Okay maybe contributing to the cover has something to do with it, but even without that I feel like the stories in this issue are the Best!
What I really like about this issue is the subtitle on the first page: "Origins and Explanations . . . maaaaaybe."
Usually some Oz Books suggest that their stories actually happened and should be taken as fact. And while we fans can choose to believe what is canon and what is not of Oz, that term " . . . maaaaaybe" offers us even more fun and a lighter approach to reading these stories, in that they are saying they should be believed only if we choose to accept them - and they are actually good stories coming up.
Something else that is quite interesting is how almost all the stories focus on (aside from POSSIBLE explanations and origins) how these selected characters were one thing then became another.
First up is David Tai's "Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought, Alone". It's almost like a poem, but more like a collection of thoughts, a list of words, of expressions and a lack of clarity. At first it does seem vague, but then it appears to hint on how the Glass Cat known as Bungle got her pink brains restored as well as her sassy vanity (another explanation was approached in the 2004 Oziana story "A Bungled Kidnapping in Oz" written by David Hulan and illustrated by John Mundt, Esq.). Here Kim MacFarland does a nice lined drawing of the protagonist. This story lasts about 2 pages.
Following this is a 5-page story written by Justice C. S. Fischer addressing the possibility of how after being melted, the Wicked Witch of the West became "Blinkie of Oz" and how the Oz characters dealt with this situation when it was brought to their attention. While Dorothy looks more like a six-year old Judy Garland, I did like how Dennis Anfuso illustrated the Tin Woodman.
I've sometimes wondered if it is possible for you to write a new character for a story and then actually say that anybody else could use that person if they so wished . . . well, my curious thought was addressed with Kass Stone's "Jenny Everywhere in Oz" (How, exactly, I will leave for you to discover for yourself). Jenny's encounters also make homages or allusions to things like "Transformers", "Narnia" and something else I couldn't quite put my finger on. When Jenny does get to a certain place, we have another 'human from outside world finally coming to and saving Oz' story, but this one is definitely one to enjoy reading with the little jokes, descriptions and events in this story. Old friends Jack Pumpkinhead and the Saw-Horse join her to meet Glinda and the villain is somehow related to the Wicked Witch of the East, a new character Baum would probably have enjoyed reading about. My most favourite part of this story is the inclusion of different and alternate universe versions of Glinda (though it may not be exactly as you expect). In this 9-11 page story, Alejandro Garcia does only three drawings, but the double-page spread of 'the Legion of Glindas' makes up for that (I must confess, having been so used to seeing how Eric Shanower illustrated Glinda, it took me a while to spot our Glinda in Alejandro's style). I do wish there had been another set of drawings for this story across the double-page spreads of text.
Next up, Mycroft Mason asks some of Trot's questions as she attempts to know more about "The Solitary Sorceress of Oz", otherwise our wise and often taken for granted friend, Glinda. Yep, our favourite Good Witch/Sorceress of the South's identity is questioned, approached and . . . MAAAAAYBE answered, across 7 pages (with Chapters + Titles). I won't say anything much else about this story either, as you will have to discover out the fun for yourself as well. And wherever Trot is, you can be sure Cap'n Bill will also make an appearance, but no longer than necessary (but I must admit I didn't recognize him at first, though Trot looks interesting and nice, as does Glinda especially!) I will say how refreshing it was to actually got closer and a bit more personal with Glinda and her life, or rather some of it, as we always see her as a powerful figure in red and white with blue eyes and an "all-seeing" Book, without ever really thinking about her needs and maybe wishes, or how her life was like growing up. I do wish this story had been longer, however. Isabelle Melancon does great work here illustrating Trot and Glinda, especially in their touching moment at the end.
What, you don't recognize the name Isabelle Melancon? Well, here's a little hint: Namesake.
Last up we have "Cryptic Conversations in a Cornfield (a prolusio in umbra)" by Jeffrey Rester. To put it simply, the Origins of Scarecrow. Yes, originS. We all know L. Frank Baum's simple yet mysterious and gap-holed recollection from Scarecrow about how he was made. But Scarecrow says himself how with his life being so short he knows nothing whatever:
"I was only made day before yesterday. What happened in the world before that time is all unknown to me."And we all know, though many reject, Ruth Plumly Thompson's "reincarnation" approach. But here that consideration is mentioned briefly while other approaches take up the story. Scarecrow's Farmer is given the name Pax and his friend Lix. Ruled by the Wicked Witch of the East, the Munchkins are terrorized and teased by pesky crows and ravens, who sometimes appear supernatural, until the two Farmers decide to try and get rid of the birds from their crops. Their first Scarecrow is left alone, face untouched (no paint) and the Witch attempts to use some certain powder on it which doesn't work (you can probably guess why if you read it) so she demolishes it, the birds taking the blame when the Farmers return. Their next attempt is more successful and complete (I loved how Jeffrey took to quoting, with slight adjustments, L. Frank Baum's original writings for this part) and hung up left alone, despite the odd feeling Pax has of a beanpole in the field. After a little encounter with an owl, it is not too long before the Scarecrow is a failure at protecting the corn. But one crow, Solomon, befriends the straw man (I thought this was a Good point, as this not only reforms the black birds and makes them seem a bit better than earlier introduced, but it also teaches Scarecrow speech, which he wouldn't have much practice at or knowledge to do when Dorothy came). A Pair of Ravens recites some form of prophecy to the Scarecrow concerning the lost emperor Chang Wang Woe, which would be forgotten upon their passing. But the Witch of the East makes her second encounter with the Scarecrow and it is here that he learns about his fear of fire and its danger, only to be saved from certain destruction by some windy clouds bringing a storm. The next day, the Scarecrow sees the Silver Shoes making their way towards him again, only now worn by a little girl with her little black dog beside her, bringing him hope . . .
Although a long read of 20 pages, the expanded origin of our favourite straw-stuffed thinker is a highly enjoyable and fun read once you actually get into it, with a few Latin words thrown in (I can't say I know what they mean). And Luciano Vecchio helps us get through the story with his excellent pictures, stylistically lined in shading and lighting and other details, among them the Witch's look: she is portrayed as 'eldritch' (I thought more like a Native American/Indian shaman, with her hair partly tied in a braid with a tiny dreamcatcher, a wooden cane and shawl, her face in close-up is effectively shown in hideous glory), Scarecrow has bells on his hat like all the fellow Munchkins are described and the brief glimpses of Oz scenery are whimsical. Luciano Vecchio also contributes to the back cover art by showing the Dorothy-perspective of Scarecrow, while the story ends with HIS perspective of his coming friend.
The only thing I didn't quite like about the story was the Witch's occasional, slight, obsession with the scarecrow, thinking a big deal out of something so simple. Nor did I like the idea of the Witch of the EAST being afraid of water, but considering it saved scarecrow I can let that go. And though there are two times when we get double-pages of text, I would have liked an extra drawing or few by Lucian. But I suppose "Jenny Everywhere" would actually need that more.
Finally, we have another drawing of Bungle "The Glass LOLCat of Oz" by Kim McFarland, only this time it is a colour painting, printed in black-and-white, with "I Can Has CheezBurger" text.
While I may sound a bit biased, I am happy to say that this is definitely the Best Issue (and maybe slightly longest - it feels thicker than past issues) of Oziana I have ever received and read, with stories that do not have to be taken as complete canon unless you choose to.
I hope to contribute to other issues of Oziana soon, especially in working on stories!