Monday, May 30, 2011

Ozoplaning With the Wizard of Oz

It was 1939 and Oz was... yes, 1939. Oz was back in the spotlight as a little movie based on Baum's first Oz book was being made by MGM. Knowing that this would help book sales, Reilly & Lee wanted an Oz book to help capitalize on the film. There was just one thing: Ruth Plumly Thompson wanted out. After 18 years and suggestions, not just to the publishers, but to people such as Maud Baum and Roy Disney, for new Oz merchandise, films, cartoons and publicity stunts, and all of these being turned down, she'd had enough. She frequently contacted Frank O'Donnell about leaving Oz, but he would ignore her and request the next book.

Anyways, Thompson hurried and turned out Ozoplaning With the Wizard of Oz just in time for publication. The front cover was going to feature the words "the Wizard of Oz" to help sell the book to people interested in the film. (Reilly & Lee did not have the option to publish an edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz until after it went into the public domain in 1956.)

The story opens with the characters who featured in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz meeting for a reunion, remembering that adventure. There's the Wizard, Dorothy, Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, Jellia Jamb, and Wantowin Battles.


Seemingly, Thompson forgot the Soldier with the Green Whiskers had been named Omby Amby by Baum, so she named him Wantowin Battles and gave him an obsession with pickles. John R. Neill used the name once, but Jack Snow reverted the name to Omby Amby, while other writers usually call him Omby Amby or just the Soldier with the Green Whiskers. In Edward Einhorn's Oz books, Ozma visits a sinister version of the Land of Oz. The soldier with a sharp black beard is named Wantowin Battles. The naming issue causes a problem for continuity, but most fans ignore that part and just enjoy the adventure Thompson sent him on.

Anyways, after a recap of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as told by the characters themselves, the Wizard proudly shows off his new invention: Ozoplanes! These silver airship are able to travel to outer space, and the Wizard has made two: the Ozpril and the Oztober. The Tin Woodman, Jellia, and Wantowin inspect the Oztober, but Wantowin accidentally sets it off. When the Tin Woodman tries to control it, he quickly gets a handle on it, and decides not to go back to Oz, being bitten by wanderlust.

The Oztober lands in Strat, which the Tin Woodman tries to conquer for Ozma, but the people are not interested in becoming a territory of Oz. They make Jellia their "Starina," the queen, and force the Tin Woodman to take them to Oz with the intention of conquest! The Wizard arrives in the Ozpril with the other guests at the party to find Jellia and Wantowin, but they are not able to pursue the Oztober due to King Strut's people interfering. But the delay makes the Ozpril get blown away by the Blowmen of Strut, and the people from Oz are forced to use the same type of flying sticks Strut's army are using to return to Oz.

Upon arriving in Oz, they are taken captive by Bustabo, the self-proclaimed King of the Kudgers of Red Top Mountain, who refuses to help them warn the Emerald City of the invasion of Strut unless they can find princess Azarine, the true ruler of Red Top Mountain. She gets her stag Shagomar and his wife Dear Deer to help carry the Wizard and his companions to Glinda's palace so they can attempt to use magic to stop Strut's invasion.

Everyone else has escaped Red Top Mountain and they hurry to Glinda's. The Scarecrow stays up to date on Strut's progress with the Book of Records while the Wizard has to fix a transporter of Glinda's to bring him the safe the Magic Belt is in, just as Strut arrives in the Emerald City and attempts to blow open Ozma's safe himself.

Ozma, Glinda, and the rest of the company arrive on the scene. Strut's army has been transported back to Strat by the Magic Belt, and after Ozma renders his weapons useless, she sends Strut back to Strat. The Wizard and the Tin Woodman leave in the Oztober to search for the Ozpril, while Ozma restores peace to Red Top Mountain by turning Bustabo into a squirrel.

And the story ends with what appears to be a promise to tell of the exciting flight of the Wizard and Tin Woodman to recover the Ozpril, but that was a story that Thompson never told. Finally having enough of Reilly & Lee, having increased stress on her personal life, and finding work elsewhere, she quit Oz at last.

It really is too bad, for while Ozoplaning does contain Thompson's regular loose misadventures (which I didn't mention in my summary, read the book for yourself!), it really is an exciting story with some of our oldest friends in Oz.

But was that it for Thompson and Oz? The fact is, she offered to return to Oz after taking a year's leave and had even offered to edit the next Oz book, which someone else wrote. However, Frank O'Donnell seemed to be bitter about Thompson's sudden retirement and ignored further communication, with one exception that we'll look into later.

However, every dark cloud had a silver lining, and in the 1970s, Thompson was able to return to writing Oz stories again thanks to what she had cultivated through her nineteen years as Royal Historian: the fans.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

... I think it's done.

Well, I sent my Oz book to be illustrated. I rewrote many chapters, made many, many adjustments, and then sent it to the biggest critic I know. He absolutely LOVED it! Then he pointed out all my spelling and punctuation errors and helped me correct them.

So, now, I'm just waiting for the illustrations and getting the book designed and laid out.

So, later this year, I'll be announcing the publication of The Borderlands of Oz.

Oh, and David Maxine has revealed he will be using my submission to the 2011 Winkie Convention Program Book.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekly Oz Update: Oz, The Great and Powerful

A lot of news this week...unlike last week!

In this past week, Disney made the announcement that the Sam Raimi directed film, Oz, the Great and Powerful will release in Disney Digital 3D on March 8th, 2013. Read the announcement here.

It seems Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz have officially been cast in the film as the Witch of the East and North.

Joey King from the 2010 film Ramona and Beezus has been cast as The China Girl. Read more about her coveted role in the film here.

Zach Braff from the TV series Scrubs has been cast as the Wizard's loyal assistant. There have been whispers that this character will be based on L. Frank Baum. Read about that here. John C. Reilly was previously considered for this role until he turned down the offer to join the cast of another film.

So, currently, the confirmed cast consists of:
James Franco - Oscar Diggs (The Wizard of Oz)
Mila Kunis - The Wicked Witch of the West
Rachel Weisz - Evanorah, The Wicked Witch of the East
Michelle Williams - Glinda, The Good Witch of the North
Joey King - China Girl (name unknown)
Zach Braff - Wizard's Assistant (name unknown)

Aside from that, The Witches of Oz soundtrack will be available for pre-order shortly. The production company is waiting on the MPAA's rating for the film trailer and then it will be available for viewing online ONLY for those who are members of the Facebook group. There is an official Facebook fan page for the film now, but the group is more exclusive. The trailer link will be password protected, and only group members will have access to it. The new website is expected to launch along with the trailer and the soundtrack.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Merry Misadventures of Collecting Oz

Despite the DVDs, CDs, and custom action figures and digital stuff, I think it's safe to say my Oz collection mainly consists of books.

Now, there are many ways to get books, buy them new, buy them used, or swap. And book swapping has gotten much easier with websites like PaperbackSwap. A friend of mine and I swear by PaperbackSwap, and that's where I've managed to get a number of Eloise McGraw's non-Oz books, and my copy of Jack Snow's Dark Music.

There are a number of Oz-related books available on sites like this. My friend also tried another swapping site, but after sending out a large number of books and having his own requests refused, he wanted help using his credits so he could close his account.

When I heard the Winkie Convention would have a swap meet this year, I decided to help my friend out by getting some of these books so he could use his credits, and I could bring some Oz books to people who would really want them.

Well, today, my friend can close his account, because I got the last of the books I requested. Actually... I really didn't.

One of the reasons why my friend and I were dissatisfied with that site (which you'll notice we aren't linking to), some users would send the wrong book. I requested a copy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and instead of the novel, I got a comic book adaptation. Two times I've tried to get the Chick-Fil-A abridgement of Ozma of Oz, and both times, I wound up with a paperback of the novel.

Now, usually, you're supposed to list your book by ISBN, which would prevent such mishaps, except that not all members do it, and sometimes multiple editions of a book share the same ISBN. This site was quite notorious for users who weren't even looking at the ISBN.

So, I requested the Jewel Sticker Stories adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.

Want to see what they sent me instead?

... Wow... Just... wow...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Little Adventures in Oz — To Buy or Not To Buy?

Have I mentioned I'm a fan of Eric Shanower's Oz work? I'm a fan of Eric Shanower's Oz work. When I got back to Oz about ten years ago, aside from Baum's work, his books were the first ones I re-read and finished reading.

Shanower broke into the Oz scene in 1986 with his series of Oz graphic novels. The only Oz comics before them had been adaptations of the books or films, or stories with an Oz theme. Shanower's Oz graphic novels was the first time an original story intended to take place in Baum's Oz was created for a comic book format. (Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew in the Oz-Wonderland War Trilogy came out later that year.)

The original publisher for the graphic novels was First Comics, who published the first four volumes. After they closed shop, the fifth and final one was published by Dark Horse.

In 2006, IDW Publishing collected all five graphic novels into a massive tome, Adventures in Oz. The hardcover edition included a large appendix of Shanower's other Oz work, including a lot of previously unseen material. Oz fans were quick to snatch it up!

Recently, IDW announced that this amazing collection would be going out of print, and in its place would be Little Adventures in Oz, a set of two volumes that would collect the graphic novels at a reduced size of 9 inches high by 6.6 inches wide. This is about the size of a lot of paperback Oz books published these days.

Now, if you own Adventures in Oz, does Little Adventures in Oz give you anything new if you pick up these new volumes? Well, each volume has new cover art. Second, if you read books on the go or enjoy taking them with you, the size is much more convenient.

Volume one consists of two of Shanower's graphic novels and a selection of artwork and other comics that originally appeared in the hardcover edition of Adventures in Oz.
  • The Enchanted Apples of Oz (1986) finds Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Billina meeting Valynn, the protector of the Enchanted Apple Tree which bears apples that ensure the magic of Oz stays in place. But when Bortag, a lonely Quadling, awakens the Wicked Witch of the South, she goes straight to the apple tree and feasts. Can the Witch be stopped before Oz loses its magic?
  • The Ice King of Oz (1987) opens with a visit from a delegation sent by the Ice King. But when Dorothy rejects a marriage proposal from him, he decides to take the next best thing: Ozma! Can Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and their new friend Flicker rescue her?
Volume two collects the remaining three graphic novels but only has a couple other pieces of artwork.
  • The Forgotten Forest of Oz (1988) opens in the Forest of Burzee, where Wood Nymph Nelanthe is banished for kissing a mortal man. The King of the Trolls befriends her and makes her his queen, and she helps him plan an attack on Burzee. However, she wishes she could just forget and has her giant bat Nightshade steal some of the Water of Oblivion. When Nightshade accidentally brings back Dorothy and Toto, can our friends from Oz (including the Scarecrow and the Sawhorse) escape to warn the Forest of Burzee in time?
  • The Secret Island of Oz (1986) is the weakest of the five. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and Eureka go to look for a Crimson Tailed Quipperug, a rare fish for the pond in the Royal Gardens. But when they are caught in a magic whirlpool, they find themselves in a secret island with a stuck up princess, a friendly mechanical boy, and a giant toad and snake. Can our heroes find their way off the island and back into Oz?
  • The Blue Witch of Oz (1992) finds Dorothy and the Scarecrow seeking the fate of Abatha, the Good Witch of the East. Bungle, the Glass Cat, helps them through the Great Gray Gillikin Swamp. But when they find an unexpected enchantment, are they able to break it and reveal the secrets of the past?
So, if you own Adventures in Oz (and maybe the original graphic novels separately), is picking up these two volumes worth it? It really depends on you. There is some new artwork on the covers, and they are in a convenient size. Furthermore, the price is rather affordable, with $9.99 being the suggested retail price. (I managed to get my copies for just under $15.) The only downside is that not all of the additional content of Adventures of Oz has been ported over, a sad but foreseeable omission, given the size of the books.

If you don't own Shanower's graphic novels yet, by all means, go ahead and get them. The reduced size does not detract from the artwork at all, and the text is perfectly readable. Furthermore, they're really good Oz stories. To be sure, the plots are more straightforward than most Oz books, but this isn't a bad thing at all. And I don't think I mentioned the gorgeous artwork with character designs inspired by John R. Neill's illustrations. These are some of the best Oz comics ever!

Buy Volume 1
Buy Volume 2

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wutz the Deal with This Wizard?

Cross-posted from here.

The idea of villains wanting to conquer Oz is pretty much a cliché at this point. While it's largely apocryphal Oz stories in which this plot device is overused, there is precedent for it in the Famous Forty. Would-be conquerors include the former Nome King, Ugu the Shoemaker, Kiki Aru, Mogodore the Mighty, Skamperoo of Skampavia, Strut of the Strat, and the Mimics, as well as the Wizard of Wutz. The villain of Handy Mandy in Oz was King of the Silver Mountain in the northeastern Gillikin Country. He ruled over a well-organized but unhappy populace inhabiting a series of caverns within the mountain, many of whom worked as silver miners. Wutz invented a transportation system much like a roller coaster to access different parts of the mountain.

Wutz's own powers are largely based on quicksilver bubbles that he blows from a silver pipe, but he has other magic as well, including his stupefying powder. He also employed secret agents known as M-Men to infiltrate various areas of Oz and steal more magic for him. As the story begins, Wutz already has Glinda's Book of Records, and Agent Number Five steals Ozma's Magic Picture and the jug in which the former Nome King had been transformed at the end of Pirates. By means of a cheap plot device, Handy Mandy inadvertently breaks Ruggedo's enchantment, and he teams up with Wutz to conquer the land. Like many villains who have formed uneasy alliances, however, the two monarchs end up quarreling, giving Mandy the opportunity to save the Emerald City with the Silver Hammer. Himself the Elf turns both of the plotters into cacti, a form which Ruggedo escapes in several apocryphal stories [1], but I don't know of any tales that restore Wutz. I have an idea for a plot in which a group of rebellious Nomes who are trying to bring back Ruggedo accidentally disenchant Wutz instead, but I haven't gotten much farther along than that.

Ruth Plumly Thompson gives a fair amount of description for her villain. The wizard is a tall and regal man with thick silver hair and piercing violet eyes, who wears a tight-fitting purple suit with a jeweled belt and sword. His mood can switch from calmly pleasant to ragingly angry in no time at all. He's a tyrannical ruler, punishing people who disobey him by trapping them in flowerpots. He also treats his agents quite poorly, hoping that it will keep them competing with each other for his favor. It's been proposed that Neill's drawings of Wutz are based on a young John Barrymore.

After Himself turns the wizard-king into a cactus, Ozma makes some adjustments to the Silver Mountain itself. She moves the cliff dwellings of the inhabitants to the outside of the mountain, which hopefully is a welcome change, but I wouldn't be too sure. After all, their whole lifestyle is based around living inside the mountain. Besides, since when does Ozma have the power to turn a mountain inside out, Magic Belt or no Magic Belt? The ruler of Oz also appoints Wutz's long-suffering assistant Nifflepok as the new King of the Silver Mountain, even though there's no indication that he's done anything to prove himself deserving of this position. Thompson was obviously in a hurry to finish her story (something I can certainly understand) and left some loose ends.

[1] Ruggedo is restored from his cactus form in Raggedys, Enchanted Gnome, Grown-Up, Medicine Man, and Unknown Witches. Deadly Desert puts a bit of a twist on this by having Ruggedo become a walking cactus for a little while.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

In Mark Evan Swartz's Oz Before the Rainbow, he suggested that the 1910 Wonderful Wizard of Oz may have also been available in a color tinted version.

I decided to run with that idea. I ripped the video from a DVD as an MPEG-2 file, the same quality you get on the disc. For extra picture clarity, I sharpened it and used auto level to decrease the amount of gray colors in the video. Then, using the duotone filter, I tinted each set of scenes in a different country, based on the colorings used for the illustrations in the original edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Kansas is sepia, the Munchkin Country is blue, the Emerald City is green, and the domain of the Witch is yellow.

Instead of just slapping a random music track on it, I used music from

I'm not sure I'm entirely happy with this, so this will be my YouTube version. I may do further alterations in the coloring and music and put it on a DVD.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Silver Princess in Oz

1938, Ruth Plumly Thompson was beginning to get fed up. Not only did she dread her drying well of ideas for Oz stories, but all her ideas to further publicize the Oz series were getting turned down. She believed that merchandising would be a good avenue to pursue. But Frank O'Donnell, the current president (there was now no Reilly in Reilly & Lee), kept turning her down.

So, what to do in her next Oz story? Have fun! And that is what her lead characters set out to do!

The story opens in Regalia, where King Randy is tired of his councilors telling him he should marry, when who should arrive but his good old friend, Kabumpo? The two decide to run off to visit Jinnicky in Ev. They head through the troublesome Gaper's Gulch and brave the heads of Headland before they are blown across the Deadly Desert by a storm. (Seriously? That easily?)

Randy and Kabumpo find themselves in Ix, where they meet Planetty and Thun, the Silver Princes of Anuther Planet and her steed. Both seem to be made of some silver-like metal. Thun jumped on a thunder bolt, carrying them to earth. Planetty reveals, in her own talk, that in order to not freeze into statues, she and Thun must return to their vanadium springs. Randy and Kabumpo feel sure that Jinnicky can either send them home or find a vanadium substitute.

The four travelers find a secluded country called Boxwood, where the people wear boxes like armor all the time. (That is, if they are people. John R. Neill's illustrations suggest they might not be shaped the same way normal humans are.) Boxes of many things grow on trees, but when Chillywalla, the leader of the country, sees that his guests are not interested in boxes but the contents, he throws a fit and they must quickly leave Boxwood.

The travelers continue to Jinnicky's palace, becoming fast friends along the way. But when they reach the palace, they discover that Jinnicky's peaceful home has been overthrown by his former trusted servant Gludwig. He has stolen magic tools and made the servants (or slaves? Thompson calls them slaves, and they are, regrettably, black, but they are paid and have homes) do as he commands. Jinnicky himself is in the bottom of the ocean. Randy and his friends burst in, intending to turn Gludwig into a statue with Planetty's staff, but he makes them fall into a cellar, just after Planetty hurled her staff.

They find Ginger, Jinnicky's servant of his magic dinner bell, in the cellar, but time runs out for Planetty and Thun, and they stiffen into statues. Deciding there's nothing for it but to find Jinnicky, they suddenly find themselves being whisked through the air, for Jinnicky has been recovered by a fisherman, who doesn't have the best of intentions at all. Informing him of what happened, they all head straight back, finding that Gludwig has been transforming many of the servants into statues.

When Randy and the others attempt to sneak up on Gludwig in bed, he is ready for them and hurls Planetty's staff at Randy. However, it turns away from Randy and hits Gludwig, petrifying the villain. It turns out Randy had picked up Jinnicky's weapon turning elixir in the cellar and that protected him.

Jinnicky works hard to restore Planetty and Thun, and finally gravely announces that he has failed to totally restore them. Instead, he managed to transform Planetty into a normal girl and Thun into a regular talking horse (he spoke only by breathing out smoke letters before), meaning they have no further need of vanadium springs, and can stay on Earth.

And through their adventures, Planetty and Randy have fallen in love and decide to marry, meaning that Randy wound up finding a wife after all.

And there ends one of the most rollicking adventures Thompson penned. The Silver Princess in Oz is a lot of fun. While she still has little stops and a somewhat loose plot, the story is a lot of fun.

However, the revelation of Jinnicky's servants (or slaves) has served to disturb some Oz fans. Is the affable old Red Jinn of Ev a slave owner with stereotypical black slaves? While they seem to enjoy working for Jinnicky, the matter of the servants is still a bit unsettling.

Even more disturbing to me is the number of petrification victims in the story who we are not told of their restorations. Planetty's staff's powers are first revealed in Boxwood, when she is forced to petrify some attacking inhabitants (we can argue that as they wore boxes, maybe their boxes were petrified, and not the people inside). The more disturbing transformations occur after they reach Jinnicky's home. Some of Gludwig's army, who seem to be only following orders, are petrified, and we are later told Jinnicky has them set up as reminders against treachery. But this occurs before he manages to find a way to un-petrify Planetty and Thun. Gludwig, owning the staff, uses it to petrify Jinnicky's favorite dog and a dozen servants. We can only assume these innocent victims were restored by the same means used to restore the heroine, but Thompson does not mention it.

When the reader decides that Jinnicky will eventually restore all the petrified people, The Silver Princess of Oz is one of Thompson's better stories, with a dashing young king, a beautiful otherworldly princess, a noble steed, and our old favorites Jinnicky and Kabumpo.

But still, Thompson was not getting along well with Mr. O'Donnell, and she was about to reach her breaking point.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Site update

I upgraded to Firefox 4!

Jared! What does you upgrading your browser have to do with anything?

Uh, yeah. I tried going to my site, and was surprised when all I saw was a big page of green. No text, no images, just green! A friend confirmed that Google Chrome had the same problem.

That's not looking forward...

Fortunately, one page displayed properly because I'd had an expert web designer correct a flowing text issue I was having with my HTML templates.

You're losing us with all this fancy web talk!

Okay, so basically, I copied the new HTML code he made there and updated all the pages. I also took this time to change the "Ozzy reference material" link to a link to the Wiki, which was created to replace it anyways.

SO, sorry that it took me awhile to correct it, but the site is now working with the latest web browsers.

And keep your eyes peeled for my take on The Silver Princess of Oz, coming VERY soon!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekly Oz Update

The line-up for the witches in Disney's Oz, the Great and Powerful includes Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and possibly Michelle Williams. Read more here.

A Zazzle store for L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is here.

Mandy, Merry Maiden of Mount Mern

Cross-posted from here.

A personal favorite Oz character is Handy Mandy, from the book that bears her name. She’s a fun character, impulsive but also quick-thinking when necessary, with a distinct speech pattern. Oh, and she also has seven arms. Her old home was Mount Mern, a peak to the east of Oz where everyone shares that odd trait. In addition to the great number of arms, they also have hands made of various materials. One is made of iron, one of leather, one of wood, two of rubber, and the other two of ordinary flesh. Mandy is an orphan girl who herds goats for a living. Her exact age isn’t given, but she claims that she’s been taking care of herself and a flock of goats for ten years, so she’s probably a teenager by our standards. I was fifteen when I first read the book, and I imagined her being around my age.

Mandy’s adventure begins when a geyser erupts under the rock where she’s standing, sending her soaring through the air to Oz. She finally lands in Keretaria, a small kingdom in the northern Munchkin Country. At the time, Keretaria is ruled by a man who calls himself King Kerr, the uncle of the previous king, Kerry. I don’t think Kerry had any Swift Boat Veterans for Truth criticizing him, but he came by even more trouble in being kidnapped and replaced with a secret agent of the Wizard of Wutz. Agent Number Nine probably wasn’t really Kerry’s uncle, but he made that claim to make the transition easier for the Keretarians. In truth, he’d made a deal with the real ruler, the Wicked Witch Wunchie, who controlled the monarchs by means of white oxen. She started a prophecy that a king would only rule as long as his Royal Ox was in good health, and when a ruler displeased her, she would kill off both the ox and the king. Seems a bit overly complicated, but Wunchie must have had a flair for the mythological symbolism. For some reason, however, her slave Himself the Elf was able to just stun Kerry’s Royal Ox Boz, and when Kerr was crowned, the people assumed Boz was a different ox, and named him Nox. It’s Mandy who convinces the pompous and grumpy Nox to look for the missing Kerry. Even Ruth Plumly Thompson herself admits that Nox is a lot like Kabumpo in his personality, but he’s more reluctant and timid than the Elegant Elephant. Is there any significance to either of the ox’s names? I believe “Boz” was a pseudonym for Charles Dickens (Jack Snow suggests in the introduction to Who’s Who that it might have inspired the name “Oz” in the first place), and “Nox” is Latin for “night.” Thompson might have also been thinking of Knox Gelatin. Really, though, I think it’s mostly likely that she just chose short names that rhymed with “Oz” and “ox.” The author presumably forgot about Nox’s earlier name, as when they rescue Kerry (yeah, that’s a spoiler, but did you really expect that they wouldn’t?), he refers to the ox as Nox. The book as a whole is a bit sloppy; Thompson was never the most careful writer, and she was really only still writing Oz books as this point for the money. Still, Handy Mandy, for all its flaws, remains a favorite of mine, due largely to Mandy herself.

Incidentally, Thompson’s short story “Seeress of Saucerville” features a character similar to Mandy in some ways, including her appearance and the fact that she herds goats. Sally has red hair instead of blonde and only two arms, however. Also, she’s able to read fortunes in tea leaves. I like the idea that the two of them might be related, although I’m not sure how. I wonder if seven arms is a dominant or a recessive trait. Also, I’m somewhat annoyed that there’s now a children’s show called Handy Manny, because I’m sure everyone will now think of that when I mention the Mernite.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Handy Mandy in Oz

Another year, another Oz book. Thompson was beginning to run out of ideas and she knew it. 1937's Handy Mandy in Oz introduced Handy Mandy, a goat girl with seven unique hands. The thing is, Handy Mandy wasn't exactly original to this story. A different multi-handed maiden had been the subject of the poem "Handy Mandy: Solomon T. Wise's New Cook." Solomon created her as a servant, but the one in this story is a little different.

Mandy cares for her goats on Mount Mern, where all people are seven handed. Mandy has an iron hand, a wooden hand, a leather hand, two rubber hands, and two white hands. ("White" seemingly flesh.) While caring for her goats one day, a geyser erupts and sends her high into the air. Three guesses where she lands!

... "Oz?"

You're good.

To be specific, she lands in Keretaria, a little kingdom in the Munchkin Country. She quickly becomes friends with Nox, the Royal Ox. (I swear I didn't give him that title.) Nox tells Mandy about the current situation of Keretaria: little King Kerry has been usurped by his uncle Kerr.

Mandy discovers that Nox's horns unscrew and finds two silver balls inside: one with a key and another with a note that tells them to go to the Silver Mountain of Oz. Mandy and Nox leave Keretaria, and make their way to the Silver Mountain, braving a river (Mandy not knowing how to swim) and traveling through Turn Town. It turns out that Ox's other horn is a "horn of plenty," which will grant wishes for things. They are attacked by Hook Noses, but the horn helps them out with some molasses.

Mandy finds a door behind a waterfall. While it's locked, she tries knocking. When none of her hands seem to make a difference, she uses a silver hammer she dug up in Keretaria. It summons an elf, who opens it for them, and they find themselves in Silver Mountain, ruled by the Wizard of Wutz, who plans to take over Oz. He throws Nox and Mandy in prison, then heads to the Emerald City where he steals a jug that used to be a Nome. To make matters worse, he's already acquired the Magic Picture and Glinda's Book of Records.

The Wizard of Wutz has Mandy break the jug, restoring Ruggedo, who Wutz takes with him to help him conquer the Emerald City, especially since Ozma and the Wizard left to see Glinda. Mandy and Nox are led to Kerry by a silver ball, and they find him in a state of suspended animation in a bubble, which Mandy pops with her hand, reviving him. They use the Silver Hammer to summon the elf (named Himself), who whisks them to the Emerald City.

Conquering the Emerald City would be an easy task if Ruggedo and Wutz didn't argue, and Mandy catches up with them quickly, and has Himself take them away. There's a little confusion when Mandy is found with the Magic Belt in her hands, but eventually, all is settled. Ruggedo and Wutz have been transformed into cacti, Wutz's spies have become moles, Kerry regains his throne, and Mandy visits in the Emerald City for a couple weeks before returning home to Mount Mern. But after a month, she uses a gift from the Wizard of Oz—a wishing pill—to bring herself and her flock to Keretaria.

Overall, Handy Mandy in Oz is a lot of fun. Thompson uses some fine word play, and there's great witty dialogue. The story's one big shortfall is that instead of actually facing their troubles, Mandy and Nox just about always have some magic tool to get them out of trouble quickly.

Mandy herself is Thompson's first real grotesque protagonist, and is quite headstrong and brave, definitely a character that could be developed further. However, neither she nor Keretaria appear in the Famous Forty again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ozama Care

Cross-posted from here.

Ozamaland shows up in Captain Salt in Oz, but it also had a brief mention in the earlier Pirates in Oz as well. The latter book has Captain Salt mentioning that he had wanted to explore Ozamaland, but ended up having to deal with a mutinous crew instead. In Captain Salt, he finally reaches it, but not until near the end of the story. It's located on the long continent of Tarara (adjacent to the continent of Boomdeeay, perhaps?), far across the Nonestic Ocean from the island-continent on which Oz is located. Tarara is divided into two countries, Ozamaland on the east and Amaland on the west. Ozamaland is mostly desert and jungle, and its people tend to live in primitive tents and huts, and wear white robes and turbans. Animals there include white camels and elephants, as well as feathered flying snakes and scaled creeping birds with fangs. Unfortunately for us, John R. Neill didn't draw either of these mixed-up creatures. Amaland is a plains country, where the people dress in gray and ride around on gray horses, which suggests to me that Ruth Plumly Thompson was aiming for a Mongolian feel to the place. The capital of Ozamaland is the White City of Om, named after its first king. Traditionally, this was the home of one thousand noble families, as well as that of the king and his nine judges, the square-hatted Ozamandarins. These judges held most of the power in the kingdom, with the king mostly being a figurehead, although the royal family seems to have been unaware of this power grab. I would imagine it was gradual, but when the only remaining heir was a boy named Tazander Tazah, the Ozamandarins decided to get rid of him entirely and divide the country among themselves. They enlisted the help of Boglodore, the Old Man of the Jungle, but he remained suspicious of them and used magical protections to keep Tandy alive as sort of a bargaining chip.

When Tandy returns home in the company of Captain Salt, the Ozamandarins try to keep control by locking him in a tower, but he and his friends conquer the judges with the help of tumbleweeds and creeping vines from the island of Patrippany. Boglodore then throws them into the sea with help from his Umbrellaphant, Umbo. Tandy also makes an ally of Chunum the Sheik, leader and representative of the thousand desert tribes. And while Tandy is officially restored to his throne, two other major political changes come about as well. For one, while not officially abdicating, Tandy decides to remain on the crew of the Crescent Moon, leaving Chunum to serve as his regent. Also, the boy king declares his country to be an official protectorate of Oz, which the people cheer, but they might still be swept up in the excitement of having their king restored and the desert dwellers receiving more of a voice in government. I wouldn't think most people, no matter how poorly they fared under previous rule, would be that happy about their homeland becoming a colony. I like to think Ozma's rule over Ozamaland was pretty much entirely symbolic, but it's never discussed. Chunum also aims to make peace with the neighbors in Amaland, stating that the Ozamandarins encouraged a state of enmity between the two nations to protect their own power. No one actually visits Amaland during the course of the story, however, so that could be a potential premise for a new story. I wonder if it has its own Grey City to parallel the white one in Ozamaland. One of the Oz holiday cards sent out by the late Fred Meyer proposed another idea involving the nations of Tarara, specifically Tandy falling in love with the Princess of Amaland, and the possible unification of the two lands. Honestly, though, I don't know that I'm too anxious to work with Tarara myself, because despite interesting details like the fauna, I don't think Thompson does all that much to make a truly distinct place. Then again, that's something that a new story about the continent could change. I've heard tell of an upcoming book called The Umbrellaphant in Oz, by Carlos P. Silva and Marin Elizabeth Xiques, but I don't know enough about it to say whether Tarara features in it. I wouldn't be surprised if it does, though. Thompson did write a poem about the Umbrellaphant in which she suggested he'd become Tandy's royal steed, but I'm not sure whether this should be counted as canonical.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Oz illustrator Anna-Maria Cool posted this piece of artwork on her Facebook...

And guess what? I know what it's for. I know exactly who all the people in the picture are and what they're doing.

And you will find out, too. Very soon, actually! Until then, mum's the word!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Tiktok and the Nome King

In this episode, Jared Davis and the cast present a reading of Tiktok and the Nome King from The Little Wizard Stories of Oz, in celebration of L. Frank Baum's birthday on May 15th.

Cast includes Mike Conway (Narrator, Kaliko), Sam Milazzo (Nome King), Shawn Maldonado (Tik-Tok), and Doug Wall (the Wizard).

As always, you can listen below, or download it at the podcast site.

This marks the first completely proper Oz story that has been recorded for the podcast. A special thanks to Miriam Goldman, who would have voiced Kaliko, except her finals and problems my software for the one time she was able to record prevented it. Maybe in the next one, Miriam!

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Official Oz Books?"

I'll be honest. This blog entry cribs from this message board thread. As you can see, this topic got quite derailed. However, there were some great insights. This entry is to present the best of the thread, a "good parts" version for The Princess Bride fans. Posters are quoted and credited by their screen names, unless they weren't hiding their real identities.

Please note that I have taken the liberty to edit for easier reading in this context. Also, due to this, the terms "canon," "continuity," and "official" are used pretty interchangeably.
So, just what does "official" mean when applied to the Oz books? To be honest, if you want to go by Baum's original intention, the only official Oz book is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, since he didn't want to write a sequel. But then, he relented and expanded it to two, then six, and then ongoing.

How would Baum have felt about people continuing his series?

In my own thought, he was reluctant to write more Oz, so probably, if he could have turned it over to someone else in his own lifetime and write other successful stories, he may very well have gone for it.

As it is, the series was continued postmuthously. Bill Campbell has discovered Justin Schiller has a letter from Baum to Ruth Plumly Thompson, apparently telling her that he was pleased she was continuing the series. However, it may be noted that this letter may not be all it appears to be, as it was apparently dictated to and written by his wife, Maud. However, it is dated before Baum's death and contains his signature. David Maxine has wondered why a letter of such importance is such a recent discovery and is getting such a low profile, as it would be important and would change what we know of the history the Oz books.

Still, Baum turned the rights to his books over to Maud, and she approved the continuation of the series. Later, when Frank J. Baum, her son, attempted to create his own Oz books, she was forced to go into court against him, and the court decided in her favor. Sounds pretty official to me.

But still, should Oz fans actually consider these later Oz books as "official?" Some Oz fans point out differences in tone and continuity. Here's what forum member Strasheela had to say.
Considering that Baum himself was known to be self contradictory from book to book, you could argue that not even he can be considered "canonical" 100% of the time.

Personally, I think the idea of there being a rigid canon is stifling. One needs some sort of idea of what it is to make a coherent and believable story, but if you get to the point where you say, "Oh, I can't write that,good idea as it is, it contradicts the canon" then you should feel free to twist it. In literature, the canon should be your framework and support, not your cage. In what little I have written I have challenged the canon of the picture on an almost constant basis, and have challenged the canon of the Thompson text openly on at least one minor point. It's really all what you feel comfortable with.

Eric Gjovaag has this to say about the opinion that each fan can choose their own "official" Oz stories.
Nobody, least of all me, disagrees with that. There are people out there who even reject some of Baum's books from their own personal canon. Of course we all have books we like or dislike more than others, that's perfectly natural. And we're not all going to come up with the same list, either. A hypothetical new publisher of the Oz books can decide which books to issue, and I'd even go so far as to say that they shouldn't feel limited by the old definition of canon. Heck, I think they might want to consider publishing The Runaway in Oz in this not-yet-existing series, and I'd even tell them that, once the FF+ (the FF and other books by those writers) are out in this very-likely-never-to-happen-new-series, they should look at some of the other non-FF apocrypha and see what looks good there, and also commission new Oz books for their series. Wouldn't that be something, going to your local well-stocked bookshop and seeing fifty- or sixty-some Oz books, all lined up in modern, uniform new editions?

I hope fans can stay off this track that, somehow, Thompson and the rest shouldn't be counted at all? While it's true that Baum himself didn't commission them to continue the series, they did write under the auspices of Baum's publishers, with the permission and agreement of the Baum family. More recent Oz books can not make that distinction. For research purposes (but not for the sake of personal enjoyment), can we at least agree that the Famous Forty Oz Books exist?

Baum didn't get all caught up in his own canon and contradicted himself more than once within the series. And the rest of the Famous Forty writers didn't, either.

Marcus Mebes weighed in with this idea on how Baum would have felt about a posthumous continuation.
I personally believe that Baum would've loved the idea, for one simple reason: to please the children.

Ruthie's books are very silly and light-hearted, and more geared toward children than Baum's were. Hers were very well received, though sales did decline. People's tastes changed.

But in the end, what matters is that she made children happy, and that trumps profit any time.
My own opinion is that he would have wanted Maud to be cared for after his death, and the later books provided a way for this to happen.
Wanting to bring a view on what is normally considered "canon" with works of popular fiction, Blair Frodelius referred to this Wikipedia article.

Eric Gjovaag, in response to that article, reaffirmed his "selective canon" opinion:
The trouble is, the line between fan fiction and everything else is a lot blurrier with Oz than with anything else. The latter "official" Oz books were written by fans. Jack Snow, Rachel Cosgrove, and the McGraws all wrote their books because of their love for Oz, yet they were also published by the official Oz publishers in the same format and listed on the jackets as part of the Oz series.

Second, since The Wizard of Oz and other books have now entered public domain, anyone can write and publish a book and say "It's part of the series" (or at least "It's an Oz book").

There is no official sanctioning body any more to say what is and isn't "official", and so we are all allowed to decide for ourselves what books to consider part of whatever series of Oz books, however we want to define that. This is why I use "official" instead of official (note the quotes) in my FAQ, and take great pains to say that it's personal. I also say that one can still read and enjoy any Oz books (no matter how you define that) even if they're not part of your personal "official" series.

So, there you go, folks. What are the "official" Oz books? According the original publishers, the Famous Forty. At the heart of most fan works, Baum's books and sometimes the others. And for you, whatever you want.

Weekly Oz Update #4

The theatrical trailer for Leigh Scott's Witches of Oz was said to release this week. It could still pop up online tommorow or later tonight, but we'll see.

A 4D ride based on the upcoming 3D film Dorothy of Oz will debut at various theme parks and zoos across the country late next year from Attraction Media & Entertainment. We've known about the deal between Summertime and Attraction since earlier this year, but it seems that they've sealed the deal now. Look below for an early advertisement for the 4D attraction featured in the limited edition DOZ teaser comic.

Not much as far as Oz movie news goes has gone down this past week, but I expect some interesting casting announcements for Disney's forthcoming prequel to take place next week.

Collecting the Famous Forty +

Or at least, how I did it.

Most Oz fans consider the "Oz Books" to be the "Famous Forty." These books are The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the 39 original Oz novels that Reilly & Britton (later Reilly & Lee) published.

All of the writers of the "Famous Forty," Baum, Thompson, Neill, Snow, Cosgrove, and the McGraws, produced other Oz stories and work not included in this grouping. I wrote a complete list here. I recently took to calling this "The Famous Forty Plus," or, to look cooler, just "The Famous Forty +."

Baum also wrote a number of stories that occurred in the same universe as Oz, as listed here.

Collecting these books today ranges from easy to difficult, if you have a tight budget, which just about everyone does. The reason being that after Baum's books, no one publisher has published the rest of the Famous Forty, that is, after Reilly & Lee. Here's a photo of my collection (minus my Magical Monarch of Mo, which I was using for reference at the time):

The first Baum book you see in my present collection (I had some paperbacks that I either gave away or discarded after they fell apart) I got years ago, probably in 2001. It was partly a gift from my father, and partly use of birthday money from my maternal grandmother. (I have six siblings, we were used to not having a lot of extra money.) That was Little Wizard Stories of Oz.

The next one was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I saw it at a used bookstore my father would frequent, along with a water damaged copy of The Emerald City of Oz. Dad knew which one I really wanted. I'm not sure if he really saved my allowance, or used store credit, but after a few weeks of extra dish washing, it was mine.

Aside from the afore mentioned paperbacks, I didn't get many other Baum books until I started working. Some of Baum's "expanded universe" books I got from ordering through bookstores and Dad helped with those a bit.

It wasn't until 2005 that I finally began completing my collection. I'd gotten a job in the previous year and was doing pretty well at it. I would get my check on payday, cash it, then take it to Commerce Bank, and get a Visa gift card for about $25. (I was still budgeting.) Then, since I didn't have home internet, I'd go to the library and hit Amazon and other online sites, usually buying used copies. After getting an ex-library Ozma of Oz, I learned not to be too cheap. I think I threw that one away due to all the stamped pages and stickers, which tore it when I attempted to remove it.

I also picked up a number of other books, including just about every other Baum book in print that was in an edition worth collecting. (So I passed on the plain text only books.) It got easier after I started a bank account and got my own debit card.

One of the first big purchases I made online was a complete set of Hungry Tiger Press' Oz-Story Magazine. This was really my first "Plus" acquisition, as it contained two new short stories by The Hidden Valley of Oz's Rachel Cosgrove Payes, and the first printing of The Rundelstone of Oz by Merry Go-Round in Oz's Eloise McGraw. Also, there were various other works by Baum and the others as well, including The Woggle-Bug Book, but I already had the text of that in Hungry Tiger Press' edition of The Visitors from Oz.

So, there we were, collecting Baum books off and on. Every now and then, I did think, "I should look into getting the rest of the Famous Forty," but never did. I picked up other Oz books by other authors, but none of theirs. Closest I came to it was Hungry Tiger Press' Spectral Snow by Jack Snow, which had the story "A Murder in Oz" in it.

Finally, after buying a pricey and disappointing Oz book, one Oz collector and friend named Marcus Mebes decided I needed something to wash the bad taste out and gave me copies of Speedy in Oz and The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa, as well as my own copy of Who's Who in Oz, all of which I was glad to read and add to my collection.

Marcus and I have since worked out some exchanges for later Oz books, and he kept an eye out for books I was looking for, whether he could get them for me, or if they were for sale somewhere at a good price. He also rebound the pages of a first edition of Kabumpo in Oz for me in a new cover, which was sadly missing a couple pages, but at least I have a unique editon!

Another friend, David Tai, had a couple raggedy Reilly & Lee editions of Pirates in Oz and Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz. He sold them to me, but sent them to Marcus, who managed to rebind them and sent them on to me.

Lest you think Marcus did a lot of the work, my copies of The Giant Horse of Oz, The Hungry Tiger of Oz, and The Hidden Valley of Oz, I bought at the 2010 Winkie Convention. I found a first edition of Handy Mandy in Oz in a only slightly battered condition for cheap on Amazon, as well as The Wonder City of Oz and The Scalawagons of Oz, early Reilly & Lee editions (advertised as first editions, though I'd have to get them looked at to be sure) for about $40 each on Abebooks.

Captain Salt in Oz was an interesting one to pick up. The most affordable one was available on Amazon UK, even though they said they shipped from the US, and they would only ship to the UK. So, I had them send it to a friend in the UK, and she sent it to me.

The final two books I needed to finish off my collection were The Runaway in Oz and Merry-Go-Round in Oz, both of which I ordered from Books of Wonder. I also since picked up the hardcover edition of The Rundelstone of Oz.

In addition, I also managed to get Jack Snow's Dark Music and many of Eloise McGraw's non-Oz books. Working on getting more of Thompson's non-Oz material. I think I'm only lacking her Oz work that appeared in Sissajig and Other Surprises.

So... ...It took me ten years to complete the Famous Forty. Thus, when I say I wish they were all readily available, I mean it. It would have made it so much easier. Baum's books are available in uniform editions from Dover, Del Rey, Books of Wonder, and now the Bradford Exchange's replica series, but not Thompson, Neill, Snow, Cosgrove or the McGraws' books. Unless you have the money to get all of them in Reilly & Lee editions, which few people do. (Actually, first editions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz were shorter than the Reilly & Lee books.) And even then, the books outside the Famous Forty that are still considered Oz stories aren't in uniform style with them. Sunday Press' Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz ranks as one of the biggest Oz books ever, and no edition of The Woggle-Bug Book has been the same size as one of the Oz novels.

Properly sized reprints of Little Wizard Stories of Oz are shorter than the other Oz books, and the original editions of Thompson and McGraw's books as published by the International Wizard of Oz Club were oversized paperbacks. They were reprinted a few years ago in hardcovers that are uniform with the Books of Wonder Emerald City Press hardcovers (they didn't use this format for the Baum reprints), and most of Hungry Tiger Press' hardcovers. Lulu hardcovers I've never seen, but I believe they have a size about the same. These are the same height as the classic Oz book editions, but not the same width. (The originals had wider margins to the sides.)

It's something I wish could be rectified, but as seventeen of the Famous Forty are under copyright, a publisher probably wouldn't be too crazy about working out the rights. Still, you'd think these copyright owners might look into ways to make some money off of their properties, even if it was an e-book or print on demand edition.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't forget Sunday!

It's L. Frank Baum's birthday this Sunday, and I'd highly suggest you look around at the Oz blogs I have listed in the links bar over to the right, because I'm sure many of them will have special entries for the day!

As for us here on the Royal Blog of Oz, I'll be posting the next podcast! Maybe some of the other writers will post something, but that one is definitely guaranteed.

In addition, if you haven't sent a photo for Jane Albright's video project, why not go ahead and start planning what you want to do?

Jane's video is going to be a slideshow about Oz fandom, and she wants your photos of you and something that clearly says you're an Oz fan, whether posing with your collection, wearing Ozzy apparel, or even a costume? Or something else entirely! Just as long as it's clear that you're an Oz fan in the photo!

Jane suggested May 15th so you can do as part of Baum's birthday celebration, but if you're not able or need some more time to get it all together, you have until the end of June. Send them to!

You can read Jane's own announcement here.

Meanwhile, here's the photo I just sent of myself and a shelf that is being happily conquered by my Oz books and custom action figures.

Friday, May 06, 2011

'Witches of Oz' first still premieres HERE!

As promised, here is the very first still from the theatrical version of The Witches of Oz! Also, the film's website will be revamped next week along with the debut of the theatrical trailer for the film. The soundtrack to the film will be released on iTunes and on a limited edition CD two weeks prior to the film's release.

Please, please, please- avoid downloading the version of the film that is available on various websites online. The effects in the version circulating online and the effects in the two videos up on YouTube are not final, and not near as good as what you'll be seeing when the film makes its debut in your country. Check out the first official still from the theatrical version of the film below! Thanks to Leigh Scott for giving us permission to premiere this exclusively on The Royal Blog of Oz!

In the still below, The Witch makes her arrival in Manhattan!

EDIT: Since there has been so much confusion... The Witches of Oz is being released as an extended two-part television mini-series and as a feature-length film. Release dates for both will vary according to the specific country. As mentioned above, the theatrical version will premiere in the U.S. this summer, with the two-part cut premiering on TV in the U.S. and the UK later this year. The version leaked online is an early version of the mini-series. This leaked version does not serve the film justice as the effects are rough which makes a big impact on it's quality. Again, please wait until both versions premiere in your country.

Weekly Oz Update #3

There is an open casting call for extras in Disney's Oz, the Great and Powerful. If you live in the Detroit, Michigan area and you'd be interested in being an extra click here for more details.

Warner Home Video has announced Tom & Jerry & The Wizard of Oz, a direct-to-video animated movie coming to DVD & Blu-Ray August 23rd. Amazon has the DVD/BluRay combo pack listed for $17.49 here. It is also available on DVD.

Rachael Weisz is in talks to play one of the evil witches in Oz, the Great and Powerful. Read more about that here.

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has added many more promotional images and a new banner to their official website. Check back to their official website often for more.

I've gotta say...The Tom & Jerry/Oz crossover movie seems interesting, but we'll see.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Crew Worth Its Salt

Cross-posted from here.

In Pirates in Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson introduces the former pirate captain Samuel Salt. The crew made him captain because of his skill at navigation and piloting, but he was too kind-hearted to be an effective pirate. Hence, his crew deserted him, leaving him with only one ship, the Crescent Moon. With the help of a small makeshift crew, he thwarts the plans of Ruggedo and his former shipmates to conquer Oz, and is rewarded by Ozma with a knighthood and an appointment to Royal Explorer and Discoverer of Oz. In Captain Salt (incidentally the only one of the Famous Forty in which no action whatsoever takes place within Oz itself), Sir Samuel makes good on this, indulging his passion for collecting specimens along the way. He comes across as rather overzealous in his land-claiming and collecting, planting the flag of Oz on islands that are ignorant of his intentions, and capturing creatures with their own civilizations. We never learn what happens when he meets up with Ozma afterward, however, so maybe she sorts out some of his greater infractions. Or maybe she starts ruling her overseas empire with an iron fist, but I'm not sure that's really in character for her. Anyway, let's look at some members of the captain's crew.

King Ato VIII - The ruler of the Octagon Isle, a small island near Pingaree with a population of only 180 and an obsession with the number eight. His subjects desert him due to his lack of ambition, and join up with Ruggedo and the pirates in their attempt to conquer Oz. When he joins forces with Captain Salt, he is pretty much forced into the role of cook, and he eventually becomes quite skilled at it. Even after the restoration of his kingdom, he spends much of his time on board the Crescent Moon. According to brief references in the books in which he appears, Ato is about 1000 years old, weighs 250 pounds, and has only eight hairs remaining on his head.

Roger the Read Bird - Ato's Royal Reader is sort of like a parrot with a duck's head and a fan for a tail. Although living in an area where talking animals are rare, Roger talks quite well, and is fluent in eight different languages. His main job is to read books to Ato, his personal favorite being Maxims for Monarchs, a book of rather Machiavellian advice for kings. He tends to be more ambitious than his king, often recommending violent action to his companions. He generally serves as lookout on board the ship.

Peter Brown - This baseball-obsessed boy from Philadelphia was an established character well before he joined up with Captain Salt. When he was nine, he was taken to the Nonestic Ocean by a balloon bird, and escaped with Ruggedo from Runaway Island. He eventually hit the Nome King in the head with the Silence Stone, thwarting his attempt to send everyone in Ozma's palace to the bottom of the Nonestic. He was rewarded with two bags of gold from an old pirate ship, and the last piece of gold turned out to have the magical power to send him back to Oz two years later. In Jack Pumpkinhead, Peter and the title character join forces with Baron Belfaygor of Bourne in saving his fiancee Shirley Sunshine from the nasty Baron Mogodore of Baffleburg. Pirates takes place five years after Ruggedo had been beaned with the Silence Stone, which means that Peter should be fourteen, right? Well, he actually says in the text that he's eleven, but also that he's a Boy Scout, which wouldn't have been possible at that age. The prevailing theory seems to be that the publisher made Thompson reduce Peter's age, but we don't know for sure. The American boy's third visit to Oz occurred when he was blown off his grandfather's friend's yacht at Cape Hatteras, and he somehow ended up at the Octagon Isle. He served as cabin boy on the Crescent Moon, and returned home at the end of his adventure, never to be seen again in the canonical books. Why Thompson leaves his fate up in the air isn't entirely clear, but Eric Shanower's short story "The Two Peters" suggests that he grew up and had a family of his own in the United States.

Breakfast - King Ato discovered this Bananny Goat on the island of Nowhere, and brought her on board the ship so that the crew could have fresh bananas to eat. The goat's horns are bananas, which grow back when the old ones are plucked or fall off. She lives on banana skins, which sounds like a violation of the law on entropy, but who are we to question the workings of a magical goat? She doesn't last long on board the Crescent Moon, as her shed bananas quickly fill the entire ship, so the crew trades her to the Duke of Dork for the flying pig Pigasus. And since I've already written about him, I don't see the need to do so again in this post.

Sally - When Captain Salt and his crew use a cannon to return an infant prince to the volcanic island of Lavaland, the inhabitants of the volcano send over a salamander (the fire lizard kind, not the amphibian), whom Samuel adopts as a pet. She comes in handy for keeping his pipe lit, and while she doesn't talk, I have to wonder if she gains that ability upon the visit to Oz that the crew is planning at the end of Captain Salt.

Tazander Tazah - Known as Tandy for short (although he has no affiliation with Radio Shack's old computer line, as far as I know), this boy from Ozamaland on the long continent of Tarara is, in his own words, "a king and son of a king's son." When the Ozamandarins seek to take the power in the kingdom for themselves, they hire a giant jungle magician named Boglodore to kidnap the boy and leave him on the wild Patrippany Island. Captain Salt's crew finds him there, and takes him back to Ozamaland on the Crescent Moon. He starts out being rather stuck up and insufferable, but with some help from Roger, he eventually becomes quite friendly and helpful, and takes Peter's old place as cabin boy. His main skill is drawing, which comes in handy in making visual records of the flora and fauna that the captain can't collect. Upon reaching Ozamaland, Tandy and his friends overthrow the Ozamandarins, with a little help from the betrayed Boglodore. Tandy is officially crowned king, but he decides to remain on board the Crescent Moon, leaving Chunum the Sheik to rule Ozamaland in his absence.

Nikobo - I always thought it was kind of interesting that Baum's Rinkitink, which had little to do with Oz and took place primarily on the Nonestic, had a character named Nikobob (he was a charcoal burner on Regos, the father of Zella, and later the Chancellor of Pingaree). Then along comes Thompson with her own Nonestic adventure that only touches on Oz, and she introduces Nikobo. I wonder if Thompson had the earlier character's name in mind when naming her own. Anyway, Nikobo is a hippopotamus who lived in the Biggenlittle River on Patrippany. When Boglodore brought Tandy to the island, he wanted to keep the young king alive to serve as insurance against the untrustworthy Ozamandarins. So he magically gave Nikobo the power of speech and the desire to protect Tandy. Since Tandy refuses to leave Patrippany without the hippo, the crew builds a raft for her.

Mo-fi - While not exactly part of the crew, he DOES have a name, so I might as well include him. In Tazander Forest, which is made up of trees that grow in the ocean and is inhabited by flying fish, Roger managed to capture a monkey-fish, which is sort of like a monkey with scales and spikes. Tandy names him Mo-fi, and Roger teaches him how to say certain phrases. As with Sally, if he's able to speak fluently in Oz, I'd like to know what he would have to say.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Captain Salt in Oz

1936 found Thompson only a little reluctantly returning to Oz. After all, in her previous fifteen books, she had created many characters worth revisiting. So, what about that one book, Pirates in Oz, that introduced a Royal Explorer of Oz? Yep, sounds like it's worth revisiting.

King Ato of the Octagon Islands and Roger the Read Bird are finally reunited with Captain Salt on the Crescent Moon. Their expedition is to find new lands for the Land of Oz to branch out into (because Thompson realized just how many kingdoms she crammed into Oz) and collect specimens of new creatures.

Salt, Ato, and Roger have a little adventure with a volcanic island, complete with Lava people, and while this is a fun adventure, something feels lacking. Thompson may have noticed this herself, because Captain Salt's next stop adds two new characters to the crew, Nikobo the hippopotamus, and Tazander Tazah of Ozamaland, the king and the son of a king's son. However, he has been stranded on this island.

While Tandy (as Nikobo is fond to call him) has trouble getting over his ego, he eventually comes around and becomes an able seaman, proving himself by drawing a detailed picture of an attacking sea serpent. And with a child character on board, the story feels right at last.

Captain Salt and his crew visit more islands, most of them submitting to Ozma's rule, and Samuel gets more specimens, until they arrive at Ozamaland, where it is revealed that Tandy has been usurped and it's been a wicked plot by the king's councilor Didjabo, who worked with Boglodore, the Old Man of the Jungle. However, when Didjabo refuses to repay Boglodore, the Old Man gets his revenge by helping Tandy. He has his Umbrellaphant (an elephant that flies through a parachute-like layer of skin on its back) fly the traitors off the island and drops them into the sea, where they remain trapped forever.

Tandy takes back his kingdom, but instead of resuming active ruling, he appoints a regent and resumes his journeys with Captain Salt, Ato, Roger and Nikobo.

I rather liked Captain Salt in Oz, though I do find the idea of Ozma needing to have new lands conquered in her name a bit much. Like I said, the story drags early on without a leading child character, but once Tandy comes in, the story picks up the pace.

The character that really struck me is Nikobo the hippopotamus. She is extremely motherly to Tandy and makes for some fun dialogue. It's too bad she never reappears.

Thompson wasn't as into the intrigue of political usurpers as Baum. In the stories in which she did it, the true ruler invades their home again with either magic help (the big wig in The Hungry Tiger of Oz) or some ally (this story's Umbrellaphant). Compare this to The Scarecrow of Oz, where ... Oh, wait, the Ork did help out... But Baum did manage to make the plot more intriguing by further developing the villains, whereas Thompson only brings them in when the heroes draw near.

All in all, Captain Salt in Oz is a lot of fun! Even though Captain Salt technically isn't in Oz during the whole story.

Now let's see if I can get to Handy Mandy in Oz in less than a month!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Help Celebrate Baum's Birthday!

Hey! Are you an Oz fan? No? Then why are you reading my blog? ... Okay, fair enough...

Anyways, Jane Albright wants you shot! ... Not that way, with a camera, silly! She's getting together a slideshow video for a convention this summer and wants photos of Oz fans doing Ozzy things, wearing Ozzy stuff, or with Ozzy stuff.

And there's a great time to do it coming up, May 15th! L. Frank Baum's birthday! Or before if it's more convenient.

Just send the picture to!