What's Halloween without a good haunted house story? But what if we upped the ante and it was a haunted castle? And not just any castle, but the royal palace in the Emerald City? That is exactly the situation in The Haunted Castle of Oz by Marcus Mébès. Very simply, there's a ghost haunting the royal palace, and Ozma and her court have to figure out who it is and why they're haunting them.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Monday, October 15, 2018
We're just about halfway through the month, and much to my surprise, I may actually make it! (I wasn't sure I'd make it when I started, but I have plenty of stuff still to talk about, so this is going well.) Let's go with something silly today: The Simpsons. There have been many Oz reference on the show over the years, and even as allusion to a Muppets' Wizard of Oz spoof on a fictitious Treehouse of Horror episode. But a straight-up Oz spoof? For that, we must go to the comics. Specifically, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Fun-Filled Frightfest includes a story about Lisa getting clonked on the head and having a very vivid dream in the story "We're Not in Springfield Anymore". Yes, the Oz characters are portrayed by the denizens of Springfield. What makes this one special in my opinion, however, is the writer/artist. The entire story is done by the great Stan Sakai, the creator of the ronin rabbit Usagi Yojimbo, a comic book Stan has been the sole creator on since 1984, and still going strong after over two hundred issues. This is a rare non-Usagi tale from him, and he captures the spirit of both Oz and The Simpsons very well.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
The third and final extract from The Other Searches for the Lost Princess by Nathan DeHoff (the first of two novellas in The Lost Tales of Oz) is "The Cookywitch Coven", and follows the adventures of Ojo, Unc Nunkie, and Dr. Pipt in the Munchkin Country. Enlisting the help of Jinjur, they learn about a coven of cookywitches who, while not technically magic workers, can do some amazing things with food. There isn't quite so much story here as in some others, it's more of a character study, as we see a lot of politicking and arguing among the magic workers, including Dr. Pipt. But there are some fascinating ideas and plot threads in here, some of which would later (from this story's viewpoint) show up in The Lost King of Oz, The Giant Horse of Oz, and Ojo in Oz. A couple of living cakes and the origin of the China Country also enter into the narrative. This may be the weakest story of the three segments, but it also holds together very well.
I'm going to be busy enough the next couple of weekends that I may not get to blog the next couple of stories, but I'll do my best, of course.
It's Family Day in Oz, so Dorothy and the gang head over to Munchkinland to pick up a Family Day cake from the Lollipop Guild. There, they also encounter the Woozy, who's not celebrating because he's the only Woozy in Oz, and thus doesn't have a family. Dorothy decides that her latest mission is to find a family for the Woozy (well, she would)! Since he's vaguely feline, they first look for the Woozy's relatives in Purrville, where they meet up with Eureka and her family again, but the Woozy is so big that he trashes the place, and then turns out to be allergic to cats! Okay, scratch that idea, and back to Munchkinland. It's looking so sad, the Woozy starts to cry, flooding the town and sweeping everything away, including himself with Dorothy and her friends on his back. As they near a waterfall (yes, this is the kind of cartoon that has a freakishly improbable high waterfall), Scarecrow and Tin Man talk about jumping off and heading to shore, but Dorothy says she's not going to leave the Woozy, because he's family. This cheers the Woozy up, he makes it to shore, and the floodwaters recede. It may not be a family of Woozies, but he's happy having Dorothy, Ozma, and their friends as his family.
Like they do in the Oz books, these Ozians will celebrate just about anything at the drop of a hat! He may not be our version of the Woozy, but this one gets some nice character development and stuff to do, and I think he's a great addition to Oz. But I think the show lost a great opportunity here to explain what happened to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry! After all, they're Dorothy's actual family. (Or is Dorothy just dreaming this whole show? That's certainly one long nap if she is!)
While L. Frank Baum is generally credited as the creator of Oz, he did have some help with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from his illustrator and (at the time) close friend, W. W. Denslow. But Denslow got a bit of a swollen head over it, and when it came time to create a musical version of Oz, as co-creator and joint copyright holder of the book he demanded half the royalties, even though he had very little to do with the actual creation or production of the show. He didn't get half, but he did get a large chunk, which Baum resented, destroying their friendship. I suspect Denslow still wanted money from a big show, however, so he and Paul West created The Pearl and the Pumpkin, a Halloween-themed show about the supernatural goings-on at a Vermont pumpkin farm. And if you're going to have a Broadway show, you may as well also have a tie-in book. (Hey, it worked for The Wizard of Oz!) The show didn't do terribly well, and even the book didn't make much of a splash, despite Denslow's charming illustrations, but you con buy an excellent and affordable reprint edition. It really isn't much of a story, with farmer's assistant Joe Miller being turned into a pumpkin boy (at roughly the same time L. Frank Baum was creating Jack Pumpkinhead, no less), then lots of set-ups for a spectacular number that probably worked great on stage but kind of loses something on the printed page. But it is very Halloween-y, and Denslow's work still shines, so this may be something worth adding to your collection.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
Oh, we have a special Saturday morning cartoon for you today: the Oz Kids episode "The Return of Mombi". It's properly Halloweeny, as it has a bunch of kids (who, in this case, happen to be the offspring of many of your favorite Oz characters) taking on a wicked witch. The series was originally presented as a series of half-hour episodes, but episodes were strung together to tell a complete story for video release, so this is three or four episodes worth of the show. So without further ado, here's "The Return of Mombi"!
It was a big day for Oz in the comics, as there were three different Oz-related comics, of differing degrees of Ozziness. So, I will tackle them from the least Ozzy to the most:
- Trivquiz mentions the play The Boy from oz. In this case, the Oz is Australia, but since the subject of the play is Peter Allen, who was married to Liza Minnelli at one point, and both Minnelli and Judy Garland appear in the show, I consider it to be an Oz-ish play.
- Off the Mark has an aquaphobic green-skinned witch. That sounds pretty Ozzy to me. (A comment I made about this comic online was, "It's not easy being green…")
- I don't know what's happening in the storyline in On the Fastrack, but whatever's going on sure seems to involve The Wizard of Oz!
Friday, October 12, 2018
Here's proof (as if any were needed) that they just don't make television like they used to: An excerpt from the 1976 Paul Lynde Halloween special. Yes, for whatever reason, some executive at ABC thought this would be a good way to celebrate the holiday.
Yes, that is indeed Margaret Hamilton playing Paul's housekeeper, who then goes on to reprise her role as the Wicked Witch of the West. (Let's hope the make-up is a lot less toxic than it was than that of nearly forty years earlier!) She clearly is having a ball. This alone would be enough to recommend the special to anyone, but it also features one of the earliest television appearances by KISS (and Gene Simmons utters the immortal line, "We're not wearing make-up"). Also, Billy Barty, who played the lead villain in Under the Rainbow, is also in it (as seen in this clip). If you want to see the whole thing, it's available on DVD and streaming video.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Let's go ahead and talk about one of the most recent Oz items I've encountered: a Christmas ornament. Hallmark has been putting out tons of Oz ornaments over the last few years, and one of this year's would also make a great Halloween decoration. It's the Wicked Witch and Nikko, and it has sound! Imagine putting this out as a decoration, and then pressing the button and that music or Margaret's voice starts up.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Remember a few years ago, that trend of taking a classic novel and, while keeping the original text, adding in a horror or other subplot? Probably the best known version of this was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Well, The Wizard of Oz was not immune. In The Undead World of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Complete With Zombies and Monsters (and bears, oh my!), co-author Ryan C. Thomas does exactly what's on the cover. This is the first book I've put in here that I haven't read, so I don't know if it's any good, but I'm intrigued enough to check it out some day.
Tuesday, October 09, 2018
Yikes! Busy day, so this is going to have to be another quickie. It's now out of print, but the great Oz artist Dick Martin put out Cut and Make Wizard of Oz Masks in Full Color back in 1982. There still seem to be copies around for sale, so if you're interested you can click on the link above and see about getting these. They're more decorative than practical, but if you're willing to give it a shot you can disguise yourself as one of the major characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, including the Wicked Witch or Toto.
Monday, October 08, 2018
I'm going to start this one off real easy: This happens!
As you can guess, Wilhelmina sends out Frank and Lyman (why does she trust them to do anything?) to find the key, keeping Dorothy and Ozma stuck together forever. They all converged on a garden of keys where none of them seem to work. The only one that looks likely, Frank and Lyman snag it. So, Dorothy and Ozma try another approach, asking Dr. Pipt for his help. HE has a potion that should work, but it will turn whoever puts it on her fingers into a hideous beast. When both Ozma and Dorothy say they'll take it—causing the locket to part again and the girls to separate. Glinda floats in (her bubble barely squeezing through the window) and explains that their willingness to sacrifice for each other is the true key to happiness. Ozma tosses out the two lockets, only for Lyman to find them and give one to Frank, sticking the two of them together.
What struck me about this one was just how unhelpful Glinda was, acting a lot like she did in The Movie. She took off when the questions got complicated, only to appear at the end once everything was fixed and explain things at last. (Really, what good is this version of Glinda, anyway?) But the willingness of Ozma and Dorothy to sacrifice for each other rings very true and Ozzy.
On a pleasant additional note, another batch of episodes have popped up on my DVR, which means this series is going to go on for a while longer, probably into 2019. This is putting off my viewing of the next Oz series I have lined up, but I'm still enjoying Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz so much that I don't really mind.
Another quickie today: I want to present to you one of my all-time favorite Halloween decorations, a set of ornaments of some of the Looney Tunes characters dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz for Halloween! They're not very big, so if you bought these you'd best put them on a table or high shelf (maybe you can build a scene around them with other characters), or hang them from a Halloween tree if you are so inclined.
Sunday, October 07, 2018
I'll make today's post short and sweet: How would you like to go trick or treating with a Wizard of Oz-themed treat pail? And the nice thing is, it can also be used as a sand pail at the beach or the park, so it's versatile.
Saturday, October 06, 2018
The second part of The Other Searches for the Lost Princess by Nathan DeHoff, the first of two novellas in The Lost Tales of Oz, is "The Enchanted Pigs of Oz", and it takes place in the Gillikin Country with the Shaggy Man, his brother Daniel, Jack Pumpkinhead, and Tik-Tok. Through the course of their search for Ozma, the party finds its way to Mombi's abandaned and overgrown house, and speculate as to what could have happened to all of her livestock. Eventually, they start running across her old pigs and, thanks to the magic-infused scraps Mombi fed to them, they've all become enchanted in pig-pun ways. Sue, for instance, is a pig pen, and can write with her tail. Roger is a road hog who can tell you where any road he is lying in can go. The search party decides to help their new pig friends find the rest of the enchanted pigs, and go to enlist the aid of the Good Witch of the North (they haven't forgotten about Ozma going missing, and hope to enlist her help for that as well.) The rest of the pigs are, naturally, eventually found, and the one who became a war hog is disenchanted. The pigs move in with the Good Witch of the North, and not long afterwards, the search party discovers that Ozma has been found and they can head home.
This was another fun little romp, and DeHoff really shows off his Ozzy knowledge with all his touches to Oz history and numerous puns. He even throws in the Jamb family who, like their cousin Jellia in the Emerald City, have punning names based on fruit preserves. And all the pigs are engaging personalities who cope with their enchanted afflictions with aplomb.
So far we've covered two books in the official* Oz canon with Halloween-ish elements. But are there any books about Halloween itself? Well of course there are! Masquerade in Oz by Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry is about a Halloween party in the Emerald City where the Oz celebrities dress up like each other! Of course that doesn't make for much of a book, so of course things have to go wrong somehow, and that happens when Scraps accidentally casts a spell that makes everyone think they are the person they are dressed as. Yeah, that doesn't work out very well at all. If you're looking for a good, fun Oz romp that celebrates the holiday, you can get your hands on this book at the link above or right here.
* Well, as official as Oz canon gets, as not everyone can agree as to what that actually means.
Friday, October 05, 2018
So now that we've talked about Jack Pumpkinhead a few times here, does that give you inspiration to carve your own pumpkin? What if you could make your pumpkin look like a movie star? Because there are pumpkin carving patterns out there that you can use to carve an image from The Movie onto your gourd. Go take a look at Wendy's Wizard of Oz site's Halloween page for some inspiration and free patterns, as well as the Pumpkin Wizard (appropriate name!) for some delŭe patterns you can buy.