Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Retro Review: Classic Wizard of Oz

Okay, so what do I know about this 2-cassette set? ... Next to nothing that's not on the case. Classic Wizard of Oz has a copyright of 1975 from the Cutting Corportation (I can't find an audio producer by that name, but there is an audio archival company, so maybe they changed businesses), so I would be unsurprised if it had been originally available on vinyl records.

For whatever reason, these were re-released on cassette, and are also available digitally. If your local library has digital lending services, they might have it. Mine did. That's how I first heard it. Later, I found the cassettes on, and decided to pick it up with a few extra credits.

The cassettes are "full cast recordings," based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. However, they are loose adaptations. And by loose, I mean ... they tell almost the same story as the books, but use next to none of the dialogue or prose found in the books. Usually, audio books offer a taste of the author's writing style read aloud, even if it's abridged, and a full cast recording either does away with or minimizes the work of a narrator by letting the listener hear the story as it would have happened.

Classic Wizard of Oz does neither. This is, without a doubt, the worst audio adaptation of Oz I've heard. The narrator is overused, and in one case, says the Scarecrow's dialogue for him. The voice acting isn't too hot. One small clip I find hilarious is Dorothy's "Hey, Aunt Em! There's a cyclone coming!" She sounds like she's excited about it. Even sillier is Aunt Em's line, "Let me see, Dorothy. Oh, that's a bad cyclone!"

... As opposed to good cyclones?

Tip sounds like a girl. I guess they had a girl do his voice, as sometimes they do that, but here, it's obvious. (It reminded me of Shirley Temple's Land of Oz, another loose adaptation which worked better as it was a TV version.) Jack sounds terrible, and the Sawhorse is mute. The Scarecrow is a jerk: "Hey, Tip! If you're Ozma, I don't have to be king anymore!"

Now for story changes—it could be considered "abridged," but as none of Baum's writing, aside from the actual plot, is present, I just consider it an adaptation—the Queen of the Field Mice is cut again, the Lion is just pulled out of the Poppy Field by the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow. The Poppy Field itself is said to have an odd odor like "leftover spinach," which doesn't make sense considering that Dorothy falls asleep there. The Wizard sees them all at once, as the giant head. (Sound familiar?) The Wicked Witch of the West, instead of getting her wolves, crows, bees, and Winkies, summons the Fighting Trees and the Hammerheads to fight instead. Because of that, the journey to Glinda's (suggested by the Wizard as he flies away) has only the Dainty China Country as an event. As it is, they might as well have left it out, especially as the narrator leads us through it mostly.

The Land of Oz is even looser: it begins with the kidnapping of Ozma, which is simply telling us Ozma as a little girl went to pick lilies and never returned. Later, Mombi was seen by a soldier with a little boy holding a lily. (OBVIOUS.) The incantation for the Powder of Life is changed to something really ridiculous: "Bingo bango bongo bive, a cherry, a lemon, an apple, a chive, birds make nests, bees make hives, now powder, now powder, bring ____ alive!" (Never thought "Weaugh! Teaugh! Peaugh!" would sound good? Well, now it does.) Jack remembers being a lifeless pumpkin and stories the animals would tell, including some about Ozma, and it is overhearing Tip and Jack talking about Ozma that makes Mombi decide to turn Tip into a statue.

The Sawhorse runs off with Jack to the Emerald City almost immediately after he is brought to life, and the meeting of the Scarecrow and Jack is reduced greatly. (Jellia's translation scene is gone. A CRIME!!!) Jinjur's army is a marching brigade who get convinced to revolt by Mombi. The Tin Woodman's castle is also captured by Jinjur and Mombi, and it is here the Gump is created. The Jackdaw's nest is left in, but it lacks the battle and the Scarecrow losing his straw, so it could have been left out easily. Glinda is suddenly said to be the ruler of the RED GILLIKINS IN THE NORTH. (I thought she was south, like in their Wizard.)

One change I did like is that Jinjur does not want to defy Glinda and immediately surrenders and turns Mombi over to Glinda right away. Not that I like they changed what happened in the book, but I always felt that this was the true nature of the relationship between Mombi and Jinjur. (Jinjur being afraid of Mombi.)

Overall, it might be an interesting take on Oz, if only it wasn't for the low production quality and over use of narration. The character voices are unconvincing and the music is underwhelming to say the least. I never thought of "Arkansas Traveler" (or, as us later generation kids know it, "Baby Bumblebee") as music that defined the Emerald City.

The package is nice, with a hard plastic case that opens to securely hold two cassettes. A Denslow color plate decorates the front, while the back gives us a weird summary: "Join Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion as they journey down the yellow brick road in search of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Marvel at the magical ruby slippers, shudder at the evil Wicked Witch of the West, and giggle along with the munchkins. This full-cast production brings new life to one of the best known stories of our time." The shoes are silver, the Witch hardly gets to be evil, and we don't hear the Munchkins giggle. I'd suspect whoever wrote the summary hadn't heard it and wrote something up quickly. (It'd match the MGM movie just fine, though.)

Really, unless you're curious, or really want it to complete your collection, I wouldn't recommend picking it up. But, if you do, physical copies are used on Amazon for under $20. Audible did have it once, but it is no longer in their catalog. Any other place that sells a download of it is rather pricey. ($13 is too much for a non-physical copy.) And, as I said, you can check if your library has digital audiobooks for check out, and if it uses the OverDrive system, chances are, they'll have it and you can hear it for free. (Which is how it should be!)

And speaking of that, you should be able to see this page from my library's OverDrive site that has an audio sample in WMA format.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It figures

All right. This blog isn't a podcast, a review, or me saying that I'm seven issues away from a complete 1971-2011 run of the Baum Bugle or seven issues away from a complete run of Oziana, or an update about my Oz stories (we're just waiting for the rest of the illustrations for Outsiders, I promise!).

I haven't talked much about my custom Oz action figures here. I started making them in March, and I've made a few...
  • Toto
  • Aunt Em
  • Scarecrow
  • Tin Woodman
  • Cowardly Lion
  • Wizard
  • Wicked Witch of the West
  • Glinda
  • Sawhorse
  • Jack Pumpkinhead
  • Woggle-Bug
  • Billina
  • Tik-Tok
  • Hungry Tiger
  • Nome King Roquat/Ruggedo
  • Kaliko
  • Shaggy Man
  • Scraps
  • Woozy
  • Cap'n Bill
  • Captain Fyter
Of course, you see some important missing characters here: the girls of Oz! I had to wait to find a good base to make a figure with. I started with the Scarecrow, who was a figure from the Doctor Who line. Those are all in scale with each other, so I often look to that line. However, I have found other in-scale toys to go with them. But the kids of Oz were hard to find. Up until 2011, the only child figure made was "The Empty Child," who's a little boy with a gas mask. (It's also an old release, so it fetches some higher prices.)

The best place to get Doctor Who figures in America is, due to bargain prices and great service. They also have a forum where collectors can trade stuff, so that is where I got most of my custom fodder. (Seriously, I bought a bunch of odd little bits of figures from one user, and traded two pairs of hands from it for two figures from a generous customizer.)

So, at the forum, we got news about the Doctor Who Experience getting an exclusive figure of Amelia Pond, the child version of current companion Amy. It was cool to see them finally do a child figure, but it wasn't available in the United States, and this version had a coat, mittens, and a hat. If I was going to customize with that, I'd have a lot of work to do, so I wrote it off as a possible base for the girls of Oz.

However, we soon heard that the first wave based on the new series would contain a different Amelia Pond without the coat and hat, and she would have regular hands. We waited for MONTHS for them to come out over here, but they finally did. I wasn't home when they went on sale, so I texted my brother, who had the day off, all the information he'd need for the order. He placed it for me. I could have waited until I got home, but the Amelias still sold out in 12 hours.

The next Monday...
This photo was not taken upon receipt. Out of the four, only one is still in packaging. Of the three out of packaging, only the one not intended for customs remains unaltered. Still, just imagine two more and you get the idea.
Finally, I had a base to make Dorothy, Trot, and Betsy! (Ozma I am working on, but I'm using a different base. She'll be taller.) I started on Trot and Dorothy because they'd be the most difficult of the girls (aside from Ozma, that's a different story) to make. Trot required trimming hair and a repaint, and a hat that has yet to be made.

Dorothy is the first of the girls to be completed. I also trimmed her hair, and removed the little jacket Amelia wears (note: the sleeves do NOT come off, they are part of the arms, so I had to shave them down a little), then carefully used a mat knife to carve or shave off other unnecessary bits. (This is hard work, and you will likely get minor cuts, so please, kids, don't try this!)

I needed some modelling putty to fill in the gaps in Dorothy's shoulders, back and sides had after removing the jacket. However, the shop where I could buy them, Hobby Lobby, is closed Sundays, and I didn't have many days off, so I'd have to wait. I went ahead and painted what I could on Dorothy. Her dress would be flat blue, and her shoes would be black to make the figure non-story specific. Following Neill's designs, her hair was blonde. A flat yellow looked awful, so I did an orange wash over it, creating a slightly more realistic hair color. ("Wash," in this case, means I added water to my brush to make the paint water-thin.) A real ribbon was tied into a bow and glued on her head.

Today I went out and got some modelling putty. (I had to scour the aisles from my usual polyclays and acrylic paints all the way to model cars before I found it.) Getting home, I immediately went gung-ho on filling in the gaps on Dorothy. This stuff is wet, but it dries instead of needing baking like I did with some other figures (that is why Cap'n Bill and Jack's arms are so awkward). After getting enough putty on and letting it dry, I finished painting Dorothy.

Something I recently started doing is spraying my customs with a resin finish. This seals in the paints, so I don't have to touch them up, and they don't feel sticky. Sadly, this is glossy and not matte, so when I take a photo, they shine. Still, considering how they'd be without the finish, it's something I can live with. (It's also a lot easier than using clear nail polish. And a lot less weirder to buy...)

So... here's Dorothy! Right next to the unaltered figure she was made from.

Mister Flint in Oz, by Ray Powell

I'd been wanting to read this one for a while now, and I finally got a chance to purchase it on eBay a few weeks ago. Written in 1969, it stars Hardas Flint, the unfortunately named miner made of quartz from Powell's earlier crossover The Raggedys in Oz. With Glinda's help, he learns that his father Steely is being kept as a slave by the evil magician Peeramyd, who is using the tireless metal man to construct a tower to the stars. In some way, reaching the stars is supposed to help Peeramyd conquer the world, but it's not really clear how. Mr. Flint teams up with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman to reach this tower, and they visit the typical assortment of odd communities, including an underground land where bankers go about their financial business despite it having no meaning and the friendly Tissue Town (I believe Powell worked for a paper company, and so probably had some knowledge in this area). When it gets strange is when Mr. Flint and Ozma pay a visit to the wizard Zon, who shows the two scenes from the history of Oz. According to this history, the Land of Oz was named after Ozma's grandfather Boz, which contradicts the Ruler's statement in Dorothy and the Wizard that there had been multiple monarchs named Oz or Ozma. What's even more troublesome is that, through Zon, Powell makes the Wizard of Oz a more sinister character. While there are some hints in Land that the Wizard usurped the throne from Pastoria, L. Frank Baum seems to have disregarded that by the time of DotWiz, and Ruth Plumly Thompson's Lost King makes it clear that Pastoria had already been enchanted by Mombi prior to the Wizard's arrival. In Zon's moving picture show, however, not only is Pastoria still around when the humbug shows up in his balloon, but the Wizard uses magic he obtained from Mombi to enchant Pastoria's wife Ozette, who is then given over to Peeramyd by the witch. The strange thing is, even though Ozette is rescued and the Wizard plays a role later on in the story, no one ever confronts him about his role in her disappearance. Even if Ozma decides to forgive the Wizard, she'd still presumably want him to answer for his crime. And it's not like she doesn't believe Zon; in fact, the text is clear that she trusts him implicitly. This really strikes me as sloppy plotting on Powell's part.

After the encounter with Zon, Powell takes a few pages to make fun of hippies. Actually, "make fun of" is far too light for his portrayal of the peaceniks as "carrying signs that protested against everything good." While there's certainly plenty about hippies that can be validly criticized, wasn't the main thing that they were protesting the Vietnam War? In what way could that have been considered "good"? I guess it's just something we'll have to chalk up to the time period, since I suppose the war was still popular in 1969. Looking at it from a modern perspective, though, it comes across as a rather bizarre political statement to find in an Oz book.

These points aside, did I like the story? Well, parts of it. Powell had a good knowledge of the Oz series and a clever imagination, which showed throughout the tale. Mr. Flint and the enchanted bird Quoztal were likeable enough characters. It was mostly just Zon who really struck me as being out of place. In addition to his contradictions of what Baum and Thompson told us about the history of Oz, Powell's presentation of him as basically a godlike entity in whom the others had to have faith didn't really seem appropriate for an Oz character. It was all too weirdly quasi-religious.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Mysterious Chronicles of Oz

I recently got a copy of this little Oz book. I don't know much about the author, James E. Nitch, who wrote under the pen name Onyx Madden, so, really, I'll just do a straightforward review this time around.

Ozma decides she wants one last adventure before settling down as ruler of Oz, so she sets off with the Sawhorse in the clothes she wore as Tip to have an adventure in the Quadling Country. While there, she runs into a sky blue dragon named Quox.

The story is set after The Marvelous Land of Oz and manages to serve as a bit of a prequel to Ozma of Oz.

While the writing is good and the concept is nice, I found a major flaw: there is far too much exposition. Entire chapters are spent on Nitch's concepts for Oz, including an origin of the Nome King, who doesn't even appear in the story. An entire chapter is spent explaining a vendetta Quox has, which is resolved in a few paragraphs. Near the end, Glinda remembers Ozma's restoration by Mombi, which is then retold by Nitch in his own style. I confess to peeking at the end and thought that perhaps Tip's clothes had gradually changed Ozma back into a boy, especially when Glinda advises her to burn the clothes and never wear such things again. Since that wasn't the case, it was a little disappointing. To be honest, Ozma's trip isn't really an adventure at all, just a travelogue, explaining how Ozma obtained the Red Wagon and Magic Picture.

Would I recommend this book? It's worth a read to see how a fan might develop their personal version of Oz. But the real big feature of the book is the artwork by J. Noel. It is especially Neill-influenced and is excellent line art. Also, there are color plates that are actually mounted on pages. If the book is a travelogue, it's a pretty one!

Oh, and Ray Bolger (an old Scarecrow of Oz, he calls himself) wrote an introduction.

So, while the story isn't one of the most impressive non-Famous Forty + stories out there, I'd suggest picking it up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekly Update

As you've probably (hopefully..) noticed, I didn't do a blog last week. And that's because there really was NOTHING to blog about!

Oz, the Great and Powerful showed off some early footage and concept art at the D23 Expo last weekend. Read IGN's very descriptive report on the presentation here.

Leigh Scott has revealed two new stills from the upcoming The Witches of Oz movie via Facebook. Check them out here and here.

Albert L. Ortega Photography wrapped a Witches of Oz photoshoot last week with Paulie Rojas (Dorothy), Eliza Swenson (Billie Westbrook), Sasha Jackson (Ilsa), Noel Thurman (Glinda), Brooke Taylor (Locasta), and Chanel Ryan. Check out some behind the scenes photos from that shoot here, and look out for the Royal Blog of Oz EXCLUSIVE first look at the stunning cast photo here in the next few weeks!

Speaking of The Witches of Oz, I will be attending the film's premiere in New York City next month! I will definitely take my camera with me and hopefully will have some great pictures from the event to share on the blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Retro Review: The Emerald City of Oz

About 15 years ago, there was a little company called Piglet Press who had ambitions to do big things with Oz. Their website, which is still online, speaks for that. However, it seems they were a bit too dependent on checking with their user base and didn't get very far. Their only output that wasn't online were two unabridged recordings of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz on audio cassette.

Now, these were not a straightforward reading of the books by a narrator. They had a cast providing voices for the characters, just like a certain podcast does when they present a story...

I saw a copy of their Emerald City of Oz for sale when I attended the 2010 Winkie Convention, so I bought it. Considering the number of copies that were available, I presumed that Piglet Press is no longer a business and had sold their stock to the International Wizard of Oz Club to sell off. (It was on their table.) I managed to find another copy on and donated that to the Winkie Swap Meet this year.

Overall, this is a suitable unabridged recording. There is no music or other added sound effects, however, I thought the voice for the Nome King was too deep and gruff, and Billina and Glinda (and possibly other characters) had an echo in their voice. All together, as admirable as this is, I can't really think of a reason to recommend it over a free Librivox audio book. While it's a good audio book, the multi-voice cast is still obviously just reading their dialogue.

The four cassettes come in a clamshell illustrated with Neill art and Denslow-style lettering. The back offers a summary and some information about Piglet Press as well as a cast list.

If you want a copy, this is one case where I've had trouble locating copies for sale, except Amazon, where the prices are well over the original price of $20, and frankly, that would be the maximum asking price for it. If you must add it to your collection, keep an eye on eBay or even Or perhaps someone who isn't thinking "rare equals valuable!" will put one on Amazon at a reasonable price.

Shanowerthon: The Blue Witch of Oz

After the excellent The Forgotten Forest of Oz, Shanower decided to take a break from the Oz graphic novels. Any writer who works on one thing for awhile often wants to get away from it. (Like Baum and Thompson...) But finally, he decided to come back and do a fifth, which would, like Forgotten Forest, mix some mature themes with classic Oz. Also, Shanower decided this would be the final graphic novel. He wanted to get away from Oz.

However, before First Comics could publish it, they ceased operations, but luckily, Dark Horse decided to pick up The Blue Witch of Oz, and published it in late 1992.

The story finds Dorothy and the Scarecrow visiting Glinda. Dorothy is wondering why, if there were Wicked Witches of the East, West, North (Mombi), South (Enchanted Apples), and Good Witches of the North, South, and West (Gloma from The Wishing Horse of Oz), why isn't there a Good Witch of the East? Glinda seems to recall something, and researches the Great Book of Records, where she discovers the unfortunate tale of Abatha, which she relates to Dorothy and the Scarecrow.

Abatha was a Munchkin girl who married an astronomer named Dash, and they had a son named Star. Dash had researched how to travel to the nearest star, and did so, promising to return in ten days, but when he did not, Abatha began to study his magic and became a Good Witch, hoping to one day either find or follow her husband. However, one day, Star was magically kidnapped by magic stronger than her own. She left to find her son, and was eventually advised to talk to Flinder, a magician who lived in the Great Gray Gillikin Swamp with his son Javen. Flinder was Dash's brother, so Abatha went to see him, but while she was there, she was sure she'd found Star when an enchantment was placed on them.

Well, we know what Dorothy does when she hears a story like this, time for an adventure! She and the Scarecrow head to the Great Gray Gillikin Swamp, where their way to Flinder's castle is impeded by moving islands, flamingo-like birds that look like bushes, and alligator logs. In the swamp, they meet the Glass Cat, who leads them to a ruined castle that restores each night. Inside, they find Abatha confronting Flinder, but they seem completely oblivious to Dorothy and her two companions. The two magicians are interrupted by Javen, who Abatha thinks is Star, especially when she sees a star-shaped scar on his face. Suspicious of Flinder, Abatha prepares to cast a spell on him, while Flinder tells her stop, casting a spell himself. Suddenly, the three people freeze and the castle turns into ruins again.

The next morning Dorothy and the Scarecrow discover that the same thing happens every night from a bush-bird. Dorothy finally realizes that Flinder and Abatha's spells combined, making them repeat that night over and over, and then stopping. The Scarecrow suggests that maybe they could turn the magicians away from each other, since they're oblivious to any observers. That night, they find they cannot budge them, but the Glass Cat jumps in between the spells at the right time, making them deflect from each other, breaking the enchantment.

Surprised at their present state, Abatha and Flinder continue their argument, until Dorothy tells them to stop and mentions Glinda. Flinder grabs Javen and runs, creating a magic vine to escape over the alligator logs with, but trying to battle Abatha, Javen falls into the water. Abatha rescues him with a magic thread, and Flinder returns, confessing tearfully that Javen is, in fact, Star.

Flinder reveals that he and Javen were going to go to the nearest star the same night Dash left, but something went wrong and only Javen was taken. However, despite this revelation, Star still sees Flinder as his father. Flinder rejects him, but Dorothy convinces them to go with her to the Emerald City where Ozma can settle the matter.

Ozma assures Flinder and Abatha that she will do all she can to find Javen and Dash, and will allow Abatha to practice magic as a Good Witch. Flinder will become the royal wainwright for the Red Wagon. As for Star, she leaves the decision of who he will go with to him. Star chooses Flinder, because he has been a father to him for many years. However, he says he will visit Abatha sometimes, and recognizes her as his mother.

Once again, the story had a revised ending. Originally (and yes, this can be seen in the hardcover edition of Adventures in Oz, you should have bought a copy when it was still in print!) Star decides to go with Abatha, but really, this feels a bit too much like a standard happy ending. And as the ending Shanower went with shows, it doesn't make sense considering that Flinder raised Star as his own son. The final version's ending isn't the entirely happy one we're used to in Oz, but it does make sense character-wise, and brings up the question of child custody. Perhaps the ending isn't entirely Ozzy, but it definitely is good.

The story leaves a big loose end with the unknown fates of Javen and Dash. Glinda says she can find no record of them, suggesting they may still be traveling, which makes some sense considering what we know about space travel. I once had the idea that maybe the two would meet on the star they were heading to and Dash would mistake Javen for Star, but that seems a bit repetitious to me now. Maybe someday Shanower might resolve it, or maybe not. Personally, I think having it open isn't a fault, just a tantalizing mystery.

Now, while Shanower had planned to get out of Oz, it didn't happen. History has proven that if you write or illustrate Oz stories that people love, you're in it for life. (Baum, Thompson, Neill and Snow are prime examples.) It's not that Shanower didn't go on to do other things, he did, but he has still turned out a lot of Oz output since the five graphic novels, and even before and while they were running. And yes, we'll continue looking at more of his Oz stories.

Monday, August 22, 2011

An Idea

As if I don't do enough...

I just had an idea of an audio visual group among Oz fans who can digitize and preserve Ozzy video and audio rarities. Oz and Oz-related books and art have been preserved both digitally and by reprints. Oz-related video and audio are worthy of preservation, even if they're not so good.

Note, this would not be a way to obtain bootleg movies, music, or other copyrighted media, though if there is not a commercially available digital version, a digital copy should be made for preservation, but digital versions should only remain with the owner of the actual media.

Now, it's just an idea. And as I said, I do quite a bit already. I haven't even mentioned it all. But I've heard Oz fans mention they have video and audio from Oz events recorded onto obsolete media and it would be a shame to let this material just degrade on the old analog media it's on. Of course, some of them may already be preserving them, so good for them! But whether they'd ever want to share this is up to them, I just think it would be cool if people in the Oz fandom who care about these just as much as the owner could handle it.

Shanowerthon! The Forgotten Forest of Oz

Like The Ice King of Oz, The Forgotten Forest of Oz had seen a previous version before becoming Shanower's 1988 Oz graphic novel. "The Story of Nebelle" was a comics story he had begun in art school, however, it was never finished. The version included in the hardcover Adventures in Oz collection consists of four pages of pencil art and rough sketches of the last two pages, with no dialogue or narration within.

"The Story of Nebelle" finds the Queen of Fairyland banishing the fairy Nebelle for kissing a mortal man. She flees and marries Chungash, King of the Demons and Lord of the Underworld, who reveals he was the mortal man disguised. Seeking revenge against the fairies, Nebelle helps the Demons plan an attack on the fairies. Nebelle is among the first sneak attack on the fairies, but she changes her mind and regrets her anger when she sees a fairy baby. She kills a Demon about to attack the baby. Chungash, seeing this, kills Nebelle, whose dying words warn her fairy sister Nelanth about the Demons.

As it turned out, the titular forest of The Forgotten Forest of Oz would not be actually in Oz. Shanower quickly changed the Queen of Fairyland to the Queen on the Wood Nymphs, Zurline, from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. The offending fairy Nebelle was changed to the Wood Nymph Nelanthe (however, another nymph that has pity on Nelanthe is named Nebelle). However, as Nelanthe leaves Burzee as a mortal, the story quickly expands from what was in "The Story of Nebelle."

Nelanthe is found by the King of the Trolls, who takes pity on her and offers to make her his queen. She accepts and soon decides to make war on the other wood-nymphs. However, when the night of the attack draws near, she realizes she misses the forest, but her memories also remind of her of why she wants revenge. She finally decides she just wants to forget everything and start fresh. Then, she finds an entry about the Water of Oblivion in a book. (Coincidental? Maybe, but after reading Thompson and Neill, this is so far from a stretch of the imagination.)

Now, where is Oz? Well, Chapter Two takes us there. Dorothy is awakened by Toto and they go out on the balcony to investigate something Toto can hear. Toto accidentally slides off the balcony but Dorothy sees a giant bat fly up and Toto is holding onto its collar with his teeth. Dorothy tries to grab him, but they both get carried away.

The Scarecrow is riding to the Emerald City on the Sawhorse, and they spot Dorothy and Toto being carried away by the bat and they follow, even when it flies over the desert. (The Sawhorse reasons that neither of them are made of flesh, nor do they need to breathe.)

Nelanthe receives the water, but discovering Dorothy and Toto, she makes them her guests, since if they are harmed, Ozma will surely find out and do something to avenge them. She decides to have them returned the next day. When Dorothy realizes what Nelanthe had Nightshade (her bat) do, she stops her from drinking the water right away, and Nelanthe is forced to go prepare for battle without drinking.

Meanwhile, the Scarecrow and Sawhorse have sneaked into the Troll King's castle and they find Dorothy and Toto and help them escape, Dorothy taking the Water with her.

The Trolls are calling the Dragons, their long-time enemies, to help them destroy Burzee. The Dragons accept, but a Troll runs in and tells Nelanthe and the Troll King of Dorothy's escape. Hearing that there are now people from Oz involved, the King is furious and tells Nelanthe that this is what he'd been planning all along: he was the "mortal" man Nelanthe had kissed. Nelanthe runs to her room to get the Water, intending to get on Nightshade and fly away somewhere, to drink the Water and begin fresh again. But the Water is gone, so she has Nightshade fly after the Sawhorse, who is heading to Burzee.

The Scarecrow and Toto fall off the Sawhorse, so Dorothy goes on alone to Burzee. She reaches it, but Nightshade crashes into a tree. Nelanthe, realizing the Troll King is to blame for her unhappiness, decides that she must stop the attack herself. She tries to convince the Dragons that the Troll King has led them into a trap, and they are convinced when the Wood-Nymphs, alerted by Dorothy, arrive on the scene. The Dragons turn on the Trolls and all scurry back to their underground homes.

Nelanthe swoops in and takes the water from Dorothy, but the Wood-Nymphs make the trees catch Nightshade and Nelanthe falls to the ground, hard. She is hurt badly and will die if nothing is done. Zurline feels she cannot break the laws of the Forest, as she has no idea that Nelanthe has repented of her hatred of the Forest, nor of the Troll King's plot. However, the Scarecrow arrives with Toto and reveals that Nelanthe did turn the Trolls and Dragons back.

Dorothy realizes that Nelanthe has nothing left but the Water, and feeling sympathy of the former Nymph and Queen, offers her the water, but it is rejected. All Nelanthe wants is the Forest. Deciding that she cannot allow Nelanthe to die, Zurline restores her immortality, making her a Wood-Nymph again as dawn breaks over Burzee.

(How Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Toto, and the Sawhorse return home is anyone's guess. Let's just assume the Wood-Nymphs or the Fairies of Burzee worked with Ozma to get them back home.)

This was actually not Shanower's original ending. In the hardcover edition of Adventures in Oz, rough sketches for the last two pages (that would have replaced the last three, actually) reveal an ending in which Nelanthe accepts the Water, her empty mind allowing her to be essentially reprogrammed by the Wood-Nymphs. Shanower decided he didn't like the ending after all and re-wrote it. I agree, it would be an ending suggesting that happiness can be found in a substance. The revised ending makes Zurline and Nelanthe much stronger characters.

And overall, the characters are quite strong and many Baum-influenced ideas make it into the story: the Dragons and Trolls hate each other, so at the first sign of trouble, they turn on each other. Yet again, Shanower keeps the classic characters in line: even Dorothy's eventual offering the Water to Nelanthe works with her caring and considerate manner.

The artwork is once again amazing, though, in my opinion, Shanower's Wood-Nymphs resemble Fredrick Richardson's Fairies of Burzee in Queen Zixi of Ix, one of Baum's non-Oz fantasies. It might be a niggle of mine, since I consider them to completely separate beings. Of course, Mary Cowles Clark's illustrations for Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus showed the Wood-Nymphs as looking quite similar, so maybe they do look alike after all, and there is little difference aside from their assigned duties.

So, once again, Shanower turned out another wonderful story, even though there wasn't a lot of Oz proper in it. However, back when I started this, I said he only did five graphic novels. Why that is, we'll find out next time.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ozma!

Yep, it's Ozma's birthday! (Thanks, The Road to Oz for giving us two clues that spelled out the exact date!) The past few years I've made a video for Ozma's birthday, but this year, my plate was a little full, and I couldn't decide on a good concept.

So, here's something I whipped together. A number of years ago, I used a program called MusicMasterworks to carefully construct MIDIs of songs from Hungry Tiger Press' sheet music collection for The Woggle-Bug. I managed to do "What Did The Woggle-Bug Say?" and "The Sandman Is Near." The first automatically got a home on my website, while the second, after playing it a few times, got lost when our computer was sent off to be fixed and it got wiped. (Those were in the dark days of tech support...)

Last night, I scanned the music for "The Sandman Is Near" onto my computer and tried two music recognition systems to create MIDIs of it. Both programs understood all the notes, but SmartScore X didn't play all of them back. SharpEye 2 gave me better results, though the first verse's tempo seemed to be too fast. The chorus was just great, so I recorded that to an MP3.

And that MP3 is available for download HERE.

Or you can play it here:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dorothy of Oz: The Prequel Comic

Fellow blogger Angelo wound up with two copies of IDW's Dorothy of Oz prequel comic, so he sent me his spare. (Very nice of him.) I can't believe some of the prices people have asked for it because it was an exclusive at Wondercon and the San Diego Comic Con. It is not a very substantial comic at all. The story spans only eight pages.

After Dorothy has killed the Wicked Witch of the West, she takes the broom, much to a Jester's chagrin. Dorothy takes it back to the Emerald City, where Glinda changes it to a scepter and names Dorothy the Protector of Oz. But this is a bad idea, as the "Protector" has to return home, so the Jester sends the Winged Monkeys to get the scepter that allows him to take over Oz, turning many of its prominent people into puppets and destroying the landscape. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion decide they need to get Dorothy as soon as possible.

And that's it. Dorothy leaves Oz and everything goes to hell.

This comic really isn't impressive to a seasoned Oz fan. Glinda is subdued way too easily. You don't just sneak up on Glinda and tie her up. She's far too powerful for that. But not this take on Glinda, it seems. In modern comics, eight pages is barely a story, but this just feels far too weak.

I guess the artwork is great, except I'm not exactly a big fan of the character designs. Dorothy is pretty good, though she was designed to cater to those familiar with the MGM film. Glinda's flowing pink dress and crown bring to mind Billie Burke, who didn't have such a tiny, tiny waist.

Altogether, I'm glad IDW was giving this away for free. I wouldn't buy it. As it is, it seems what happens in the comic should have been a 3 minute sequence in the movie. If the storytelling here is anything to go by, the film won't have impressive writing, which is more important to me than the visuals, music, sound, and cast. I would hope I'm wrong, but as this is based on a Roger Baum book, my hopes are not high.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Colonial Radio Theater in Oz

In this episode, Jared talks to Jerry Robbins, writer and director of Colonial Radio Theater's adaptations of L. Frank Baum's first five Oz books, a series that will be continued very soon!

As always, you can download at the podcast site or use the player below.

Retro Review: The Wonderful World of Oz

In the year 2000, Colonial Radio Theater produced adaptations of L. Frank Baum's first five Oz books. They were released to cassette the next year by Penton Overseas. They were not broadcast on radio before being released to cassette, but have subsequently aired on radio shows.

Penton released the Oz series in three packages: two four cassette packages containing two of the stories (The Road to Oz did not get a release in this format), and a large set of ten cassettes with all five stories. It was this set I requested my library to obtain, and later, when I started building my Oz collection, I hunted down.

Since then, the stories were available as MP3 downloads, and now, new versions that have been edited down a bit are being released to Audible as well as CD.

The stories are very faithful adaptations with a full voice cast. Each story opens with a reading of the introduction of the respective book by Jerry Robbins as L. Frank Baum. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Cynthia Pape narrates, but not heavily. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, Baum narrates most of the first chapter, a part in the middle, and the closing. In Ozma of Oz and the rest of the stories, the characters offer a small bit of narration every now and then, describing what they see and what's going on. (In one part of The Road to Oz, Dorothy takes the role of narrator to describe Ozma's party.) But it doesn't detract too much, as writer Jerry Robbins managed to create some lively dialogue with it, one of my favorites being in The Road to Oz when they're launching the Sand Boat. Dorothy exclaims "Over the desert and into the Land of Oz!" (End Side 2.)

Amy Strack voices Dorothy in all of the stories except The Marvelous Land of Oz, and manages to make her character sound slightly older throughout the series. Tom Berry does a rough, "husky" voice for the Scarecrow, Fredrick Rice voices an emotional Tin Woodman, and David Krinitt pulls off an excellent voice for the Lion. Most of the other voices match their characters brilliantly except for the Nome King. He did sound easygoing at first and then later malicious, which suits the character, but for some reason, the same actor, doing the same voice, appears as King Dox in The Road to Oz. I suppose if the actor had done a deeper voice for the Nome King, it would have worked better.

The Road to Oz ends with Baum reading the last part of his introduction, suggesting the next story would be the final Oz story. As a result, it would suggest that The Emerald City of Oz would be eventually produced and possibly conclude the series. However, it didn't happen, but recently it was confirmed they recorded it at last. (Stay tuned for the next podcast for more.)

The sound effects are amazing, specifically the cyclone in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You can easily imagine the house being ripped from the foundation and carried through the air. And in a slight deviation from the book, it's a noisy and scary ride for Dorothy, as is evidenced by her dialogue and screams. Jefferey Gage's score is perfect, being whimsical, elegant, and exciting. I especially love the triumphant music that plays when Dorothy and her friends first enter the Emerald City. Also, the songs that are mentioned are not neglected. The Scarecrow sings "Tol-de-ri-de-oh!" when he's rescued by the stork in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and you'll just have to listen for Johnny Dooit's song, which was wonderfully expanded upon for this adaptation.

Baum purists might find a few things to pick at: every major event in Wonderful Wizard is included except for the Fighting Trees. The Woggle-Bug is mysteriously called "the Woogle-Bug" (this will be explained in the next podcast). Princess Fluff of Noland is called "the Princess of Fluff," the Tin Woodman notes that Para Bruin has been pumped full of air, and Queen Zixi's presence at the party in The Road to Oz is not mentioned. (Santa Claus is, however, and has quite a bit of air time.) The Braided Man and the Dragonettes are both dropped from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, but considering how much they really bore on the plot, it's understandable. However, considering all the pros, it's easy to overlook these.
The cassettes come in a big white plastic clamshell case. The cassettes are all white with blue letters. Each side is marked with a title for the story it covers, often derived from a chapter title: "The Cyclone," "Journey to the Great Oz," "Search for the Wicked Witch," "Away to the South," "The Gillikin Boy," "The Army of Revolt," "The Flying Gump," "Mombi's Spell," "Letters in the Sand," "The Heads of Langwidere," "The Nome King," "Purple, Green, & Gold," "Land of the Mangaboos," "Valley of Voe," "Escape From Pyramid Mountain," "Emerald City," "New Lands," "The Deadly Desert," "Old Friends," and "Journey's End."

The front cover is decorated with a Denslow image of Toto, the Lion, Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman. This piece of artwork was drawn for an advertising poster. Dorothy's face has been redrawn, however. The back cover offers short synopses for the stories, a cast and crew list, a short dedication, and Denslow line art of the famous five Oz characters. The title has the tagline "Rediscover the Magic!" which has been used as a subtitle on some sites.

The audio cassettes are of course out of print, and Penton Overseas doesn't seem to be active anymore. Currently, re-edited versions are available on CD and from sites like from Brilliance Audio. (Some scenes have been removed.) However, used copies of the cassettes are for sale online.

Order the complete set of cassettes from,, and
Order the new CDs from
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz
Ozma of Oz
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
The Road to Oz

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Oziana #38 is out!

Oziana, the International Wizard of Oz Club's magazine of original Oz fiction, begins new life as a print on demand item available on

Also, it contains my first published Oz story! No, it's not tied to my upcoming Outsiders from Oz in any way.

Underneath the cover by Alex Garcia from Spain, you'll find five new stories!

  • In "Executive Decisions" by David Tai, Dorothy, Betsy, and Trot discover a secret Ozma has been keeping since The Lost King of Oz. Illustrated by Kim McFarland.
  • In "Bud and the Red Jinn, or, Always Never Look A Gift Goat Horse in the Mouth" by Jared Davis, Prince Bobo of Boboland makes a surprise visit to the land of Ix during Zixi's Queen's Festival. However, King Bud of Noland and Jinnkicky, the Red Jinn of Ev, are concerned over the Prince's gift for the Queen. Illustrated by Anna-Maria Cool.
  • "Polychrome Visits the Sea Fairies" in Gina Wickwar's new story, a follow up to The Sea Fairies. Illustrated by Alex Garcia.
  • "Thy Fearful Symmetry" by Jeff Rester unveils the origins of the Hungry Tiger. Illustrated by Dennis Anfuso.
  • And finally, Maria and Derek from The Bashful Baker of Oz go on "The Bashful Baker's Honeymoon" by Marcus Mebes. Most couples get to take a honeymoon, and some go on a cruise, but not everyone gets a cruise on the Crescent Moon! Illustrated by Alex Garcia.
And all this can be ordered for only $10 right here!

Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz

I don't talk about the MGM movie much here. Do I enjoy the film? Yes. But it's not my favorite version of Oz. Still, it cannot be denied that the film is the most popular version of Oz, and while its sugar-coated portrait of Oz doesn't quite match Baum's elegantly American fairyland, it still presents a joyous yet dangerous land.

The rights for many of MGM's properties are now owned by Turner Entertainment, who are part of Time Warner now. So it took no legal difficulty to create an animated version of MGM's The Wizard of Oz with cartoon characters Tom and Jerry taking part in the film.

And that is how to sum up Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz in brevity. However, this animated Wizard of Oz does not completely recreate the classic film. Tom and Jerry are a cat and mouse (respectively) who live on the Gale's Kansas farm, Tom being a barncat, while Jerry manages to make use of his diminutive size to help out on the farm. (An early scene shows him using an adding machine to help Uncle Henry.)

Aunt Em tasks Tom and Jerry to keep an eye on Dorothy and Toto to help keep them out of trouble. And now we have parts that tell us what was going on just offscreen. During "Over the Rainbow," Tom and Jerry prevent a haystack falling over on Dorothy. They create a bike to chase Miss Gulch as she rides off with Toto, leading to his escape from the basket. As Dorothy hurries back home, they manage to keep some debris from hitting her.

Tom and Jerry are similarly knocked out during the cyclone and go to Oz with Dorothy, but by the time they leave the farmhouse, it's been a few hours since Dorothy left Munchkinland. A little mouse named Tuffy joins them, offering little more than a voice to their team, as Tom and Jerry are both silent.

Tom and Jerry wind up taking a different route from the one Dorothy took, and wind up getting on the Wicked Witch of the West's bad side. Eventually they catch up with Dorothy and her friends, but in the Winkie Country, they manage to escape the Flying Monkeys and get to play a role in setting up the events crucial to the end of the film.

To me, the cartoon violence of Tom and Jerry felt out of place in the setting of Kansas, while it happens rarely in Oz (in one Kansas scene, Tom falls to pieces after an encounter with a saw, but is obviously able to pull himself together for his next scene). In Oz, they get into comic antics defying the Wicked Witch, who has a magic wand they manage to take from her and eventually destroy. For me, it degrades the Witch as a villain for her to be bothered so much by a cat and mouse. Also, while the MGM film already made Dorothy less of a strong heroine than she was in the book, Tom and Jerry helping her along degrades her status as heroine even further. Of course, you can say that this is their dream, and not Dorothy's.

The animation is very good, though I did think some of the MGM Oz characters looked too cartoony. (Dorothy sadly has a bulbous forehead.) The music sounds very much like the music from the classic MGM film, though the songs are obviously by a new cast, the most notable one being "Over The Rainbow."

This really seems to be a love it or don't for Oz fans. Fans who love mainly the MGM film seem to have enjoyed it and find Tom and Jerry's antics cute and adorable. I, on the other hand, felt that trying to imagine it as a side piece to the MGM movie might be degrading to the characters in that film. In fact, after watching it on Cartoon Network today (a little over a week before it is released to DVD and Blu-Ray, it's already been available On Demand and digital rental services), I decided to feed my urge to watch the MGM film, to enjoy that on its own again.

Order Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shanowerthon! The Ice King of Oz

Shanower's third Oz graphic novel, The Ice King of Oz, was a culmination of many story ideas he'd had for an Ice King story over the years. Sometimes a story has to be written a few times to work out everything, but Ice King wasn't that simple.

Shanower had conceived the story as an Oz story, but rewrote it without Oz for his high school's literary magazine. He later re-developed it as a huge Oz story, but was not able to write it out due to school. Later, he returned to the story for an assignment at the Kubert School to create a cover and first page for a children's book, now without Oz elements again. (You can see it in the Adventures in Oz hardcover edition.) When he was planning the third graphic novel, he turned to the story once again.

So, yes, it was an Oz story, then it wasn't, then it was, then it wasn't, then it was.

The Ice King of Oz was the first of Shanower's works I ever saw. My father found it at the library and showed it to me. I didn't take much interest, being interested mainly in Baum's books at the time, until he opened it and showed me it was a COMIC. I wondered if there were any more, and yes, they also had Secret Island. (Told you they had a lot of copies of that one. Not now, though. I checked.)

Ozma receives a request from the Ice King to send a delegation to ensure peace between their countries. The Ice King is a powerful magician, so Ozma decides a peaceful connection would be wise and accepts the offer. Everyone in the palace works hard to greet the visitors (a seldom seen event, but Shanower writes and draws it brilliantly, I LOVE Jellia's exasperated look), and their effors pay off when the delegation arrives.

The Ice Imps (people who appear to be made of ice) from the Ice King's domain present two gifts. The first is an ice statue of Ozma, which bears an enchantment to prevent it from melting. The second is an engagement ring... for Dorothy! Dorothy rejects the offer, as she is very young and doesn't even know the Ice King. Ozma seems to agree by suggesting it should be discussed after they have established stronger connections with the Ice King.

The next day, Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, Billina, and Glinda meet by the Sawhorse and the Red Wagon, and note Ozma's absence. Jellia arrives and says she couldn't find Ozma in the palace. The Scarecrow arrives and says he played cards with the Imps in their suite the previous night but left his hat. When he returned, the Imps had gone.

Glinda takes them to the Magic Picture, which shows Ozma asleep in a block of ice carried by Ice Imps in the Ice King's domain. Glinda calls a council for the evening while she and the Wizard plan a way to rescue Ozma. At the council, she announces that Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman are best suited for the task and will leave for the Ice King's domain in the morning.

As everyone leaves, Jellia extinguishes the candles, but one begins to moan and change shape. Jellia reveals she took it from the Wizard's workshop. The Wizard says the candle had belonged to the Wicked Witch of the West. Just then, the candle finishes its transformation into a short man made of red wax with flames for hair. He introduces himself as Flicker, the Candle-Maker, and explains that when he defied the Wicked Witch, she turned him into a candle. Apparently, because he was a candle for so long (going by the dating, it would have been at least 87 years), the transformation hasn't completely worn off, so he's still wax and flame. He decides to join Dorothy's quest.

The next day, Glinda prepares a magic unicorn-headed flying device for the party to ride to the Ice King's domain in. It's a long journey, but when they reach it, the flyer shatters against a magic barrier, leaving our friends scrambling to get back on solid ground. Later, they are warned to get away by a seal, who tells them not to go to the Ice King.

Dorothy notes that Flicker is shrinking. Just as a candle gets smaller as it burns, so is Flicker. Dorothy hopes they can find Ozma and get back to Oz so Glinda can help Flicker.

As they journey on, the weather gets worse and a blizzard whips up. The Scarecrow finds an entrance to a fissure in the ice, where they find an outcropping looking into the Ice King's throne room, filled with Ice Imps around the Ice King's throne, which he shares with an icy Ozma. The outcropping gives way, sending them down to the Ice King's throne.

Ozma rejects her old friends: she's been enchanted. The Ice King refuses to give up Ozma, and when Dorothy and her friends refuse to leave without Ozma, he orders the Imps to leave. He attempts to destroy them by dropping huge icicles on them, which the Tin Woodman can break, but they pin down the Scarecrow.

The Ice King makes it colder, which freezes the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, and then he cracks the ice floor to reveal water, where Dorothy nearly drowns, but manages to hold onto the throne's base, remaining defiant. Flicker jumps across ice to the throne, where he flares his hair up in an attempt to melt the Ice King. It doesn't work and Flicker melts to about six inches tall.

However, Flicker's sacrifice and heat did thaw the Ice King's heart, and he realizes his wrongdoing. He re-freezes the floor, and thaws the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman and frees Ozma from his spell (and apparently removes the water from Dorothy's clothes). He decides he will attempt to be a better, kinder King, and uses his magic to return our friends to Oz.

Back in Oz, Glinda manages to prevent Flicker from shrinking further, coming at the cost of making his hair flare up anymore. Dorothy tells him that she likes him just as he is, so he makes up his mind to be content. Both Ozma and Dorothy hope that the good they did for the Ice King remains.

The Ice King of Oz is a great little Oz story. The plot is clear and easy to follow and also exciting. The Ice King's fate is appropriately Ozzy, and Flicker is a great character.

The coloring in Ice King shows a shift in what the publisher was now capable of. In the previous graphic novels, colors were largely solid areas. Now Shanower could create delicate color details that the reader could see replicated. (The Adventures in Oz collection did an even better job of this.)

This is definitely one of Shanower's best! If you don't own it, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gettin' down on Friday...

Today's Friday. You know what that means. It's blog time!

I have an exclusive still from the footage from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that was shown last weekend in Banner Elk, North Carolina. Take a look!

A new image has also been added to the film's website splash page. Click here to see that.

The teaser trailer for After the Wizard has been released online. Watch that here. The movie premiered in Kingman, Kansas earlier this summer and there are no plans to release it on DVD or in theaters nationwide at this time.

Footage from Oz, the Great and Powerful will be shown at this year's D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. Read more about Disney's plans for the D23 expo here.

That's about it for now. 'Till next week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Question for writers

When you work with a classic Oz character, do you create a back story for them that you might not refer to that helps you keep in mind how you interpret that character?

I do sometimes when Baum didn't give us enough to go on. One example is the Cowardly Lion. I'm not exactly sure if I want to keep this back story, but it does make a nice character arc that is finished in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Lion was born in a Quadling Forest, but when he was young, just before he could be taught the ways of a lion, his parents were killed by a giant spider, and he fled to the Munchkin Forest, far from the spider's reach. There, he grew up in fear, without the knowledge of how to hold his own against other animals. (However, he guessed nearly right by trying to scare them with his roaring.) And then one day, he attempted to leap out and scare some travelers who were going by the road of yellow brick, but we know what happened next.

In my opinion, it makes more sense than, say, he rode in on a balloon from Omaha...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baum Bugle Beginnings

I mentioned a while back that I've managed to get a large amount of old issues of The Baum Bugle. The Bugle's been an integral part of the International Wizard of Oz Club since the beginning. Since the earliest issues are hard to come by but contain some very informative information, the Club reprinted the important parts in collections called The Best of the Baum Bugle.

I have most of the Best of collections (still have yet to get the latest one), my most recent acquisition being the first volume, covering 1957-1961. For covering four years, it's about as thick as a modern issue. (I'm not sure of the criteria of Best of here. All descriptions of the collections seem to indicate that all articles are included, so I assume that only obsolete materials have not been retained.)

While I'd read through a couple collections before, the first volume is eye-opening to the Club's beginnings. This was when organized Oz fandom was just beginning, as well as research. Amusing to me were a couple articles about the discovery of "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz." Not even Fred Meyer had known about it before the Club began. Considering that you can now get the series in two quality editions, the scanty information supplied feels a little quaint, but it is thanks to this that we have those editions now.

A lot of articles are very short and would never do for a feature article in the modern Bugle, but in that time, when the Bugle was little more than a circular, that's what was available. In this age of sharing information quickly, freely, and publicly in e-mail lists, forums, and blogs, it's a little surprising to remember that we used to rely on "snail mail" for correspondence and information. If you needed to do research, you had quite a chore finding what books you needed and where to find them, or which library's archive you'd need to search.

The articles are varied and go from scholarly, to personal, such as Ruth Plumly Thompson clearing up the rumors of how she took over the Oz series (some rumors persist even today, sadly), or Ruth Berman talking about how she got into Oz. The Club was small, so the Bugle could be a little more personal.

Now that the Club has grown, we seldom see people being so personal in The Baum Bugle. It's not that it's not encouraged (we have forums and blogs for Oz fans to do that now), but it's not published there. Because of the short bits of information in these early Bugles we now have pages. Take the most recent issue: in 1957, Frank Kramer would have had a passing mention as the illustrator of Jack Snow's Oz books. Atticus Gannaway wrote a 10 page article about him!

Seriously, if you want to appreciate how far the Club has come, pick up The Best of the Baum Bugle.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Shanowerthon: The Secret Island of Oz

The world didn't have to wait long for Shanower's next graphic novel venture into Oz! The Secret Island of Oz appeared in October 1986. And this time, Shanower decided to turn to the "quest" type Oz story. After all, similar stories had been done in family-friendly comics before. Take the Uncle Scrooge comics of Carl Barks, for example.

My local library seemed to have many copies of Secret Island, because I seemed to keep finding it in any library that had any of Shanower's graphic novels. One time I had it checked out, but someone literally stole it from our van when I had asked my father to return it on his next visit. We found out who it was and they returned it, since it was a library book, with a page missing and badly taped back together. The library couldn't put it back in circulation, so we got billed for it. (THEY paid for it, though.) And that is how I got my copy of the original. ... Maybe I should replace it.

So, the story opens with the Scarecrow and Dorothy finding the royal gardener crying that he doesn't have a crimson-tailed Quipperug in the royal fish pond. Dorothy decides they'll set off to find one, since she's to be aching to have an adventure. The Cowardly Lion decides to join them when they tell Ozma about it. The Wizard sees it as a chance to have his new Travelling Emergency Magic Kit go on a field test.

Arriving south in the Quadling Forest, Dorothy and company hear that the Quipperug is not only rare but elusive as well, even to other fish. Dorothy also discovers that Eureka has followed them from the Emerald City, looking to get some fresh fish.

A giant bubblefish offers to take the travelers underwater to look for the Quipperug by blowing a bubble around them and carrying them in it. They look around in the pond, which is right by the Mysterious Mountain which occasionally makes strange noises. Under the pond (which is much larger underneath, they see a whirlpool. The bubblefish tries to swim past, but the bubble flies out of its mouth. Dorothy opens the Wizard's kit to find something to help them, but the bubble pops and everyone is caught in the whirlpool.

Dorothy is awakened by Eureka. They are on an island inside the whirlpool, which runs up the inside of the Mysterious Mountain. Dorothy finds a packet from the Wizard's kit: the Powder of Intangibility. She also still has the Magic Wayfinder that was pointing them to the Quipperug, but now she asks it to show her how to find the Scarecrow and Lion.

Along the way, they find a princess named Trinkarinkarina scolding a mechanical (wooden?) boy named Knotboy before storming off. Dorothy and Eureka approach Knotboy, who offers to take them to the king for help leaving the island. However, Dorothy wants to find her friends first.

Knotboy explains that he was made as a companion for Princess Trin (what he calls her for short) when she was a little girl. Now she's a teenager and instead of treating Knotboy as a treasured friend, she ignores him as an obsolete childhood toy. Knotboy says he's all right with this, as long as Trin is happy.

Trin sees Dorothy with Knotboy and, being suspicious, follows quietly as Dorothy follows the Wayfinder to small circular fortress that's been locked. However, the Powder of Intangibility enables them to enter, and inside they find a mound that leads underground. Trin enters and tells Knotboy to come with her. Dorothy and Eureka head into the mound, bringing along Knotboy and Trin follows.

Eureka discovers a tiny pool of water underground. Trin arrives and begins scolding Knotboy. Dorothy argues with her that she should treat her old friend better, but Trin scorns her and accidentally knocks Knotboy into the pool. He discovers it's not water but a thin barrier of a water-like substance that, when passed through, lets you enter an underground where gravity has turned upside down. All pass through, the Wayfinder showing them to a tunnel where something squishy blocks their way.

The Scarecrow and Lion are in an underground where they discover more packets from the kit: Exploding Powder (which falls into the water the Lion drinks, making tiny explosions happen inside of him), a seven-course breakfast (the Lion notes it will come in handy), and Shrinking Powder.

As they explore the cavern, the Scarecrow and Lion meet a giant toad and snake who are certainly intent on eating them, but offer them a sporting chance: if they win three challenges in a contest, they may go. While the snake beats the Lion at racing (by cheating), some Exploding Powder wins the rock-crushing contest. The toad announces that the final challenge is a wrestling match, but he feels something poking him from the mound he's seated on: Knotboy.

The toad jumps away and the two parties are united, but the snake knocks the Scarecrow apart as he prepares to use Shrinking Powder. The Lion pounces on the snake while Dorothy sees the Shrinking Powder and uses it on the snake, allowing the Lion to win the final challenge, thus winning the contest. Not that the toad minds, he's set on eating Trin! Knotboy goes off after him, and manages to tie his tongue around a giant mushroom, freeing Trin.

Everyone hurries to the mound, Knotboy gathering up the Scarecrow, but the Shrinking Powder shrunk the mound, making Dorothy use the Powder of Intangibility again to let them pass just before the toad can pounce on them.

After Dorothy reassembles the Scarecrow, Trin says she's grateful for Knotboy rescuing her, but when he asks if they can be friends again, she breaks down into tears and apologizes to him.

The travelers return to the fortress, where the King and his soldiers await. Trin tells him that Dorothy and her friends are their friends and that Knotboy saved her. The Scarecrow then puts forward a plan for them to escape the mountain: have them ride a boat up the whirlpool and then jump out to the ridge above on the Mysterious Mountain.

This plan is set into motion the next day, and it works. (Remember kids, this can only happen in Oz.) As they head back to the Emerald City, they find a pond and the Quipperug, who graciously rejects the offer to go to the Royal Fish Pond, he's happy where he is.

Shanower has made it no secret that this is his least favorite of the Oz graphic novels, criticizing that the plot didn't really gel and that he didn't do his best at drawing Dorothy this time around.

I suppose he does have a point in that we wander away from the quest for the Quipperug for most of the story, and then the rest is about Dorothy and Eureka reuniting with the Scarecrow and Lion. The only thing is that, storytelling-wise, the strength of what plot is left is found in the story of the strained relationship between Trin and Knotboy, which is actually pretty good. Depending on how deeply you want to read into it, this brings up the issue of what level of respect would manufactured people in Oz deserve, as well as not forsaking your childhood friends. When you grow up, you put away childish actions, not your friends. Trin didn't realize it at first, but her putting Knotboy beneath her because she was a princess is very childish. And when she needed to be rescued, it was Knotboy who saved her. She comes to realize that treating everyone with respect, especially her friends, is part of her duties as a princess.

Shanower also mentioned clarity issues. I suppose I see what he means. For a long time I thought the second time we see Trin in the story, she's going to get him, but no, she's still walking home from the first time we saw her, but she must be a slow walker if Dorothy and Knotboy got ahead of her so easily.

I suppose Knotboy is wood, although he appears to be a solid color with no wood grain detail, but perhaps he is varnished and would appear to be a solid color. Still, he seems to be mechanical somehow, especially since he seems to have an opening panel on his back.

I've never been extremely critical about details in artwork, but I didn't think Dorothy was very "ugly" in the original version, but looking it over and trying to be critical, Shanower definitely had done better in The Enchanted Apples of Oz and would do better in his later work. (He did some minor touch-ups to Dorothy in the Adventures in Oz collection.) I can't really complain about the rest of the art, though.

I suppose some of the best writers and artists may be their own worst critics. Believe me, sometimes I go back over old blogs or my published work and spot errors or things I wish I'd done better on, so even though I might not be as critical of Shanower's work as he is himself, I can understand it.

Overall, The Secret Island of Oz may not be Shanower's best, but it's far from bad!

Friday, August 05, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Sasha Jackson

For those who haven't seen the film yet, can you tell us a little about your role in The Witches of Oz?

I played Ilsa, who initially appears as a successful Hollywood actress being asked to star in a film adaption of Dorothy's novels. As the plot thickens, you soon realize that Ilsa is not who she appears to be.

We had Paulie and Barry do an interview a couple months ago, and they shared a bit about their experience on set. Did you get along well with the rest of the cast?

Of course! The cast and crew were amazing. I had so much fun shooting with them all! I wanted to stay on set longer when I had finished filming my scenes in the film.

We heard a bit about possible sequels to The Witches of Oz on the horizon; is there anything you can tell us about that?

Right now, I'm afraid there's not much I can say. All that I will say is that if it is true, I am extremely excited for it!

Did you watch The Wizard of Oz growing up as a child?

Yes, I did. I loved it! My favorite character in the film was the Cowardly Lion, and I loved Dorothy's shoes! I also watched Return to Oz, but to be honest, I was a little scared by it!

What was your first reaction to reading the script for the film?

I was really stoked to play such a great character and I was blown away by Leigh's modern take on such a traditional, iconic story. I found his vision for the project intriguing and enticing.

Did you read any of the original Oz books prior to filming The Witches of Oz?

Unfortunately, no. I did not have much time between booking the role and going to shoot the film. By the time the camera was rolling, however, I was familiar with the stories.

Weekly Update...

Bruce Campbell announced via Twitter that he has a pivotal role in Disney's Oz, the Great and Powerful. We don't know much about his role in the film, and apparently, neither does he!

William Wall, director of Wheeler of Oz, a short film that was released on DVD last year, has posted the entire film at a password-protected Vimeo link. Click here to see the secret password that Wall revealed to Oz fans on the IWOC Message Board.

If you're going to the Banner Elk IWOC con this weekend, you're going to see the first footage from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the theatrical trailer for The Witches of Oz. Next week, we'll be sharing an exclusive still from the film footage that Clayton Spinney will be presenting this weekend at the convention.

Enjoy this parody video of celebrities like Jane Lynch auditioning for a part in a remake of The Wizard of Oz...

That's all for now...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Bradford Exchange reprints Oz #2

This is a bit late, but I did get the second volume in the Bradford Exchange reprint series of Oz books.

This time, they didn't stick strictly to the original edition (which makes me continue to question the nasty errors left in their Wonderful Wizard). According to Bill Campbell, in the very first printing, unlike later ones, the title on the front cover did not have a silver outline. The interior is from a later printing, which corrected some errors.

Unlike the Books of Wonder edition, they used the original endpapers showing Jack Pumpkinhead, Tip and the Woggle-Bug cheering on the Sawhorse as he draws a wagon bearing the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, but these two famous Oz characters are represented by Fred Stone and David Montgomery in a hybrid of John R. Neill art and photography. (Apparently Books of Wonder thought it would be confusing.)

To be honest, without reading the book all the way through, the interior looks great with crisp and clean text and line art. However, I noticed the color plates are not so great. They don't look properly aligned.

You might say "Well, the printing at the time wasn't so great, so..." Reilly & Britton, even in their first major book, were not sloppy. This might not be the greatest scan, but here is the frontispiece from at least an early edition. (This is from Google Books.)

Despite the rough shape this one is in, you can see the colors stay in place. If correcting the text was such a priority they used a later printing's version, why not the color plates? The Books of Wonder edition prints them perfectly. I honestly wish I could replace the color plates in the Bradford Exchange edition with the Books of Wonder plates. For a volume that costs over twice the price of that edition, I think we should be expecting the best. Yes, the Books of Wonder edition isn't an exact facsimile, but in the reproduction of color plates, it comes out on top. However, I do love the Bradford binding on this one.

Now, this shipment in this collection" comes with the first of three Oz bookends. This one depicted the Wicked Witch of the West and a Winged Monkey. I thought the Monkey looked great, but the Wicked Witch looked like a typical storybook witch, complete with green skin. She doesn't resemble Denslow's Wicked Witch at all (she has both eyes), nor does she resemble MGM's. (Neill drew the Witch's head in the endpapers of The Road to Oz, and she follows Denslow's design.) I went ahead and sold her to a fan who wanted it. When I get the others, he's interested in them, too.

They say these bookends are free, but considering (without shipping and the price rounded to the nearest dollar for each installment) that the set costs $720 broken into several installments, I'd highly suspect that the cost is amortized into that amount. (If you're interested, rounding each installment to the next dollar, the shipping adds another $105.)

I wish Charles Winthrope & Sons would stop fooling around and just give us a standard version of each one. Wonderful Wizard's alteration in adding a new page to it and this hybrid Marvelous Land makes their claim of "exact replicas" inaccurate already. And their reproductions of the color plates have been less than stellar. I begin to dread what we'll see in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz and The Emerald City of Oz in which Neill created beautiful paintings instead of colored full page illustrations.

Should I complain about the plates or would that just make me seem like a whiner?

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Witches of Oz — A Chat With Leigh Scott

In this episode, Jared chats with Leigh Scott, writer and director of The Witches of Oz, a new movie (or TV mini-series) based on the Oz books.

As always, you can listen at the podcast site, or use the player below.