Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Aunt Jane's Nieces Collection Update!

So, how's that Edith Van Dyne collection coming? Ummm...


Up above are the first four books in the Aunt Jane's Nieces series. The first book and Abroad are Reilly & Lee editions. (And for those who don't know, Reilly & Britton changed their name to Reilly & Lee in 1919, meaning these are later editions.) Abroad has the standard features that the earlier ones did, the frontispiece matched the story and the cover still has the pictoral design. I'm completely satisfied with it.

Aunt Jane's Nieces, however, is one of the late Reilly & Lee editions. The pictoral cover design has been dropped, and instead of this frontispiece...
 ...this one appears.
Which doesn't match the story at all. It's actually from Aunt Jane's Nieces on the Ranch. And is it just me, or do those two guys back there look like they're about to have a passionate moment? At the last Winkie auction, while displaying an Aunt Jane's Nieces book, auctioneer Bill Thompson pointed out the simple cover design and incorrect frontispiece, explaining that in the series' later years, the publisher wasn't so particular. (See? You can learn so much at Winkies, even at the auction!) So, a frontispiece that didn't match the text is a common feature in late edition AJN books. In fact, I think other publishers wound up doing it with other series books.

Back to looking for one that will match the rest. (I consider my dustjacket Red Cross 1915 a very lucky find.) I was informed the first edition had six illustrations, including the frontispiece. I'd LOVE to find one of these, but it might be out of my price range (and where I've been looking, difficult to find), so I'll settle for one with the pictoral cover and original frontispiece.

Oh, and I'll have to find a 1918 or after Red Cross as well... And no, I haven't forgotten the Mary Louise books, but it's not like I can buy all the Oz stuff I want when I want. Anyway, if I could, I'd deplete my wishlist too fast and have nothing to look for.

The Wonderland of Oz

In 1932, Reilly & Lee attempted a new Oz publicity stunt: a comic strip. The Wonderland of Oz was serialized in newspapers through 1932 and 1933 and Reilly and Lee even offered a collector's album for children to put the comic strip. (If anyone has one of these albums, I'd love to see a photo of it.)

Now, these were not comic strips as we know them today, but pictures that told the story with text underneath. Here's an example:
You might note that it says "Based on the stories by L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson." Apparently there were some lofty plans for this series. However, these strips only adapted The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Tik-Tok of Oz. Walt Spouse did the artwork, modelling his designs very much on the illustrations of John R. Neill. It's unclear if he wrote the text himself or if a staff writer did so. As it is, there are some changes that were made to the stories that required new text not found in Baum.

After the series' end, some comics were reprinted in comic magazines like "The Funnies." This time, word balloons with newly written dialogue were sloppily added to the artwork. Example:
And aside from some mentions in The Baum Bugle, the strip languished in obscurity for years until Hungry Tiger Press' first issue of Oz-Story Magazine in 1995. That volume presented a new version the first half of Walt Spouse's The Land of Oz, this time presented as a regular comic. Each panel was carefully redone by Eric Shanower, sometimes adding extra bits of art and writing in new dialogue based closely on Baum's text. Word balloons were carefully placed so as not to interfere with Spouse's original art, which was treated as the actual star of the presentation.
In the remaining five annual issues of Oz-Story Magazine, the rest of The Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz were serialized with identical treatment. The final issue announced the remaining stories would be presented in a collected edition of the entire series. Such a volume, however, has yet to emerge. (I think a contributing factor to this is that the guy who did the new adaptation and art restoration is extremely busy with things like Age of Bronze and now adapting the Oz books for a different comic series...)

In 2007, all three completed stories were released in single graphic novel formats with newly colored attractive covers. Since I'd already bought a complete set of Oz-Story Magazine, my interest wasn't too high since I didn't want a lot of duplicates of the same content in my collection, but I eventually picked them up at the Winkie Convention this year. (That anti-duplicate rule, I've given up on.)
Or maybe I'm a sucker for colorful Ozzy covers...
The stories are very faithfully based on Baum and would likely be a nice gift for children who've only begun to read. For experienced Baum and Neill fans, little is offered aside from the few changes (in these three) in the story and scenes that Neill never drew. As a bit of Oz history and quality comics, they're worth it. The Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz contain examples of previous incarnations of the comic strip.

Now, about these changes and things that Neill didn't draw? Well, there's additional moments from the stories that Neill didn't draw, but as Spouse retold the story through drawings, these show up. I'll only mention the most notable below.

The Land of Oz
  • Tip attempts to flee Mombi's house when she tells him she'll transform him into a marble statue. (Then why didn't she lock the door?)
  • The home of the Queen of the Field Mice is shown.
  • All of Mombi's transformations are illustrated. 
Ozma of Oz
  • No real story changes, but we get a comical drawing of the Sawhorse kicking the Nome King!
The Emerald City of Oz
  • The Shaggy Man does not exist in this version of Oz, so all of his scenes that really bear on the story are given to Uncle Henry or the Wizard.
  • The trouble with the bank is made clear not through prose but by a visit by a man from the bank.
  • Toto eats an elocution pill and sings from "The Barber of Seville"
  • Unlike Neill's illustrations, we get to see the Phanfasms in their true forms.
  • The creation of the barrier of invisibility is omitted. Shanower's text accompanying the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Jack Pumpkinhead walking home says, "Come see us soon, for we shall not have any more adventures for awhile." (Come on, Scarecrow, you live in the Land of Oz.)
So, would I recommend buying The Wonderland of Oz? Yes. It's an important part of Oz comics history and Oz art. In addition, if you read them alongside the new Marvel comics, it's fun to see Shanower's different adaptations of Baum's text in The Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. And with Christmas coming up, if you have a kid on your Christmas shopping list who you'd like to introduce to Baum's Oz beyond The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, these would make a nice introduction! And they're not badly priced at $10 each.

You can order the graphic novel collections from Hungry Tiger Press with the links below:
The Land of Oz
Ozma of Oz
The Emerald City of Oz

Here's hoping we might finally get to see Spouse's The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Tik-Tok of Oz!

All images are from the Hungry Tiger Press editions of The Wonderland of Oz. Copyright Hungry Tiger Press.


    If you've been enjoying my blogs about Oz books, movies, etc. here at the Royal Blog of Oz, I've got something on my non-Oz blog that may interest you.

    It's no secret that Oz is considered the first American fairyland, but of course there were fantasy stories that featured children visiting magical lands that preceded it. Right off, Alice in Wonderland. But there was a little German fantasy story in 1816 that was largely neglected until the late 19th century when it was made into a ballet. I'm speaking, of course, of E.T.A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

    Frankly, I've loved this story since I was a kid, and this year, prepared 18 blogs about various incarnations of the story throughout the years. They'll appear daily, early in the morning, Central Standard Time. And since they've been written early and will appear automatically, they won't take me away from writing for the Royal Blog of Oz at all.

    If you're interested, go on over to my non-Oz blog and check them out, starting December 1st. There'll be a final blog on the 19th.

    (Maybe next year I'll tackle another Christmas story that's been retold many ways...)

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Mister Tinker in Oz - Sam's Retrospective

    Two months ago Jared made a review about the Random House Oz Short Story "Mister Tinker in Oz" by James Howe, illustrated by David Rose. You can see his review of half the book here.

    As Jared said before I have this book in my collection and would like to offer my perspective.

    Everybody knew the story of "the Wizard of Oz", or at least knew the LOOK of the story (a girl, a dog, a Scarecrow, a tin man with an axe, a lion, all walking together down a road of yellow bricks, usually to or away from a city of emeralds). Of course we had the Ladybird story as an abridgement too (illustrated by Brian Price Thomas) at my primary school library, Daceyville, but surprisingly we also had a copy of this blog's book, the cover () of which has always stayed with me since, including some of its illustrations. Not everyday that you have an abridged Oz book that's by an author NOT Baum, Thompson, etc!

    I was too young to really read the book, so like all little children I just looked through the book unless I saw a picture, which there is a good number of - but you can never have enough or too many pictures as a kid!

    For many years I remembered a few of the images from the book: the colour cover having a girl with her long hair in braids standing at a fence as she watched a man in a black cloak coming down a ladder from the clouds/sky, Dorothy sitting with a group of babies surrounded by giant ants, Dorothy and the babies now with the man, Dorothy looking at a clock the man showed her in his hand and finally Dorothy resting in an armchair with Toto (and a book?) in front of a fireplace.

    Only once did I go on the internet, find "the Oz Project" and come across the interesting title did I find the book I remembered only through pictures and not words. It would not be until July-August 2006 that I ordered the book, not from ebay, but an online secondhand-bookstore called BiblioQuest.

    I loved the book soon as I got it. And, as is often the case with memories and time, I saw how the drawings were slightly different to what I imagined: Dorothy's hair wasn't as long as I thought it was, nor did Mister Tinker look like a Clown in a black cloak. And of course now that I had grown up, I could actually read the book and remember the story - there is also an extra character, an old lady named Astoria who I thought looked like the Good Witch of the North in her one illustration (before actually reading this time), who helps add to the story.

    I don't need to tell you what happens as that was already explained in Jared's blog, but I can say how the best thing about this book is that there is adventure not just in getting to Oz but also after having arrived in the Emerald City. Most importantly Dorothy helps Mr Tinker to find there was nothing wrong with him throughout the story after all. A big cliche is the asking of "Will Dorothy get home again?" or "Will everything be alright?" and that is actually addressed here, in which the Emerald City ISN'T "alright" upon visiting, so that allows the story to go on a bit longer with Dorothy and Mr Tinker and their friends all helping Oz to become normal again.

    A GOOD Short Oz story, with sketchy illustrations but still some nice drawings nonetheless, which brings a backstory character to the spotlight (Tik-Tok's creator) in a simple yet extremely fun adventure in Oz. I should like to see this book as a short film someday, if possible. And maybe try some new illustrations too.

    I wonder though, if L. Frank Baum had remembered Tik-Tok's story of his creators back in "Ozma", would he have thought of a way to include the 1000 year warranty and its moon-based creator in "Tik-Tok", in the rewrite of the Ozma Musical?

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Royal Explorers of Oz

    Announcing Royal Explorers of Oz, a trilogy combining elements from the works of L. Frank Baum and the fantasies of Ruth Plumly Thompson.

    Prince Bobo of Boboland is on a mighty quest: to unify the Nonestic nations against such threats as the Phanfasms and the Mimics! But with his ego, can he successfully carry it out?

    Captain Salt is exploring the Nonestic Ocean once more with his faithful crew, Ato, Tandy, Roger the Read Bird, and Nikobo the hippopotamus. They soon gain a few extra members for their crew in Arko and Orpa the mer-folk couple, and Sally the Sea Fairy.

    Little do any of them realize that they are setting out for an adventure that will change all of them forever.

    The Voyage of the Crescent Moon
    by Marcus Mebes, Jeff Rester, and Jared Davis
    Illustrations by Alejandro Garcia and John Troutman
    Coming early 2012

    To be followed by
    Crescent Moon Over Tarara
    The Scourge of the Crescent Moon

    (And for anyone wondering, all three books have had their first drafts completed.)

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    The Royal Podcast of Oz: A Chat With Ruth Berman

    Jared talks with legendary Oz fan and International Wizard of Oz Club charter member Ruth Berman.

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


    Podcast Powered By Podbean

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    More Baum Bugle Reading

    Back in August, I blogged about reading some of the earliest material in The Baum Bugle. Well, despite a gap in my collection (1970-Spring 1971, which seems to be one of the rarest issues), I'm still reading and am up to 1984. (And no, I don't mean the George Orwell novel.)

    There is seriously so much amazing information in these old issues. Just today, my respect for Ruth Plumly Thompson skyrocketed when I read her account of attending a party and being told by a librarian that the Oz books were not allowed in the library system. When she asked why, they said they'd explain when she accompanied them to lunch. Thompson demanded to be told right away. When she didn't get an answer when she asked for it, she skipped that lunch.

    And in the same article ("Librarians, Editors, Critics, Children and Oz," Autumn 1984), she acknowledged that she and Baum were very different. It is these articles Thompson wrote (it was the third part of a long article she'd done) that finally let me see what kind of a person she was.

    Not every article was quite informative. A couple that come to mind are by a Sonia Brown. The first was "Have We Found Oz?" which goes on about how she thought Oz might have been inspired by Australia. Another was about how she thought a famous stage magician was the basis of the Wizard. Speculation about Baum's inspiration is fine and all, but I felt it was too drawn out. I especially thought the one about Australia was a little far-fetched. It doesn't take the Deadly Desert of Oz into account, nor the fact that the borderlands are mostly bordered on ocean. Oz is landlocked, Australia is not.

    Sometimes things I thought I knew were looked into more deeply. The fact that the Bugle doesn't do linear biographies helps a lot. For example, Baum's financial troubles about 1910 were pretty badly compounded, moreso than I'd previously summed up. Not only was he broke because of the Fairylogue and Radio Plays, but the company publishing his pre-Reilly & Britton books had rented the plates of his books to a big reprint house. What was bad was the fact that Baum was not making a single cent off of these reprints. He'd turned the royalties over to creditors in an attempt to pay them off (which worked, eventually). Even worse, cheap Baum books in the marketplace would rival with pricier new ones that he would profit from. It was really this that forced him back to Oz.

    Also, it seems Reilly & Britton were interested in continuing the Trot books, but Baum just turned out Oz books and made Trot and Cap'n Bill part of Oz.

    A lot of fun as I get through the older Bugles is all the names that I know (some of them from meeting them at Winkies) come up more often. Eric Gjovaag, Karyl Carlson, Eric Shanower, David Maxine, Judy Bieber, John Ebinger, Lee Speth and so many others.

    A big problem with reading these old Bugles is seeing all the wonderful Oz-related works that have come out over the years. Now I'm itching to get my hands on more of it!

    Fun with Fairies

    The most popular conception of fairies is that of tiny people with wings, but not all fairy lore uses this idea. In fact, it appears to be a relatively recent development, with the more traditional take of fairies making them more like minor deities. They play such roles in many fairy tales, and L. Frank Baum adopted this general idea in his own books. Well, most of the time, anyway. His definition of the word "fairy" seems to vary considerably, sometimes even within the same volume. As I mentioned in this post, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus makes Fairies specifically the guardians of mankind, but it's used elsewhere in Baum's work to refer to any and all immortal beings. Sometimes it's used even more broadly than that, which I think reflected popular usage at the time. Even today, the category we call "fairy tales" includes a great many works (perhaps the majority, in fact) that don't include fairies at all. Similarly, "fairyland" often just means "magical land," not specifically a place where actual fairies live. I believe the first reference to the Land of Oz as a fairyland or fairy country appears in Ozma of Oz, but he must have had it in mind before, as one of the proposed titles for the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was From Kansas to Fairyland. The name seems to primarily separate such lands from non-magical civilized countries like our own. In Emerald City, Baum writes, "Oz being a fairy country, the people were, of course, fairy people; but that does not mean that all of them were very unlike the people of our own world." And in Road, Dorothy refers to the Tin Woodman as "a fairy prince." Baum was obviously not above using the term loosely, as the Tin Woodman is certainly not an immortal with magic powers. Ozma is eventually revealed to be a full-fledged fairy, but we don't actually see hints of this until Emerald City, and she doesn't display any real magic powers until Lost Princess. Tin Woodman tells us that Oz was enchanted by a fairy queen named Lurline, but this happens so late in Baum's books that it seems to be almost an afterthought on his part, although later authors did more with this.

    One interesting character to examine in this light is Glinda, who largely plays the role of the fairy godmother, but is not a fairy herself. Or is she? In Lost Princess, the Wizard of Oz says, "Ozma is a fairy, and so is Glinda, so no power can kill or destroy them, but you girls are all mortals and so are Button-Bright and I, so we must watch out for ourselves." And in Jack Snow's Shaggy Man, the King of the Fairy Beavers insists, "Glinda is a fairy just as Ozma is." He goes on to say that "fairies...are creatures of the light and air," even though this is hardly always the case. The Nomes, for instance, are considered rock fairies, and they live underground. Anyway, despite these statements, I think most of the evidence points to Glinda being a human who has achieved a lot of magical power, rather than a magical being in and of herself. That said, it's certainly not impossible that she has some fairy blood.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    "The Origins of Oz" coming soon

    Jane Albright just announced on Facebook that the Smithsonian Channel will be airing "The Origins of Oz," the American version of the previously aired "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The True Story" in the UK.

    Eric Shanower, who appears on the documentary, told me he's seen the American version and believes it's a different cut than the version that aired on BBC Four.

    "Origins of Oz" airs on December 11th. Check the site for more details.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    What I might be collecting next...

    I got this in the mail today.
    It's a 1915 edition of Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross, with the dustjacket.
    It's in really great shape, too. There's an inscription inside, but that's all the marking I've found so far.
    Okay, there is annoyingly a sticker on the side of the dustjacket that I don't dare remove for fear of ruining the jacket. So I might as well tell you now that the seller I got it from had absolutely no idea what they selling. Their price for it was only $5.
    Aunt Jane's Nieces was a series by "Edith Van Dyne." In the Red Cross was the last of the 10 volume series and was re-released in 1918 with a rewritten ending that more accurately depicted the effects of war.

    The big secret of Edith Van Dyne was that she wasn't a she. It was, in fact, L. Frank Baum under a pseudonym. Those handy little things allowed Baum to branch out in his writing and write stories that were very different from his Oz books. While the late Jane Merrick's nieces might have found a benefactor in their Uncle John, he wasn't a fairy godfather.These stories were very much set in reality.
    I'm now itching to pick up some more of the Aunt Jane's Nieces series as most of the "Edith Van Dyne" books are among the few Baum books I have left to get. (Also The Army Alphabet and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors.) I have the International Wizard of Oz Club's reprint of the first book in the series, but that's all. The other books have been reprinted as their texts came online as cheaply done (yet bogglingly-priced) print on demand editions, and I haven't felt them to be worth my money. (Until this, I was seriously considering making my own omnibus reprint.)

    So, what will I pick up as I attempt to piece together a collection of Edith Van Dyne books? Stay tuned!

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Weekly Update: R.I.P. Karl Slover

    As many of you surely know, one of the last surviving Munchkins passed away this week. Karl Slover, who just appeared at an Oz event a little over a week ago, died at age 93 on November 15th, 2011. There are now three surviving cast members from the 1939 movie, and they're all Munchkins. Check out these videos of Karl singing his famous acapella rendition of "Off to See the Wizard".

    In other news, ABC aired a brand-new episode of "The Middle" that had an Oz theme to it. In the episode, a community theater performance of "The Wizard of Oz" is doing auditions, and there's some jealousy over who gets what part. It was a very funny episode, and the costumes and sets in the production that were shown actually looked awesome I must say! Read more about the episode here.
     Actress Michelle Williams talked to The Los Angeles Times in an interview earlier today about her daughter's visit to the set of "Oz, the Great and Powerful". Read what she had to say about the experience her daughter had on set here.
    That's all for now. Have a great weekend! 

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Invisible Inzi of Oz

    Now that we looked at the latest Oz book, let's look at one of the first (if not THE first) published Oz stories outside of the Famous Forty: Invisible Inzi of Oz.

    Virginia and Robert Wauchope were 13 (or 14) and 9 respectively when they wrote this Oz book. They claim it was dictated to them by a Ouija Board, but I have my questions about that. Furthermore, since the story reappeared in the 1980s, it's been claimed the story was dictated by L. Frank Baum's ghost. And at that, I have to really suspend disbelief.

    Their mother Elizabeth typed the manuscript a few years later, editing it as she went. This was sent to Maud Baum herself, who suggested it be submitted to A Child's Garden magazine. A Child's Garden accepted it and serialized it, beginning in October 1926.

    Later, Fred Meyer wrote to Robert, after a friend had uncovered the story in the Library of Congress. Shortly after, the story was published in the Winter 1980 and Summer 1981 Baum Bugle. (Why there was a Summer Bugle that year is a story all in itself.) In 1993, a book edition by Buckethead Enterprises of Oz appeared, illustrated by Eric Shanower. (Someday, I shall have to ask how he came to do it.)

    The story opens with Betsy telling Dorothy that Glinda's Books of Magic are gone. Glinda asks Ozma to get a recovery party together which consists of the Wizard, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Scraps. After Musicton, Flattown, and a run-in with Kalidahs, they find the castle of Kuik Blackbab, who the Book of Records identified as the thief of Glinda's books. However, Kuik imprisons them. Ozma goes on a rescue mission herself (with a little long-distance aid from Glinda), but Dorothy's party finds another helping hand in a mysterious creature who remains invisible to them.

    Overall, the story isn't too bad, but it's not very great, either. Not bad for a couple kids in the early 20th century, but there is definitely no mark of Baum. If a Ouija board did play a part in the writing, I'm sure its role was greatly expanded by the imagination of the kids telling about it later. After all, they did wait a few years in between writing and publication before their mother edited and typed it for them.

    The major flaw is that Kuik gets no serious punishment. The Wizard steals the books back and Ozma warns that if Kuik does anymore magic, he'll be made to drink the Water of Oblivion. There's no real payoff to his villainy. Another is that the way the characters speak is a little stilted. It just sounds a little off.

    The book is hard to find, adding some intrigue to the story, though I'm sure the Baum Bugles it was serialized in could be obtained with a bit of searching (I was able to get them just by looking on various book sale sites and asking around). I was amazed to find a copy on the Swap Meet Table at the Winkie Convention this year.

    Eric Shanower's brilliant illustrations help the book look attractive. There are ten full page illustrations as well as the cover, and many little images of characters from the story, though most of them are of the classic Oz characters.

    Aside from Shanower's illustrations and the history behind it, there isn't a lot to make me recommend Invisible Inzi of Oz above many other Oz books.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    The Red Jinn in Oz

    The Red Jinn in Oz, by Mildred L. Palmer - I'd heard about this book, which was written some time ago, but I'm not sure exactly when. I think it might have been in the fifties or so. Anyway, it remained unpublished for years, but I did a Google search on a whim a week or so ago, and it's actually available as a free download on Lulu. The copyright date on it is 2007, but I don't know how long it's been up there. Oddly, it doesn't appear in Lulu searches, supposedly because it's not "interesting content." Wait, Lulu, who decides that? Anyway, this was a traditional and quite fun Oz story, largely following up on The Purple Prince of Oz. In that book, Faleero took over Pumperdink, and Ozma punished her by turning her into a raven. In this book, she seeks revenge by transforming Ozma and taking her place, while her cohorts take the forms of Glinda, the Wizard of Oz, and Jellia Jamb. It's sort of like Magical Mimics in this respect, but not enough to seem repetitive. Besides, I'm not sure when this was written relative to Magical Mimics. Unfortunately for Faleero, she has trouble controlling her temper, and Dorothy soon realizes something is amiss. She and the Cowardly Lion seek the help of the Red Jinn, and the three of them return to set things to rights, after a stop in the sky kingdom of Cumuland to restore the rightful ruler. Everyone is in character, and it very much feels like an old-school Oz book, particularly one of Ruth Plumly Thompson's (not surprisingly, since it follows up on one of her plots). The bit about Guph having conquered the Nome Kingdom from Kaliko was never really developed, but maybe that's something that can be expanded on in a future story.

    An interesting thing about Red Jinn is that Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion use the Nome King's tunnel under the Deadly Desert to get from Oz to Ev. The tunnel was also used as a plot device in Shaggy Man, but I don't know that Palmer had read that one. Regardless, it seems like both of them missed a relevant passage from Chapter 29 of Emerald City: "That day she watched her Magic Picture, and when it showed her that all the Nomes had returned through the tunnel to their underground caverns, Ozma used the Magic Belt to close up the tunnel, so that the earth underneath the desert sands became as solid as it was before the Nomes began to dig." So why would it still be intact several decades later? One possibility is that something went wrong, and the tunnel was never sealed, except for the two ends. If we want to accept both this passage and the plots that involve the tunnel, however, there must have been some kind of restoration. One idea that comes to mind is the idea in the Discworld books that it's easier to magically change someone or something if they can remember having had that form before. In Witches Abroad, the witches turn Nanny Ogg's cat Greebo into a human, and although he's later changed back, we learn in later books that he can take human form on his own in certain situations. So if that sort of magic is possible in Oz and its surrounding fairylands, perhaps the tunnel could be restored without too much trouble because it can remember having been there before. Or perhaps it was some sort of regression magic, which is something I wrote about in a multi-authored story called "The Ruby Ring of Oz" on the old Oz Club forums. Someone else had brought the Shaggy Man's brother back to the Metal Forest, and I explained this by introducing a wizard who could cast spells to restore someone's state and location from an earlier time. Neither of these explanations has any real basis in what we know about Oz, but hey, they're always possible, right?

    And we are live!

    And the new version of The Royal Website of Oz is live! If you were a user at the forum, then you already have an account.

    So, what's new? Well, for one thing, you can log in and do stuff. You couldn't do that on any previous versions of the site. We merged the message board in (your bookmarks to it will still work, I was adamant we get that set up), and my concept of a fan fiction site has been implemented as the concept of a communal blog with tags. In addition, we have blogs and a chat box.

    We were going to have image galleries or albums users could create, but all the modules we found caused problems with the rest of the site. Once we find something that will play nicely with others, we'll roll that out.

    The library section has also not been launched, but it is underway.

    The wiki is still online, unchanged. We were unable to find a way to link the site and wiki so you could use one login without making something not work. I had wanted that to be the case so users wouldn't feel they'd need to be bothered with a separate login to contribute information. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the two to link up and we also could not find an alternative.

    Anyway, what's up is up. Enjoy!

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Out of Oz

    Probably you know about Wicked by now. It all started in 1995 when novelist Gregory Maguire released Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This book provided a bold new re-imagining of Oz as a darker and grittier and much less magical land. Cultural prejudice abounds, and the Wizard is far from Baum's warm and friendly Oscar Diggs. Enter Elphaba Thropp, the child of an affair, mysteriously born with green skin. She will later attend Shiz University with her sister Nessarose and Galinda Upland. Through their lives and endeavors, they wind up becoming the "Wicked Witch of the West," the "Wicked Witch of the East," and Glinda the Good.

    Wicked met a mixed reception by Oz fans. Some loved it, some hated it. Others were indifferent. Later, the novel was loosely adapted into a very successful stage musical, and soon, Maguire brought out a sequel, Son of a Witch in 2005. The novel further explored this revisionist Oz after the events we know from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz through the eyes of Elphaba's illegitimate son, Liir. 2008 brought A Lion Among Men, in which Maguire offers the story of his Cowardly Lion, named Brr (after Bert Lahr).

    The series got named The Wicked Years, and a fourth (and intended to be final) book was announced: Out of Oz. And it was released early this month.

    Me, I didn't like Wicked, and it took some time before I decided to try Son of a Witch. For some reason, I liked it. However, I didn't find A Lion Among Men so interesting. So I was completely unsure of what I'd think of Out of Oz, which was the first Maguire book I bought new.

    Munchkinland is at war with the other sections of Oz, "Loyal Oz" in Maguire's revisionist take, refusing to be under the government of Shell Thropp, the current Emperor in the Emerald City.

    Lady Glinda (she's not big on doing magic) is under house arrest along with her staff, including a little girl named Rain. Rain becomes a point of attention for General Cherrystone, who begins to teach her how to read. Glinda is suspicious of his attention, and soon suspects he wants Rain to read the Grimmerie, which winds up in her care when they are allowed to see the Clock of the Time Dragon. Eventually, the pressure gets to be too much for Glinda, and when the Clock of the Time Dragon returns, she gives them the Grimmerie and turns Rain over to the company.

    Rain gets the most attention in Out of Oz and it's soon no secret that she is Elphaba's granddaughter. She rejoins her parents, and even gets to attend school, where she begins to be enamored with a boy named Tip. (People who've read The Marvelous Land of Oz can guess that won't end well...)

    Dorothy winds up back in Oz after an accident on a trip to California while she's in a lift with Toto. After she recovers, she is put on trial for the deaths of Nessarose and Elphaba by the Munchkinlanders, who are set on a guilty verdict and also execution to boost the public morale.

    I guess my favorite character in The Wicked Years is Liir, since I was also pretty glad we got to follow him and his wife Candle for a bit.

    Out of Oz moves along slowly, though there are signs that things are coming to a head. Maguire, however, isn't one to be fast-paced, and when something catastrophic does happen, he still takes his time.

    Surprisingly, overall, I liked Out of Oz. It provides a relatively happy ending for a gritty, somber take on Oz. There are still some threads left hanging, but apparently, Maguire has elected to leave these that way.

    Maguire also throws in some humor for Oz fans. Dorothy's trial was originally set to be in a place called "Densloe Den," but when they fear it will be too small for the expected crowd, they go to "Neale Hall." A few sly nods to other books in the Famous Forty creep in as well. There's also talk of people dressing up as Dorothy, such as entertainers and even male escorts who might pull it off so convincingly, they may be mistaken for her.

    Would I recommend Out of Oz? It depends on you. If you've gotten through A Lion Among Men, definitely. If you decided you didn't like Wicked and wouldn't read anymore, then that book stands on its own well enough.

    So, thanks for an intriguing take on Oz, Mr. Maguire. We'll see you again when Oz pulls you back.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    (Almost) Weekly Update

    I didn't do an update last week, and I don't think I did one the week before either, so I decided that I was going to try to put one together for this week.

    Our friends at "L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" have released some new footage as Jared mentioned in one of his blogs. They've also added new VFX test stills, among other things to their website. You can check out all of that good stuff and more on the official website.

    Summertime Entertainment's 3D kid's flick "Dorothy of Oz" will be released in U.S. theaters on August 3rd, 2012, according to branding associate Travis Rutherford. "Dorothy of Oz" will compete with "The Bourne Legacy" and "Total Recall" at the box office during its opening weekend.

    A few more stills from the yet to be released theatrical version of "The Witches of Oz", titled "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz", have been released on the film's official Twitter page. "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" was completed over the summer over at Palace/Imaginarium, and a U.S. release date has not been announced.

    Some pretty cool developments have been made in the super-secret project that I mentioned in my last update. Hopefully, we'll be able to make an announcement on that in the next few weeks. Wish I was allowed to say more!

    The previously reported Bruce Campbell cameo in Disney's "Oz, the Great and Powerful" has been cut from the film, Campbell announced on Twitter earlier today. Read more about that here.

    That's all for now. Hopefully Disney will release some stills or footage from "Oz, the Great and Powerful" soon! Enjoy your weekend and have a happy Veteran's Day.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Books of Wonder's Oz reprints

    If you've been reading David Maxine's Oz blog along with mine (and if you haven't, why not?), you'll see he and his partner Eric Shanower have stuck with the Bradford Exchange's editions of reprints of the Oz books. If you've read his blogs, you know why I say "reprint." (If only the Bradford Exchange would say that.)

    Anyway, in the comments and even the blogs themselves, you might have noticed mentions of Books of Wonder's editions of the Oz books. Since these editions are still very much available, it might seem odd to talk about them, especially as most Oz fans own a set.

    This series began in 1985 with a reprint of The Marvelous Land of Oz utilizing all the color plates of the original edition as well as reproductions of the original pages, changes being made to the copyright page, title page, and spine to indicate the actual publisher. William Morrow did the actual publishing of the book, putting a book just about every bit as handsome as the original edition out in the wide open book market.

    Other changes were made as well. The original endpapers showed an image of the Woggle-Bug, Tip, and Jack Pumpkinhead cheering as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman rode in a wagon being pulled by the Sawhorse, except instead of Neill artwork for the two in the wagon, photographs of Fred Stone and David Montgomery (who played them in the original Oz musical) in full costume were used instead. This also required a slight redesign of the title page, as the original mentioned the endpapers. In addition, a new dustjacket was designed.

    Overall, fans were not fussed about these changes. Having such a high quality edition was enough. In 1987, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz appeared, also in a faithful reproduction of the first edition (with alterations for it being as different publisher) without any artwork dropped. (Rather than a photo-facsimile, it seems some color elements were re-done, however, the method of doing these was faithful to the original's design.)

    From that time on to the year 2000, all fourteen of Baum's novels were treated to such editions. Also, Little Wizard Stories of Oz was reprinted. The Road to Oz was printed on colored paper, just like the original edition, though I've heard some say the coloring of the paper and the placement isn't exactly the same. In The Emerald City of Oz, the original color plates had been embellished with metallic green ink. Since this proved too costly for Books of Wonder to replicate, green ink with gold glitter was utilized instead.

    Controversially, The Patchwork Girl of Oz saw a couple text edits and an illustration dropped in light of politically correct sensibilities. As the Books of Wonder editions were not actually facsimiles (though it seems their marketing people screwed up a bit), these changes can be overlooked, especially as other editions without the edits remain. However, no mention of the alteration is in the book. Eric Gjovaag goes into this controversy in greater detail in this online column.

    Rinkitink in Oz also saw an illustration dropped, but this time, it was noted on the copyright page.

    Because the Books of Wonder/William Morrow (now Harper Collins) editions have been going for over 25 years, there have been some changes. Early versions used textured boards to simulate the original cloth binding. At some point (possibly when Harper Collins took over), this was dropped and slick case-bound covers (with all the images in the appropriate colors) were used instead. (This change caused their Ozma of Oz to become thicker. I've seen both versions.)

    It's also worth noting that the dustjackets were not always replicas of the originals. Now, they use a stylized design on the spine, and the original dustjacket designs of the first three books were not used at all. (Their edition of The Road to Oz was the first to use a gold background on the dustjacket image since the original editions. Reilly & Britton had dropped and changed it after a time.) In addition, Peter Glassman provided an afterword to all the books, except Tik-Tok of Oz where a small note appeared in the front matter. Also, listings of other Books of Wonder titles may be seen.

    In 2000, along with Glinda of Oz's release, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was re-released by Book of Wonder and Harper Collins in a centennial edition, this time made taller to match the later Oz books as well as a new dustjacket design. This version also used a textured cover.

    Overall, Books of Wonder did a wonderful job reprinting the Oz books. The text is still easy to read and the illustrations are printed clearly. To be sure, I recently scanned an image from one of their Marvelous Land color plates at a high dpi and zooming in, it quickly broke up into dots and pixels. Given the changes in printing technology (we still use three color printing, but our means of printing it have changed), this is understandable, and it looks just fine in print to the naked eye. (It might also be a way to prevent people from pirating their restoration work.)

    If you're not interested in (or feel you could care for) a set of first or early edition Oz books, Books of Wonder is your best choice. Given the noted changes, though, there is yet a market for "exact replicas" of the original editions, but that void has yet to be filled.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011

    Fairyland Indus Trees, Inc.

    I was wondering recently about how industry works in Oz. While I would imagine many functions are fulfilled by small businesses and magical trees, there is the occasional mention of a factory. The Scalwagons are produced in a factory that the Wizard of Oz set up on Carrot Mountain. There's a jam factory in the Hidden Valley in...well, The Hidden Valley of Oz. In Merry Go Round, Roundabout has factories that make round objects, which are always perfect and never wear out. They'll have no truck with planned obsolescence in that city. And in Yankee, the Kingdom of Wackajammy has several factories that produce baked goods. Note that these are all from the forties or afterwards, as if that was the point when writers could no longer imagine an Oz without a manufacturing industry. Did any factories appear in earlier Oz books? I know there's a mention of a pickle factory in Purple Prince, but we don't actually see such a place. Besides, I would imagine that pickles grow on trees in at least some parts of the fairyland. Anyway, there are some factories in outlying parts of Oz, but does the Emerald City have any? I would guess offhand that it doesn't. Even though Ozian factories might well not pollute as much as their Outside World counterparts, they'd probably still be rather distracting to find in an idyllic city. But what about a power station or a waterworks? I mean, the city has to get these utilities from somewhere, right? Or does some sort of magic take care of all that? It's an interesting thing to think about, and maybe something that should be addressed in a future Oz story. Actually, my wife, who sometimes likes to come up with weird hypothetical titles, once proposed "Terry Carruthers and the Water Filtration System of Oz." Not sure where she got "Terry Carruthers," but apparently there's a boxer with that name.

    And since I'm writing about industries in the Oz books, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Indus Tree in Down Town, a community beneath the surface of the Land of Ev visited in Hungry Tiger. Down Town is positively obsessed with money, and the Indus Tree is an enormous plant that grows in the public square, where people can pick various objections for their professions. Carter Green picks a wheelbarrow from this tree, and Prince Evered a sword. I suppose the profession for which you'd need a sword is a soldier, but I don't know that Down Town has a military force. If we could only grow trees like this in the Outside World, it would definitely cut down on the costs of starting a business. I tend to doubt it's been upgraded to grow computer terminals as of yet, though.

    Monday, November 07, 2011

    Writing Oz: What not to do

    My editor has pestered me to write blogs about how I wrote Outsiders from Oz. My intent is to wait for this until the book is available. I hope that will be soon, but until then, I'll tease you with a few things I learned not to do.

    Don't overwrite
    Unless your story requires it, a lot of exposition is not encouraged. In the first draft of Outsiders, I spent many paragraphs talking about Jellia Jamb. None of what I wrote was bad or anything, but it was all eliminated in the final version. In fact, I'd rewritten the first chapter from scratch.

    The reason why was because Jellia only appears briefly in the book. This was always the intention for the story, so why spend so much time on a character who isn't in the book for very long? Jellia does get a brief introduction, but that's the key: it's brief.

    Exposition should be kept on a strictly need-to-know basis. Of course, I also advise against breaking the momentum of a scene for exposition. I set up a little mystery for the characters in Outsiders, though I'm very sure my readers will piece it together quickly since they get both sides of the story. By the time the story came to the conclusion, everything was ready for a fast paced finale.

    Don't drag your story out
    While you want your story to fill a good number of pages, if you find yourself slipping in visits to Buxleyburg or Whoozywoozyville for no purpose than to make the story longer, it might be better to reconsider how long you need your story to be. I had intended for Outsiders to be 20 chapters, like most of Thompson's books, but wound up being 16.

    If you find yourself adding in filler material, try to rework it to work with the plot. Since Outsiders follows two separate parties for a large portion of the book, I found myself needing to fill some time between when the two parties would meet up. So, I came up with an additional episode that would introduce a new little creature to Oz's zoology. However, I wound up making them part of the story's conclusion.

    And that was much better than the original version of that chapter where they literally sat and talked around a campfire. That was just too tonally different from the rest of the story.

    Don't throw in everyone
    We all have favorite Oz characters, and when you write an Oz story, it's almost a no-brainer to grab from that list of characters. However, this can easily become a difficulty: once you have a character in, what are they going to do?

    There is one character in Outsiders that I wonder if people will mention when they review or comment on the book. He is one of the main characters and one of the most-loved, but even I had to look at him at the end and realize he didn't do much. However, considering what I'd already written, I could neither drop him or expand his role in ways that wouldn't feel out-of-character or absurd.

    One Baum case of too many characters I remember quite well is in Glinda of Oz. Many, many characters go to the island of the Skeezers to rescue Dorothy and Ozma, but it could easily have been pared down to just the Wizard, Glinda, the Scarecrow and Scraps. Another case is having all three formerly American girls in Dorothy's search party in The Lost Princess of Oz. While this was Baum's intention to have an adventure with these three and Scraps, the girls don't have much of a chance to do much with all of their companions and Dorothy's magic belt.

    So, yes. Consider your plot and which characters work best for your story. Also, remember that a common occurrence in Oz books is new characters. In addition to keeping the old characters in character (and build on, if that's what you're going for), you now have new ones to develop. Less characters allows you more room to have your characters grow. That's not to say you can't have cameos, but these should also be worked in relevant ways to the plot.

    In Outsiders, I chose against creating many new characters, considering the number of Baum characters I was already using. There are a few new ones, but I spent more time focusing on developing the characters established by Baum, some of them not having appeared in new adventures in over a century. At the end of the book, there are a few cameos, including Betsy and Trot, and a couple other who I don't say who they are. (All in good time.)

    Sunday, November 06, 2011

    More web building in Oz

    Well, tonight we attempted two things in getting the new website live.

    First, we attempted to ensure Drupal (our web building software) and MediaWiki (our Wiki software) could be bridged so users could use a single login. It didn't work.

    Second, we attempted to move the forums. While the order I had set up for it broke, I thought, "No matter, we can reorganize."

    But then I noticed almost all the posts said "Anonymous."

    Roll back the web site...

    Well, we know what didn't work... We'll try again soon.
    Jared: We should use our new Oz logo for the wiki logo.
    Tech guy: The newer one?
    Jared: Yeah, the one we're using on the new site.
    Tech guy: Isn't there another Oz wiki with an eerily similar logo? Just wondering.
    Jared: Yeah, but forget 'em. OZ IS OURS.
    Tech guy: That's right.
    Jared: I sound like the Nome King. Which makes you General Guph.
    Tech guy: Whatever man, you're not getting my diamond forest.

    Saturday, November 05, 2011

    MECO's The Wizard of Oz

    You ever listen to the MGM movie's score and think, "this needs a disco rearrangement?"

    ... Anyone?

    Okay, well, it happened in 1978. The band MECO, famous for their Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album gave a similar treatment to Oz.

    The album has only been released in entirety on vinyl LP records. Which, if you're from a later generation than me, those are those big, flat black discs with grooves on them a needle replays the sounds from it while a turntable spun it around at the right speed. (My dad had SO many records...)

    So, how's the album? Well, if you hate how this sounds, then I wouldn't recommend it:
    Now, if you stuck around after that, I'll say this: I loved it.

    Since the running time is only about a half hour, the entire score is not represented. Every song is not sung, for example, as in the above sample, "Over the Rainbow" is only an instrumental. The only songs sung are "It Really Was No Miracle," "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!," "You're Off To See The Wizard" (preceded by Munchkin voices saying "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," but it's not sung), and "Optimistic Voices."

    There's voice acting as well. The only bits of dialogue is from the Wicked Witch, the Wizard, and the Cowardly Lion, aside from those Munchkin voices and Toto barking. In addition, just before the Lion has his first lines, we hear the classic "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" Also, the Winkie guards are heard singing their iconic chant, though I think they got it wrong. It's "O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!" but here it sounds like "O-Ee-Yum! Ee-Oh-Um!" (And when you note THAT error, you know you're an Oz fan.)

    The album also doesn't forget it's in stereo. There's a number of stereophonic effects, most notably alternating beats in the cyclone, but the most effective is in the first track when we hear the Wicked Witch cackle. It begins in the right audio channel, then moves over to the left, then back again, creating the audio impression that the Witch is flying back and forth on her broom.

    As for the music itself, it's very lively and fun to listen to. The themes are still quite recognizable, so only people who don't enjoy this type of music should find it objectionable. While "If I Only Had A ___" is not anywhere on the album, the music moves so lively that you don't miss it. I particularly enjoy the lively Emerald City beat headlined by "Optimistic Voices" just after the mellow Poppy Field themes. And "If I Were King of the Forest" is part of the Wicked Witch's demise as a triumphant beat following a reprise of "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!"

    The best part is at the very end, when there's an upbeat medley of the score's highlights, this time not in disco. It's really a lovely bit and very Ozzy as well!

    So, go ahead and buy the album. There's plenty for sale on eBay last I checked. There's a version that used yellow vinyl instead of black (yellow brick road), and no, that's not what I own.

    And whoever owns the rights to this, GET THE WHOLE THING BACK OUT THERE!!!

    Thursday, November 03, 2011

    The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: Zim Greenleaf of Oz

    And so, in 2005, The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy was finally completed. Melody Grandy, for reasons of her own, had left it rather unfinished, so a few writers who'd written for Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends took silent credit and polished it off for publication. Melody did do a final edit, though. The handful of her completed illustrations were supplemented with new art by Luciano Vecchio and Marcus Mebes.

    Now that Zim is known throughout Oz, he has some things to take care of as Wizard of Munchkinland. First off is helping Orlando recover his mother and step-father from Herku, then settle the giants of Huge Mountain as Orlando takes leadership of them.

    Also, Thorns and Private Files of Oz gets its wrap up with a twist you didn't see coming, and neither did Zim, which gives a new perspective to his character.

    Later, Zim attempts an experiment, but ends up putting a lot of trouble into the Wizard of Oz's hands: he splits into 31 pint-sized versions of himself, each a personification of one of Zim's traits, some he's kept subdued, including Love and Cruelty. While this might seem like a cartoon plot, it's a lot of fun to read, especially considering the trouble the Wizard and the Emerald City folk have containing Zim's traits, much less finding a way to get him put back together!

    But get back together Zim does (though I'm not telling you how, you'd figure out that happens just by looking at the table of contents) and resumes his duties. He investigates a giant who makes people play a board game called the Battle of Kipo until they win.

    Zim and Tippetarius visit Zim's great-grandmother in Tir Na n'Og, where Zim must defeat the Black Druid, who has been terrorizing the faeries who live there. And then, Zim finally answers summons from Tititi-Hoochoo, the Great Jinjin.

    And also a couple final loose ends of the trilogy are tied up, but I'm not saying how. You should really just read these for yourself.

    While Zim Greenleaf of Oz answers many questions, that turns out to be its major weakness: an answer is never as interesting as a question. However, since we were following these questions for two or three books (if you count Thorns and Private Files in Oz), we do want to see these answered, so it makes for a good read.

    The illustrations vary quite a bit in style, all being wonderful in their own respects, but as the designs of the characters stay the same, it doesn't disorient the reader.

    So, yes, if you've read the other two books (and Thorns and Private Files), by all means, pick up Zim Greenleaf of Oz.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2011

    Web building in Oz

    Well, we are officially working out some of the finer details of the new version of The Royal Website of Oz. The big thing here is localizing everything. The new forum will be imported in, meaning all users will still have their login, but it'll work for the whole site. The Wiki will be not be made a part of it, but it is hosted on the same server and domain, and we'll be setting it up so the site login will also work for the wiki. (I've instructed the tech guy that if we have any conflicts with forum and wiki user accounts, the forum login dominates.)

    Unlike my previous builds of the site, this one is different in that users can add content to the site. We have sections so users can add fan fiction, write blogs, and upload images in galleries, as well as post on the forum, edit the wiki and use our new IRC-powered chat box, all with one login.

    I never got the library going on the last version of the site. I was set on making PDFs, but I discovered that free-flowing text in HTML would be better. Now to convert all to that format... We would like to make the library better by expanding the scope to all public domain works by the Famous Forty authors. This will require a later launch, though.

    Assuming all the details and the forum import get worked out smoothly, we should be launching this weekend!

    Down and Out with Uncle Henry

    Recently, J.L. Bell wrote about Dorothy's Uncle Henry's financial trouble, as detailed in The Emerald City of Oz. Beth has told me that she didn't find a poor farmer like Uncle Henry taking a vacation to Australia to be realistic, and Emerald City at least tries to explain that, by saying it was on doctor's orders. Ozma does give a few other indications that Henry was a little more free with his money than he was before, however. There's a mention toward the end of the farm having "hired men and teams," while Wizard gave the impression that Henry could not have afforded employees if he'd wanted them. The "hired men" played a major role in the MGM movie, but the film portrayed a much larger farm than the books imply. Also, the farmhouse that was blown to Oz by the tornado had only one room, while the new one has a separate room for Dorothy in the attic. We're not talking about huge improvements here, but the mortgage apparently provided enough to slightly improve conditions and hire a few workers when Henry was out of the country.

    As John indicated in his post, Uncle Henry's plight is hardly a thing of the past, with plenty of people still struggling to make ends meet and pay their debts. And while some people do make poor choices with their money, a lot of time this kind of thing is not the poor person's fault. L. Frank Baum alerts people to the problem without offering a viable solution, although I guess the bankers being more forgiving would be a step in the right direction. Only in fiction can someone escape his debt by relocating to a fairy country, and even then it probably wouldn't have happened if Henry's niece hadn't been the best friend of a fairy princess.