDW Publishing collected all five graphic novels into a massive tome, Adventures in Oz. The hardcover edition included a large appendix of Shanower's other Oz work, including a lot of previously unseen material. Oz fans were quick to snatch it up!

Recently, IDW announced that this amazing collection would be going out of print, and in its place would be Little Adventures in Oz, a set of two volumes that would collect the graphic novels at a reduced size of 9 inches high by 6.6 inches wide. This is about the size of a lot of paperback Oz books published these days.

Now, if you own Adventures in Oz, does Little Adventures in Oz give you anything new if you pick up these new volumes? Well, each volume has new cover art. Second, if you read books on the go or enjoy taking them with you, the size is much more convenient.

Volume one consists of two of Shanower's graphic novels and a selection of artwork and other comics that originally appeared in the hardcover edition of Adventures in Oz.
  • The Enchanted Apples of Oz (1986) finds Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Billina meeting Valynn, the protector of the Enchanted Apple Tree which bears apples that ensure the magic of Oz stays in place. But when Bortag, a lonely Quadling, awakens the Wicked Witch of the South, she goes straight to the apple tree and feasts. Can the Witch be stopped before Oz loses its magic?
  • The Ice King of Oz (1987) opens with a visit from a delegation sent by the Ice King. But when Dorothy rejects a marriage proposal from him, he decides to take the next best thing: Ozma! Can Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and their new friend Flicker rescue her?
Volume two collects the remaining three graphic novels but only has a couple other pieces of artwork.
  • The Forgotten Forest of Oz (1988) opens in the Forest of Burzee, where Wood Nymph Nelanthe is banished for kissing a mortal man. The King of the Trolls befriends her and makes her his queen, and she helps him plan an attack on Burzee. However, she wishes she could just forget and has her giant bat Nightshade steal some of the Water of Oblivion. When Nightshade accidentally brings back Dorothy and Toto, can our friends from Oz (including the Scarecrow and the Sawhorse) escape to warn the Forest of Burzee in time?
  • The Secret Island of Oz (1986) is the weakest of the five. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and Eureka go to look for a Crimson Tailed Quipperug, a rare fish for the pond in the Royal Gardens. But when they are caught in a magic whirlpool, they find themselves in a secret island with a stuck up princess, a friendly mechanical boy, and a giant toad and snake. Can our heroes find their way off the island and back into Oz?
  • The Blue Witch of Oz (1992) finds Dorothy and the Scarecrow seeking the fate of Abatha, the Good Witch of the East. Bungle, the Glass Cat, helps them through the Great Gray Gillikin Swamp. But when they find an unexpected enchantment, are they able to break it and reveal the secrets of the past?
So, if you own Adventures in Oz (and maybe the original graphic novels separately), is picking up these two volumes worth it? It really depends on you. There is some new artwork on the covers, and they are in a convenient size. Furthermore, the price is rather affordable, with $9.99 being the suggested retail price. (I managed to get my copies for just under $15.) The only downside is that not all of the additional content of Adventures of Oz has been ported over, a sad but foreseeable omission, given the size of the books.

If you don't own Shanower's graphic novels yet, by all means, go ahead and get them. The reduced size does not detract from the artwork at all, and the text is perfectly readable. Furthermore, they're really good Oz stories. To be sure, the plots are more straightforward than most Oz books, but this isn't a bad thing at all. And I don't think I mentioned the gorgeous artwork with character designs inspired by John R. Neill's illustrations. These are some of the best Oz comics ever!

Buy Volume 1
Buy Volume 2

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Since I have both the original graphic novels and the hardcover Adventures, I don't think I'll be purchasing these. I'm glad the stories are once again available in an affordable format, however.