Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: What's An "OmniOzologist?"

For lack of anything else to do during February, Jared and Sam interview... each other! How did they discover Oz for themselves, what does "OmniOzologist" mean, and how much does Sam not like Wicked and Frozen?

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site or use the player and links below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

OzBusters! Libraries and Oz

It's been widely reported that a number of libraries refused to stock the Oz books. As Eric Gjovaag says...
Some librarians just didn't stock long series of books, because of the expense and shelf space. Others unfairly linked Baum with poor writing, or didn't like some of the messages conveyed in the books. Some even thought that fantasy was bad for children to read. And it didn't help that Reilly and Lee was not a big publishing house, able to generate enough publicity and interest for libraries to want to carry them. (Most of the recommended reading lists that libraries used to select books were compiled by the big publishing houses, who ignored the Oz books because they didn't publish them.)
 Recently, The Baum Bugle editor in chief and Oz bibliophile Craig Noble mentioned that he wasn't sure about the supposed lack of Oz books in libraries given how many library binding editions of the Oz books he'd found.

While this does raise an interesting point, I think I've found an explanation.

The library binding editions seem to date after the 1960s, when Reilly & Lee were bought up by a bigger publishing company, Henry Regnery (later Contemporary Books, now part of McGraw-Hill). More specifically, these were the Rand-McNally paperback versions of the "White Editions" rebound.

A library binding was usually not as ornate as the mass market editions. These were bound on usually thicker and more sturdy boards that would stand up to heavier use. They'd have minimal or simplified printing or stamping designs on the covers and also usually didn't have a dustjacket. In more recent years, this has been abandoned and libraries stock mass market editions.

I haven't personally seen any of the library editions, but the ones I've seen pictures of from collectors who pick them up seem to be rebound versions of the famous "White Editions" from the 1960s and 1970s. These editions reworked the layouts of the original editions into new, uniformly elaborate editions that were also wholly in black and white inside. Since prior editions used colored cloths in binding and these used white cover boards with color printing on them, they were nicknamed "White Editions" by fans and collectors.

Given Eric's statement, and the fact that most library editions I've seen pictured seem to be based on the White Editions, I'd guess that unlike before, being part of a bigger publisher, the Oz books could now be printed in big enough numbers to offer library editions and be available to libraries at reasonable costs.

This was about the same time that the earliest generations of Oz fans were now able to write their own respectable opinions on why the Oz books were worthy literature, so the timing couldn't have been better!

I'm working on a good bit of speculation here, though, so if you think I'm missing a point here or missing some other factors or am totally off the mark, go ahead and leave a comment!

EDIT: Well, less than an hour later, Craig contacted me about library editions, including showing several of his own library editions of Thompson titles which were not part of the White Editions line and were available for sale. So while Henry Regnery may have helped in production numbers, Reilly & Lee were producing such editions before they became part of that company.

EDIT: Further comments reveal that library binding versions date back to the 1920s. The refusal to stock Oz books in libraries was not universal, but the cases where they were refused got a lot of attention!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

My "Return To Oz" FAN COMIC - Two Versions

Disney's "Return to Oz" has had a couple of comic treatments: the official Disney paperback comic and the Sunday Strips (which have yet to be seen more of).

 In mid 2009, I came up with the idea to do my own comic of it (because, after a time, I found I didn't really like the official comic): an "elaborate" 3-part fan comic that told almost the entire story, but also added in the Deleted Scenes as well as a few variations of scenes, from my own thoughts or illustrating those from Joan D Vinge's movie novel.

At the end of 2009, I had completed Part 1.
 By June 2010, I had completed and uploaded the remaining two parts, entirely on Photobucket, for its 25th Anniversary:

When I started having computer problems in October 2013, I decided to get back into the comics and revise it for the upcoming 30th Anniversary.

While the "Photobucket" version had all been in pencil and rough, this new "Revision" would be Inked, with spare use of colour.
But as before, I used the same pages I did the first time, recycling and reusing the sheets so that when you turned them over, it was almost like a real comic with words and images on both sides.

This involved a lot more detail and serious consideration to be better than before. There were some pages I had done I just could NOT LOOK AT!! It would also allow me to redo and fix up mistakes I had let in before.

It was much harder this time around, often frustrating and lonely because no one else could do this the way I could ... and as it usually happens, other people and things would occupy you from your work.

But finally, even though the date June 21st had long gone, I was finishing the comic, had added more pages ... and became the first thing I shared as my new profile on DeviantArt:

It is amazing to see these two side by side. Were it not for such similarities, they could almost be considered done by different people.

There are differences between the two: quantity, detail, spare use of colour ... and there are similarities too: black-and-white telling, the pacing and telling.

I am glad to have this work done and (although I'm still editing the pages' descriptions on DeviantArt) can now move onto other projects that may need me to draw, Oz or otherwise . . .
. . . but I will always be happy to talk about my adaptation!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

I went to see Wicked!

Last night, the people of Springfield, Missouri had their first chance to see the musical Wicked without traveling to another city. Which was surprising to me as we haven't even gotten Phantom of the Opera as it was supposedly too complicated for the Juanita K. Hammons Hall to stage.

I—of course—went.

Wicked (sometimes subtitled The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz) is loosely based on Gregory Maguire's Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. That novel offers a dark new take on Oz, re-examining the themes of good and evil through the eyes of the Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire largely built his take on Oz around Baum's original book, but his Wicked Witch is basically MGM's with green skin, flying on a broom, and a penchant for black clothes.

Wicked the musical rebuilds their Oz around the framework of the MGM movie, but just enough to not get sued. The plot is similar enough to some extents: Elphaba had a bad family life and had a disabled sister (Nessarose has no arms in the novel, in the musical, she is unable to walk), Glinda and Elphaba met at school, where they room together, Elphaba takes an interest in the rights of Animals (capital A indicates speech and humanoid sentience), they meet a Winkie prince named Fiyero Tigelaar at school, the girls visit the Emerald City and have an audience with the Wizard and the girls part ways afterward, Elphaba becomes involved with Fiyero, she takes his western castle of Kiamo Ko, the origins of Dorothy's three friends are hinted at (or in some cases, spelled right out), and the events of Baum's famous story occur, though there's more that we didn't see from his perspective.

The alterations make a more light-hearted and simpler story, one that has made the show a hit on Broadway for about thirteen years.

The Time Dragon Clock frames the stage and much of the scenery seems to be set inside the clock. The clock is referred to in dialogue once, but never again. One who has read the novel could interpret this as the clock itself showing the entire story and the cast depicting the puppets who appear inside it to tell its mysterious tales. Given the transformation sequences of the show in which the scenes change while characters from the previous scene who are not supposed to be in next scene are still onstage for a moment, I'd think this is likely supposed to be the case.

Of course, I need to mention the songs. Like any good musical, the tunes are well-done and enhance the story. They most often do not move the story along, however. But one might well find themselves singing songs like, "No One Mourns The Wicked," "Popular," "One Short Day," "Defying Gravity," and "For Good."

The story follows Elphaba and Glinda through school, being accidentally put together as roommates at first, and having a severe loathing of each other until a couple selfish actions from Glinda are misinterpreted by Elphaba as an offer of friendship, which she decides to accept. The girls put their differences aside and become fast friends until they both realize that the government of Oz are favoring human people over Animals and stripping their rights and the Animals are losing their speech. Elphaba and Glinda go to the Emerald City to meet with the Wizard, and once they see him for who he is, their paths split again. The events of Act II show how bad things get as events begin to crossover with the story of The Wizard of Oz, which eventually force Elphaba and Glinda to meet again.

Overall... I liked it. I can't say that I was particularly impressed as I'd seen bootleg videos of the show before, seen the script and heard the songs several times. While I was finally seeing it live properly, most of the action was familiar to me. (And to the girl sitting next to me who didn't turn her phone off or keep it put away, you didn't help.)

Wicked plays well with the theatrical nature of Oz with over the top characters and a lot of good energy and spectacle, even if it's a version of Oz that really should be evaluated on its own rather than seen as a companion to a book or a film. (Despite the creators' claims to not contradict the movie, I find the Wizard's final scene to be pretty incompatible with the film's events.) Fans of Baum's books should keep a careful eye on the stage during "One Short Day" to see a Denslow picture actually reworked into a prop, and a cameo of the Hammerheads. I've heard the Sawhorse makes a cameo, but I failed to spot him.

I found most of the cast to be well-acted, particular Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda and Jake Boyd as Fiyero. Emily Koch's Elphaba did not have much subtlety or nuance about her, often just sounding angry. However, she was very good in "For Good," "No Good Deed," and "As Long As You're Mine."

Overall, I'd say Wicked is a musical that every Oz fan should see at least once. Whether they like it or not is up to them.