Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ozmapolitan of Oz

W.W. Denslow wrote Oz-ish stories, John R. Neill wrote four Oz books, Frank Kramer and Dirk Gringhuis just illustrated, and what of Dick Martin?

Dick Martin was born in the same city as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Chicago. He was a lifelong fan of Oz and inspired by John R. Neill's artwork, he went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. To say he was very active in the International Wizard of Oz Club is an understatement. He was the go-to guy for art, and we've already noted he illustrated Merry Go Round in Oz, Yankee in Oz, The Enchanted Island of Oz, and The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, as well as a wide variety of other books for the Club and other Oz-related publications. He also served as the Club's president, vice president, editor of The Baum Bugle, as well as serving in many, many other roles.

As for solo work, the Club published his An Oz Sketchbook and An Oz Picture Gallery. Dover Publications published his three Oz cut-and-make books, Cut and Assemble the Emerald City of Oz, Cut and Assemble the Wizard of Oz Toy Theater, and Cut and Make Wizard of Oz Masks. He also worked with James Hanff on creating the International Wizard of Oz Club's Oz map, which most fans consider the definitive map of Oz. He also co-authored The Oz Scrapbook with David Greene, a book that looked through the history of Oz in print, screen, and stage.

So, is it any wonder that he wrote an Oz book, too? The Ozmapolitan of Oz was published in 1986. That's right, it's as old as I am.

The story begins as Dorothy finds a boy named Septimius (or Tim) working at the Ozmapolitan, the royal newspaper of Oz, and a Mifket named Jinx who assists him as a "Printer's Devil." Tim is determined to "make good" on his own. To bring exciting news to the Ozmapolitan to get more subscribers, Tim, Jinx, Dorothy, and Eureka set out on an expedition.

Now begins a series of disjointed misadventures, reminding us of Thompson. Fortune cookies from Skipper Sally tell our adventurers to look for a fat chance, a blue moon, and a silent melody. Yeah, definitely a few shades of Thompson here...

A family of artists paint portraits of the expedition in "modern art," the problem being, they're impressionist painters and have a loose style, and their subjects become a match of their portraits, which is quite uncomfortable for our heroes. Fortunately, after that experience comes their fat chance: a man named Fat Chance who fixes them up with Muddle's Miracle Mixture, and also drops them off at the Tin Woodman's palace. However, the Tin Emperor is missing, along with the Scarecrow. Now there's a secondary plot!

At night, Eureka spies Tim telling off a crow that calls itself a royal watch bird. She declines to tell Dorothy about it, deciding to see if this will actually pose a threat to the group.

The next morning, Tim and Jinx have made a skiff they call The Princess Dorothy, which they use to travel down the same river the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow were boating on when last seen. Along their way they get caught in Game Preserve, where they are forced to play a giant board game until they break the spinner, and then they head into a cavern where they meet a very behind-the-times inventor who has just invented the Wheel. Further in the cavern, they find a Tyranicus Terrificus, a dinosaur-ish creature who gets fooled into thinking our heroes are no good to eat.

Further in the cavern, they find the Silent Melody: a river fairy named Melody who has been frozen in a block of ice. They manage to move her away from the rest of the frozen area, which thaws her.

Further down the way, Eureka finally tells Dorothy about what she saw Tim do, presuming Tim is a spy. Tim assures Dorothy that he has been telling her the truth, but he hasn't been at liberty to tell her everything. Shortly after this, they lose The Princess Dorothy, and Eureka sets off on her own in a basket. The rest follow the stream by foot, until they come to a place where it branches off into four ways. Luckily for them, Eureka has found the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman and returns. And the boat the famous Ozian pair are riding in is named The Blue Moon.

Returning with them, Melody and the river fairies subdue the Tyranicus Terrificus by taking it to be frozen. Then the travelers visit Melody's Water Palace before returning to the Emerald City, where Ozma reveals Tim is Prince Septimius of Septentria, and he has proved himself UNfit to take the throne, simply because he doesn't want to! The King of Septentria doesn't do anything, but Tim wants to work and do something with himself. And he doesn't intend this expedition for The Ozmapolitan to be the last.

To be sure, The Ozmapolitan of Oz isn't the most exciting Oz story. In fact, I'd definitely say it owes a lot to Thompson rather than Baum. I see shades of The Purple Prince of Oz with Tim's story. But Martin's writing style is very different. The misadventures the travelers go through are tied closer to the plot than in Thompson's work, even though Martin writes in a perfectly good explanation for going all out in them. (Of course, considering he wanted to produce fewer illustrations for these Club-published books, that may be another factor.) And he has fun with wordplay and other concepts that make his story fun to read. (There's a scene where Tim tells a phony story to Dorothy that is simply hilarious.)

Anyway, The Ozmapolitan of Oz is definitely a good story and deserves to be read. It's one I'd recommend.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

In the list of fortunes, that should be a fat CHANCE, not a fat moon.

I remember reading that Martin left notes for another Oz story, but I couldn't say whether they have anything to do with the idea discussed at the end of Ozmapolitan.