Monday, October 31, 2011

The Witches of Oz — What Jared had to say

So, I watched The Witches of Oz on demand. I understand this was the miniseries cut, however, the two parts were sloppily put together and image was stretched to fit a standard TV screen.

But ignoring that, I enjoyed it.

I'm not going to say much because Sam is interested in reviewing his DVD, so here's the thing:

Dorothy Gale is a young woman who's been writing stories about Oz she has in her head as a series of children's books. She gets an offer to have her books made into a movie, and moves away from her widower uncle Henry in Kansas to New York where her agent Billie Westbrook has everything set up for her to start her new life.

However, everything's not as it seems to be. Witchy things begin to happen behind the scenes as tiny elfin folk begin to give Dorothy memory dust. What's going on? Whatever it is, it seems there's more to Oz than Dorothy realizes.

While it's definitely a reinvention of Oz mythos, the production shows great respect for the original Oz books. And it's not like they took random characters and events from the series and threw them together. Rather, elements all the way from The Magic of Oz and Glinda of Oz are referenced and even are worked into the plot, and worked very well, actually. The characters used are mainly in character, though a few liberties are taken. But as it is a reinvention, this can be forgiven, especially as the characters don't act unbelievably out of character.

Oh, and Christopher Lloyd as the Wizard? While he's not as spry and lively as Baum's Wizard, he's amazing in the role.

I understand there should be a movie edit released soon, with the story cut down to about half the length of the miniseries version, and I look forward to seeing it!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Which Witch on Halloween

Check out our friends over at L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to see their Wicked Witch of the West!

Frankly, I like it. She's old, wrinkled and ugly. Someone get some water!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dorothy and the Magic Belt

And I finally got my hands on the last Random House "Brand New Oz Adventure" book! Well, actually, the copy I wound up with was a British edition published by Puffin. Still, same story, same illustrations.

Dorothy and the Magic Belt was by Susan Saunders. I can't find much but bibliography for her. She mainly seems to have contributed to small book series.

Anyway, her contribution to this little series: Dorothy goes to Oz abruptly while explaining how she signals Ozma to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. While Dorothy takes the Sawhorse on an excursion in the Munchkin Country, a young boy plans to get back on Ozma: Dr. Nikidik's son, referred to as Nikidik the Younger or just Nik. He wanted to be a sorcerer, like his father, but since unauthorized magic in Oz is now illegal, Nikidik to Elder has agreed to follow the law.

Still, Nik wants to do magic, so what can he do? Go to the Emerald City and take the Magic Belt! He accomplishes this with "Youthing Powder," which makes people younger upon contact. When he makes all the people in the Emerald City into younger versions of themselves, taking the Magic Belt is a piece of cake! However, Tik-Tok manages to see what's going on.

Can Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and Jack Pumpkinhead get the Belt back from Nik and his aide, a youthful Mombi?

The story fails to fit in continuity about Mombi, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, and Dr. Nikidik in the later Oz books. A new future for Mombi is written that doesn't fit in with what Thompson wrote and what the Scarecrow suspects in The Tin Woodman of Oz. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are contacted by magic, meaning their skepticism about Oz in The Emerald City of Oz should be completely unfounded. As for Nikidik, this story's conclusion falls flat given we're told that Nikidik died later, and if you follow fan speculation that he was really Dr. Pipt, where's his son when we meet him in The Patchwork Girl of Oz?

David Rose's illustrations are still as good as ever, but now that I've seen four books, to be honest, I've seen Oz artwork I prefer over him. Not that he's bad, but he's got nothing on Denslow, Neill, or even Dick Martin.

Overall, I suppose the completist book collector would want this, but as it stands, it's just not a very great story.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thorns and Private Files in Oz

Little confession. I got The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy by swapping for them. However, when I was making the deal, they asked if I had Thorns and Private Files in Oz. I said, "No," so they threw it in. The illustrator of the book at hand, Marcus Mebes, confirmed that it should be read as The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz Book 2.5. So, I did.

The book is by Melody Grandy and Chris Dulabone. Writing styles of both are clearly evidenced in the text. According to the introduction, Marcus' pictures of some friends as a prince and princess bore a big resemblance to Jo Files and Ozga from Tik-Tok of Oz, inspiring the story. (You never know when you might influence someone to write an Oz story!)

You might think it's called Thorns and Private Files in Oz because Files is in it, right? Well, he is. But it turns out thorns and files that are private actually come into play in the story. How, I won't tell you exactly why.

Files and Ozga are living happily ever after in Oogaboo, reading and tending the book trees. However, when some of the stories on their trees prove to be Oz stories about the future, they and Hank the Mule (who's visiting) have to keep them away from Queen Ann. They manage to make the tree grow fiction, but not before Ann steals a few books. After they trick her with a copy of Dorothy Returns to Oz, they hide out in the forest, where they find a deserted castle full of overgrown rose bushes and thorns. However, Ozga disappears and Files and Hank must trust a gander and a curious old hermit woman to get her back.

The story feels incomplete. As it seems the plotline will resume in the final volume of The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz (the final illustration, by Melody Grandy, shows Files, Ozga and Hank with Dinny and Zim, which was later reused on the last book of the trilogy), it was a very odd piece on its own. At least it says "To Be Continued."

I guess I'll see if The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: Zim Greenleaf of Oz closes this story suitably.

Oz Film/TV Update

Several different pieces of artwork from the upcoming "Dorothy of Oz" movie are now available to purchase from Pop Culture Vault. Click here for more information.

A poorly-edited press reel for "Dorothy of Oz" has been released on YouTube by CW3PR. It has clips from the Entertainment Tonight segment, Good Morning America mention, etc. You can watch it here.

"The Witches of Oz" will be available on DVD & Blu-Ray in France on November 9th from Sony Home Entertainment. It will also air on FRANCE-4TV on Saturday, October 29. Part One airs at 20:35, Part Two airs at 22:05. Check local listings.

Several more screenshots from the director's cut of "The Witches of Oz", reportedly set to release in select U.S. theaters as early as next month, have popped up on the official Twitter page. Click here to see all the screenshots and new cast photos.

Our friends over at "L. Frank Baum's the Wonderful Wizard of Oz" have launched a countdown on their website, leading to the reveal of the Wicked Witch of the West. Did I mention I have a small role in this movie? Not sure if I did before. I'll be voicing two characters in the film; the Lead Crow and the Old Crow. Cool, right? Anyways, you can check out the countdown on their website here.

Speaking of my involvement in Oz movies, I'm working on a super secret project right now. I can't say what it is quite yet, but it's something some Oz fans have only dreamed of. Prepare for awesomeness. That's all I'll say for now.

Is anyone else surprised by the lack of press for Disney's "Oz, the Great and Powerful"?

Oziana 2009/2010

The 2009 and 2010 issues of Oziana were printed in a single volume, but they each have their own themes. The 2009 part is devoted to parodies and humorous takes on Oz, while the 2010 contains stories regarding governing in Oz. In the 2009 section, Brianna Landon's "Toto Reveals" tells the story of Dorothy's first trip to Oz from Toto's point of view. Eleanor Kennedy's "Barry Porter and the Sorceress of Oz" has a rather familiar boy wizard pay a visit to Glinda. While billed as a parody and containing silly names (in addition to Barry himself, there are mentions of Alvin Grumblebore and Lord Vol-au-vent), the tone actually isn't all that silly, instead offering a rather sincere look at how the two fantasy characters might interact. "The Ransom of Button-Bright" is a story in comic form, written by J.L. Bell and drawn by Shawn Maldonado. As the title suggests, it plays on "The Ransom of Red Chief," with Button-Bright aptly taking the role of the kidnap victim who drives his captors crazy. There's also an appearance by High Boy. Finally, Steve Teller's "The Trouble with the Magic Belt" is sort of a meta-story, with its protagonist getting rid of the Magic Belt to make Oz stories more interesting. The protagonist's name, Sterl Nephel, is obviously a play on Teller's own, and other characters are obvious parodies of other Oz fans who attended conventions back in the day. This issue is not the first to include Oz stories that parody other works. Phyllis Ann Karr's "The Eldritch Horror of Oz" brought a warped version of Lovecraft's universe into Oz, and "The Merchant of Oz" riffed on The Merchant of Venice while still coming across as a valid Oz story that tied up several loose ends that L. Frank Baum left. I've always kind of wanted to try writing something like that, but I'm not sure what I'd parody.

The 2010 part opens with "Celebrating Ozma: The Silver Jubilee Issue," about a series of stamps depicting the highlights of Ozma's reign, some of them drawn by illustrator Tim Art-McLaughlin. It also contains some amusing information on the postal system in Oz, which is something I've wondered about before, especially after Terry Pratchett wrote a book about the postal system in Ankh-Morpork. According to the story, the Postmaster General of Oz is the Post Man from The Purple Prince of Oz, with some wooden Gargoyles serving as his staff. Speaking of Purple Prince, that book had Glinda celebrating her hundredth anniversary as Ruler of the South, while authors Andrew and Rachel Heller make a reference to "five centuries of Glinda's rule." Oh, Glinda, why must information about you be so contradictory? What is it you have to hide? "Fiddle's Revenge," by high school student Arianna Brown, has the son of the giant spider the Cowardly Lion killed seeking revenge, and the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman helping the Winged Monkeys to trick him. Finally, J.L. Bell's "Invisible Fence" is about the investigation and trial of a boy and a cat involved in an illegal magic ring. The Tin Soldier, the Iffin, Pastoria, and Snip all play parts in the tale, and it's good to see them again. I always liked Ruth Plumly Thompson's portrayal in Lost King of Ozma's father as a kindly, absent-minded man; and his appearance here picks up on that characterization.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Penhale Broadcast

Marcus Mebes, editor of Oziana, reads Jack Snow's "The Penhale Broadcast" from Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales.

An experimental supernatural broadcast is carried out in the Penhale graveyard. Will the ghost of famed opera singer Sonya Parrish sing again?

You may also read the story here.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: Tippetarius in Oz

2000 brought the second in The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy. However, by this time Buckethead Enterprises had reorganized as Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends. A little goof happened during production and the book wound up being oversized. 11 inches high compared to the 8.5 inch of the other books. However, considering what happens in the story, it might be fitting that this book towers over the others in the series.

Aleda, a young woman from North Carolina, goes hang gliding but finds herself in Oz, befriended by a sixty foot giant she names Orlando who's very cautious about possibly hurting normal-sized people. Despite his good intentions, Orlando can't let her leave.

Meanwhile, Dinny decides he will travel Oz for a time, and to protect his secrets, Zim enchants him so he will not remember Zim when he is with other people. Dinny soon meets Orlando and Aleda, and they decide to make a break for it to the Emerald City before the people of Herku come to take Orlando away. However, Dinny is forced to travel on foot.

And meanwhile, in Lostland, King Whippetarius dies and Slippetatius is about to take the throne. However, the Queen tasks them to find their missing brother Tippetarius, who she reveals they knew better as Amalea their sister. (Go read book one.) They find neither, but they do find someone who looks a lot like their sister...

Orlando, being a good giant, is given golden rings he can wear to make himself a normal sized human being or remove to become a giant. Aleda and Orlando go on a tour through Oz with the Scarecrow and Scraps, and they come across a village ruled by a fairy princess named Celestia who was unaware that she is under another fairy's rule. The four manage to find Zim and when he discovers Celestia will attack the Emerald City, he must go and try to put a stop to it.

Many secrets about the characters are unraveled, but more questions arise. However, I can't say too much about those without spoiling it.

Grandy manages to keep her plots moving at a good pace so as not to lose the reader. I will note that the plots I mentioned get tied up about three quarters of the way into the book and there is a new focus for the rest of the book.

The illustrations, possibly because of the size of the book, feel more sparse than they did in book one. There are fewer illustrations of what happens in the story. Sometimes whimsical pictures of Zim appear instead of actual illustrations of what's going on in the story. The pictures that are there are good, I just wish there'd been more. (A picture of Brown Bleegum was obviously recycled from the first book.)

Anyway, this was a trilogy. But would it deliver in the end? We'll see... (Seriously, I haven't read it yet. I don't know.)

Oh, and you can get Tippetarius in Oz here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz

Jared and Sam discuss the third and final Oz film from the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. As always, you can download at the podcast site, or use the player below.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"I spent my better years as a goat"

Mr. Nathan DeHoff recently reviewed Oziana 38, including my first short story (and first published Oz story), "Bud and the Red Jinn." (The clever subtitle "Don'tAlways Look a Gift HorseGoat in the Mouth" was a title suggestion by the editor, and I suggested it be a subtitle instead.)

As I wrote when I reviewed the issue, I was familiar with the characters, only needing some extra basics on Jinnicky. However, one character proved to be an odd one to tackle: Prince Bobo of Boboland.

Bobo was introduced in Rinkitink in Oz, spending most of the story as a surly goat named Bilbil. When the Wizard meets him, he's able to see that Bilbil is the enchanted Bobo and the Wizard and Glinda restore him.
Bobo humbly begged Rinkitink's forgiveness for having been so disagreeable to him at times, saying that the nature of a goat had influenced him, and the surly disposition he had shown was a part of his enchantment. But the jolly King assured the Prince that he had really enjoyed Bilbil's grumpy speeches and forgave him readily. Indeed, they all discovered the young Prince Bobo to be an exceedingly courteous and pleasant person, although he was somewhat reserved and dignified.
Sounds like he might be a nice guy, right? But at the end, Baum gives us a bit that suggests all might not be what it seems with this handsome prince:
And Bobo replied with a smile: "Like all your songs, dear Rinkitink, the sentiment far excels the poetry."
Hmmm... Something could be up there. Like he's masking his true feelings. Anyway, however you want to interpret this, it's all Baum ever wrote about Bobo, and the character never resurfaced in the later Famous Forty +.

When the editor and I were plotting my little story, we built up the story about Bud and Jinnicky meeting at a party held by Zixi and a guest would arrive with the worst gift you could give the Queen of Ix. I just randomly said "Prince Bobo of Boboland," and he was in, and I quickly came up with the idea that he was "attempting to re-establish diplomatic connection." In our plotting, he remained very much the nice guy Baum left him. He'd be an unaware antagonist.

However, when I was writing it, it struck me it would be more interesting if Bobo had a bit of an attitude. I mean, given what happens in my story, anyone might get upset at someone telling them they couldn't give someone a certain gift, and then not being able to give them a reason. But to play that up a bit more was irresistible, and I made it part of my take on Bobo. I did tell J.L. Bell about my story at Winkies a bit, and said Bobo was "a jerk," but that might be a bit much.

Bobo as drawn by John R. Neill
Anyway, that was just my story alone. However, my story is being incorporated into the first volume of the upcoming trilogy Royal Explorers of Oz by Marcus Mebes, Jeff Rester, and myself that will explore Bobo's character further. (It's mainly been written already.) I got to rewrite the first chapter that had my story in it, and got to work with Bobo a bit more and then added a small part later in the story. Bobo is one of the main characters, along with other Oz favorites like Captain Salt, Ato, and Tandy. And given more time, I do believe Bobo being called "a jerk" might be just a bit too nice...

Anyway, after I'd written and edited and sent in my story, I began to think how the characters would look. I knew I would want the Queen Zixi of Ix characters to look like how they do in Fredrick Richardson's illustrations for that book (I'll say it again: Neill's Zixi is ugly compared to Richardson's). Jinnicky's look was already established by Neill and it was impossible to think of him looking any different than that.

But what about Bobo? Neill had only drawn him once, and it wasn't much to go on. However, as I tried to visualize the story even more, Bobo suddenly grabbed a face that was in the back of my mind.

For you Doctor Who fans, yes, that's Francesco from the episode "Vampires of Venice," played by the amazing Alex Price.

I was excited that Anna-Maria Cool was going to illustrate my story, so I sent that first screencap as a suggestion for how I thought Bobo could look. This is what she came up with:
So, looks I had a pretty big hand in defining a character for Prince Bobo of Boboland and his look as well!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: The Disenchanted Princess of Oz

In 1986, a new Oz publisher broke onto the scene: Chris Dulabone with his small imprint "Buckethead Enterprises of Oz." Intended to be non-profit, the imprint brought out new Oz stories, meant to flow with the continuity of the Famous Forty Oz books. Oz stories by Dulabone and other writers came out, and were of varying quality, but all had definite respect for the original Oz stories and made for fun reading.

In 1995, an elaborate-looking volume was published by Buckethead, titled The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: The Disenchanted Princess of Oz by Melody Grandy. Not only did Melody write the story, she also designed it, illustrated it, and took care of the cover design. The final result is a pleasant-looking Oz book.

The book opens with Princess Amalea of Lostland awakening from a nap in the royal garden. ... At least, she was Princess Amalea. To her surprise, she is now a boy! Unrecognized, she .... uh... he, I should say, must leave the palace. He's forced to go to Oz, where he takes the name Amadin, but most people wind up calling him "Dinny" for short.

Dinny arrives in the Seven Blue Mountains, where he meets Maggie the witch, who, when he tells her he's been transformed from a girl, she checks her magic mirror to make sure. The mirror reveals Dinny is in his natural form. So what happened?

One day, Dinny finds a tunnel, and curious, he follows it. However, he gets lost, but finds his way into a beautiful but mysterious garden. Eating a berry he finds, he suddenly shrinks to a tiny size. Talking to insects and other animals that live in the garden, he learns it has a sole caretaker, a man named Sim. Or Zim. (Dang praying mantis, couldn't pronounce S or Z properly.) Eventually, Dinny gets a message to Zim, who finds him and restores him to his proper size.

Zim, however, is quite an unusual character himself. Green-haired, lanky, and about eight feet tall, he seems friendly enough to Dinny once he has explained himself.

Zim, however, wasn't a new character for Melody. She'd "written" about him earlier. But not in a story. More like this:
Yep, he'd appeared in a text adventure! A text adventure that's a bit tricky to get running and even trickier to "win" properly. (A feat I've yet to accomplish.)

Dinny takes an interest in Zim's work and Zim takes him as an apprentice. And now I can't tell you much more because the rest of it should really be read to be properly enjoyed.

The book is very episodic, one or more chapters tell a story that are associated with our main characters. (In a recent blog, I mentioned the episode with Faraq, a man who becomes glass.) If you really don't enjoy episodic stories, then you might not like this one. However, I had no problem with it. (Mr. "I've read Magical Monarch of Mo and Life and Adventures of Santa Claus so many times.") Anyway, aside from that, I really can't fault Melody's writing. While she only just barely brings in established Oz mythos in, she doesn't contradict it either.

Melody draws from a number of the Famous Forty Oz books. You might think Dinny's story sounds familiar, and there is a reason for that. And if you think shrinking because you ate a berry sounds familiar, the berry had the name micromorphosa pessim. I suppose to fully enjoy reading Disenchanted Princess, you'd have to have read the Famous Forty, but I guess one could enjoy it well enough after reading just Baum's.

And would I recommend it? Yes. It's a great big story, spanning seventy-five years, and Melody's artwork is incredible! So, yes, go ahead pick it up.

Always on My Mettle

Cross-posted from my WordPress.

As anyone who has read pretty much any of the Oz books knows, the Tin Woodman's most valued trait is his kind heart, which he associates with emotions. Obviously emotions really come from the brain, but since they can affect the heart, the organ has come to be associated with feelings. As per Nick Chopper's own admission in The Tin Woodman of Oz, his heart is kind rather than loving, although this distinction is basically just in his own mind. Anyway, in the latest issue of The Baum Bugle, an article by Richard Tuerk points out that Nick's quest in his own book isn't driven by love or kindness, but by a sense of duty. The fact that he doesn't even think of how Nimmie Amee might feel, but simply assumes that she's still pining for him like she was years before, shows that he's not particularly using his heart in this situation. With this in mind, I thought back to how Nick comes across in other books, and whether his heart is really as effective as he seems to think.

In the very first Oz book, we find the Tin Woodman, before he receives his plush heart from the Wizard of Oz, crying because he steps on a beetle. Later, he kills a wildcat that's chasing a mouse. Obviously he's not totally opposed to violence, and often does a fair amount of fighting with his axe. In Land, L. Frank Baum states, "The Tin Woodman was usually a peaceful man, but when occasion required he could fight as fiercely as a Roman gladiator." As a general rule, however, he tends to fight against those who are oppressing others. One of his most consistent traits is that he's a supporter of the helpless. In Patchwork Girl, he absolutely refuses to allow Ojo to take the left wing of a yellow butterfly, even though he needs it (or at least thinks he does) to restore his Unc Nunkie to life. Dorothy and the Wizard has him going along with the Wizard's plan to use trickery to save Eureka from execution. In Lost Princess, we learn of a ferryman whose power to communicate with animals was taken away at Nick's command as punishment for his cruel actions against a fox, a fish, and a bird. Exactly how the Tin Man accomplished this is unclear, but as the power for humans and animals to talk to each other is usually shown as pretty much absolute within Oz, it comes across as a pretty severe penalty. One exception to this rule, perhaps, is that he laughs off Jinjur's Army of Revolt. The girls have invaded and conquered the Emerald City, but they do have some legitimate grievances. Nick advises treating Jinjur kindly, but that's about it as far as his sympathy goes. Perhaps he's more biased than he would normally be due to the fact that the girls drove out his best friend, the Scarecrow. Also, as in Tin Woodman, he shows some signs of unwitting sexism.

Another consistent characteristic of the Tin Emperor is his pride, pertaining largely to his appearance. The Scarecrow points out in Land that his "friend was ever inclined to be a dandy," and we learn that he's taken the title of Emperor despite the fact that the Winkie Country is only a kingdom. (Actually, later books reveal that it contains other smaller kingdoms, so "Emperor" isn't really that far off, but it's true that none of the other quadrant rulers use it, nor does Ozma.) When Ruth Plumly Thompson, who used the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion quite frequently but tended to relegate the Tin Woodman to bit parts, finally gave Nick a major role in Ozoplaning, it's his pride that she showcases. I'm not the only one to think Nick seemed a little off in that book, but as Kenneth Shepherd observed, his claiming Stratovania for Ozma fits pretty well with his insistence on being called an emperor. It sort of fits that the Tin Woodman's sense of pride and honor would occasionally get in the way of his kindness. He's a quite sympathetic individual, sure, but he's not at all humble.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Death and Dying in Oz

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Land of Oz (meaning, in this case, the four countries and the Emerald City) really doesn't seem too different from anywhere: animals can talk, and some of them are very strange, and people can do magic. But later on in the series, we discover that people cannot die.

Animals, however, are not so lucky. The Wicked Witch of the West's wolves, crows, and bees are all dead, or so we are told, as is a giant spider the Cowardly Lion defeated, and also a wildcat. We are also led to believe the Kalidahs that pursued our heroes also perished. In The Road to Oz, we are told a pet bear choked to death and was made into a rug before being brought back to life with a Powder of Life. (With a notably different formula.)

So, if we assume Oz was always this way, it gets problematic. The Tin Woodman tells us his parents died, while somehow he managed to become completely metal by his body being replaced by metal and—seemingly—his "liveliness" and soul being moved to this new body. So much that he could even be taken apart and have replacement parts made and still be a live metal man.

Baum never gives us another such character with such a strange history, except for Captain Fyter, whose story is almost verbatim Nick Chopper's origin again.

Thompson played with it a few times. She offers the explanation that the Scarecrow's body is now the new home of the "liveliness" and soul of Emperor Chang Wang Woe, which feels odd to me, as the Scarecrow never feels like how she described the Emperor. Perhaps the Scarecrow got the Emperor's "liveliness," but not his soul.

Bill, a weathervane rooster in Grampa in Oz, came to life after being struck by a "live wire." But more interesting is Dr. Herby in The Giant Horse of Oz. Mombi tossed him into a bottling solution which dissolved him into liquid, seemingly, which would seemingly prevent him from living. However, when the bottle his liquid was poured into was broken, he reconstituted into a live form. (Not exactly his original form, though.)

Few Oz stories I've read have played with this extreme again. It's more or less maintained (as established by Baum) that a person could be thoroughly destroyed, which would be as good as dead. However, this extreme is hard to pinpoint: a person chopped into tiny pieces would still be alive. What if they were burned to ashes? Or... digested?

An Oz book I'm reading now has another example. It's outside the Famous Forty +, so it's bearing on canon is subjective. It's The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz: The Disenchanted Princess of Oz by Melody Grandy. In one episode in the book, a man named Faraq falls into a vat of glass ready to be blown. He is presumed dead, but when a glassblower uses this glass, the glass forms into a crystal replica of Faraq, who is also alive. Like the Tin Woodman, Captain Fyter, and Dr. Herby, his body has been replaced with a non-flesh substance.

So it appears to me that as far as death in Oz goes, it is impossible for people to die, especially since the people of Oz have been enjoying a selective aging process since Ozma began her rule it seems. If an animal dies by some means, then it is dead. (As happens to one of Billina's chicks in The Emerald City of Oz, apparently animals are also not immune to disease.) However, if a body is unable to support life, the "liveliness" and soul of the person may enter another substance (sometimes, that which destroyed its body), and in the cases we know of, it attempts to take human shape. This now raises the question, wouldn't that mean that the "liveliness" (there's got to be a better term) and souls of many people who had "died" in Oz before Ozma's reign are either in new forms or floating about there?

... That's kind of creepy.

Oziana 2004; Return to Nomes

Recently I just read a small selection of Ozianas I got from Marcus and among them was the above year issue with the mentioned story "Evrob and the Nomes", which I should like to review here.

Written by J. L. Bell and using illustrations "adapted from John R Neill", this story takes place after "the Emerald City of Oz" and involves of the Royal Family of Ev at the beach, one of the members in particular: young prince Evrob. He likes to dig and he does a good job at it, but, being part of a big family, his sisters and brothers doesn't let him have all the fun he wants in terms of using the pale and spade. Getting cross with his family (and Nanny Wheeler) he says how he'll go live with the Nomes which upsets his family and gets himself into a small bit of trouble. Being escorted back to the palace by Nanny Wheeler, Evrob instead walks away to a rocky area and eventually meets a big round Nome named Purfin. In time the two get along and being taken to the Chief Steward/Chamberlain Kaliko who is taking care of business for the absent-minded Nome King Roquat - or is it Ruggedo? Evrob just wants to dig . . . and here he is allowed to do that to his heart's content.
Dorothy is with Glinda and (vaguely) reads about Evrob being with the Nomes in her Great Book of Records and wants to help out, but Glinda tells her not to be too concerned about affairs in other countries (reading teh story sounds better than reading it here in my review). Regardless, Dorothy takes the Magic Belt and appears in the Underground Kingdom to "rescue" the Prince with the Belt's magic to defend herself and fight the Nomes, when Evrob's brothers come in and convince him to come back. Evrob agrees to go home, but also hopes to come back and dig some more soon. Before leaving, Dorothy speaks a firm word with the King.

I did enjoy the story but I had a few problems with the story. Nothing too drastic or major, but it may just be the way I felt about some things.

While I may not have as many siblings as Evrob does, I did get annoyed along with Evrob as his sisters and baby brother wouldn't let Evrob have his fun digging with the equipment he needed and the anxious pickiness of Nanny Wheeler. I was surprised when King Evardo was described as folding his arms "over his chest so his biceps looked bigger" - likewise it is unusual for other fairylands outside of Oz to be given bathing suits with "shoulder straps" that appears to be modern such as done with Oz nowadays.

I liked Evrob's time with the Nomes, especially Purfin, best and how Kaliko reacted when seeing the young prince of Ev makes him worry of dealing with Ozma and running about with orders to the Nomes.

Dorothy, here, I wasn't as happy with. I thought that her taking action was reckless and careless and done through not finding out the whole situation properly, disregarding Glinda's best advice.

And of course it reuses and "adapts" John R Neill's illustrations (except for the NEW one of Evrob in his beach clothes), which are from "Ozma" and "Tik-Tok" (not quite sure where the Nome King picture comes from, however). Like I said this story is set after "EMERALD CITY" but using a picture of Dorothy from "Ozma" and adding in the Magic belt (and changing an arm - adapting), it kept making me think it was more After "OZMA" than later.

I will probably enjoy the story more if I read again (and fix up any errors typed here). A Very GOOD short Oz story that involves the Family of Ev, no longer a group of victims as first introduced but a normal, royal yet regular, somewhat dysfunctional family in a Fairyland; a Story that also shows how the name change from Roquat to Ruggedo came about and, as pointed out, the possible 'promotion' from Chamberlain to Chief Steward (or vice versa) for Kaliko.

Again, a GOOD Oz Story that clarifies some name changes and shows the pains of a royal family but also a Dorothy who seems impatient and too eager to resolve a problem that wasn't really hers to be concerned about (I am sure had she not appeared, Evardo would have eventually managed to convince his brother to come home anyway). Hopefully another read will make me less irritated by these little things, and get used to the illustrations and costume descriptions . . .

Friday, October 14, 2011

He's the Wizard

One of my favorite characters in the Oz books is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs. (And yes, I did just type that from memory.) A few Oz fans, when they heard that, wondered why. "He doesn't do much!" one said. "I hate the Wizard! He's probably the Wicked Witch of the West's father!" said another.

Needless to say, I don't really take the second one's advice to heart much...

But it sure was a breath of fresh air when I was at my first Winkie Convention last year and people actually understood why I liked him before I had to explain anything.

Oscar was the son of a politician who ran away and joined a circus, learning sleight of hand, ventriloquism, and various other tricks. Eventually, he became a balloonist and went up to help publicize the circus. But one day, the balloon got away and he was taken to Oz, where the people named him a Wizard.

Unfortunately for Oscar, the land was held by four witches, two good and two wicked. Oscar must have known his lack of magic would likely make a close working relationship with the good witches as dangerous as facing the wicked witches, because we are never told he went to them for help.

We do know that either he lived in the land of the Winkies for awhile or tried to conquer the Wicked Witch of the West once. She used the Golden Cap to make the Winkies her slaves, then drive the Wizard out of the West. (Donald Abbot's How the Wizard Came to Oz explains he landed in the Winkie Country.)

We also know the Wizard had the Emerald City built, though it's controversial if it was on the site of an old capitol. Whether or not the Yellow Brick Road was built as a thoroughfare to the Emerald City through Munchkin Country is also debatable, though given how hostile the Wicked Witch of the West was to the Wizard, why would the Wicked Witch of the East be any different? Thus, it may be likely the yellow brick road was built before the Wizard arrived.

It's not clear when the Wizard shut himself up. Did he do it at the close of some victory against the Wicked Witches? Or was it just after the Emerald City was built?

Another messy subject is his supposed involvement with turning Ozma over to Mombi's care. He isn't present when we're told he did this, and Mombi tells us he did while wearing a pearl of truth. From what she says, he brought her Ozma and begged her to conceal the child. What his motives were for this is completely unclear. However, if it really happened this way, given his nature in other Oz stories, it seems likely he was under the impression that Ozma would be safe with someone who knew magic looking after her in private rather than her growing up in the palace. (According to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Mombi already had a shady past herself by this time.)

Then, for years, the Wizard stayed in the palace, either having servants help him or leaving the palace incognito. Finally, when he got word that Dorothy had killed the Wicked Witch of the East, he must have hoped the death of the Wicked Witch of the West would not be far behind. Because, you see, his staying hidden prevented the fact that he wasn't a real Wizard from getting out, thus letting the Wicked Witches know they could easily attack the Emerald City whenever they wanted.

Fortunately for him, Dorothy arrived in the Emerald City, so he tasked her to kill the last Wicked Witch that held part of Oz in bondage. Dorothy managed to do this. We can only assume he knew that with the Good Witch's mark (which he noticed), Dorothy wouldn't be harmed, so he didn't feel too badly about sending a little girl to do this.

We know how he gave the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion placebo gifts to simulate their desired brain, heart, and courage, a move that comes across as disturbing, but he did try to encourage them to look inside themselves for what they wanted. Then, he attempted to fly Dorothy back to Kansas in a hot air balloon, but Dorothy missed the flight.

Baum reveals later that the Wizard made it back to the United States safe and sound. Unable to find his old friends, he joined a circus again, possibly adding a new act with a collapsible sword and pistols to his repertoire, if it wasn't already there.

Also, he had a new trick with nine tiny piglets. He tells Dorothy in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz that he got them on the island of Teenty-Weent, where everything is small. However, in The Tin Woodman of Oz, the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow and their friends meet Professor Swyne and his wife, who say they are the piglets' parents. This could be explained that the Wizard picked them up before leaving Oz (he did say hot air isn't the best to work a balloon with), and somehow they became permanently tiny. The Wizard could have made up the Teenty-Weent story as part of his act, and had told it so many times that by the time Dorothy asked about it, he said it without thinking twice.

What else the Wizard may have done back in the United States is not revealed, though some speculation about The Woggle-Bug Book might indicate that someone stole a balloon he was working. However, if that's true, he got another one and when it went down, it slipped into a crack in the earth.

This led the Wizard into the adventure recounted in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, which reunited him with Dorothy and eventually returned him to Oz, where Ozma allowed him to stay as the royal Wizard, saying a humbug Wizard was the safest to have.

However, the Wizard's mind, now freed from work and worry, began conceiving machines to perform impressive feats with. He managed to create a machine that would blow immense soap bubbles that would harden to carry a person inside. Showing this off at Ozma's Grand Birthday Party, many guests opted to ride home in them, their bubbles being guided by magic to return them home. (Although they could support a person, I hope that magic also kept the bubble intact for the journey.)

The Wizard also began learning actual magic under Glinda's tutelage, becoming almost as an accomplished magician as herself. In later Oz adventures, he is able to take initiative and be depended upon, saving the day in The Magic of Oz, or seeing through enchantments in Rinkitink in Oz and The Lost Princess of Oz.

Later Oz books by Thompson and the others used him in varying roles, but Thompson was fond of creating her own magic workers. Her lovable Jinnicky the Red Jinn of Ev even gave himself a rivalry with the Wizard. She and Neill made the Wizard an inventor, turning out new magic tools and vehicles, and Neill even made him a bit of a busybody. Jack Snow had him step aside to let Ozana or the King of the Fairy Beavers do what they needed, while Cosgrove and McGraw only had him in minor roles.

Still, the Wizard, as he was conceived, proves to be an imaginative and curious fellow, one quite worth working with. (Yes, he is one of the main characters in my Outsiders From Oz.) I hope I'm not the only one who sees a lot of potential left in Mr. Diggs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Autumn 2011 Bugle and Oziana 38

Cross-posted from my WordPress.

Since I just recently received my copies of the Autumn 2011 Baum Bugle and Oziana 38, I might as well say a bit about them. First, the Bugle. This issue includes an article by Ruth Berman about mermaids, focusing on the ones in L. Frank Baum's fantasies, but also mentioning some literary antecedents. The idea of a being part human and part fish goes back to ancient mythology, with the Greek Triton having that form, and some suspecting the Phoenician Dagon did as well. As Ruth indicates, however, mermaid literature didn't really become prominent until the nineteenth century, and Baum plays on the idea of mermaids as beautiful but vicious creatures who cause hapless people to drown by having his benevolent sea fairies correct Cap'n Bill on this point. The article also mentions that Davy Jones and his staff from Hugh Pendexter's Wooglet in Oz were actually a callback to W.W. Denslow's The Pearl and the Pumpkin. I was not aware. There are also some reviews of The Sea Fairies from when it first came out, most of them being quite positive. As it turned out, though, this and its successor Sky Island didn't sell anywhere near as well as the Oz books, so Baum had to return to his cash cow a few years later. Another interesting article is Richard Tuerk's "Head Versus Heart in The Tin Woodman of Oz," which demonstrates that, for all his talking about his heart, the Tin Woodman actually focuses more on his head (at one point literally) during his own book. I think it might be interesting to examine Nick Chopper's other appearances with this in mind, and see how much he really is led by his heart. Tuerk makes the point that Nick is motivated by duty in Tin Woodman, and it seems to me this is a major character trait of the Tin Man's in other books as well, perhaps sometimes more significant than his kind heart.

Regarding Oziana, I have been in communication with most of the authors involved at some point or other. The Oz community has always been rather small, and now with the Internet, it's not too unlikely that anyone involved in Oz fandom knows a lot of the other participants as well. It makes it difficult to get unbiased reviews of Oz material, but I tend to be pretty biased when it comes to Oz anyway. There's also more of a link between the different stories than is common for Oziana, probably due to intentional effort on editor Marcus Mebes' part. David Tai's "Executive Decisions" deals with what really happened when Ozma supposedly had Mombi executed at the end of the Lost King, making the valid point that she promised to care for the former Wicked Witch of the North in her old age. Mind you, this contradicts the also excellent Bucketheads in Oz, which I just finished scanning for characters and hence is on my mind, but it's hard to achieve total consistency with everything even if you want to. Jared Davis' "Bud and the Red Jinn, or Don'tAlways Look a Gift HorseGoat in the Mouth" has Prince Bobo of Boboland pay a visit to Queen Zixi of Ix, and his stubbornness almost causes an international incident. When I tried to write a story featuring the disenchanted Bobo, I made him kindly and not all that interesting, building on the statement in Chapter 22 of Rinkitink that "Prince Bobo humbly begged Rinkitink's forgiveness for having been so disagreeable to him, at times, saying that the nature of a goat had influenced him and the surly disposition he had shown was a part of his enchantment." Jared makes Bobo retain some of his stubborn personality, and I must say I prefer his characterization. Then again, I WAS in high school when I wrote my story. "Polychrome Visits the Sea Fairies" is a tale by Gina Wickwar, author of The Hidden Prince of Oz and Toto of Oz, which is basically a sequel to The Sea Fairies. It returns to the island of seals that played a small part in that book, and says a bit about what happened to the devilfish after the death of Zog. Technically speaking, it's really not so much an Oz story as a Borderlands one. Even Polychrome, who was introduced in Road, also appeared in Sky Island, so she's not strictly an Oz character. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference anyway, since Baum eventually tied most of his fantasy lands together, but it's interesting. "Thy Fearful Symmetry," by Jeff Rester, features the Hungry Tiger, his past dealings with Mombi, and how his main character trait developed. Finally, "The Bashful Baker's Honeymoon" is a follow-up to Marcus Mebes' earlier Bashful Baker and Shipwrecked, bringing Maria and Derek to Captain Salt's ship in the Nonestic Ocean. All are worth reading, and the illustrations are also excellent. I still need to get the double issue, 39/40, which contrary to all reason was actually published before this one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Podcast thoughts

As of tomorrow, we will officially have three podcasts with recorded audio. With one more in the works. Oh, goodness...

I have a chat with Ruth Berman, "Movies of Oz" #4, the Halloween special, and the Christmas special has been completely cast and planned. (Actually, it's been that way since mid-August. Yes, we don't mess around with Christmas here. And that Halloween special was suggested last Halloween...)

That being said, what would you like to see happen with the podcast? New ideas for audio presentations?

I would love it if people with rare Oz audio treasures they could legally share could partner with the podcast (for one episode only) to allow these items to become widespread, if they'd be willing. They'd just have to understand that it wouldn't be a commercial release. I have to pay for the storage space for the podcast, and I don't regret it at all, however, it's not like the podcast makes that back.

Anyway, the payment gets me 300MB a month to store stuff, and with one or two podcasts a month, we're barely using that. (Yes, we don't get storage rollover.) So, yeah, if you've got Oz-related audio you'd like to share, given we have the legal right to, I'd be interested in releasing it. Just contact me.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Winkies 2012

Okay, David Maxine announced next year's Winkie Convention in more detail today. And do I plan to go? ... I think I've already said yes.

Again, it's a triad of book celebrations with Baum's Sky Island, and Thompson's Kabumpo in Oz and The Purple Prince of Oz, celebrating their 100th, 90th, and 80th anniversaries respectively. So we have Sky Island and Pumperdink! Pink, blue, and purple. ... Hey...

Also, my little "discovery" of Susan Morse will be there. If you don't remember, she sang Dorothy's songs for the 1964 Return to Oz, and has also appeared in many musicals such as The Sound of Music and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And we have another "half-Dorothy" in Caren Marsh-Doll, Judy Garland's stand-in for MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

Other events are pending announcement, but so far, Eric Shanower will be doing some sort of presentation, and—get this—I've signed up to do a presentation about Thompson's Oz. (Yes, this is one of those things I said I wasn't telling you about quite yet a few blogs back.) I just finished Thompson's books a few months ago, and now I'm giving a talk about them!

And of course there'll be the Winkie Quiz (again, I'm presenting the standard quiz, so study Sky Island), the Costume Contest (or Masquerade, either works... it's not always the costume so much as the "act" behind it!), and the Auction. And there'll also be the dealer's room with many tempting Oz oddities from the past and present, and it sounds like the swap meet was a success and will be repeated. (I'm already stocking up on stuff to bring!)
You never know who'll show up...

The cost has had to rise this year, just like everything else has just about, but David and Peter Hanff worked hard to minimize it. For a shared room, it'll be $339, only a $14 increase over last year. So, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to cover this increase.

And remember, that covers just about everything you'll need at the convention: your hotel room, your meals, and you'll get the Winkie Convention 2012 program book, which has proved to be quite a hit with convention goers (it's a keepsake, a guide, and something fun to read in one package!) and Oz collectors!

So, how's about it? Will we see you at Winkies 2012?

Review: "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" (2012)

It's Friday! And today, I'll be doing a movie review!

The highly-anticipated feature film, "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" stars Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd and gives the classic story a modern twist. Watch the official trailer here.

If you've been reading my previous blogs, then you know that I've been expecting a review copy of the theatrical version of "The Witches of Oz", now re-named "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz", for quite some time now. It arrived on Wednesday, and I immediately popped it into my Blu-Ray player to watch it! If you've seen the TV version of the movie, which I know many of you have, let me just say that the theatrical version of the movie is very, very different.

The theatrical version is not only shorter than the TV version, but 90% of the special effects have been re-done as well. There are fifteen minutes of all new footage, and overall, I was really impressed with this version of the movie. It works much better as a feature film than a TV mini-series. It flows much better in this version.

Dorothy and the Witches of Oz follows the exploits of the grown Dorothy Gale, now a successful children's book author, as she moves from Kansas to present day New York City. Dorothy quickly learns that her popular books are based on repressed childhood memories, and that the wonders of Oz are very, very real. When the Wicked Witch of the West shows up in Times Square, Dorothy must find the inner courage to stop her.

The Oz sequences in the movie really stand out visually. Oz is mostly CG, but all the characters, of course, are live-action. Throughout the movie, we get to see Baum characters like Princess Langwidere (played by Mia Sara most of the time), Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, Locasta, and the more common Oz characters like Dorothy, Glinda, the Wizard, etc.

All of the effects were great, except for a few shots of a CG dragon-like creature that the Wicked Witch sends out towards the end of the movie, which still looked a bit out of place with the rest of the shot.

The movie is cleverly written, and really does have a little bit of everything. There's a bit of romance, plenty of action, a lot of fantasy elements, and some comedy in there, too.

Even if you've watched the TV version, I really recommend watching the theatrical version. The effects are beautiful to see, and it's just an all around fun movie to watch. Now let's give this thing a score!


Acting: B+
Music: A+
Special Effects: A-
Sets: B
Plot: A+
Costumes/Make-up: B
Editing: A


A limited theatrical release for "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" is currently planned for early 2012 in the United States, with a home video release to follow shortly thereafter. The TV version of the movie is available to all Dish Network and Time Warner customers in the U.S. Follow "The Witches of Oz" on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dorothy and the Seven-Leaf Clover

Remember those four Random House books? Well, I got another one. That's 3/4.

Dorothy and the Seven-Leaf Clover by Dorothy Haas was actually one of two Oz books she wrote for Random House. Her other book was a picture book titled Dorothy and Old King Crow. I guess she liked Oz! (She also shares a last name with Oz writer Mark Haas, but it doesn't seem they were immediately related.)

Dorothy accidentally makes the sign to be brought to Oz one Saturday morning (only up to Ozma of Oz when it comes to canon references, remember?), and Ozma assumed she wanted to be with her old friends, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion. As such, Dorothy gets to Oz on page 2, which is just fine, considering the length of the book.

The five (Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion) arrive just outside a cornfield, glad to be reunited. However, Toto chases a field mouse into the cornfield, where he gets trapped in a golden summerhouse. The inhabitant of the summerhouse is a boy made of gold who explains he was made gold by a witch. He refuses to let Toto go, and having a heart of cold metal, he is unmoved by Dorothy's pleading.

The way to restore the boy is to have him say the incantation while holding a seven-leaf clover. But can Dorothy and her friends find one? What dangers lie in their way? And can they convince the boy to actually do it?

Dorothy Haas writes a rather good, if short, Oz story here. The characters don't have to wait on a magical deus ex machina to solve their problems, they can handle it. The characters stay mainly in character with Baum's original, and the conclusion turns up a few surprises. David Rose's artwork was still at his usual standard. And yes, it can slip in right after Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz with no real continuity issues.

All together, Dorothy and the Seven-Leaf Clover is an all right little book. Maybe not one I'd recommend right away, but all right.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: A Chat With Tommy Kovac

Jared talks with Tommy Kovac, writer of the comic series Royal Historian of Oz.

As always, you can download the episode at the podcast site or listen using the player below.

Note: This podcast was accidentally recorded at 64kbps.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Story Lady in Oz

As a special new addition to the podcast, here's a presentation of an Old Time Radio show.

Here we have two episodes of "The Story Lady." This nutty storyteller would tell a quick version of a classic fairytale and add a few strange spins. Well, she did The Wizard of Oz... twice.

Download here
or listen below.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

New Forums

Well, the Oz Club Message Boards are gone. As of late evening September 30th, they are closed from the public. As such, I decided to add a new forum to my Oz website!

We debuted...

...on Friday and already have 24 users.

Go ahead and join. Everyone's welcome!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Better late than never!

So, I was grounded yesterday, so evidently, I couldn't blog! BUT, Jared said I could do a Saturday blog instead.

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has added a new column "Adapting Oz/Finding Frank" to their website. Expect a new entry to be posted every Wednesday. Also, Clayton has been adding tons of raw frames from the film to the Director's Blog. He's also been sharing some test composites that he's calling "Raw Frame Plus". If you'd like to see a particular frame, head over to their Facebook page and suggest it now, because they'll be retiring the Raw Frame feature here in a few weeks!

As mentioned in previous blog updates, there will be premiere screenings of the highly-anticipated The Witches of Oz (theatrical version) throughout the weekend at the annual Oztoberfest in Wamego, Kansas! Visit for more information.

I will be getting The Witches of Oz (theatrical version) on Blu-Ray for reviewing purposes on Tuesday! Very exciting, and I'll be sure to include my review of that in next week's blog.

Summertime Entertainment's all-new virtual world, Adventure in Oz, is now available to join for a limited amount of users. It is expected to open to the public by year's end. Sign up here.

'Till next week!