Friday, August 31, 2012

Ozopolis 3!

I got my copy of Ozopolis #3 yesterday. Actually, copies. Right now, they have the limited SDCC variant cover available on their online store. I decided to get both!

Well, we've talked about Ozopolis before at the Royal Blog of Oz. Last year, I reviewed the first two issues, then writer Kirk Kushin kindly agreed to a podcast interview where he got to tease us with a few bits about this new issue at hand.

Well, if you're unfamiliar with Ozopolis, you might want to read my review of the first two before continuing on.

Done that? Okay.

Issue #3 opens with Ozma searching for the Magic Belt after it was lost in issue #2. Jack Pumpkinhead was looking for it himself, when his head fell down a hole and into a odd little town. Ozma herself goes to fetch it beack, in an adventure that I think owes a bit of a loving nod to the Ewoks from The Return of the Jedi.

Meanwhile, Trot is trying to find answers at Glinda's palace when she's introduced to Synlinda, Glinda's cousin. Something about Synlinda makes Trot uneasy.

Also, the Ozopolis debut of the Tin Woodman!

There's also a backup feature which is a text-only story about Toto as he looks for help defying the rude Fighting Trees in the Quadling Country. It is, however, illustrated and features the Ozopolis debut of the Cowardly Lion.

Another fine issue, though the standalone part of the story was much more closely tied to the overall story arc than the the previous two issues. However, the end of the issue says "To Be Concluded," so it looks likes we'll see the conclusion of this story... next year. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maps for Oz!

There's something about a map. You remember the first time you saw an atlas and thought, "Wow, there's a big world out there"?

So, what about maps of places from fantasy books? The Chronicles of Narnia and the books of J. R. R. Tolkien are published with maps of Narnia and Middle-Earth in more recent editions.

Maps of Oz in books first appeared in 1913 with the endpapers of Tik-Tok of Oz. Reilly & Lee never made maps a recurring feature in any future editions, but more recent readers who remember the Del Rey paperback editions growing up will likely remember that they licensed the International Wizard of Oz Club's map and reprinted it in each of their Oz books, giving Oz every bit of credence as a legitimate fantasy land.

(Except, of course, we Oz fans know Oz is real...)

I can recall borrowing Del Rey editions from the library and trying to trace the story as it happened. Giving the reader a scope of the place where the story takes place helps them suspend disbelief all the more.

Checking a map helps writers as well. When I was writing Outsiders from Oz, I had to keep a careful eye on just how my story was unfolding. Early on, I had trouble remembering if the Kingdom of Scowleyow was east or north of the Valley of Mo.

Quickly, I checked the Club's map of Surrounding Countries and found it was indeed north of the Valley, which suited the purposes of the story very well.





When we were getting the book together, I wondered if there should be a map showing the story. Marcus Mebes encouraged me to draw one, and he converted it to vector art. The color version may be seen to your left. (Due to printing costs, it is only in black and white in the book.)

It was also imperative that I place the palaces of the Monarch of Mo and King Scowleyow on the map as they wound up being important places in the story. I decided they must be near the north of their respective countries, which matches with the story, and as far I have been able to tell, this does not contradict The Magical Monarch of Mo.

I also had to place the underground caverns of the Doloms on the map. I'm not entirely sure if I got the placement right, but on the other hand, the caverns might be very extensive. Perhaps now that Ozma knows of the Doloms, we might see them again someday and get a better idea of where exactly they are and how large their caverns may be. (If you want to know who the Doloms are, you will simply have to read Outsiders from Oz yourself.)

The first book of The Royal Explorers of Oz not only has a map on the back cover, but it also charts out the exact journeys of the Crescent Moon and Prince Bobo's The Hippocampus as the story progressed. I understand the second book also features a map of Tarara with the countries of Ozamaland and Amaland.

I certainly hope more people include more maps in their Oz books in the future.

And if you want to see more Oz cartography, check out David Maxine's Map of Oz Monday at Hungry Tiger Talk.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sam Steele's Adventure's: The Scream of the Sacred Ape

Here's book four in the series. It was originally published as The Boy Fortune Hunters in China, but Hungry Tiger Press gave it the more attractive title The Scream of the Sacred Ape. I believe it was the first "Sam Steele" book in the Pawprint Adventures series.

The Seagull happens to be near the Karamata Maru when it sinks and they manage to rescue about two-thirds of the people on board. Most of the passengers are transferred to another ship that comes shortly (and, as Sam lets us know, gets all the public credit for the rescue). Three remain behind, a Dr. Gaylord, Prince Kai Lun Pu and his faithful servant Mai Lo.

Prince Kai is badly injured and Dr. Gaylord is sure he is dying. Sam finds the Prince to be an amiable fellow, and they talk about their adventures. The Chinese Prince reveals he has no faith in his family's ancestor worship and doesn't care that he's exhausted his fortune, which according to tradition was supposed to be divided in half and one half buried with the body for use in the afterlife.

However, Kai is also the last of his line: once he dies, the family vaults are to be sealed forever. But as the Prince is sure, that would hide away forever a great treasure that could make someone very rich, such as the people who managed to rescue him from a watery grave and give him some boyish companionship in his final days? He gives Sam, Archie and Joe his blessing to take what they want from the vault, and gives them several points on how to do so.

However, Kai also warns them of Mai Lo. He's sure his servant has also turned away from the ancient traditions and is not looking forward to what he must do as his final act of service to the Pu family: hide any trace of the family vaults and kill himself. Kai is sure Mai Lo will plunder the vault himself and move away from China. So, what he wants Sam and the boys to do is simply beat Mai Lo to the job!

Kai dies as the Seagull heads to China. Knowing that Mai Lo will be shamed if he can't bring back the Prince's body, Sam and Dr. Gaylord make a pretense at embalming the body with rum in private, but replace it with rubbish from the Seagull and give the Prince an impromptu sea burial.

In China, they head into the country and get to Prince Kai's home where they begin to make their plans, offering a pretense that they are collecting gifts to send to Kai's friends in other countries. Mai Lo, who knows that the Prince's body has been replaced somehow, wishes to get rid of Sam and the boys at any time. In Kai's palace, however, they find a friend in the very trusting Chief Eunuch Wi-to.

However, Sam and his friends can't keep themselves out of trouble, and soon, they end up getting into serious danger by meeting Kai's sister, and Mai Lo's daughter and second wife (who is only fifteen), a crime punishable by death! Can Sam and his friends get the treasure and escape with their lives?

Baum writes with a good bit of knowledge of the Chinese traditions. Even though he has Sam and his friends and Prince Kai not believe in them, they are treated rather respectfully. While Mai Lo is rather wicked, it is made clear that he has little respect for the traditions himself and has his own selfish goals in mind.

By introducing Kai's sister and Mai Lo's daughter and wife, Baum allows his feminist side to speak up, speaking against the "women as property" tradition with the now generally accepted "women are equal to men" concept. It was becoming a common tradition in America, but in China, there are two classes. The working class women were generally just regular women (Sam notes some on his trip to Kai's palace), but the daughters and wives of the rulers are pampered and kept away from the outside world.

But these girls want to know things outside of the harem, a need Sam and his friends can see, but they have no real interest in addressing. Thus, Sam and his friends are really no better than Mai Lo in this regard. Of course, Sam and his friends really have no power there.

This is an exception in the series in which Sam and his friends are careful not to publicly offend traditions or laws of the people they visit. They do it in private, but they do oppose these ideas, but with Prince Kai's blessing. Baum is depicting the beginning of the end of this Chinese tradition. Once the people who practice a tradition stop believing in it, continued practice becomes futile.

Perhaps this is actually one of the best of the Sam Steele series! Go ahead and get the Hungry Tiger Press version (if you don't have it already) and check it out!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: A Thompson Tour

A recording of Jared's presentation about Ruth Plumly Thompson at the 2012 Winkie Convention! Hear Jared discuss her life, works, characters, and hear Ruth Berman and Doug Greene reminisce about the second Royal Historian of Oz.

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

       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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Monday, August 27, 2012

After The Wizard — Review

Oooh, what's this? A new Oz movie? I mean, weird designs, but... well...

Okay, I'm going to be frank. After the Wizard isn't really an Oz movie. It is most definitely inspired by Oz, but the way the story flows, there a number of unanswered questions. In the end, it's up to the viewer to make up their mind about the story.

We have a young girl named Elizabeth Haskins who lives in an orphanage. Except, she doesn't identify as Elizabeth. She maintains that she is Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Never mind that that book was written over 110 years ago...

Elizabeth is visited by the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman who have traveled from Oz in a hot air balloon and have—with the help of many friendly Americans—made their way to Kansas to find her because Oz needs help as people have turned selfish.

Or have they come that far? In one scene, when a caretaker enters the room Elizabeth is talking to the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in, they suddenly disappear. So, are they really there, or is Elizabeth just imagining them and their trip is entirely fiction within this fictional story? Is Elizabeth really Dorothy, or is she just really imaginative? That's for you to decide.

The premise is really interesting, but unfortunately the way it plays out just doesn't work. There's little conflict. The Americans who the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman meet are just too friendly. Very much, all of Elizabeth's conflict is her maintaining that she's Dorothy while the people running the orphanage tells her she's not and prevent her from adopting a dog she identifies as Toto. There's also a climatic scene with a tornado, but at the end of the story, no real concerns are left. The characters just don't come off as realistic, and I can't connect with them, a critical flaw in the storytelling.

A lot of the dialogue isn't that great. Exposition scenes are far too long and too indulgent (this is a film, show, don't tell), especially when talking about the original Oz book. (The only book the movie acknowledges.) And getting into acting, it doesn't sound too great, either. My little brother (the guy who made the Box of Robbers short) happened to watch the movie with me and pointed out "studio sound" when the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman were in the balloon, which was clearly green screen work.

I understand that the film had a limited budget, but I do believe that budget doesn't mean you can't have a good cast. Now, I'm not saying the cast is bad, but many times, I think that they could have done much better. A lot of the vocal inflection just doesn't feel genuine. When you realize it's a low budget film, you can cut it some slack, but in the last ten minutes, it goes from passable to cringeworthy. I won't say how so I don't spoil it.

Overall, I feel that After the Wizard is rather underdone. It needed a better developed story and some extra strength from the cast.

An Oz fan who wants to collect or see just about any movie related to Oz should definitely add After the Wizard to their collection. Those who don't may want to rent it first.

The DVD doesn't have subtitles or alternate language tracks, but it does have closed captions. There are a good number of special features: cast interviews, director's commentary, the trailer, a photo gallery, and a featurette about the premiere in Kingman, Kansas.

You can buy After the Wizard on Amazon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

(Almost) Weekly Update: It's Friday, Friday...

No, that song will never get old.

This week, I'll mostly be talking about the cool stuff that our friends at L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have going on with their movie. First off, a couple of new clips! Which you can watch here.

They've also started up a fundraiser on Kickstarter to raise money to finish filming the movie. Within the first twenty-four hours of the Kickstarter posting, the project managed to raise over $1,000 of their $5,000 goal. Not a bad start. They've got some nifty rewards for donating, like DVD pre-orders and exclusive e-books. You can read more about all of that here.

This movie will mark my acting debut, and of course, it would mean a lot to me if some of you folks would donate at least a few dollars. As you can see from the new clips, this flick will not disappoint and is worth your money. Unless you don't have money and live under the bridge next to Dirty Bob. In that case, you should probably be using your money on things like food and water. But, hey, it's your life, not mine.

Anyhoo, expect a review of After the Wizard from Jared soon. If you want to check that movie out, you can order it from Amazon here. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Well, the word's out...

So, I was a little secretive about what I did Saturday during lunch at Winkies.

Well... I got in a car with Peter Hanff, Gina Wickwar, Atticus Gannaway, and Carrie Hedges, went to a French restaurant, and got interviewed for the position of Baum Bugle editor.

Well, let's not suspend anything. I didn't get it. They instead chose Craig J. Noble, who I recently became friends with, so I was actually really glad to hear that if I didn't get it, it was going to someone who I knew. (I didn't know Scott Cummings when he took over, but we did connect and later met up at Winkies, so yeah, we're friends!) I look forward to Craig's issues, and will gladly offer any services I can.

So, this lunch interview was actually pretty delightful!  Despite us being in a very formal setting for a very important job, the interviewers actually wanted me to talk, so instead of feeling like four sets of eyes were boring into me, they kept a pretty informal tone to make it easy for me to talk.

Of course, I've talked pretty openly to most of these people before, so it wasn't like, "Oh my gosh, here's the Club president and three big shots of the Club and they're wondering why am I wasting their time and why do I not know how to eat French food?" It was more like talking to friends. Which is rare for a job interview. It's just that I've never been in a job interview where they decided to stop the questions for a bit so I could finish my appetizer salad... (I don't talk with food in my mouth. My momma raised me good.)

And Atticus was wearing a shirt with this on it, so...

I'd put my name forward months back and had properly turned in a resume and examples of some of my writing (all from my blogs...). The question that really pinned me was Atticus asking how I went about research. My brain completely shut down on that one. Huh, I think, here I am, with all this knowledge about Oz stuff and now I can't even think of how I came across it! I'd say I flunked that one. I managed to say stuff, but I didn't properly answer the question. Sorry, Atticus...

To be honest, I was a little nervous, because frankly, diversity reigns in Oz and Oz fandom, and whoa... Was I different from these people! They got to talk about themselves, and by the time it was my turn to talk about myself in the same context, I was thinking, I'm just a kid from southwest Missouri! I don't measure up to these people at all! Why, oh, why didn't I follow up on that News-Leader job?

My mind is a crazy place. People who read my Twitter can tell you this.

Well, we eventually finished up, chatted a bit on the ride back to Asilomar, and I saw Gina to her room as I realized I was still wearing my Monarch of Mo shoes which are hell on my feet... A true gentleman puts the lady first, even if he's gay. Especially if she's the Club's Royal Historian and has her ankle bandaged.

August 2nd after work, I'm an hour before leaving for my shift when I see I have a missed call and voicemail. From Carrie. I call her back, miss her, and as I'm boarding the bus home, she calls me back, and says I didn't get the job. She did, however, say that she was impressed with me, that I was a valuable member of the Club, and is sure that if I try to gain more experience, I'll be doing it someday.

She also said, "Now, I know you're disappointed," but I actually wasn't. Seriously. I wasn't. At that point, if I had to choose between the guy she'd described to me and myself for the position, even I would have chosen Craig. (She didn't tell me it was Craig, though.)

So, I look forward to what the future brings as The Baum Bugle enters a new era.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sam Steele's Adventures: The Treasure of Karnak

I've already mentioned how the Sam's Steele's Adventures series was re-branded and reissued in 1908 as The Boy Fortune Hunters series. The third entry to the series, The Boy Fortune Hunters in Egypt, managed to deftly use the first two books as a preliminary for new adventures.

I do have to wonder, were there any readers who wound up with both Sam Steele's Adventures on Land and Sea and The Boy Fortune Hunters in Alaska and be surprised that the books were exactly the same story, just with different titles and different authors' names? And think how curious it might be for a family to have an older brother reading the Boy Fortune Hunters series, a younger sister reading Aunt Jane's Nieces, a younger child reading the Oz books, and the youngest enjoying the fairy stories of Laura Bancroft, with the parents none the wiser that all four series were in fact written by the same man!

The book opens with Sam and his father awaiting freight for the just-completed Seagull, when they are joined by a runaway boy from another ship, Joe Herring. Joe begs to join the Seagull, and Sam acquiesces, though he has to trick his father into keeping the boy aboard, but Captain Steele trusts Sam's judgement.

Yes, we officially have the second boy fortune hunter! And soon, we are joined by the third: Archibald "Archie" Ackley Jr., whose father has hired the Seagull's crew to ship his freight of fake Egyptian relics to Egypt to sell to tourists who will have no idea that they are not getting the real thing.

Ah, Egypt! Of course, this story was inspired by Baum's own trip to Europe and Egypt, and why shouldn't the mysterious land of a famous ancient civilization provide seeds for this author's fertile imagination? For a person of his time, Baum is particularly well-informed (though not entirely accurate) in his knowledge of Egypt.

Baum doesn't cut straight to Egypt, though. He has Sam describe a few adventures at sea, including how Sam and Joe became chums with Archie, who at first looked down on the Seagull crew, but soon regards them as friends. Let me tell you, though, Baum is at top form for humor here!

In Egypt, the crew meets Professor Van Dorn who tells them he has discovered the actual location of the long-lost treasure of Karnak, and will pay them handsomely if they will help him recover and smuggle the treasure out of the country, as the Khedive has made a law stating that no artifacts may leave Egypt.

However, in order to get to the treasure, it is necessary for Sam and his group to deal with many Egyptian citizens (Sam's ethnic superiority complex kicking in often), from elderly guide Gege Merak to Sheik Abdul Hashim. And after they find the treasure, Sam and his friends quickly find that the number of people they can trust is shrinking rapidly. Can they get back to the Seagull—with or without the treasure—alive?

As usual for the series, Baum writes the story with vigor and energy that makes the story very enjoyable! Baum does, of course, turn to his way of conveying native speech in an unflattering manner.

There is also a rather high body count this time for Baum, with a clear number of five and an unknown number at the end. Of course, none of the series regulars are among these, but how many are they responsible for? It just wouldn't be a Sam Steele story without politically correct or moral quandries, would it be? Add on to this that Van Dorn's plan is to break international law...

The edition I have is the Hungry Tiger Press reprint in the Pawprint Adventure Series, in which they retitled the story The Treasure of Karnak with the new series title Sam Steele's Adventures. It was the most lavish of the reprints of the series they'd done, with chapter headings and tailpieces by Eric Shanower, an informative foreword by Baum/Oz scholar/Egyptologist David Moyer, laying down some of the actual history of the story.

Also included in this edition is a large excerpt from Maud Gage Baum's In Other Lands Than Ours, which gives us a rare look at the first hand inspiration for Baum's story, a rare thing indeed! Maud's wonder and enthusiasm about the Egyptian culture and history really shines out and even after a century, is still infectious.

Since the original edition may be difficult for most Oz fans to afford (copies on Bookfinder.com start at $198), the Hungry Tiger Press reprint is probably your best bet to getting the book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ozma's Birthday

Happy Ozma's birthday! I made a new Oz video!


And I also decided to buy a pendant, and "Oz pendant" came to mind first and foremost. (I need help!)

So, I looked up "Wizard Oz pendant" on eBay, and found a listing for various book-based pendants using game tiles as a base. I decided to get one of Ozma flying through the sky on an Oz seal from The Lost Princess of Oz. It came today and I'm wearing it now.


I rather like it, and the seller did a good job! If you're looking to accessorize Oz-wise, take a look!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Royal Explorers of Oz 2 is available!

The second volume of the Royal Explorers of Oz series is now available, by Marcus Mebes, Jared Davis, and Jeff Rester!

THE ROYAL EXPLORERS OF OZ
 The Crescent Moon Over Tarara

Prince Bobo of Boboland and the crew of The Crescent Moon are on their way to Tandy's homeland of Tarara, home of the countries of Ozamaland and Amaland. After 80 years, how has the country advanced without King Tazander Tazah?

Princess Truella of Mo and an Ork (fresh out of Outsiders from Oz) join the crew, and there's a few new faces for Oz lore from the writings of Ruth Plumly Thompson.

Be warned, though, because this adventure takes some dangerous twists as Captain Salt's quest turns darker. As such, this volume may not be appropriate for young or sensitive readers.

The book is available in hardcover and paperback. Order with the coupon code AUGBOOKS12 for 20% off! (Coupon valid through August.)

THE ROYAL EXPLORERS OF OZ
  The Scourge of The Crescent Moon
Coming soon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Congratulations, Atticus Gannaway!

Ryan Bunch (a friend from the Winkie Convention) just reported that former editor of The Baum Bugle and Oz author Atticus Gannaway just received the 2012 L. Frank Baum award!

Atticus was also at Winkies this year and kindly posed with Kabumpo for this photo.

Congratulations, Atticus!

... Shoot, I got a review I need to write for him...

EDIT: Atticus confirmed it himself on Facebook with a photo of his plaque:



"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!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sam Steele's Adventures: The Amazing Bubble Car

1907 brought the second installment in L. Frank Baum's pseudonymous Sam Steele series: Sam Steele's Adventures in Panama. The next year, the publishers revamped the series and retitled it The Boy Fortune Hunters in Panama. In 2008, Hungry Tiger Press re-released the book in their Pawprint Adventure Series, a yet-to-be completed reprint series of L. Frank Baum's young adult novels. Hoping to attract new readers, the series was retitled Sam Steele's Adventures, and this book got its third title: The Amazing Bubble Car.

The book finds Sam, his father and their crew relaxing in Chelsea while Mr. Steele oversees the building of their new ship The Seagull. New beginnings are in store for Steele, Perkins & Steele!

A freighter asks Captain Steele to sail a ship that's seen better days that is carrying a load of steel. Captain Steele refuses as he wants his new ship to be the best it can be, but he suggests that Sam sail it instead. Sam decides to take up the job, taking with him Uncle Naboth Perkins, Ned Britton, and Nux and Bryonia.

As Sam prepares to leave, a certain Duncan Moit asks to travel on board the ship with a large crate. He has created an automobile that uses only a drop of an explosive glycerine to start the engines, which use compressed air. The car can run on land or placid water and features a netted glass dome. This is the prototype and is fully functional, and it is Moit's intention to have his wealthy uncle fund a production line of these seemingly perfect automobiles.

Compressed air engines were actually not such a revolutionary idea, but—as over 100 years has proved—they have not proved popular. They're not very fast, and the cost of compressed air is prohibitive. However, Baum has Moit construct a powerful pump that would remove that problem. It is so fast-acting, that the car can go at speeds that must be at least 60 miles per hour. (Though Baum never uses this in the book.) However, this pump must have been a groundbreaking invention, because despite it being 104 years since Baum's book came out, no one has been able to make such a pump.

Sam accepts Duncan Moit on board, and sure enough, despite hugging the coast as much as possible, the ship eventually wrecks.

While exploring the land nearby, they discover a dead man in a boat who has been killed by an arrow. He also had a diary, which tells of the nearby land of the Techlas, a remnant of the Aztecs. The dead man and his friends attempted to trade for raw diamonds the Techlas had, but the Techlas refused, King Nalig-Nad announcing that no one was allowed to have diamonds anymore since they'd attract the troublesome white men. When they tried again, all of the other men were killed, save the one they found dead. He sent a message to the president, who sent a regiment of soldiers, who were also killed. So, the man attempted to sneak into the Techlas' land, but discovered he was being spied on after he hid a trove of diamonds in a stump, and finally was caught, killed, and his body was sent out in a boat to warn other white men.

Sam decides he wants to try to get the diamonds, and Duncan Moit thinks this would be a good chance to prove the invulnerability of the car. They decide Nux and Bryonia will pretend to be kings of their home island of Takayoo, and Sam and Duncan pretend to be their slaves.

Driving boldly into the Techla's land, Nux and Bryonia try to enter peaceful arrangements with Nalig-Nad, who quickly suspects they are lying. However, they don't feel any real need to fear, and Duncan falls in love with Nalig-Nad's daughter Ilalah, set to be ruler when Nalig-Nad dies.

One morning they awake to find a quickly-built wall preventing them from escape in the car, but at night, Duncan uses some of the explosive glycerine in a hole he bores into it, and the next morning, being joined by Ilalah, they shoot at the glycerine, causing it blow up the wall, and they make their escape into the jungle, where they find the stump empty.

However, the stump was emptied by Tcharn, a short native who makes all the arrow heads for the Techlas. He agrees to give them the diamonds, and they give him gifts and a ride in the car as they head back to the wreck, where they are informed Ned Britton sailed a raft to Colon, where he telegraphed for a ship to come rescue them and carry the steel the rest of the way to San Pedro.

During the night back at the ship, Ilalah is taken by the natives, and the next morning, they go after her, discovering the elders of the Techlas declaring her worthy of death for her treachery. Nalig-Nad tries to shoot her, but Tcharn takes the arrow for her. When the men in the car try to save her, they are overpowered and are about to be executed when Ilalah protests, says the white men are good, and their machine is powerful.

Nalig-Nad scoffs at this and proceeds to drive his spear into the car, making holes. However, in doing so, he upsets the store of explosive glycerine, destroying the car, himself, and—as Duncan reveals later—all the plans for the car.

Duncan decides that since he could not hope to rebuild the car without his plans or a prototype, much less having no more money, he will stay with Ilalah, becoming her husband and ruling the Techlas with her. But he warns Sam that they must never return to the land of the Techlas under penalty of death.

Sam and his crew sail up to Colon (which Sam openly detests, and I can't help but wonder if Baum is pulling off some naughty wordplay), and soon to Panama. The steel is recovered and Sam is not held accountable for the loss of the old ship, and the diamonds they have are priced at a hefty sum and are sold. Sam rejoins his father, who is completing work on The Seagull.

This really sets the pace for the rest of the series. Sam, believing himself to be superior due to being an enterprising American, goes to another country and offends the natives by taking treasure. A risky and exciting business to be sure, but does Sam really have the right? And by writing the story, did Baum approve of this invasive treasure-seeking? In the first book, this wasn't an issue as the land they visit is uncharted and part of no country, nor are there natives to offend.

Sam is also quick to disparage the natives, more or less giving the idea that "I'm an American, I have the right to everything!" A rather skewed Manifest Destiny mentality, if you ask me. He sees the Techlas as savages, and he never really says that their actions killed anyone besides Nalig-Nad, but when you consider that wall-breaking scene, surely someone must have died. He does eventually see that they do have some sort of organization and civilization, but it is too late at this point.

Similarly, Sam doesn't think highly of Duncan's decision to marry Ilalah, much less deciding to stay with her. He recognizes that she's beautiful, but, as later books reveal, Sam would never dream of marrying a foreign woman. (I like to think he grows up rich as Croesus, and dies alone.)

So, what is Baum doing here? Is he saying to be this type of person is all right?

Actually, if you ask me, I think Baum is poking a sarcastic finger at adventure stories of the day. Sam is a pig-headed adventurer who thinks himself to be better than the people he's wronging not because of things he's done, but because of his nationality. He thinks only of himself and his close friends' safety and their own interests.

In Baum's controversial editorials about Native Americans, reading them in their full context shows that Baum believed Americans wronged the Indians and have taken away the pride and dignity of the Indians that we might as well finish the job and kill them if that was how we'd treat them. If we end a culture, why not end the people, too? I'm sure Baum was glad when this didn't happen. Thus, looking at these, I think Baum is depicting this very poor aspect of American patriotism in Sam himself. Sam offends the natives and their culture, and only bears little remorse if some native must die.

Today we have generally advanced to be more respectful of other cultures and countries, and if someone tried to do what Sam did, they would be in an awful lot of trouble.

Still, what does this mean for someone in the 21st century reading Baum's stories? Is it a bad story to be avoided because of what the characters do? My answer is: of course not. If you look at Sam's motives in a modern light, the stories are actually quite exciting and enjoyable, and take on a humorous light when you consider that Sam, depicting himself as the hero, is actually more of a villain. Disturbingly, we must remember that there was a time when this mentality was considered to be okay. As an advancing society, we can never risk slipping back into this mentality, and Baum's stories offer a warning.

And anyway, as an alternative to Baum's pig-headed Sam, we have characters like Duncan who originally thought of fame and fortune, but gave it up for love and decided to embrace a foreign culture because of it. Though Sam Steele could never understand why anyone would want to do that...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Starglory of Oz

One early Oz pastiches was called Song of Oz and was one of the first books to help publisher Buckethead Enterprises of Oz gain credence as a legitimate publisher of Oz books.

While author Jeff Barstock quickly turned out another Oz book, it was twelve years before it saw print at last as Starglory of Oz.

Now, I haven't read Song of Oz yet, but this story didn't strike me as reliant on that one. What did strike me when we were introduced to the villain of the tale is that the story must be set in between The Emerald City of Oz and Tik-Tok of Oz.

The story takes a page from The Chronicles of Narnia by making stars into actual people. This one follows a star girl who has somehow fallen to earth and meets a stone man she calls Silic. (Short for "Silica.") Silic can't be too far from his underground home, but offers to help the girl, who he calls "Starglory," find her way back home.

After a few hardships (during which Starglory turns into a true light form, producing a lightwheel they later name "Clyde"), they come across an abandoned amusement park. But soon a Coal Mine-themed ride takes them to the underground lair of the Nome King Ruggedo, who has been waiting for Starglory as part of a plot to take revenge on Ozma.

The story was, I thought, very beautiful, with the way the two characters of Starglory and Silic act off of each other and truly care about each other, but something felt off, and it wasn't until after I read the book that I realized that there was no humor in the story at all. Jeff wrote a very solid story, don't get me wrong, but humor is one of the trademarks of an Oz book. At least he manages to be rather fanciful.

Marcus Mebes illustrated the book and this is a great illustration job, matching the text very well. Marcus' characters look very realistic while also retaining their classic John R. Neill designs.

You can get a copy of the book here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mildly Vile: How Bad Is the Nome King?

The thing about writing villains for children's media is that much of the villainy is often implied. Villains make violent threats, but are rarely able to carry them out, for whatever reason. That way they can be seen as evil without actually doing much on stage. There are exceptions, of course; I mean, Harry Potter is a children's series, and Voldemort is constantly killing people. In the Oz series, however, L. Frank Baum claimed he wanted to leave the heartaches and nightmares out. I'm not sure he always succeeded at that, as even in the first book he has the characters pitted against wild animals bent on their deaths. The heroes survive, but only by killing these animals. Later, however, Baum tended to go for less violent but still nasty actions from his villains, often involving magic. A good example of this is his recurring villain, the Nome King. I've seen it argued before that old Ruggedo isn't really that bad, and he's certainly not some creature of pure evil. Indeed, when he encounters the Phanfasms, said to be purely evil, he's terrified of them. On the other hand, he's tricky and not someone to be trusted. When he first shows up in Ozma of Oz, he comes across as good-natured and well-informed, but there's an underhanded personality lurking below that. He claims to have bought the royal family of Ev fair and square, and to have transformed them into ornaments so they wouldn't have to be slaves. Never mind that he's on rather shaky moral ground when it comes to buying and selling human beings. Just because King Evoldo of Ev was worse in some respects (he's said to have beaten servants to death) doesn't put Roquat in the right. He also claims he'll let Ozma and her companions go free with the Evians if they succeed at a guessing game, only to threaten them with his army when Billina learns the secret. Still, it's technically Ozma who's the aggressor here, and while I can't fault her for her humanitarianism, we can still see Roquat's point of view. When we see him again in Emerald City, he's completely full of rage, with none of the friendly front he had before. He's intent on conquering and laying waste to Oz, although there is one rather interesting passage where he claims he'll turn Ozma and Dorothy into mantle ornaments instead of forcing them into slavery. Tik-Tok makes him a bit more sadistic, in that he employs a band of executioners who use implements of torture. They never get to do anything, and Ruggedo (this is after his name change) still seems to prefer transforming his victims rather than hurting them physically, but they're still there. After his defeat in this story, he acts rather humble and is grateful to anyone who helps him, but we know it won't last.

The Nome appears in several more books, but I don't think it's necessary to detail his actions in every one. Suffice it to say that he keeps on threatening, but the worst actions he actually commits tend to be transformations that are eventually broken. It is perhaps telling that there are several occasions when Baum presumably wanted to have the Nome King reform, only to bring him back as a villain, probably because he was more interesting that way. Later authors have also tried to reform the former Metal Monarch, perhaps seeing some good in him. If he had been a mass-murdering sort of villain, authors and readers might not have been so eager to occasionally highlight his good side. Then again, someone did recently write a book where Hitler goes to Oz.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tales Told In Oz

So, thanks for an intriguing take on Oz, Mr. Maguire. We'll see you again when Oz pulls you back.
— Me, ending my review of Out of Oz

Well, I guess he's not back in Oz to be precise. Tales Told in Oz was described best as being like Tales of Beedle the Bard. Rather than a new story about the characters from The Wicked Years series, this contains a few examples of folklore from Maguire's Oz, some of which was referred to in the series.

There are four stories, representing folklore originating from different parts of Oz. The final part is three pages of rhymes and jokes from Quadling Country. (None of those are very good, reflecting the poor intellect of the Quadlings.)

The first story reveals the legend of Saint Aelphaba of the Waterfall, the namesake of Elphaba (Maguire's name for the Wicked Witch of the West).

The second story is more humorous and tells a tale of Jack Pumpkinhead, who didn't appear in The Wicked Years, but was established as a part of Oz folklore in Out of Oz. After being tricked by a witch, a novice magician creates a Jack Pumpkinhead to deliver a cursed lemon.

Story three seems a bit out of the ordinary, telling the story of a family of foxes and how a wicked witch tried to eat the children. But the ending reveals the origin of the ending of Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The fourth and final story tells a legend about Lurline's creation of Oz when she meets a couple of fighting time-traveling trolls who she tasks to make something that will last forever.

The stories are not traditional Oz stories in any sense, nor do they feel like Oz stories. They're best enjoyed by people who have read The Wicked Years series and want something to help that version of Oz feel a bit more real, as well as people who enjoy folklore. (I do!) It's basically a parody of folklore tropes with twists from Maguire's revisionist take on Oz.

The book is printed to benefit the West Hartford Library after they sustained damage from Hurricane Irene. The back of the book (which is small, square, and very thin), tells how you can donate further. Of course, buying a copy here will help them out, too.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Interview with Marie Rizza

It's Friday, Friday! 

This week I had the pleasure to interview Marie Rizza, who is playing the Wicked Witch of the West in the upcoming independent film L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. So, we are technically co-stars. Okay, let's go!

You obviously have some pretty big shoes to fill here. Margaret Hamilton's portrayal of the Wicked Witch in the 1939 movie is probably the most well-known. How did her performance and portrayal of the character influence yours?

I hope it didn't influence mine at all. My portrayal came from reading the script and then asking myself questions about the character described there.


Would you consider the 1939 movie a childhood favorite?

Yes and no. I was fascinated by the movie but I was terrified of the Wicked Witch. When I was about 9 or 10, I attempted to bring friends together to put on a production of it at a local theater. I was going to be Dorothy. I had costumes in mind and rehearsals set up. Of course, it all was pretty overwhelming and I let it go. I used to love imitating the Lion and letting all my breath out when I said, "Courage" in that way he does.

Did you read any of the original Oz movies prior to filming the movie? 

I had read the original to my son and he has loved the story and MGM movie ever since. He's not afraid of the Wicked Witch like I was, at least, he's not anymore. Also, Sean lent me a copy of the Marvel edition and I have read much of that. I watched a lot of clips about Baum on YouTube, as well, just for fun.


How did you get cast in the movie? What was the audition process like? 

I heard about the movie from a friend and got Sean's contact information. He sent me a Wicked Witch scene and one of the good witch's scene. I came by at my lunch hour and after prepping in my truck, scribbling things on the script that I wanted to remember to do in person. It was great fun. It's fun to be wicked and it was fun to play the loopy, quirky, good witch, too.


How long did it take to get the make-up and prosthetic and all of that on when you were filming?

I think probably about five or ten minutes. Of course, then there was a lot of re-applying and re-attaching as I literally came unglued. Lots of lint made its way to my fingers and my teeth would often pop off and I would wear them clicking against my actual teeth. 


You and the other cast members filmed your scenes separately. Was it difficult to try to interact with something or someone that wasn't tangible on set? 

Surprisingly, no. It looks really amazing when you see the finished product and it's difficult to believe that the other characters weren't there on set with me. I am a very cerebral person, though, so if someone is in my imagination, it's not difficult for me to act as if they are right there.

Would you do another Oz movie if the opportunity was presented?

Sure, I think I would. The Oz story presents some very beautiful ideas about life and how our perception can change reality. It's worth telling over and over again.

There are a lot of Oz movies coming out within the next year or so. Why do you think that Oz fans will enjoy this interpretation of the story?

It's difficult to imagine anyone more passionate about this story than Sean and Clayton. The seeds of this movie were sown in their childhood and their dream is becoming reality. You can't beat the commitment and energy they have put into this film.


In one sentence, how would you describe your experience working on this movie? 

It's been a crazy, journey with incredibly talented individuals who I hope will be lifelong friends and a great opportunity to be purely and unforgivably, evil.



Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Meglin Kiddies' The Land of Oz

Jared and Sam do a rapid-fire edition of The Movies of Oz after seeing The Land of Oz featuring the Meglin Kiddies at the Winkie Convention!

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

       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Bunnyburied

I'm running out of ideas for Oz posts, but I did notice that I haven't yet said much about Bunnybury. I mentioned it here, but only in passing, so I might as well go into more detail now.

Bunnybury is a miniature city in the Quadling Country set up by Glinda, who is said to particularly like white rabbits. I didn't think much of that when I first read The Emerald City of Oz as a kid, but as an adult it bugs me. Did the Good Sorceress set up a segregated community? If a gray or brown rabbit wanted to live there, would they be denied admission? I like to think they wouldn't, but who knows what L. Frank Baum or Glinda had in mind? Maybe how Bunnybury became integrated would make for an interesting story.

To tone down the controversy, a community of white rabbits naturally makes many people think of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and these rabbits do indeed walk around on their hind legs and wear clothing, albeit fancier attire than the famous herald to the Queen of Hearts.

The inhabitants of Bunnybury wear clothes of satin and silk, decorated with gold and jewels. The homes and streets are made of marble, and the lawns are of clover. Overall, it's a quite beautiful place, but visitors are pretty rare. As the city is a sanctuary for rabbits, it is surrounded by a wall and guests are usually only admitted if they carry letters of introduction from Ozma or Glinda. Anyone who does has to enter through the gate known as the Wicket, which shrinks a person down to rabbit size.

Bunnybury is ruled by a king who was appointed against his will, and initially wanted to return to the wild. With Dorothy's help, however, he realized how much he would miss if he did so, and decided to stick with ruling.

This king is never named in Baum's text, and a picture in the front of the book simply identifies him as "King Bunny."

In his own Oz books, Chris Dulabone refers to him as King Charles, which is as good a name as any. As far as I can recall, the only residents Baum does name are Bristle, the Keeper of the Wicket; and the king's personal attendant Blinkem. Several other rabbit inhabitants are given names in books by Dulabone and Marin Elizabeth Xiques, most notable among them being the detective Brewster Bunny.

Another author who returned to this fair city is Robin Olderman, whose short tale (appropriate for rabbits) "The Grabbit Rabbit of Oz" has a nasty bunny named Peter stealing the throne and Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion helping the monarch take it back. Bristle's son Frecklejohn is introduced in this story.

The Wizard of Oz - Tale-Spinners for Children

Just when you think you've got them all, you find something else!

I'd seen this record before in the 100 Years Of Oz book, but considering some records got repackaged, I didn't know if it was one I already had or not. (The Mr. Pickwick Players album, for example.)

I came across this at the sales tables at the Winkie Convention this year for $5. Deciding $5 wouldn't be a big loss if it turned out it was another album I already had, I picked it up. The cover art's pretty cool.

Well, turns out, it was a new album for me, once again taking advantage of the fact that the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is public domain and doing an adaptation with a full cast, but, in a note rather different from most Oz records, no narrator.

The adaptation follows Baum's book rather faithfully with some expected story shortenings and a few changes.

We pick up right with the cyclone striking the Kansas farm. Quickly, we get to the Land of the Munchkins, but the Good Witch who greets Dorothy oddly calls herself the witch of the South. The Munchkins were obviously done by speeding up their recording, which at first made me think my player had malfunctioned! Dorothy stops when she meets the Scarecrow when she comes to a fork in the road. The Scarecrow tells how he was assembled and how his face was painted, but not how a crow told him he needed a brain. The Tin Woodman skips his story, and the Lion is introduced by Dorothy starting to yell at him.

There are no adventures noted from the time the Lion joins to the time they arrive at the Emerald City, and all the friends see the Wizard together. His forms are not noted, it's just a big booming voice. As soon as the Wicked Witch of the West sees the friends in her country, she uses the Golden Cap to have them brought to her, but she doesn't think the Scarecrow is a worthwhile addition to her castle, she tries to set him on fire, but Dorothy threatens to splash a bucket of water on her. The Witch shrinks back at this, but the Tin Woodman tells Dorothy to go ahead and do it, thus defeating the Witch.

The friends crown Dorothy with the Golden Cap, summoning the Winged Monkeys, who tell Dorothy they can't take her home, but they will take her to the Emerald City, where they catch the Wizard as himself. He gives Dorothy's friends their placebo gifts from the book, but when he sees the Golden Cap, he tells Dorothy she can summon the most powerful Good Witch with it. The Winged Monkeys bring the Good Witch of the North (both the Good Witches sound rather... male...) who tells Dorothy how to use the Silver Shoes in return for the Golden Cap.

So, a few changes, but overall a faithful retelling of Baum's story, using much of his dialogue. Nice production, but I gotta say, there's nicer ones out there. (The Disney one, for example.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Winkie Trip Reading, Part 3

And the final books read on the home stretch!

A Million Miles From Here is Oz by Chris Dulabone, illustrated by Arthur Clip and Marcus Mebes.

Something disastrous is happening, and no one knows what it is! The fairy magic of Oz and the surrounding countries is disappearing! Animals are reverting to natural forms, some of the Immortals are dying! What happened, who can stop it? It's up to Queen Zixi of Ix (gorgeously depicted by Marcus) and a few animals from Oz to find out and do what they can before it's too late!

A very enthralling tale about imagination, possibly one of Dulabone's best! I was almost moved to tears, and Oz books don't do that to me often!

Buy your copy here.

The Roots of Wonder in Oz by Gil S. Joel, illustrated by Chris Dulabone.

We go back to the earliest days of Oz, before humans (and humanoids) ruled the land and look at how some of the magic of Oz was set into motion.

This one was kind of a slow read. Because it's set in such an early part of Oz history, there are no classic Oz characters for readers to already know. Also, it's more of history than story, often going through prose rather than dialogue and getting to know the characters as they develop.

Well, it's an interesting non-traditional Oz prequel.

Buy your copy here.

Kaliko in Oz by K. Kline and illustrated by Michael Goldman.

First off, thanks to Eric Gjovaag for making sure I noticed this one at the Swap Meet Table at the Winkie Convention!

Kaliko's Nomes are bored, so he decides to declare a little war so they can blow off steam. But when his entire army are turned into diamonds, he can only sheepishly go to Ozma for help, but he gets a new friend who he wishes would go away: Eggy McShell, a giant walking, talking EGG.

But Ozma has her own problem! A woman named Bel-Sor-T claims she rented the Magic Belt to the old Nome King and now it's time for it to be returned. Ozma refuses, so Bel-Sor-T captures Ozma and most of the palace citizens!

Can Ozma get free from Bel-Sor-T? Can Kaliko get his Nomes back? And how can Kaliko tell Eggy "HANDS OFF"?

A very enjoyable story!

Buy your copy here.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Winkie Trip Reading, Part 2

On to part 3!

(The book that was listed here has been removed from print.)


The Lost Emeralds of Oz by Fredrick E. Otto, illustrated by Derek Sullivan.

This was published shortly after Mr. Otto's death. It tells a story of how the silver whistle in Ojo in Oz came to be, how Ozma met the Hungry Tiger and the Cowardly Lion, and how she got the Magic Picture. Also, the surprising origin of the Truth Pond!

The story is set shortly after Ozma's coronation as Ozma tries to discover what happened to the emeralds that originally studded the Emerald City. Mr. Otto theorizes that the Wizard paid off the Wicked Witch of the West with them, which is why she wasn't actively attacking the Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is why the green spectacles were required back then, so the people wouldn't notice the emeralds were replaced by glass.

I like the story, however, I did have a few questions. A large number of characters must bathe in the Truth Pond as a crucial part of resolving the plot, including Ozma, the Hungry Tiger, and the Cowardly Lion. If we take this as canon, everything they say in Ozma of Oz and beyond must be the truth. But that makes them too innocent.

Also, Ozma meeting the Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger seems to be a point writers return to, here, Onyx Madden's The Mysterious Chronicles of Oz, and Edward Einhorn's excellent "Ozma Sees Herself." (The latter of which I do consider canon since it's simple and doesn't cause problems with other Oz stories.) So, good story, but it's not in my canon.

Buy your copy here.

The Corn Mansion of Oz by Peter Schulenberg, illustrated by Peter and Marcus Schulenberg.

This is a follow-up to Schulenberg's The Tin Castle of Oz, and very much the same type of story. This is how the Scarecrow came to build his corn-shaped tower that was revealed in The Emerald City of Oz, with Jack Pumpkinhead's help. Plus, meet Miss Cuttenclip's cousin Aura Gami and Alecksander, a former sand person who's been fused into glass by lightning.

Also, a short story detailing how Jack Pumpkinhead's pumpkin home came to be.

Overall, fun stories about how certain Oz celebrities got their homes, but no real conflict. Peter manages to make the story interesting enough to keep reading, but you can't beat conflict as a true plot device. Still, quite worth checking out for an idea of how the people in Oz might spend an "off day."

Buy your copy here.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Winkie Trip Reading, Part 1

So, if you go to an Oz convention by a Greyhound when you live in the middle of the country, here's something you should do: bring plenty of Oz books. I brought eight books I hadn't read before and picked up three more I hadn't read before at the convention. Grand total read: nine. So... how's about we split up this big review into three?

First up: Silver Shoes by Paul Miles Schneider.

This is not a traditional Oz book. It runs with the idea that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz actually happened, but, despite Baum's introduction, was not written solely as a story to please children, but as a way to let people know about another world. Thus, the sequels didn't actually happen, at least, not as they were written.

Young Donald Gardner's mother buys a mysterious silver shoe, and one day, he brings it to show and tell at school, when someone notes that it reminds her of The Wizard of Oz. How correct she is! But the shoes aren't just a pair of metalcraft that do magic things when you click the heels. There is, in fact, so much more. And there are people who want those shoes, both in our world and in Oz who would do terrible things if they got their hands on them.

The story is very riveting and I finished it in the first few hours on my bus ride. Once it's clear that it's not a traditional story, I decided to enjoy it. Paul's text is enjoyable and very readable. While the book is not illustrated, the descriptions are vivid enough to give you an idea of the story's look.

I look forward to getting the sequel, Powder of Life, soon.

Buy Silver Shoes from Amazon.

The Red Gorilla of Oz by Richard Capwell

Something is seriously wrong in Oz. The tribe of Red Gorillas has seen that their Eternal Flame has gone out. They send Prince Sebastian to seek Glinda's help in restoring it, and along the way, he is joined by Priscilla, a young Kalidah.

Everywhere else in Oz, something else has been happening. Jack Pumpkinhead, Scraps, and everyone else brought to life by the Powder of Life stops living, and even a few other manufactured people who we didn't think the Powder had ever touched, such as the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and Chopfyt! What caused these calamaties and how can it be fixed?

I liked the story, but it did wind up setting a few rules for Capwell's continuing Oz series (he's already published a follow up) that has made me kind of reject it as being in continuity with my own Oz series. Nothing too serious, but I am a nitpicker for details like that. Overall though, a strong first entry for a new Oz writer.

Buy The Red Gorilla of Oz on Amazon.

Red Reera the Yookoohoo and the Enchanted Easter Eggs of Oz by Richard G. Quinn and illustrated by A. E. Mouse (Marcus Mebes)

Long title, really short book. Reera the Red wants to have a baby and hears how she can get one by finding the Enchanted Easter Eggs. She goes off on a search to find them, but finds something else entirely.

The story feels really short and wraps up rather quickly. There's an odd chapter that doesn't really have anything to do with the plot. Though, quite possibly, it is supposed to be how things appear in Glinda's Book of Records, which is kind of cool.

Overall, good story, but I kind of feel like it should have been part of a larger collection.

I rather like A. E. Mouse's pictures here. His adult humans are quite elegant, the ladies beautiful, the gentlement are handsome. Even his Rinkitink is charming!

Buy your copy from Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The 2012 Winkie Convention

Sam and Jared meet up at the 2012 Winkie Convention and report on the goings-on. Introduced by David Maxine, plus Sam asks Eric Shanower even more questions.

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

       

    
    
    
    
    
    

  
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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Interview with Roger S. Baum


This week I got to interview Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum. Roger has written over a dozen Oz books of his own. His book Dorothy of Oz is currently being made into an animated musical starring Lea Michele.


How did you get into writing Oz books? 


It was based on a challenge by a huge Oz fan. I thought it was presumptuous, but I decided to give it a try after writing one non-Oz adventure, titled Longears and Tailspins Adventures in Candyland.

You've written over a dozen Oz books. Which was the most challenging or daunting to write? 


The most challenging Oz book to pen is the most recent one, The Oz Enigma (soon to be published). Hopefully we will have copies available for the Chesterton Oz Festival. This new Oz adventure gently moves Oz into the 22nd century and hopefully maintains the love, heart and courage that my great grandfather tried so hard to gather into his writings. Surprise! It even takes a couple of Oz characters into outer space to visit the Big Dipper! May I add at this time, the book is being published by a wonderful publishing house that you will recognize. I wish I could give you the name, but it would be a little premature at this moment.

I look forward to reading it. One of my favorite books of yours is Dorothy of Oz, which is being made into an animated movie. How has it been working with Summertime Entertainment on bringing this story to the big screen? 


Working with Summertime Entertainment has been a pleasure. They are doing everything possible to make Dorothy of Oz a compliment to Oz fans everywhere. By the way, they just signed Bernadette Peters to play Glinda under contract.

How faithful is the movie to your book, and from what you've seen, are you happy with the changes you've made to the story?


I must admit, like most screenplays taken from books, there have been some changes to the story. This is quite normal in today's operations.

When should we expect to see the movie? 


The movie has had a couple of schedule changes. I have been assured that it will be released in the first quarter of 2013.


We already know that the Dorothy of Oz movie is the first in a planned film franchise; will be the future installments be based on your work as well? 


Yes, they are planning to use another book from my portfolio.


According to your website, you are currently working on writing The Oz Odyssey III. Can you give us a rundown of that book will be about? 


As far as writing the book titled Oz Odyssey III, it has been a funny chain of events. The book The Oz Enigma was, at first, to be titled Oz Odyssey III. But, as the story developed and became more and more unique, I decided that it should stand on its own legs, and so Oz Odyssey III has been delayed into the future. I am hoping that it will not be too far out. I don't have a theme for it except to say that it will hopefully blend with the other two releases.

Is there anything you'd like to say to the Oz fans that have supported your work over the years? 


I appreciate your question, giving me the opportunity to say something to the Oz fans who have supported me. I appreciate their enthusiasm and love for all that's good in our world - love, heart, imagination, and courage as well as self-sacrifice. I was impressed by one of the great thinkers of the world, Albert Einstein, when he said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge". I think his observation speaks to Oz fans everywhere, mine as well.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Roger. 


Thank you for allowing me to answer your questions. It has been a privilege.