Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shanowerthon! Eric's Oz-Stories, Part 1

Back when we interviewed David Maxine for the podcast, he revealed that Oz-Story Magazine was the realization of a concept he had for Oziana, which the Oz Club turned down. Perhaps it was a good idea for the Club to keep Oziana as it always was, but I can't help but think that more Oz-Story would have been wonderful. New and old Oz and Oz-related stories, poems, comics, and a reprint of an L. Frank Baum book to top it off. (Perhaps if this concept had been adopted for Oziana or if Oz-Story had kept going, it would have expanded to books by Ruth Plumly Thompson and the other Royal Historians.) It ran for only six issues, and since David and his partner Eric Shanower were working on it together, every issue contained new work by Eric in some form, whether it was illustration, writing, or adapting The Wonderland of Oz comic strip into an easy-to-read format. In these blogs, we'll focus on his new writing.

Oz-Story 1 contained three new pieces of writing by Eric. "Gugu and the Kalidahs" is perhaps one of Eric's best short stories. When King Gugu discovers that Kalidahs have invaded the forest, he must investigate and set all to rights. He discovers the Kalidah renegade Bladgaar in his forest. Can Gugu, his councilors, and the animals of the forest drive out the Kalidah invaders?

Perhaps being reminded of Rudyard Kipling is inevitable, considering we're following talking animals in a natural habitat. Still, such a comparison is not an insult. Like Giant Garden, the execution of the story is well thought out and quite logical. It even feels a little dark and gritty, but still done in a way that doesn't betray Baum's creation.

Shanower's other story might be a surprise unless you're familiar with the book The Salt Sorcerer of Oz and Other Stories. "The Balloon Girl of Oz" was published in Oz-Story attributed to Stephen Kane, an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles. There is no mention of him in the Salt Sorcerer book, leading us to see that Kane was a pseudonym. I have wondered as to this, but I think I've determined the answer: just starting out, Oz-Story did not want to present itself as a new Eric Shanower endeavor with other stories mixed in, so keeping the number of items with Eric's name on them low would hopefully keep other stories coming in.

"The Balloon Girl of Oz" finds Scraps exploring the countryside of Oz when she finds some pretty blue crystals. She decides to take them to the Emerald City with her, when they break and inflate her like a balloon. (They were used to inflate sagging clouds.) Barely able to keep herself on the ground, Scraps has to use all her brains to reach the Emerald City for help. It's a fun story with a nice little lesson at the end.

The final new piece of Eric's writing in Oz-Story is the poem "Parts Unavailable," musing about how one of the best things about Oz is probably its lack of faulty technology.

Both stories and the poem are all reprinted in The Salt Sorcerer of Oz and Other Stories, but if you look around, you can also find Oz-Story 1 (and the other issues) on used book sites.

In addition, Eric also provided the front cover for Oz-Story 1, illustrated Rachel Cosgrove Payes' "Percy and the Shrinking Violets," wrote new dialogue and provided art adaptation for the first half of The Wonderland of Oz adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz (the remaining issues would present similar new versions of Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz, split into one half per issue), and served as Art Director for this and the subsequent five issues.

Come back next time as we look at Eric's work in Oz-Story 2.

3 comments:

Eric said...

Wasn't Stephen Kane also Orissa's brother and the builder/creator of her airplane in "The Flying Girl"? That might explain where and why that pen name came from.

Jared said...

Eric, I never thought of that. I'm here laughing and smiling over having completely missed that!

Nathan said...

As far as Tik-Tok having emotions goes, he's shown laughing at Scraps in one of the pictures for "Balloon-Girl."