Friday, July 27, 2012

Weekly Update: 'Wicked' Movie and Other Things

Happy Friday!

The highly anticipated film adaptation of the musical Wicked seems to be moving forward. Stephen Daldry, who recently directed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, is in talks with Universal to direct according to /Film. 

As most of you probably know, Dorothy and the Witches of Oz will be screened tomorrow afternoon at Winkie-Con in Pacific Grove, California. This version of the movie has only been shown theatrically, so don't miss this opportunity to see the film!

The Facebook page for Dorothy and the Lost Girls has released some concept art from the movie. You can check that out right here.

Our friends at L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have recently cast Ku-Klip, who looks remarkably like Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters. You can read all about filming that scene here.

I recently watched The Dark Knight Rises, and I spotted the Oz the Great and Powerful poster at the movie theater! So, of course, I had to snap a picture...


I was also very pleasantly surprised to see the teaser trailer shown before the movie, and it was interesting to look around and see people's reactions to the trailer. 

That's it for this week! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Off to Winkies again!

By the time you read this, I'll be on a Greyhound, reading some more Oz books, and listening to some music.

Well, I've been needing time off of work, and hanging out with my Oz friends is always fun. It's been a crazy year for me and getting away for a bit can really help.

The thing that makes me chuckle is that this is my third time at Winkies and I am going to be doing SO much this year.

Last year, I won the standard quiz and was told I'd have to prepare the next year's quiz.

David Maxine sent me a Facebook message suggesting I get more involved by doing a presentation about Ruth Plumly Thompson, which caused me to research her life, which I'd known very little about. I got my presentation ready and we should have it going for Friday night.

Ever since my first visit to Winkies, I fancied taking part in the costume contest or, as some prefer to call it, "The Masquerade." I had an idea last year and couldn't pull it off. This year I tried to make it work, but then wound up with a different idea I could work, and even figured out an "act" to go along with it. You don't just dress up, you step into that character! Hopefully it'll be a lot of fun for everyone.

So I'm going to be busy Saturday morning, and that will be followed by something I can't talk about. But it could be a big change.

And then, finally, I recall reading the Winkie newsletter and saw that there would be a panel on Sunday morning about Oz blogs. And I immediately chuckled, thinking, "Oh, boy... They have got me doing a whole lot this year!" And sure enough, my desired involvement was soon requested, and I just thought, "Why not?" and agreed.

I told my brother about all this and he got the idea that I should try to trade off what I would be doing. I told him it simply was not an option, and he had the wrong idea of how it'd work. It's not like I'd be trying to be in two places at once. I'll manage!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Piglet Pride

The Nine Tiny Piglets are never especially important characters, but they do receive a some attention in the Oz books. They first appear in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz as animals the Wizard uses in his tricks. He claims that they come from the Island of Teenty-Weent, where everything is small. Eureka the kitten has an odd relationship with them, playing with them on occasion but also mentioning that she'd like to eat one. When the Wizard arrives in the Emerald City, he gives one of the piglets to Ozma as a pet, and Eureka gets in trouble when she tries to eat this piglet. The piglets don't do a whole lot in other books, but they are mentioned a few times, with a song from the Shaggy Man in Patchwork Girl indicating that they live in a golden pen.

The next major development with the piglets is actually a contradiction of sorts. In Tin Woodman, Nick Chopper and his companions come across the home of two pigs near the foot of Mount Munch. One is Grunter Swyne, Professor of Cabbage Culture and Corn Perfection, and the other his wife Squealina. Both of them wear some clothing, Squealina a sunbonnet and the Professor a hat and glasses. They are basically friendly, but suspicious of visitors whom they fear might be butchers. Anyway, the two claim to be the parents of the Nine Tiny Piglets, whom they gave to the Wizard so he could care for and educate them. If he obtained the piglets in Oz, however, how does Teenty-Weent enter into it? Some fan theories have it that Teenty-Weent is in Oz, or that the entire Swyne family was staying on the island before relocating to Oz. I tend to prefer the explanation that the Wizard just made up Teenty-Weent, since he is a stage magician used to patter. This presumably means that he took the piglets while in Oz for the first time, and took them back to the United States with him. If this was the case, though, it means very little time must have passed between his return to Omaha and his journey back to Oz in the company of Dorothy, or the piglets wouldn't have remained so tiny. Or maybe Ozian animals that visit the Outside World still don't age while there. It's hard to say.

L. Frank Baum never names any of the piglets, but I know of a few fan-written stories that do so, and not surprisingly none of them agree on the names. In Gili Bar-Hillel's "Pigmentation," Ozma's pet is named Peggy, and two of the others are Percival and Paul. Hugh Pendexter's Crocheted Cat only names Ozma's pet, giving her the name Freida. Kimberly Doyle's "Nine Tiny Piglets" gives names to all nine: Porkella, Sausagina, Bologna, Sal Amy, Weinerina, Hamilton, Lincoln, Francis, and Roger. In this story, Lincoln is Ozma's pet. I have to say I have trouble buying these names, because why would Grunter and Squealina name their piglets after pork products? It would be like Billina naming one of her chicks Roaster or McNugget. Finally, in Glenn Ingersoll's "The Piglets' Revenge," Ozma's pet is Winken (a male piglet), and others are named Squella, Sinken, Twinx, Bess, Winny, Phren, Wally, and Tina.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Depicting Oz Characters: the Cowardly Lion

Now that I've finally gotten on to editing and uploading my video for Dorothy and Lion, it's time I devoted a Blog to our favourite furry fairyland friend.

The Lion is actually the one character out of the traveling four (or five, counting Toto) who has the most traditional look and therefore usually stays the same throughout any adaptation of Frank's book/series.

Now there are two ways you can depict him:
* ANTHROPOMORPHIC - in which the animal is half human, standing and walking on his hind legs, maybe his front paws being a bit more hand-like
* TRADITIONAL - in which the lion walks and stands on all fours, respectively.

In the beginning, Stage and Silent Films, the Lion, needless to say, was performed in costume by an actor for pantomime: no lines or speech. The character was on all fours the whole time, except for that one time in the 1910 Selig film when he, Dorothy and Toto (also a pantomime costume) walk down through the forest, possibly down a road of yellow bricks. I wonder if the costume used in the silent films was one and the same?

The character was not animated in the Ted Eshbaugh cartoon, unfortunately. But if he had, he most likely would have resembled the Walt Disney cartoonish "Alice's Comedies" portrayals.

And then came along Bert Lahr, a vaudeville approach with a "Put 'em up, put 'em up!" front, and a sobbing inside, with the first thought to run (unless held back by friends). This approach, unfortunately, has often caused the character to be on his hind legs in most versions, book or actual performance.

The one time a live actor was actually on fours in colour and sound was in Disney's "Return to Oz" by John Alexander. Likewise, the only animation (I have seen thus far) to have the Lion always standing like a man is the 1991 25-minute Korean video (voiced by Jim Cumming!) with a crown on his big fluffy mane as well as the mysterious "the Magic of Oz" black-and-white cartoon.

Lion can be depicted as chubby, masculine (even in his actual animal all-four form) or skinny. It doesn't really matter, but I don't see many skinny portrayals...

While there may be two ways to show the character's posture, the colouring is not limited to yellow and golden brown: there has been brown and dark brown, dark brown and black, orange, ochre, orange and red, even blue and yellow (the 1973-4 Russian stop-motion version).

Looking at the 1987 PanMedia series (which would become the 4 Cinar movies) of Lion, you can probably get the impression that in the past he have grabbed hold of his tail and twisted it around causing it's state of lumpiness. We never see him do this action though, but not everything about a character has to be seen.

Because "the Wiz" is an African-American, slightly more up-to-date portrayal of the Oz story and its characters, Lion has a bit more freedom and liberty in his designs. If I were to make a (definitive) remake of this film approach, I would go for the more masculine approach (like what you see in "Wizard of Oz On Ice") but maybe with a bit of clothing or something. In something this upbeat and energetically fun, the possibilities of portraying Lion here and maybe endless!

In Sci-Fi's "Tin Man" (before the SyFy rename), the Cowardly Lion's reclusiveness (and brief savage front) is retained, but now the character (or rather its essence, not THE character itself) is presented as a more half-human animal (or animal-clothed human - he actually looks a bit more dog/wolf-like than lion like) with a psychic ability on an emotional level, rather than mentally. This portrayal of a human-lion is less confusing or easier to accept than MGM or Wiz.

Now while it is easy to describe a visual portrayal, it's a bit harder to describe sound and here's the next thing about the character: his Voice. While the character COULD possibly mumble and speak softly because of his shy timid nature, I have always imagined him as talking in a low, open-mouthed wide voice - such as Brad Garrett from "Everybody Loves Raymond" - and the bit of description from the books that L Frank Baum does give us is in "Emerald City" where he meets Aunt Em & Uncle Henry and says how he and Dorothy are "old chums".

Now you can't usually imagine someone saying 'chum' in a higher-pitched or nasal sort of voice (though that Nerdy vocal approach was hilarious in "Funky Fables").

One other approach, though people seem to disagree with it, is Roger S. Baum's idea of bringing the lion from our world, being put into a circus and coming along with Oscar Zoroaster for a ride in his balloon, therefore being transported to the Land of Oz. While I am indifferent to this idea (I'm not really for it and I'm not against it either, but I prefer my Oz characters being Oz-based-and-living-characters, not visitors who decided to give up and stay), I have always liked the idea of his eyes being emerald/green and I think that sets him apart from other lions (in Oz or other stories - Aslan of Narnia I have always imagined more God-like with a HUGE size,a golden glow and an echoing voice).

Lion did get his own film by having Roger S. Baum's "Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage" book made into a animated musical TV/video movie. Jason Priestly from '90210' was the casting choice and while I never saw that series, I can't say I like that all-too-human vocal approach (some of his lines weren't properly executed, in writing or vocal direction). But as some/most people have a thing about bringing lions in a balloon (I can see their point), the film can't really be a definitive portrayal of FRANK's character. ALTHOUGH . . . this is the one that the line from Frank's first book, where he asks if the Wizard could give him courage and his new friends answer him one at a time with their own wishes, is actually followed word for word.

When Dorothy and Toto eat the last of their bread, he does offer to kill a deer for her to roast by the fire and eat for breakfast, but after the Tin Woodman begs him not to he goes off into the forest and has his own meal which "no one ever knew ... for he didn't mention it." Now being a coward could mean that food may not always be easy to come by when you're living in a forest, even a fairyland. Could Lion really bring himself to kill some other small animal just so he could eat or would he resort to being a vegetarian or just having water?

Although, with Jared's writing he could come up with a story that may possibly explain this mystery in the near future . . .

And here we have possibly my shortest summary or opinion of an Oz character's portrayal and points of depiction. Just goes to show how a Lion by any other portrayal is still a Lion.

So now, I hope you please enjoy my long-awaited video!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sam Steele's Adventures: The Legend Begins

L. Frank Baum learned a lesson the hard way: his books sold better if he published one Baum book a year. Too many would flood the marketplace and he'd be competing with himself. 1900 and 1901 showed sales far too low for his books. (Aside from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.)

Finally, Reilly & Britton came along with The Marvelous Land of Oz and soon made a deal with Baum to publish many of his books, except the public wouldn't realize they were Baum books, because he'd write under pseudonyms. Also, he could do a varied output. So, while only John Dough and the Cherub appeared in 1906 under Baum's name, he actually had many books out, including the first two Aunt Jane's Nieces books by "Edith Van Dyne," the "Twinkle Tales" series by "Laura Bancroft," Annabel by "Suzanne Metcalf," Daughters of Destiny by "Schuyler Stanton," and Sam Steele's Adventures on Land and Sea by "Capt. Hugh Fitzgerald."

It is the last book mentioned that is at hand, and before we start looking at it, let's look at the history. Sam Steele's Adventures was followed by a sequel in 1907, but the series just wasn't selling well. In a strange twist, the series was reissued in 1908 now attributed to "Floyd Akers" and retitled The Boy Fortune Hunters, which was more attractively titled, and sold better and the series went on, finishing with six books.

The first book was retitled The Boy Fortune Hunters in Alaska, which isn't an accurate title. The only boy hero in the story is Sam Steele, and he doesn't go to Alaska. (Close to it, but not TO it.)

The series has been reprinted in the past 20 years by Hungry Tiger Press. The first book was published in Oz-Story #1 as the concluding L. Frank Baum novel. This is how it is currently represented in my collection. David Maxine once mentioned he planned to publish the book again in a standalone form, but we need to remember HTP is a small press. (So go buy some books!) I'll reveal how they published the series in later blogs.

The story opens with Sam Steele, a young teenage boy who's been left at home with an old woman named Mrs. Ranck to care for him while his father is at sea, shipping freight. When our story opens, Sam is informed that his father's ship wrecked and his father is dead. Mrs. Ranck tells Sam he has to leave, because she now owns the house and his father didn't pay her, estimating her loss at $400. (Remember, 1906.)

Sam says that his father told him the house was his, and that he had treasures in his room. But when they inspect the room the next day, the room is empty. Sam is made to leave, but he vows to pay Mrs. Ranck the money she's owed.

Sam meets Naboth Perkins, his uncle, who was visiting to extend condolences, and after facing Mrs. Ranck himself, he offers Sam to take a taste of his father's business by going on a freighting trip himself. Since Sam has nowhere to go, he takes him up on this.

We are introduced to the crew of the Flipper, including Naboth Perkins, Ned Britton (the sole survivor of Sam's father's ship's destruction), and the two Sulu islanders who were rescued after being found at sea, Nux and Bryonia.

I'm rather of the opinion that Nux and Bry is a rare example of Baum successfully depicting national diversity. Yes, he does include some less-than-flattering dialect for them, and at times, they are asked to do quite a bit of work or sacrifice something temporarily, but Baum never depicts them negatively.

On a voyage, the Flipper is lost in a storm, and they come across an uncharted island, where they are captured by stranded men who have been living there, washing gold dust and building up a fortune. Their leader proves to be amiable and suggests the Flipper's crew work with them and sell them goods from the freight and go home after a few months, or else they can be killed. The crew decides to work with the men.

Sam runs the makeshift "store," and notes some unsavory characters, and sure enough, one night, Sam is awoken at gun point as four of these men steal his gold and many provisions. Sam, Nux, and Bry follow them stealthily, though Bry is caught and plays along that he wants to go with them and will work for them without wanting any gold.

Sam and Nux observe the scoundrels as they decide to make a raft, take the Flipper, and head back to America. As a hideout, they have a cave that serves as a safe hideaway due to its very secure location. While they are away, Sam and Nux manage to empty the bags of stolen gold into Nux's trousers (he has to go without for a bit as Sam ties up the ends into a bag) and replace it with sand.

Finally, there is a storm, and during it, Bry rejoins Sam and Nux, and a balancing rock is struck by lightning, sealing off the cave, creating a tomb for the scoundrels. The three go back to the rest of the group, and restore the gold to its proper owners. They stay on the island for awhile longer, obtaining more gold, and eventually decide to return to America.

Sam decides to pay off Mrs. Ranck, but a big surprise is in store for him: his father is alive! And furthermore, as Uncle Naboth suspected, she was lying! Captain Steele's treasures are hidden in a cellar. Mrs. Ranck is given a fairly generous sum and sent packing, and soon a new freighting firm is formed: "Steele, Perkins & Steele."

And there we go, Baum told an exciting story, and set up a wide scope for sequels: with a crew on a ship at sea, the possibilities were virtually endless.

Sam narrates the story from his perspective, and it's written well. I've read it at least twice before, but this time, I began to notice something about Sam. He considers crying "unmanly" and when he uses Nux's trousers for a bag, he mentions he laughs at how funny the Sulu looks. In which case, our hero might not exactly be the best person in the world. Or is he? Hmm... We'll see how he develops.

The story reminded me a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and others have noted a nod to H. Rider Haggard's She in the balancing rock plot element. In David Maxine's foreword in Oz-Story, he notes "no slight to Baum's imaginative powers; She influenced everybody!" I also recalled a similar element in Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, as well as "The Seven Cities of Cibola" by Carl Barks (an Uncle Scrooge comic book adventure), which later supposedly influenced a scene in an Indiana Jones movie. Art influences art influences art!

One thing I love about the Oz-Story version is that Maxine (quite likely assisted by Eric Shanower) managed to use art by John R. Neill to illustrate the story, even though Neill had never been commissioned to work on the series. The art comes from Neill's magazine work, and works surprisingly well, and since this was also my first exposure to the series, I picture Sam and Uncle Naboth looking exactly as they do in the improvised illustrations.

Anyway, the adventures of Sam Steele had begun, and Baum was only too glad to present more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tamawaca Folks

Last Sunday night, I went through many of my blogs about L. Frank Baum's works and added a tag his name in them. (Also the other authors of the Famous Forty.) It became very clear, though, that there is a ton of his work that I have read and own and have not blogged about. Well, in between other Oz-related readings, let's try to amend that, shall we?

Right here we have Tamawaca Folks. This was a little book Baum wrote tongue-in-cheek about Macatawa Park in Michigan, where he spent some happy summers. Under the pseudonym John Estes Cooke, it was published and sold around the park. (It seems everyone knew who Mr. Cooke really was.)

I'd first read the book through interlibrary loan, and it seems the copy I wound up with was an archival one. It was the pages of the book photocopied onto some sturdy paper and bound into a book. (Each page consisted of two pages, so I had to hold the book sideways.)

The copy in my collection is a small press reprint by the Tamawaca Press, which was the same name of the original publisher. This came out in 2006. The pages are directly from the original edition, and some are quite askew, with tilted text blocks and text being very close to the outer edge of the page with a lot of space at the inner edge. However, I've read it through twice with no complaints. Maybe I like that it seems to be a hand-bound affair...

This is a case where Baum clearly based the story on true events, fictionalizing all the names and only adding some romantic and comical splashes, and for a light read, it works very well.

The story opens with a lawyer named Jarrod (...) finishing up a long, tiring assignment and needing a vacation. A friend suggests he go to Tamawaca by Lake Michigan. Jarrod decides to follow this up.

Tamawaca seems a nice place, but a gifted lawyer like Jarrod smells something fishy: just about everything is owned by a man named Wilder, who has sold what should be public property for private property, yet the public areas are in disrepair. Wilder, a seemingly amiable fellow, claims it's because he only owns one third of the shares, the rest held by a Mr. Easton. Neither Easton or Wilder seem interested in working with each other.

So, there's only one thing to do: Tamawaca needs to be reclaimed for the people of Tamawaca. Thinking that Jarrod is arranging it so each of them could buy out the other one's shares of Tamawaca, Wilder and Easton agree to sell to Jarrod. But Jarrod has a trick up his sleeve: honesty.

Meanwhile, a young friend of Jarrod's named Jim is also at Tamawaca. He went to Cornell University, but refused to join his father's patent medicine business, and was forced to go into a clerking position. However, in Tamawaca, he catches the eyes of the girls, but they are dismayed when they discover he's just a clerk. And in fact, one of the girls happens to be the daughter of his boss, who has him fired. What does it mean for Jim's future? And did any of the girls really love Jim?

In between the plots, Baum writes in humorous scenes and anecdotes about Tamawaca social life, with some hilarious subplots with funny well-defined characters. Many of the characters are inspired by Baum's friends in Macatawa, and he even included himself as Mr. Wright, describing himself as a "distinguished author," who is "stubborn, loud-mouthed and pig-headed, and wanted to carry everything with a high hand, the way they do in novels" and has "about as much diplomacy as a cannon-ball." (Now that is how you do a Gary Stu!)

The book has been adapted into a presumably short play that will be performed at the International Wizard of Oz Club's National Convention this year, and it is one of the reasons why I regret that I can't afford to go to it and Winkies. I certainly hope the Baum Bugle has a nicely done review, or maybe the script will be published. Some photos would be cool, too.

The book is, of course, public domain. There's some cheaply done print-on-demand editions, but Marcus Mebes' Pumpernickel Pickle offers one with a nicely done cover, though it does just reproduce the original pages. It's also only in hardcover, though, admittedly, it is a few dollars cheaper than what I paid for my copy. (I also know from experience that Lulu probably dictated that the price be that high.)

If you're fine with digital-only, Marcus also made his version available as an ebook. Alternately, a scan of an original edition is available from Archive.org.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Go Fish

Can fish in Oz talk? L. Frank Baum gave us a somewhat ambiguous answer to that question in Glinda of Oz. He wrote, "In Oz, where all the animals and birds can talk, many fishes are able to talk also, but usually they are more stupid than birds and animals because they think slowly and haven't much to talk about." So if MANY fishes can talk, presumably not all of them can. We meet some talking fishes in this story, but they are the Three Adepts under enchantment. Could the fact that fish generaly don't talk have something to do with why we see people eating fish pretty often in the Oz series? Maybe. I know that, in David Hulan Glass Cat, Barry and Becky Klein eat fish while in dolphin form, with Barry reasoning that it is acceptable because the only talking fishes he remember from the books were the enchanted Adepts.

Further indication that Baum didn't consider fish to be the brightest animals around, at least in his fantasy stories, occurs in The Sea Fairies. Here, the mermaids grant Trot and Cap'n Bill the ability to communicate with all undersea animals, and they run into a group of mackerel that are excited about the death of one of their number. They claim that Flippity has "gone to glory," which is more or less their version of Heaven, by biting on a fishhook. The pun that they're holy mackerel is implied but never explicitly stated. The mermaid Merla states, "I've seen fishes gather around a hook and look at it carefully for a long time. They all know it is a hook and that if they bite the bait upon it they will be pulled out of the water. But they are curious to know what will happen to them afterward, and think it means happiness instead of death. So finally one takes the hook and disappears, and the others never know what becomes of him." She goes on to say that the mermaids have told them what really happens, but the fish are too stupid to listen. This might not be so bad, however, because many other animals need to eat fish to survive, and if no one did they would become too numerous. Circle of life, and all that. While I can certainly see Merla's reasoning, would this apply to Oz? Ozma is presented as being kind and sympathetic in a different way from the mermaids, and I'm not sure I can imagine her saying, "Well, it's okay to eat fish, even though they're technically my subjects, because they're stupid." So I don't know that there's a definite answer here, but we do see fishermen in Oz from time to time, with no indication that they're considered horrible murderers.

Roselawn

I finished the first draft of Roselawn, a short story that serves as a sequel to L. Frank Baum's Dot and Tot of Merryland.

Over to the left, you can see a test drawing Alan Cook did for the story, and he intends to make a painting. (He did it before I finished the story, so I did have to write the final scene around it.)

Since the story is far too short to make into a book, and there isn't enough of an Oz connection for Oziana, I have opted to just have the story online. Perhaps if I get enough requests, we could use Al's picture for the cover of a pamphlet and print it that way.

As I said, this is the first draft, so I may revise it, and yes, I'm open to criticism, especially if it's constructive.

At the moment, I'm hosting a PDF file through Dropbox. I have heard that too many downloads may make the file unavailable, so we'll see what happens.

Anyway, here it is, Roselawn!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Turkish Wizard of Oz

Sam and Jared tackle their first foreign-language Oz movie and come up with some surprising conclusions as they examine Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde (Aysecik and the Magic Dwarfs in Dreamland), better known as The Turkish Wizard of Oz.

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

       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Oz Encounter

Here's a book that I put into a category called "Oz-themed fiction." It does have a character visit Oz, in fact two characters go to Oz, but it's far from a traditional Oz story.

The Oz Encounter was a pulp fiction novel by Marv Wolfman in a series intended to introduce new heroes. This one features Doc Phoenix, a skilled adventurer who also has an unusual method of dealing with patient's mental problems: he enters the worlds of their minds and discovers the problems they are dealing with. It's not safe, though. If Doc is killed while in someone's mind, he is dead.

Doc's latest case is a comatose little girl named Patricia Wentworth, and when he uses his complicated machinery and computers to enter her mind, he finds the Land of Oz, but a broken one that has been conquered by the Wizard of an Iron Tower in the Munchkin Country: a tall, evil Shaggy Man! The Shaggy Man is bent on conquering Oz by killing everyone with his powers and kidnapping Dorothy, who is Patricia herself. What happened to this little girl to make her retreat into her fantasy and have it so darkly skewed?

However, there are not only dangers for Doc inside Patricia's mind, there are also dangers outside of it as well. This evil Shaggy Man seems to exist in the actual world as well, trying to prevent Patricia's recovery at any cost, even if it means the death of Doc Phoenix and his assistants. Is it possible for someone to cross from Patricia's dreams into the real world, or is this Shaggy Man someone else entirely? And if it is someone else, why don't they want Patricia to recover?

The Oz in the story is clearly based on the books. There are some inaccuracies, but these are sometimes noted, and are allowable since it is a version of Oz in a little girl's troubled mind. The book also offers an interesting view on the MGM film's "dream" scenario. I wouldn't be surprised if the MGM film inspired this story in which a comatose person slips into a dream world in their mind where the dangers they face to their life are in fact very real.

The book is written at a fast, exciting pace and makes for an enjoyable read. But then, that's what pulp fiction was for. The artwork is also pretty cool, too, though an Oz fan would bemoan that there aren't enough pictures. (John R. Neill and Denslow spoiled us.)

I suppose the book shouldn't be read by or to children due to the intense action scenes, several disturbing instances of death (Doc arrives at Glinda's palace and finds her dead), and some words kids shouldn't have in their vocabulary.

I would probably not have picked up the book had Hungry Tiger Press not reprinted it in 2005, making me aware of it. When I bought the original paperback, I had the option of going with the reprint instead, but since it cost more and I didn't know if I'd even enjoy the story, I went for the lower priced original edition. (Go figure.)

Hungry Tiger Press seems to have sold out of their reprint, and I suspect David Maxine has other books he'd like to put in print rather than reissue this one. However, copies of both editions can be found on the used market.

So, for an Oz-inspired but not-really-Oz sci-fi thriller, try The Oz Encounter.

Also, an autographed copy of the Hungry Tiger Press edition is now on eBay! Go make a bid!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Weekly Update: "Oz the Great and Powerful" Trailer!


I'm a little early this week, but it would be impossible to contain my excitement about this...

Today, Disney released the first trailer for Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, due out in theaters next spring. Let me just say, this film simply looks STUNNING. I am beyond excited to see this! Check out the trailer below, and leave a comment letting me know what you think of it.


Last night, Entertainment Tonight released some behind-the-scenes footage from the film, which you can watch below...


The movie hits theaters on March 8th, 2013.

 'Till next week, kids!

Triple Oz Comics

All right, here's three Oz comics I've picked up lately...

Dorothy of Oz Prequel #3 — The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion head to the Valley of Bonbons to pick up a rainbow when the Jester causes a heatwave. The artwork's still great, but the plot takes a rather unimpressive twist. The writing is pretty great however.

The issue also introduces Wiser the Owl, who's a giant owl in this one. He's a character original to Roger Baum's books. I don't see why this one has him as a giant owl. I think it makes him look kind of silly.

Anyway, there's one more issue left. How will it wrap up? (And how much longer until we see the movie?)

The Legend of Oz - The Wicked West #4 — Gale is on her way to the Emerald City, but the Wicked Witch is on her trail, sending bees and flying monkeys after her.

The story is really hitting full force now! And the art and writing is as good as ever.

It also seems that the series might continue past issue number 6. On their Facebook page, we've seen pictures of Jinjur, Tippetarius, Jack Pumpkinhead, Dr. Pipt, and Mombi.

Looks like this is a take on Oz with a future!

The Oz-Wonderland Chronicles: Book Two — This trade paperback collects the Jack and Cat Tales spin-off from the original series.

People from Oz and Wonderland (if you want to call Jack Pumpkinhead and the Cheshire Cat "people") are still in America. Some were stranded during the events of the original series, some stayed behind by choice, and Scraps leaves Oz to find Jack. However, someone's hunting the fairyland characters and experimenting on them. (There's a surprise touch from Sky Island.)

To be honest, though, I didn't like this one as much as the original series. The plot wasn't as easy to follow, especially since there are several side stories that interrupt the main plot. Plus, while one plot is resolved, no fairyland characters go back home. In fact, one winds up far from any home he's known.

There are also different artists with very different styles on this book. The main art by Casey Heying is great, but some of the other artists are so markedly different, it's a little distracting.

SO, yes... I'd call this one very uneven.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'll Be Doggoned

There are a few mentions in the Oz books that there are no dogs in that fairyland, with the non-native Toto being the exception. The thing is, this obviously isn't true, even if we just look at the L. Frank Baum books. In The Land of Oz, there's a green dog that the Sawhorse kicks. It's also been proposed by Michael Patrick Hearn that Prince, the wandering dog who befriends the titular character of The Magical Monarch of Mo, is originally from Oz. He claims to have "come from a country beyond the mountains and the desert," and we know from Scarecrow that Oz is separated from Mo by mountains and desert. This might well not have been intentional on Baum's part, but it works out. That does raise the question of how Prince managed to cross the desert, which is actually part of the plot of a story I have largely planned out. So why did Baum sometimes say Oz didn't have dogs? He was probably thinking back to how some Munchkin children in Wizard had never seen a dog before Toto, but he apparently forgot that the Winged Monkeys recognized Toto's species and there were china dogs in the Dainty China Country.

Ruth Plumly Thompson pretty much ignored the statements about there being no dogs in Oz as she did most such generalizations. Dogs show up pretty often in her Oz, and she also introduced a canine community in Enchanted Island. It's called Dog Wood, and is located in the eastern part of the Winkie Country. The trees are all dogwood, and each one has a doghouse under it. The dogs living there belong to many different breeds, and their ruler is King Chow, who demands presents from all visitors. He wanted to keep David Perry as a pet, but he and Humpty the camel ran out of there before the canines could catch them.

There's also a dog-themed place in Gina Wickwar's Toto of Oz, although here it's the punitive Dog Pound. This place, ruled by humans named Rex and Queenie with help from the dog catcher Ketchum, kept all the dogs they could catch as prisoners. The rule was that a human could pay a fine to release a dog, but hardly anybody knew where Dog Pound was or could afford the fines. Sonny Burns was able to use the money generated by the Gladstone the Guinea Pig to release all of the dogs, but perhaps the fact that so many of them had been captured was why Baum thought dogs were so rare in Oz. Finally, a community of dogs plays a role in Richard Capwell's Red Gorilla, and another one is mentioned in Ron Baxley Jr.'s Talking City.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Oz

And here's another book by March Laumer. You know, he had quite an interesting view of Oz canon, and he also viewed Alexander Volkov's Magic Land books as Oz books. (I picked up on this while reading his examinations of those books in The Baum Bugle.) Urfin Jus appears in this book at hand as Oorfene Deuce, Fregosa (Elli's confidant in the Wicked Witch of the West's castle) appears as the Tin Woodman's cook, and the Wicked Witches of the East and West are named Gingemma and Bastinda, respectively.

Personally, I don't see the Magic Land books as Oz books, though I admit, when I did read The Wizard of the Emerald City, I did think Fregosa was a good character.

Anyway, this book finds Aunt Em missing a thimble she had in the house the cyclone took to Oz years ago, so she and Henry (who have the last name Mankato), head there. But something's up, and before long, Aunt Em begins to act strangely, and look a bit different as well... And even asks that Henry call her full name: Ging-Emma.

Yes, Aunt Em has been posessed by the Wicked Witch of the East, but who exactly was that witch? Why was she "wicked?" And what effects will this have for everyone in Oz?

I can't really call this book a good one. The story was loose and the resolution of Em's possession was rather disturbing and comes out of the blue. Also, things didn't feel right for Oz. Dorothy takes a college course, Laumer suggesting she was stupid before, and admits she sometimes wishes she looked like John Travolta. Ozma and Glinda turn into swans, while you never saw these characters voluntarily transform themselves in the Famous Forty.

Laumer also plays with what he calls moral issues. When things are brought to life and become by simple nature a major nuisance, is it right to kill them? Gingemma has an idea for Oz that basically would mean everyone could look like and do whatever they wanted. However, is having exactly what you want always the right thing? While these are good points, it also sounds a bit un-Ozzy to have the characters say, "Oh no! Now we're dealing with moral dilemmas!"

The book is illustrated by David Maxine. The art might be off-putting, but actually, when I started reading the book, I found it to be charming in its own simple way. Actually, the Sawhorse is kind of cute, and Aunt Em, when she's herself, is actually very believably Dorothy's kind and loving aunt. Looking at different art for Oz is never "someone's better than someone else," but appreciating each artist's art on its own. And while this might not be my preferred style for Oz art, It's not bad.

And so you can get a better look at the cover art, I Photoshopped it into black and white art.

The book seems to have been rewritten as Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in Oz, with Chris Dulabone on board to make it work within the more-widely accepted Oz canon. Both can be read online at this site for March Laumer's works. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Oz is rather rare and I can't easily find any copies for sale at present. There's a new edition of Uncle Henry and Aunt Em available through print-on-demand, but I haven't read it yet.

"It isn't an Oz story without her."

One of the most popular characters in the Oz books is without question Dorothy Gale. She is the first character introduced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and not only goes on a wonderful adventure, she also serves as an audience surrogate. Baum tells the reader Dorothy's simple thoughts and concerns throughout the journey, reminding us that she is just a little girl who has been taken from an ordinary, mundane world to a fantastic one.

When Dorothy reappears in Ozma of Oz, she is less of an audience surrogate. Rather than get into her mind, Baum lets her speak for herself, even using some baby talk. (Girl slang of 1907.) Dorothy graduates to a leading role in The Road to Oz, but when you've been reading the books in order, this progression feels natural.

In later Oz books, Dorothy fluctuates from lead character to secondary to minor. Virtually every writer of the Famous Forty Oz books used Dorothy as a lead character once, except for John R. Neill.

When you venture into pastiches, Dorothy does get used often, but some writers decide not to use her. Sometimes they want to use other characters or create new ones.

When I was writing Outsiders from Oz, I decided not to use Dorothy as a lead character. I wanted to focus on Ozma, and Dorothy's presence would change the dynamic I wanted. In any case, my plot left virtually no one to act as Ozma's regent while she'd be away, and Dorothy needed to fill that role, I thought. (I actually came up with this before reading Jack Snow's The Magical Mimics in Oz, and was a little surprised to see the same thing happen there.)

In any future Oz stories, I don't really have any plans for Dorothy. I'm sure she'll show up, just as she did in Outsiders, and that will require that she be in the next book I plan.

It's probably just me, but I don't find Dorothy that interesting to work with. Her character has been delved into quite thoroughly by Baum and even further by others. There are things in her past Baum didn't flesh out, and I, for one, think it's best that he didn't. People who wonder about Dorothy's history are welcome to try to work it out, and I've even done so, though I doubt I'll use it in an Oz story.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Weekly Update: 'Oz: The Great and Powerful' Poster And Other Things

Happy Friday, kids! On Wednesday, Disney released the first official poster for Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful, which hits U.S. theaters in March of next year. They also launched a Facebook page, which you can check out here.

Speaking of Oz: The Great and Powerful, the movie is filming additional scenes in Los Angeles this month, and they are looking for extras! For more information on the casting call, click here.

Last weekend, I got to meet the wonderful Eliza Swenson and Noel Thurman, who both star in Dorothy and the Witches of Oz. There was a screening of the movie and a Q&A afterwords.  Director Leigh Scott said that Oz fans can expect a DVD/Blu-Ray release of the film sometime in the fall.

Dorothy of Oz: Prequel #3 was released this week through IDW. I was able to grab a copy yesterday, and I am not impressed with this series so far. I think that a four issue comic series is too much for this kind of thing.

That is all for this week!






Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: In the Lion's Den

Jared has a charming interview with Chris Dulabone of Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends.

You can listen and download at the podcast site, or use the player below!
       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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Monday, July 02, 2012

Namesake: Book 1

And I finally got my copy of Namesake: Book 1 by Isabelle Melancon and Megan Lavey-Heaton.

I got a copy in print and in e-book format because I took part in their Kickstarter fundraiser to get the book printed in a format that wouldn't be too pricey for a customer. And considering they're now selling the book in print for $20 and the e-book for $5, I'm quite satisfied that I got my money's worth.

Namesake is a webcomic that updates one page at a time three times a week at NamesakeComic.com. It's picked up quite a fan following, so much that the Kickstarter campaign came only a little over $300 shy of doubling its $7000 goal in one month.

The story tells of Namesakes, people who travel to other words by virtue of their given name.

We meet Emma Crewe, a young woman who's going to pick her sister Elaine up at the library, when she meets a mysterious librarian who is murdered shortly after by a woman who seems to have magic powers. Emma is transported to a land with a road of yellow brick and tiny little people.

Yes, Emma has arrived in Oz, seemingly being the Dorothy expected to come and assist the land. But things aren't as peaceful as they were when L. Frank Baum left Oz, and Emma meets a combination of characters classic and new as they head to the Emerald City.

Meanwhile, back home Emma's friends and family are trying to figure out what happened, with help from an agent from an enigmatic organization called Calliope.

The story of Namesake is far from over, and this book collects the first five chapters and prologue of the webcomic. The story has developed much further since, which I'm sure we'll be able to enjoy in Book 2 when it comes out. There is also a bonus book-exclusive story featuring Emma and her little sister before Emma was taken to Oz.

Megan weaves a delightfully mysterious tale with many twists and turns, and Isabelle's art is amazing. She has a delicate way of putting so much detail into her art that makes it so much fun to look at. If Namesake had been a prose book instead (which I'm sure Megan could have done), we'd be missing a huge dimension of why this is so special.

I also enjoy that the use of color is very subdued and minimal, pages often being in black and white, half-tones, and occasional color accents. There are occasional full color pages. You might think that the presentation would be uneven, but somehow, it works.

The first Namesake book and e-book are available for sale at the online store for their imprint Fairylogue Press. It's definitely a fine piece of work by writer and artist.

Oh, and since I was part of the Kickstarter campaign, I got a special bookplate on the inside front cover of my copy. It went in a little odd, but no worries! It only guaranteed me a little message from Oz!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Green Dolphin of Oz

Wow, I've been reading a lot of Oz books lately. But believe it or not, my stack of Oz books is almost exhausted. I have a feeling that I should be getting more soon, and if not, I do have three of five of the Mary Louise books by Baum and some Oz-themed books I've yet to read, including A Barnstormer in Oz and The Oz Encounter.

The book I just finished, however, I wouldn't really call it an Oz book. The last several chapters do take place in Oz, and it has "of Oz" at the end of the title, but the overall tone is not of an Oz book.

The Green Dolphin of Oz is by March Laumer, who wrote many Oz books during his life, printing them through The Vanitas Press, his own imprint. Well, he does get cover credit, but it also says "& Others," and when you open up the book, a huge list of names is provided.

The book is about a group of people who can travel through time, being led by writing that appears on a magic leaf. The lead character is a girl (though it's not entirely clear for quite a while), and she narrates the story through first-person. The group is on a quest to find a green dolphin for a zoo in the future.

Along the way, the lead character falls in love with the servant boy Rodney who can transform into a horse, giving the story some nods to bestiality. There is also a bit of talk about sexuality as well.

Finally, the travelers realize they are heading to Oz and one of them falls in love with a round, fat man. Suddenly, they are all sucked into a pipe, and the assumed identity of one of the "other" writers is made clear: L. Frank Baum. The opening fragment of an unfinished Oz book that has been attributed to Baum is incorporated into the story, and there is a "Royal Historian" who now lives in the Emerald City and says he used to live in Hollywood.

I'll assume Laumer was responsible for the Oz chapters, but his take on Oz is a little odd. While some fans have thought the children who live in Oz have matured mentally, the lead character suggests that Dorothy and the other girls have matured in every way except their body growth.

The entire book flows in a loose way that somehow works as a whole, but readers with short attention spans might not be interested. In any case, I would not recommend that this book be read by or to children. It calls itself "a fairy tale for adults," and it definitely is. On some levels, it could be even more disturbing than Wicked as the Oz it deals with is Baum's Oz. (Or at least, it's meant to be. It suggests that the Royal Historian sanitized his stories.)

The illustrations by Lau Shiu Fan aren't bad, but he's rather minimalistic in design (he might draw the scene, but not a lot of detail), and I don't really care for his style. I do, however, enjoy that the book is printed on a light green paper with dark green ink.

If you want a copy, the text is available online, as it was seemingly declared public domain. (Note: at one time, the site caused an alert from my antivirus software. Just a reminder here to make sure your computer's safe while browsing the internet! There's no error now, so it may have been due to an error from the server.)

A little Google search will, at the time of this writing, turn up places that have it for sale. However, the back of the book says there were 1000 copies printed, and I am not aware of another printing. (My copy lacks a number.)

Thus, the copies I did turn up carry a bit of a price tag, the lowest being $69 and the highest being $79. So, if you want it, be prepared to spend a bit.

If you're wanting a print version of that fragment from an unfinished Oz story, hold on, something else is coming soon.