Monday, June 29, 2015

The Latest Oz Comic Book

I told you I was getting back on track! Last night I read Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #2 and got caught up with Zenescope's barely-clothed version of Oz. When we left off, Dorothy has come across the body of the king of Oz, murdered by the recently returned Zamora (Zenescope's version of the Wicked Witch of the West and, as previously revealed, Dorothy's mother!) and Warlord. Dorothy, now that she's a witch, tries to save him, but is too late. We then see Zamora and Warlord send zombified soldiers all over Oz to sow the seeds for their forthcoming (they think) conquest. The leaders of Oz all get together to decide what to do about it all and choose Dorothy to be the new Queen. Reluctantly, she takes the job. Oh, but before that, Smynth casually tells her that his brother was her father. Yeah, yeah, lots of stuff, but as much as I'm enjoying this book, I know it's not the real Oz, so I can't take it terribly seriously. But it is the only Oz comic book out right now (oh, if only The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West could return!), so I'll keep reading it, of course.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Oz in Jeopardy!

A pretty straightforward clue on the June 1, 2015 game, for $1000 in the Jeopardy! round category Fictional Places:

Dan, the returning champion, was the first to ring in and correctly responded, "What is Oz?" He would go on to win the game again.

And that brings us, for now at least, to the end of Oz in Jeopardy! I'm caught up, and have no more for you right now. There may be a few more before the season wraps up in a few weeks, of course.

Friday, June 26, 2015

This Week's Oz Short Story

Yup, I'm still trying to get through the anthology I Should Have Stayed in Oz. This week, it's "The Monkey Queen of Oz" by Sherri Dean, and this one was a treat! Dean clearly knows the book, because she references the Silver Shoes and the Golden Cap. Not only that, however, her story is a logical extension of what could have happened if Dorothy hadn't returned to Oz as soon as she did in the other books. Dorothy is now in her teens, and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are getting too old to run the farm. They want to marry Dorothy off, but everyone around thinks she's crazy because of how much she goes on about Oz. On a trip to the carnival, Dorothy tries to see if the Wizard is working there, but is surprised to find a cage full of flying monkeys! It turns out that the Wicked Witches had a brother that they had exiled. With the witches dead and the Wizard gone, he swoops in to fill the vacuum of power, taking on the guise of a wizard named the Humbug (a clever reversal of the actual Wizard's situation). He enslaves the monkeys again and brings some of them, a Munchkin flunky, and a few other Ozites to Kansas in an attempt to get revenge on Dorothy. Since she doesn't feel like she belongs in Kansas anyway, Dorothy helps the monkeys escape, defeats the Humbug, and leaves the carnival in the balloon. The story ends with an interesting offer from the monkeys. This one was a lot of fun, and it just seemed to be the Ozziest story of the book so far. One of only two quibbles is that, like a couple of other stories in this anthology, the end just felt like the start of the real story, once they get to Oz, but we never see that. My other quibble is the story's placement in history, but this one is the opposite of what I've usually seen. Many stories (particularly in this collection) set things during the middle of the twentieth century, more in line with The Movie. Here, however, Dorothy witnesses the incorporation of Kansas City in 1853, decades before the book. I think the author wanted to make a point about the fight over whether or not Kansas would be a slave state, and equating that with the monkey's situation, but it really wasn't a factor. Still, it's a small thing, and ultimately didn't take away from my enjoyment of this story.

Oz in Jeopardy! Celebrity Edition

Our next Jeopardy! clue comes from the May 11, 2015 game, and that fell during a week of celebrities playing the game. Fortunately, it didn't turn out quite as bad as this:

This match featured Neil Flynn from The Middle, Debra Messing from Will and Grace and The Mysteries of Laura, and Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad. They found this clue pretty early in the Jeopardy! round, for $200 in the category Smash Broadway Musicals:

Neil got in first and correctly responded with, "What is Wicked?" And he went on to win the game as well.

Today's Oz Comic

It appears that The Flying McCoys have found a down side to witch liquidation.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Today's Oz Music Video

I haven't had a chance to put one of these up far a while! Todrick Hall's latest song, "Low", has lots of Oz references, so of course the video is wall-to-wall Oz! (Caution: Probably best not seen by young or sensitive Oz fans, as there is a lot of booty shaking going on.)

Oz in Jeopardy!

Here's a short, sweet clue from the April 30, 2015 game, for $600 in the Jeopardy! round category Long-Running Musicals in Short:

Greg, the current champion, got it right by saying, "What is The Wiz?" and became one of the few Jeopardy! ever to actually uphold my theory that if you get the Oz clue right, you go on to win the game.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Latest Oz Reading: Comic Books

It had always been my intention to review individual Oz comics as soon as I'd read them. But the past few months have been so busy that I have piles of them now. As most of them aren't terribly, overtly Ozzy anyway, I will instead do one big catch-up post today, going from the least Ozziest to the most, with appropriate links where possible.

  • Fables. Bufkin's story is done, Ozma's fate has been sealed, and the series is just about over anyway. If you're not already reading this, I wouldn't start now. But you may want to start with the paperback trade collections if you do want to read this epic series.
  • Oddly Normal by Otis Frampton. Oddly is a typical ten year old girl, except for the green hair and pointed ears. It turns out her mother is a witch, from the land of Fignation. When Oddly's birthday wish goes horribly wrong, she is taken in by her aunt in Fignation. Not only must Oddly find out what's happened to her missing parents, she also has to deal with a new school. And she thought she'd had it rough in the real world! This is just a flat out fun all ages book. Oddly has a tough time, being thrown into the deep end in so many ways, but she's finding out that she's stronger than she thinks she is. A few oblique references to things we learned about witches from Oz should bring a smile to fans' faces. (By the way, that link above goes to the first collected trade edition. If you want to know what's currently up with the comic, go here!
  • Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland by Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Nelson Daniel. Yes, this is based on the famous, ground-breaking comic strip, and yes, the writer is that Eric Shanower. If you know the original, this will be familiar ground, but they do a good job of making it accessible for those new to Slumberland as well. When the Princess of Slumberland wants a new playmate, King Morpheus finds one in one James "Nemo" Summerton. He's not sure what to make of things at first, but quickly catches on. This miniseries was a delight, so I hope we get to see more, possibly in a regular series.
  • Fiction Squad by Paul Jenkins and Ramon Bachs. In the world of Fablewood, every fictional character that ever existed lives. Frankie Mack is a hard-boiled detective recently transferred to the City of Rimes, home to all of the nursery rhymes. When Frankie tries to figure out who pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall, he stumbles across a turf war between the Queens of Wonderland and the Witches of Oz that threatens to tear Rimes apart. Lots of Oz references in this one. Adding in other types of characters, not just children's ones, sets this apart from similar efforts and gives it a nice bite.
  • Ozopolis #4 by Kirk Kushin and Gonzalo Martinez. Yes, the concluding issue is now out! The new witch that's been manipulating events in Oz fears she is about to be discovered, and so she moves up her plans to finally take control. Of course, she has badly underestimated a certain princess from Kansas. This brings the series to a satisfying end, yet it also opens the door for new adventures as well. Highly and strongly recommended for all Oz fans, particularly if you're a fan of the books. (If you want to order a copy through the Ozopolis store, go ahead and order another issue, then indicate you want #4 instead in the notes when you check out. They haven't updated in a while, it seems, but the issue is indeed available.) (Oh, and here's the book's Facebook page.)
  • And finally, we catch up with what Zenescope Comics have been up to. Warlord of Oz wrapped up, with Warlord and Zamora defeated, but they managed to escape to fight another day. Meanwhile, Dorothy learns that Zamora is her mother! Then Dorothy grabs Glinda's Ruby Staff and feels a rush of power. This all leads into the next series, Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen. Dorothy returns to the Emerald City as a hero, and with magic powers at her command. But then those around her start to die, and it does not look good for her. What happens next will have to wait until I read issue #2!

Oz in Jeopardy!

Only one clue today in a game where Alex was still the defending champion. In the Double Jeopardy! round, the category was Prologues, and the clue for $1200 was:

Monica, the challenger in the middle, rang in first and correctly responded, of course, with, "What is Wicked?" Despite this, she came in third and did not win—but neither did Alex, as he came in second to the new champion, Todd.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Oz at the Tony Awards

I'm going to hold off on the comics overview for a bit so as to present a few highlights from this year's Tony Awards. This year got off to a very Ozzy start, with co-hosts Kristin Chenoweth (the original Galinda on Broadway in Wicked) and Alan Cumming (Glitch in Tin Man). They also gave a little shoutout to the longevity of Wicked:

Another original cast member of Wicked, Joel Grey (who also played the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz in Concert) and his daughter Jennifer introduce the number presented by Best Musical nominee Fun Home, about a girl growing up and coming to terms with not only her own sexual identification, but also her father struggling with his.

No surprise, Fun Home went on to win Best Musical. What I hadn't heard at the time I saw this is that Grey himself recently came out (which would explain the chuckle from the audience while setting this up, cut off in this video). As an aside, keep an eye on Sydney Lucas, who plays Small Alison in the clip above. She could be a huge star.

Chenoweth gets to perform in a number from On the Twentieth Century.

And yes, she was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, but lost to Kelli O'Hara in the current revival of The King and I.

Finally, among those remembered in the In Memoriam montage was Geoffrey Holder, who won his two Tonys for designing the costumes and directing The Wiz.

Oz in Jeopardy!

The very next day after my last post about Jeopardy!—in other words, on the April 14, 2015 show—there were two more clues of interest, one not terribly Ozzy and one quite plainly Ozzy. So, here's the first one, from the category R.I.P. in the Jeopardy! round, for $200:

Alex, still the defending champion, rang in first and asked, "What is 7-Up?" This is Ozzy because Holder, who died just last year, was the director and costume designer for The Wiz when it first debuted on Broadway (forty years ago now, if you can believe it), and won two Tony Awards for that. Here's an example of one of his classic 7-Up commercials:

Normally, that wouldn't be Ozzy enough for me to include it here unless there were another Oz clue anyway. Yes, the truly big Ozzy clue came in the Double Jeopardy! round. In fact, it was the first clue uncovered, in the category Movie Costumes for $400:

Again, Alex rang in first and gave the correct response, "Who is the Cowardly Lion?" He again dominated the game so much that he had a huge lead going into Final Jeopardy! and could not be caught, but I doubt that could be attributed solely to these two clues.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Oz in Jeopardy!

After a flurry of Oz clues in a small number of games in March, Jeopardy! was pretty quiet Oz-wise for a while, until the April 13, 2015 game, which featured two clues of interest, both in the Broadway Debuts category of the Double Jeopardy! round. The very first clue uncovered in the round, for $400:

Alex, the returning champion, rang in first and correctly responded, "Who is Jackman?" (Hugh Jackman, of curse). And while this clue is pretty Ozzy, since the Oz it refers to is Australia, I may not have blogged about it (although Judy Garland is a character in the play, since the titular Boy from Oz did marry Liza Minnelli) by itself. But a few clues later, for $1600, this clue was revealed:

Alex again rang in again, but got a rare wrong answer when he asked, "Who is Menzel?" It was Kathy, the challenger on the right, who then rang in next and correctly responded, "Who is Chenoweth?" Alex (Trebek, the nost, not the defending champion) then helpfully added her first name, Kristin, when confirming that she was correct. (Had I been there, I'm not sure I would have gotten it right if I'd rung in first, although if I'd had more time I probably would have remembered that Idina Menzel was probably in Rent in or before 1997.) Despite his misstep, Alex (the champion, not the host) was such a dominant player that he could not be caught in the end, and defended his championship.

The Latest Oz Reading: New Fiction

Now, when I say these are new fiction books, I'm not saying that the books are new. They're just books that I haven't read before. One of these books is forty years old, in fact.

  • Love's Escapade by Rachel Cosgrove Payes is the final volume of the Seven Sisters series of romances, which means the final Lassiter sister is about to find her True Love and get married off. Of course, it's not that easy, particularly since May is the biggest tomboy of the lot. Nevertheless, she jumps at the chance to tour the Continent with her friend Lady Isolde, thinking that she may meet That Special Someone. But things get off to a rocky start as the girls end up flying over the Channel to France in a balloon! (Shades of O. Z. Diggs!) Nefarious characters, servants in love, and various other complications eventually lead to a chase down the Grand Canal in Venice, where May finally figures out just who it is she loves, and it surprises them both! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this series, and how well Payes varied things in what could have been a very repetitious series, but I'm also glad to set aside her romances for a while. The next book of hers in the pile is one of her science fiction novels!
  • Drama! The Four Dorothys by Paul Ruditis sees an unusual high school putting on an unusual production of The Wizard of Oz. Due to all kinds of weird circumstances and overprivileged brats, there's only one performance, but four leads! So who is trying to prevent the Dorothys from appearing, finding unpleasant ways to stop them one by one? Bryan Stork, our narrator (and one of the Scarecrows) tries to solve the mystery before someone can stop his friend Sam from also having to drop out. But things don't look good when Sam is the only Dorothy left! This book definitely falls square into the YA category, with enough maturity and depth of thought to really flesh the characters out. I liked these characters and the stuff they had to go through. The setting of a small private school for rich southern Californians, many of the students being the offspring of the Rich and Famous, is fantastic enough to make Oz seem ordinary. Definitely a fun little romp.
  • Silver Shoes by Paul Mles Schneider. Yes, this has been one of the most talked about Oz pastiches of the past few years, and I can see why! Although not set in Oz, it has very strong ties to the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and is a lot of fun as well. Donald Gardner's mother finds a single silver shoe while antiquing in Kansas, and one day he tries it on. That opens the floodgates to all kinds of shenanigans involving a secret society, a decades-long government investigation, kidnappings, and a man on the run. And of course there's a portal to Oz as well. Lots of fun! Now I need to see if I can track down the sequel.
That's all for now (phew!) of my regular Oz reading — but you may have noticed a lack of Oz comic reviews. Yes, Laura and I have still been getting Oz comics, but the amount has fallen off lately (particularly with The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West currently on hiatus, may it return soon). So tomorrow, I'll have a quick overview of the Oz and Ozzish comics I've read lately.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Oz in Jeopardy!

Yet another Oz clue, this time in the game for March 24, 2015. In fact, it was the very first clue revealed, for $400 in the category Dog Stars:

Alex, the defending champion, got in first and correctly responded, "Who is Toto?" However, he did not go on to win the game.

The Latest Oz Reading

Some time ago, I thought to myself, what's the point of having all these Oz books if I'm not going to read them again? So I incorporated rereading some of them into my regular Oz reading. These are the most recent ones:

  • The Living House of Oz by Edward Einhorn. Since I reread Einhorn's Paradox in Oz last time around, and I was going to see him at last year's Winkie Convention, I thought I may as well reread this one, too. Einhorn is a fun Oz writer who really gets Oz, but also manages to put enough of himself and new ideas in as well. I wish he's write more Oz stuff. In this book, Buddy is the son of Mordra, a witch from a parallel Oz who looks a lot like the Wicked Witch of the West. In fact, Mordra is the Wicked Witch of the West, but she's not wicked. (I told you Einhorn puts a lot of new stuff in!) She created the Living House to carry them around Oz, so if things got too tight in one neighborhood, the house could get up and walk, like Baba Yaga's chicken-legged house, somewhere else. When the house settles near the kingdom of Tonsoria, and Princess Ayala is kidnapped, Mordra agrees to go to the Emerald City to ask for help, thus exposing herself to Ozma and Glinda. It does not go well, but not as bad as she thinks, and sets off a whole string of adventures. The Three Adepts at Magic and their subjects, the Mountaineers (formerly the Flatheads), as well as the Phanfasms, get involved, and it all comes to a satisfyingly Ozzy ending.
  • The Emerald Wand of Oz by Sherwood Smith. Smith was also at last year's Winkie Convention, and since the third book of her trilogy had finally been published (I'll tell you about that once I read it), I decided to reread this one as well, the first in the series, in preparation. This was an attempt by the publisher to jumpstart a new Oz series, clearly based on the books but aimed at a modern audience. Dori and Em are sisters in Kansas dealing with their parents' impending divorce when a tornado hits and — well, I think you can guess where they end up! Dori, being the dreamy Oz-loving older sister, buys into it completely. Em, the younger, practical child, takes a lot longer to get into the spirit of things. At first, she thinks the unicorns they first come across are horses, and she can't understand what they're saying! But the two eventually realize that the other one has good qualities as well, and they grow closer as they deal with the threat of a new Wicked Witch in Oz. They're new ally, a Nome boy named Rik, may or may not have their best interests at heart. And somehow, Dorothy has gone missing, too. Again, it's all a lot of fun and very Ozzy, although I know some Oz fans still haven't quite forgiven Smith for the My Little Pony-style adventure with the unicorns.
  • And finally, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Yes, the book that started it all. If I'm going to reread Oz books, I thought to myself, I may as well go back to the beginning and read all of the Famous Forty and Related Ephemera. It's been a very long time since I've read many of them just for fun, and I suspect this will be a revelation. I've certainly read (or listened to) the first book many, many times in my over forty years (!) of being an Oz fan, so there wasn't a lot new to discover. The biggest revelation was just how small a part the Wicked Witch of the West has. The Movie, Wicked, and other adaptations have made her role look bigger than it really is, but I was surprised when I found that she only appears in only one chapter! I could have sworn it was more than that. But no, she is introduced at the start of Chapter 12, which ends with her melting at the hands of that famous bucket of water. So who knows what else will turn up in future books? (I'm already aware of one misconceptions I've had over the decades about The Patchwork Girl of Oz!)
Next time I get around to doing one of these, all new (to me) fiction!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Oz in Jeopardy!

Did I forget to mention the other interesting (albeit non-Ozzy) twist to the last Jeopardy! game I wrote about? Kristin, the defending champion, got to play Final Jeopardy! all by herself. The other two players both got themselves into the red, and so had nothing to wager in the final, and so couldn't play. This has not happened in a very long time, and actually made the news in some places. I thought I'd mention that because a few days later, on St. Patrick's Day no less, Kristin was still the champion. In the Double Jeopardy! round, one of the categories was "Quad"-ruple Jeopardy! in which all of the responses had to start with "quad". This did not raise my radar at all, so I was surprised to see this clue for $2000:

This was a Triple Stumper, as nobody wanted to try. The correct response is, of course, "What is Quadling?" Kristin, by the way, went on to win again, but she had competition this time, and it was close. She went on to win one more game before being defeated, which means she was not there when the next Oz clue came up — but I'll tell you more about that later another time.

This Week's Oz Short Story

I'm taking a day off from my overview of recent Oz readings to talk about my most recent reading; namely, the latest short story from I Should Have Stayed in Oz. And this one is even by that anthology's editor, Selina Rosen. "Kansas Sucks" is probably the most basic version of the premise so far: Dorothy, back in Kansas, keeps talking about Oz, to the point of which Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are getting annoyed and telling her to be quiet about it, as it was all a dream. When Dorothy injures herself and talks to a doctor about it, he has some good advice for her, which she doesn't quite take in the way it was probably intended! This one was all right, but didn't quite grab me (one way or the other) as other stories in this collection did. I will warn readers that this one has a lot of adult language in it, so (like so many other stories in this anthology) it's probably not best for young or sensitive readers.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Oz in Jeopardy!

Hey, remember yesterday's blog post, with two Oz (or at least Oz-ish) clues in the same category? Guess what? It happened again the very next day! In the game for March 12, 2015, one of the Double Jeopardy! categories was Lyricists. Like the previous day, the players jumped around a bit, and uncovered the $2000 clue first:

Stephanie, the challenger at the right side lectern, rang in first and guessed, "What is Yap?" which was wrong. After neither of the other players wanted to try, Alex told her that she was close, but it was Yip. A few clues later, for $400, this one was revealed:

Stephanie rang in again, and this time got it right with "Who is Ira Gershwin?" What makes this an Oz clue, of course, is that not only was Harold Arlen the other songwriter on The Wizard of Oz with Harburg, but the singer of "The Man that Got Away" was Judy Garland, in the 1954 remake of A Star Is Born.

More Oz in Jeopardy! soon. (And by the way, it turns out that it's not my television that's messing up the clues and stretching them out tall, but my software. I think it's my video capture program. Oh, well, we'll either live with it, or I'll eventually figure out how to fix this in my graphics program.)

The Latest Oz Reading: The Short Stuff

These are the books I got through in my recent Oz reading that were pretty short.

  • Sail Away to Oz by Marcus Méb&egave;s. An epic poem about a young man sailing off into an adventure in Oz. This is actually the second edition of this book, as an earlier edition came out in the '90s. This limited edition is handbound and richly illustrated.
  • The Way of a Lion by Jared Davis. This is an expanded book edition of a story that originally appeared in Oziana and won the fiction award for the Oz Club's research table. This is an origin story of the Cowardly Lion, as it relates how he was orphaned as a cub and never got to learn much of what it means to be a lion from his parents.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful: The Witches of Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful: A Magical Sticker Set, both tie-in books to the 2013 movie. The first is a pretty basic retelling of the events of the movie for very young readers. It has nice reproductions of stills from the movie. The sticker set is just that, stickers that you can stick onto pages of the book, or probably other places as well. Unlike the sticker books I had as a kid, these claim to be reusable.
  • And finally, The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum. This is not, however, the book, but Baum's scenario for a dramatic version of the story. No, despite his success as an author and the failure of many of his plays, Baum never lost his love for the theater, and this was at one point going to be his fourth Oz play. However, it eventually morphed into his first movie instead. But before getting there, he wrote this scenario to interest potential backers. Only one original copy is known to exist. This is also the last (so far) small-press hand bound book from Michael O. Riley's Pamami Press, and thus a treasure in and of itself. I have all of Riley's other Pamami books, so I wasn't going to pass this one up!

Today's Oz Comic

All I can say about today's Real Life Adventures is, "And that would be...?"