Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Where is Oz?

To welcome people who are new to Oz, I thought I'd do a new series of blogs about basic Oz concepts. I generally haven't done a lot of this because someone already did do a great Oz 101: Eric Gjovaag's Oz FAQ, which I recommend to any Oz fan or just the curious. Still, my own take can be fun.

It's far, far away, beyond the moon, beyond the rain...
Halfway to yesterday and back!
Somewhere is Oz, magic land far away, beyond mountains, emerald seas...
It's just beyond the rainbow!

Where is the Land of Oz located? Just up above are lines Dorothy says from several adaptations of the Oz stories. But none of those descriptions are very specific...

The works of L. Frank Baum give us some idea of where it is. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz doesn't tell us much, but it seems to suggest a Kansas tornado can get you there. However, looking at tornadoes, that doesn't add up. Baum suggests the tornado Dorothy is in lasts for hours, when tornadoes can last about ten minutes and can move at speeds more than 300 miles per hour. A ten minute 300 mph tornado would be only 50 miles. Now, it's possible that it was a series of tornadoes, but for Dorothy's house to be smoothly carried from one to the next is a stretch. All we can assume is that the tornado was magical in origin, and who was behind it? They're not telling...

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz informs us that Oz is surrounded by a desert, and later books show magical borderlands beyond the desert and magical island kingdoms. The Marvelous Land of Oz has an episode in which the Gump flies over the desert and they assume they are in Dorothy's outside world, but infortmation from later books indicates that the Gump flew into one of the Borderlands.

In his later years, Baum wrote a comedy play that was never produced titled The Girl from Oz. A girl from "Oz" arrives on a US army base where all the men fall in love with her. However, the script calls her home "Delcapan," an island kingdom in the South Pacific ruled by an exiled Russian princess. So, while the "Oz" of that story wasn't actually Oz, is putting it in the South Pacific accurate?

In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy is on a trip to Australia. Dorothy lives in the middle of the US in Kansas, and given that she visits California in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, we can assume that she and Uncle Henry traveled to the Pacific Ocean and are sailing that way. (It's also a far more direct route than traveling to the Atlantic, unless for some reason, it was cheaper to sail past Europe, Africa and Asia by means of the Atlantic, which I doubt.) When Dorothy is washed overboard in a chicken coop, she washes up on the shore of the Land of Ev, which is revealed to be a borderland of Oz.

So, that seems to add up. If Oz is actually on Earth, it would be in the South Pacific.

That hasn't kept other interpretations, such as it being somewhere else in outer space (promotional material for Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz suggest that, though that series is rarely taken as an actual piece of Ozian history). After other "other world" fantasy series popped up—such as The Chronicles of Narnia—fans began to read Oz as an alternate world, reality, dimension, etc. But that doesn't seem to match up with Baum's writings. Easy to explain, however, yes.

In The Emerald City of Oz, to keep Oz from being invaded by the outside world again, Glinda puts a barrier around the land that renders it invisible from the outside. This was intended by Baum as a device to close the series, but as he revived it and it was carried on by other writers, the barrier really did not seem to have much effectiveness. Ruth Plumly Thompson's Pirates in Oz even features pirate ships flying over the desert directly into Oz.

What follows next is my own theory and my own ideas which I will be working into future works.

As the series progressed, it was clear that there was no point to closing the Land of Oz off from other magical countries. They knew it was there. In stories such as Rinkitink in Oz, Captain Salt in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz, characters from Oz interact directly with other countries outside of the borders of Oz. Thus, the problem of keeping Oz isolated shouldn't mean isolating it from its closest neighbors, but from countries further than that who did not know of magic.

Baum titled the ocean around Oz as the Nonestic Ocean (following on that, some fans—including myself—call the continent that Oz lies on "Nonestica," though Thompson called it "The Continent of Imagination"), so we may assume all the lands inside the ocean are magical.

But, of course, if this ocean is supposed to be on earth (aside from its usually believed fictional status), why hasn't it been seen? After all, we have satellites and space stations that can view and photograph our planet from space and they've never spotted it. The place where the Nonestic should be isn't invisible as that would look far more suspicious to satellite photos than uncharted waters and lands.

So, is it possible that Glinda joined with other magic users (Queen Lulea, Queen Zurline, Queen Zixi, Jinnicky, etc.) and put a new barrier around the entire Nonestic Ocean and all it contains? Now, how would this barrier work? My theory is that as the risk of being discovered by the outside world grows, these lands (collectively "fairyland") get more and more shunted into an alternate plane of reality.

Sure would be a shame if someone... undid that enchantment...

Well, that's my thoughts on where Oz is or was. If you're wanting a look at the development of the layout of Oz, David Maxine has done a series of blogs on his Oz blog titled "Map of Oz Monday," so check that out!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Captive Hearts of Oz, Volume 1 - Angelo's Review

Captive Hearts of Oz is a new manga series from Seven Seas Entertainment, who also published a beautifully illustrated collection of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz last year. The series is inspired by Wonderful Wizard (and, based on the first volume, is a loose adaptation of that story) written by Ryo Maruya, a New York Times best-selling manga writer, with art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru.

As I mentioned in one of my recent posts here, I've been let down by this sort of adaptation before. I read the first two books of the Dorothy of Oz manga series and couldn't get into it enough to read the rest of them. The story was all over the place and had less and less in common with the source material as it went on. I'm happy to report, though, that Captive Hearts of Oz is much better.

I wasn't really sure what to expect in terms of story going into it, so I was surprised to find that it doesn't veer very far from the Wonderful Wizard story, especially not at first. It begins much like you'd expect it to: we're introduced to our protagonist, Dorothy, who lives on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (and Toto, too!) and finds herself separated from her family and in the Land of Oz after a tornado. She learns from the Good Witch of the North that she (or her house) is responsible for the death of the Wicked Witch of the East, is given the Silver Shoes, and sent on her way to see a wizard named Oz in hopes that he might be able to send her home.

Things start to get interesting when Dorothy encounters Hayward, this story's version of the Scarecrow character. He considers himself to be a scarecrow and Dorothy accepts that, but he looks human. There's some fun dialogue between the two in their first interaction, and I really enjoyed their chemistry throughout the book. It's not totally clear yet if he's intended to be a love interest for Dorothy, but there are definitely some sparks there. I found Dorothy's other companions to be not nearly as interesting or likeable, however, especially the Lion, who, like Hayward, is drawn as a human but for some reason says he's a lion. We are given some backstory for the Tin Woodman character (which is pretty much the same as the one we've come to expect), but I'm hoping these characters are fleshed out more and grow on me in the next books.

I appreciate that this adaptation takes almost no cues from the MGM movie and pretty much uses only Baum's book as its jumping off point. For example, Dorothy's shoes are silver and are never referred to as slippers, and the Good Witches of the North and South are two different characters. There's even a character named Ku-Klip in here, who's the Tin Man's tinsmith and has an interesting dynamic with that character.

My only real problem with the first volume of Captive Hearts of Oz is that it's a little hard to follow at times. There's a subplot happening throughout the book that's intentionally mysterious and removed from the main story, and it's not always clear what we're looking at or who's speaking in these scenes. I feel kind of indifferent about the art overall, but I do wish that there was more creativity in the way that the world and the characters are drawn.

I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book, and I'll definitely be picking up Volume 2 to see where the story goes from here. The first volume is essentially a retelling of Wonderful Wizard up to the point where the Fab Four are together and on their way to the Emerald City, but I suspect the story will continue to evolve from that as it goes on.

You can buy Captive Hearts of Oz, Volume 1 in paperback or e-book format on Amazon here. Volume 2 is set to be released on June 6 and is already available for pre-order (here).