Friday, August 17, 2012

"Wizard of Oz" Classics Illustrated Junior Comic

A few years ago I got an old Wizard of Oz comic (from ebay or somewhere online, I'm sure). Of course it was old, so it was faded, slightly torn and in a fragile state. At a news agency I saw reprints of other comics printed in the same way and so looked and hoped to find one for "Wizard", to no avail.

On my return to the Winkie Convention for 2012, one surprise I pleasantly acquired was a restored/remastered reprint of the comic. And so I will be talking about the comic/s here, both the old and the reprint as well as thoughts related to the two.

STORY

After a full page illustration of the (four) friends seeing the Emerald City in the distance, the story begins with the tornado approaching the Kansas farm. Dorothy's attempt to catch Toto from her bed has her caught and taken by the tornado (no trap-door sequence) to Oz, where she is greeted by three little old blue men and a short old white woman (we know she's the Witch of the North, but that is not actually established) who, not having heard of Kansas, suggest she go see the Wizard. They disappear (which I don't get).

Journeying down the yellow brick road (no basket), Scarecrow bids good-day to Dorothy and is taken off his pole before asking to get some brains (no origin). Together they meet and rescue the Tin Woodman who hopes OZ can give him a heart (no origin either), before a Lion charges onto the road and attacks them until Dorothy slaps his (oversized) nose. Admitting his shame, he is invited to come along to see the Wizard. But then the Tin Woodman steps on an insect and rusts his jaw until scarecrow oils him free again.

Lion carries his friends on his back as they cross a ditch dividing their path, before Scarecrow thinks to have a tree chopped down to cross another ditch that is too wide for Lion to jump across (no Kalidahs, no river, no Poppies and no Wildcat/Field Mice Queen, or green house for that matter). At last they see a distant green glow and reach the Emerald City, where the Guardian of the Gates (who looks a bit like Elmer Fudd, with a bit more weight loss) gives them Green Spectacles to wear before guiding them through the streets. Outside the Palace, a Soldier with a Long Green Beard (he doesn't seem tall) passes on their message and allows them in.

Meeting the Wizard all together in his Throne room, the old man (no humbug effects of Giant Heads, Lovely Winged Ladies, Terrible Beast or Fireballs here) listens to their requests but will only grant them if they destroy the one Wicked Witch of the West. Returning the green spectacles, the Gate guardian is asked how to find the Witch. Since there is no road as he says, she will make them her slaves soon as they enter her country by walking west where the sun sets.

The Wicked Witch is outside and sees them in the distance (with BOTH her eyes having telescope vision), so she cries out "Ziz-zy, Zuz-zy, Zik!" to summon the Winged Monkeys and orders them to bring the strangers to her, which they do (there is no fight or struggle, they probably don't want to hurt the cute little creatures). The Witch demands Dorothy's friends to be thrown into prison but leads Dorothy (and Toto) to the kitchen where she orders to have the kitchen attended to. Toto attempts to bite her, the Witch intends to strike him but Dorothy throws water at the Witch and melts her, leaving nothing but her key and her Silver Shoes.

Taking both of these, Dorothy frees her friends and they return to the Wizard. Back in the Throne Room (with Green Spectacles again), OZ tells them that they've always had what they've wanted - and even points out when they proved it - but at Scarecrow's plea he does give them bran, a heart and drink. Dorothy is happy that her friends have what they want and the Wizard tells her that the Witch's Silver Shoes have wonderful powers that she can command. (No Glinda here!)

Farewells exchanged, Dorothy closes her eyes and wishes to go home (no three heel clicks) and is reunited with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, the Silver Shoes disappeared.

The comic also adapts an Aesop's Fable of "the Fox and the Lion" (who looks very much like the Oz lion) in which a Fox learns how not to be scared of something by getting used to it, a page to "Old Mother Hubbard" (the short version), a page on "the Animal World: the Koala" and ends with the end flap having a colouring page of the friends with the Cowardly Lion.

The LOOK

This is a pretty good comic, though what has been condensed and left to background knowledge is sometimes a let down. The look here is of a cartoonish sort of take, while the illustrations for adaptations of "Cinderella" and "Romeo & Juliet" were more detailed and lifelike (a bit like John R Neill).

The characters on the cover look different to inside (especially Toto's breed, Dorothy's head and hair size, Scarecrow's eyes and face, Lion's nozzle and Tin Woodman's face).

Again the Munchkin men are clones of each other and have no real personality. The Wicked Witch of the West is too cartoonish - makes me think of the Harvey comic characters (Casper, Richie Rich, etc.) - and if she has the Silver Shoes WHY hasn't she wished herself invulnerable to water or more powerful? Her Silver Shoes, meanwhile, are long-toed and do not appear very flattering on Dorothy's feet.

Lion has an oversized head which doesn't match his small body and exceedingly bushy mane. Dorothy—again—has a Judy Garland look but her hair is different and she bares a resemblance to Liza Minelli's animated portrayal while Toto is too pretty and unlikely suitable for a farm.

Emerald City doesn't really get a good enough look, but the few backgrounds we see are both elegant and simple (except for the zig-zagged street). Scarecrow is very Bolger-esque, his face being too detailed (which can be creepy and downright ugly at times) unlike the cover which would be a better look and likewise so is the Tin Woodman Haley-like.

The yellow brick road looks more like a game layout or a checkerboard with just ONE Colour. But despite the visual shortcomings and story abridgement, the writing isn't too bad as it contains a good amount of the text and dialogue from the book.

The REPRINT & Changes

While it is great that the comic has been given a remastered reprint (sometimes I wasn't even sure if I would get one at all!), it's not an exact replica and here are the changes (and bloopers, naturally even - or especially - with today's digital technology):
  • The colours are of course more brighter, clearer, cleaner and at times flat but solid. I can't say for sure if my old comic has yellow pages from age or if that's how it was originally printed, but the new comic is definitely on new white clean paper.
  • The reprint comic is actually smaller than the original, in height and width, so therefore the panels have slightly minimized so that the images can still fit in together on the page. However this cannot be said for the Cover, as with the new "Good Literature" tag and barcode, the image is somewhat cramped.
  • The original comic had a "What Is it?" join-the-dots image (of a train) on the front flap for children to draw. The reprint loses this activity and replaces it with a photo and biography of L Frank Baum, as well as a more detailed production printing with links, etc.
  • I don't like how what was originally and clearly hand-coloured is now digitally copied. Look closely and you can see that the reprint cover colours are lumpy, sloppy, almost disconnected and the black doesn't sit well, cover or insides. Also notice how Scarecrow's stitching on the side is gone and his mouth is a bit more open than before, while Tin Woodman's mouth is not as open as before.
  • Look at the writing and you will see not only is it a different font, but the writing has also changed from all capitals to the proper use of lower case except when needed. The bordering for the panels and text also appears thicker and even some lining on the characters become thick and later their look or eye contact.
  • Not all the colours a more vibrant than before and quite often the details of finer moments, such as grass, a face, shading or such are Lost and therefore render the image flatter by comparison. Sometimes by comparison, the new printing can also be too colourful. Subtlety is usually the best approach in most cases. 
  • As above, in some panels Dorothy has blush or rosy cheeks that are nice and barely noticeable in the original (other times they're not nice). In the Reprint, at times it appears as if she has a terrible sting or zit!
  • When the friends return to Oz, his shoes have been changed from light green to black (losing the details of the wrinkles) and the steps leading up to his throne are now more light blue than green.

  • One Good thing that comes from this reprint is that the Wizard longer appears to fade into his chair, as his Throne has a different shade of green than before. Note, however, that Dorothy's eyes and spectacles are the same as her skin instead of white and yellow, the line separating him from his visitors has been removed. And why didn't they change the Tin Woodman's background colour from yellow to green here?
Also have a good look at the WWWitch in these two comparisons of the same panels - pay extra attention to her teeth and gown, the floor and her lower tooth

So here we have a relatively faithful comic adaptation of the original L Frank Baum story, again using some slight MGM-imagery with Baum text and dialogue with some changes often common in others but are loop-holes or gaps in narrative. Not too bad an adaptation.

The reprint presents an improved and more sturdy collection of the story, however it is not perfect and that is surprising given today's technology with Blu-Ray, 3D, CG and all that! It should have been better.

So, there's my blog for this week! If you get to see this comic for yourself and you find you enjoy it, get it if you can. There actually are a few much nicer ones of the original on eBay. Go check it out!

1 comment:

Jared said...

This is the second Oz comic I ever owned (the first being the "Return to Oz" comic book).