Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today's Oz Comics

A double dose of Ozzy goodness today!

  • First, in Pearls Before Swine, one of the most torturous paths to a pun I've ever seen, and PBS does a lot of those! Something tells me L. Frank Baum would approve. The "him" in that last panel is creator Stephan Pastis, who usually gets pun-ished for these gags he creates.
  • Meanwhile, over in Strange Brew, the Tin Woodman gets some new clothes.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Emerald City: "Lions in Winter"

I was busy and tired last night, so I didn't even bother trying to also watch Emerald City. So I'm going to watch it right now off the DVR and give my immediate reactions. Okay, here we go! (Beware, there may be spoilers ahead.)

  • Did I mention last week that Pastoria also got a mention?
  • I wonder if anyone is going to make and sell those flags?
  • So now West has Ozma, who has an inkling of who she actually is. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
  • What? Lucas (well, I guess we have to call him Rowan now) is Glinda's husband???
  • Ooh, flashback to Ozma as a baby! Now we see Pastoria! And finally, a Lion!!!
  • I really want to see some cosplayers try to recreate some of Langwidere's masks. That wire cage one is one of the best yet.
  • Uh, oh, don't get the new little witch angry! Have none of those girls seen Carrie? Or Matilda?
  • Is there a dictionary somewhere for that witch language? They're sure using a lot of it in this episode.
  • If Glinda doesn't trust science, why does she think Dorothy can do anything for the damaged young witches?
  • That's a pretty cool effect with the doors.
  • Yeah, definitely don't get Dorothy mad. Nor Glinda, for that matter.
  • Oh, good grief, has Eamonn been the Lion all this time?
  • Yeah, yeah, go on, Army of Ev, kill the Wizard and put us all out of our misery!
  • So what is Ozma now?
Two episodes to go. They'd better start wrapping some of these dangling plot threads up!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Time to Pass the Hat!

(I really need a cool graphic of someone holding a hat here for just this sort of occasion.)

The time has come once again to ask for your financial assistance with my website. If you are a regular reader of this blog, or visitor to my website, or both, and can spare a few dollars to keep both afloat, I would greatly appreciate whatever assistance you can give. The direct link to donate is right here. Many thanks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today's Oz Political Cartoon

Drew Sheneman of the Newark Star-Ledger has some thoughts about the Republicans in the New Jersey delegation in the House of Representatives voting alongside our new president on some recent legislation, and has found a particularly Ozzy way to make the point.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

This Week's Oz Short Story

Continuing my read of the 1975 edition of Oziana, I read the concluding story, "The Threat to Civil-Oz-ation" by Dan Cox. When Dorothy first meets the Good Witch of the North in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the witch wonders if Kansas is a civilized country, and says that Oz has never been civilized. This story starkly brings that point home, as the Duke of Progressia, having invented a machine that lets him visit our world, decides that he likes it better, and so all magic in Oz must be eliminated or destroyed so he can remake Oz to be more like America. So when the Glass Cat and the Woozy come wandering into town, he targets them whilst perfecting his machine to eliminate all magic. Of course, this makes the Woozy angry, and anyone who knows him knows what happens when he gets angry. The combination of magic and Earth technology gives a satisfying conclusion to the story that saves Oz and even lets the Duke get what he wants (sort of). Despite the grim trappings of this story, this is a quick, breezy story that has more comedy in it than you might expect, and the interactions between Bungle and the Woozy really fit the characters well.

And as I mentioned last week, I will read the first story in this issue next week, as it's a long one and I have a long holiday weekend to enjoy it. Hey, there's no rule that says I have to read them all in order!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Latest Oz Reading

I'm pretty much done with the latest wave of Oz reading (only a bit more of the 2016 edition of Oziana to go), so here are my two most recent Oz books:

  • The Bouncy Bunnies in Oz by Marin Elizabeth Xiques is the story of three rabbit girls and the Thist who adopted them. They call him Daddy, of course. The three girls have their own personalities, but it is the impetuous Jodie who gets the lion's share of this book. She ends up on the big adventure, and even meets up with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman out on the Winkie River. We also get to revisit a lot of sites from The Lost Princess of Oz (appropriate for this year, being that book's centennial), and even find out what's in that chasm surrounding the Merry-Go-Round Mountains. It's a pretty harmless book where everything turns out well in the end, and with all the dark and brooding Oz books that seem to be coming more and more frequently these days, that is far from a bad thing!
  • Bringing us right up to date is the latest book, volume 1 of the manga series Captive Hearts of Oz by Ryo Maruya and Mamenosuke Fujimaru. It's essentially retelling The Wizard of Oz, but it is definitely manga, as there is a mysterious storyteller wondering why the story keeps changing, and perhaps someone else is on the scene. There are also a pair of human/crow hybrid siblings who torment Hayward, this books equivalent to the Scarecrow, and Leon, the lion character, pretty much shows up just as Dorothy and Hayward meet Nick the Tin Woodman, and helps unrust him. These creators (or possibly translator Angela Liu) really know their Oz, because the Good Witch of the North is named Locasta, the Tin Woodman is named Nick Chopper, and the party spends a night with Nick's creator, Ku-Klip! This volume ends with a mysterious new character rescuing Dorothy during the Kalidah attack, and as volume 2 is already being solicited, I suspect this is a series that could go on for a while.

Emerald City: "They Came First"

I watched the first half of this episode last night, then just didn't feel compelled to watch the rest of it until late this afternoon. I don't think I'm quite loving this show. Also, I've decided to dispense with my long summary of the episode, as the show is getting pretty convoluted anyway. If you're that interested in the show, you've probably either already seen it or will figure out a way to watch it. So instead, I'm just going to do a bullet list of big things that crossed my mind:

  • Jack and Langwidere have a very complicated relationship!
  • Yay, Lucas has his memories back! Boo, he's not a very nice guy!
  • Finally, a mention of Ozma! (And, for that matter, Pastoria.) But will West or Tip put the pieces together?
  • The Wizard is a very not nice man! And I think he may have gone completely around the bend now.
  • Hurrah, Sylvie the little witch can talk now!
  • And still no lion!
Only three episodes to go. I hope this is still going somewhere!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Latest Oz Reading

The Lost Coal Mine to Oz by James L. Fuller is a pretty simple, straightforward, traditional Oz tale that also manages to try to do something a little different. Katie, her brother Tommy, their aunt Deborah, and her dog Sigi go out for a hike in Kentucky coal country where they stumble upon a lost graveyard dating to the early nineteenth century. But a flash flood comes through, so they seek shelter in a nearby coal mine7mdash;which then promptly caves in on them, of course. They follow the mine and find the body of a miner murdered two hundred years ago, and his ghost. Joshua (the ghost, not the body) helps them to find their way around, where a group of nomes eventually find them and take them to Oz. They visit a few of the usual eccentric villages along the way, but make it to the Emerald City pretty quickly where Ozma decides to help Joshua move on to his eternal reward by putting his murderers on trial! Since they've been dead for nearly two centuries, this proves to be a challenge, but they pull it off, and all ends happily (even Joshua's murderers don't suffer too severe a punishment). Then the gang from Kentucky head home. Nothing Oz-shattering, but definitely a fun little read. The trial and the events that lead up to it are dealt with in some detail, and I would think this might make a good general primer on the legal system and how it works (Ozian justice does seem to work a lot like British common law and the American system). Fuller does tend to let his characters get a little talky at times, and there is an awful lot happening in that coal mine until Oz enters the story. Being the hardcore Oz fan that I am I was bothered by the consistent misspelling of Dorothy's last name (it's Gale, not Gail) and calling the Magic Picture the Enchanted Picture, but overall this was an entertaining story that a lot of fans of more traditional Oz will probably enjoy.

This Week's Oz Poem

I am, at last, digging into my own stash of Oziana issues. I only have the first four issues as reprints, but the 1975 issue was the earliest issue I ever owned outright. It was not the first issue I ever owned—that would be 1977, the issue that came out the same year I first joined the International Wizard of Oz Club. I did buy this issue later as a back issue, and somewhere later found a copy of 1976 for sale. So from hereon in, all of my Oziana posts will be taken directly from original issues. But for my first entry from the 1975 issue, I am not going to look at the first story. That is really long, and I'd rather reread it when I have a little more time. Fortunately, there is a three-day weekend coming up. But the second item is extremely short, as it's a two-stanza poem entitled "Dorothy's Dilemma" by Mark Deitch. It appears to be about Dorothy no longer believing in Oz, so why is she being called to it? At first I thought it might be set during Dorothy's trip to Australia in Ozma of Oz, but it includes the line "but I have never seen the sea". Oh, well, it's an interesting little piece.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Emerald City: "Beautiful Wickedness"

Okay, it took long enough, but we're getting somewhere at last! So, the sixth* episode, "Beautiful Wickedness":

  • We start off with a very interesting flashback to 1996 Topeka, Kansas, and some sort of experiment at a nuclear power plant. Frank (our Wizard, but clean-shaven here) is a technician who's not taken terribly seriously by the other scientists. The experiment goes wrong, one of the scientists (Javier) dies, and the rest are transported to Oz, where they ally themselves with the reluctant Munchkins. A few months later, Karen gives birth to Javier's daughter, Jane finds a witch willing to send them home, but Frank shocks them all by deciding to stay. And yes, that baby is Dorothy. (So at least the Wizard isn't her father, which I know a lot of people predicted after last week's episode.)
  • In the present, the Wizard realizes that he's been fighting Dorothy all along, so he changes his attitude towards her and brings her into his confidence (or at least appears to). Through the course of the episode, however, he manages to get the gun from here, which he hopes Langwidere can mass produce to defeat the Beast Forever.
  • One way the Wizard earns Dorothy's trust is by letting her see Lucas, only for West to then come in and try to bring back his memory. It turns out, of course, that they're there, only shielded by magic. West can't break the spell, as it turns out to be Glinda who hid them, but West can work around it. She discovers that the last thing Lucas remembers is protecting a wagonful of young witches. Since this should be impossible, West concludes that her mother, Mother South, is still alive (as she is the only one who can make new witches), and that Glinda must be hiding that information from West. Naturally, West tells the Wizard, and tells the Wizard that Glinda must therefore be working against him.
  • Langwidere, meanwhile, must deal with her father, who is continuing to regress. The king of Ev thinks the family dog is still around barking for him, depite the dog having died years earlier. The king eventually wanders off and thinks Toto is the dog—and is then turned to stone. (Hmm, since Toto was protecting the young girl Dorothy and Lucas picked up a few episodes back, and the last time anyone turned to stone they had kidnapped that girl—)
  • Finally, they don't have a lot to do in this episode, but Tip and Jack have an awkward reunion, with Jack blaming Tip for killing him and showing her what he has become.
The new "Emerald City" has an intriguing discussion going over at Reddit, and someone there pointed out that we saw Jane earlier in the series, as the surgeon that turned Jack into a cyborg. So there's one other little storyline to deal with, but it makes sense. It seems Karen and Dorothy were the only ones who made it out of Oz, and then, as the Wizard put it, Oz pulled Dorothy back. And still no lion. Four more episodes to go, and I hope this adaptation has at least one improvement on another event this has been compared to, Tin Man: A more satisfying conclusion.

*Yes, I know, this is the fifth showing. But as the two-hour premiere was actually two episodes edited together, this is, technically, the sixth episode of the storyline. I say this only because I know someone is going to bring the issue up if I don't.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Today's Oz Comic

Okay, this is not really much of an Oz comic at all. But it does talk about six-leaf clover, which were an important plot point in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and it gives me a very feeble excuse to post an edition of the awesome Phoebe and Her Unicorn here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's Oz Political Cartoon

We're ten days into the Trump administration, and it's taken that long for someone to make the point that John Branch has made today?

Today's Oz Comic

It seemed like a good idea at the time in today's Pop Culture Shock Therapy...

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Latest Oz Reading

My quest to read as many books by the fifth Royal Historian, Rachel R. Cosgrove, as I could get my hands on has resulted in my latest read, Lady Alicia's Secret. Yes, it's another romance novel (not at all like either her Oz or science fiction works), and one of the tamest ones I've ever seen. Nobody gets their bodice ripped off, nobody succumbs to their urgent needs, nothing like that. But it's kind of fun anyway. In early nineteenth century Regency England, Lady Alicia St. John is looking to marry, but she wants to marry for love. Since all of the eligible men in London society know that she is a wealthy heiress, they all come angling for her, but she will have none of them. So she decides to take a pseudonym and hire herself out to a baron out in the country as a secretary so as to escape scrutiny and find someone who will love her for her, and not her fortune. Of course she and Darcy Cummings, Baron Pennsfield, do not get along at all, partly because they are so attracted to each other. There are other suitors for Alicia, the woman who left Darcy at the alter come back to try again, wild runaway horses in the countryside, and all the other tropes one expects in this kind of story. Plus, Alicia makes friends with an up-and-coming new author named Jane Austen. Will Alicia and Darcy get together? Well of course they do. But the road to getting there is long and crooked and twisted, and both Alicia and Darcy must deal with each other's secrets before all is straightened out.

And with that, I must quit my reading of Rachel's books for now, as money is extremely tight right now and I can't justify buying more of her books right now, particularly as I now have most of the affordable ones. But I shall come back to them before too long, I hope. In the meantime, I have another little project involving another Royal Historian that I plan to start in the meantime. But I will tell you about that when I get there.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Emerald City: "Everybody Lies"

This show is starting to become very convoluted and complicated, but at least the various plot threads are also starting to come together, so maybe it will all make sense by the end. Anyway, I may have waited too long after watching this past Friday's episode to write an accurate summary, but I'll see what I can do:

  • Jack is coming to terms with being a servant, especially while also still trying to master his metal body, while Langwidere is trying to not just be a princess and master to Jack. He tries to teach her how to be friends, but it ends up going beyond that, as they end up kissing.
  • The Wizard, trying to stave off the latest iteration of the Beast Forever, enlists the help of Ev to produce weapons. The king of Ev proves to be an infirm old man, so much of the decision making falls on Langwidere's shoulders. (And I really hope someone cosplays as Langwidere soon, as those masks she wears are amazing.)
  • West confronts Dorothy and tries to get information about how East died. Since West is magically throwing Dorothy around during this interrogation, Dorothy doesn't say anything, but eventually West figures out about the gun and aims it at Dorothy. Fortunately, Dorothy notices that the clip has fallen out. Meanwhile, Tip has her first confrontation with Dorothy since escaping from Mombi, and Tip blames Dorothy for all that's happened to her since.
  • And in the final moments, Dorothy finally confronts the Wizard, who says (and I am wildly paraphrasing), "Oh, Dorothy, it's you! Welcome home!"
  • I remember Glinda being in it, but for the life of me, other than a freaky conversation with West while her face appears in a scarf (!), I don't remember exactly what she did.
  • And there's some stuff about Lucas regaining some of his memories and having to confront his former life.
Did I forget anything else?

Between the plunging ratings and the critical drubbing, I will be surprised if this show is picked up again for a second season. But we're now halfway through the season (I know, I said that last week, but I miscounted), and I will at least see this through to the end. But wow, they really don't get Oz at all. It is, at least, a very attractive show, and the design work is amazing. I am really looking forward to seeing this on Blu-Ray (and I suspect it will also play better in a short amount of time than once a week), but this show is definitely a case of all sizzle, and not a lot of steak.

Finally, a plea in regards to future versions of The Wizard of Oz. After Tin Man, The Witches of Oz, and now this, along with several books and comics reinterpreting Oz, I think it's time to put the whole "Dark Oz" genre away for a while. Fortunately, the forthcoming Lost in Oz and Dorothy of Oz cartoons look much more promising. And we still have the L. Frank Baum biography movie The Road to Oz and the Wicked movie to look forward to.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

This Week's Oz Short Story

I have wrapped up my reading of the 1974 issue of Oziana with "The Mysterious Palace of Voe" by Jay Delkin, a story inspired by an illustration of Voe on page 114 of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. There's a palace in the background of the picture, but it's never mentioned in the text. So Delkin created this little tale of someone waking up in the Valley of Voe with no memory of who he is or why he's there. A voice warns him about the valley's invisible bears, and he escapes into the palace, where another voice tells him that he Wizard of Oz can give him all the answers he is looking for. So he wanders through the palace, trying to find his way out, but it's not as easy as it looks. This was a fun little read, and I enjoyed the journey of self-discovery our protagonist went through. Of course there's a nice little twist once he does meet the Wizard, and all ends satisfactorily.

And with that, I am done reading Oziana from reprints. The 1975 issue was the earliest original issue I was ever able to buy (as a back issue when I joined the International Wizard of Oz Club in 1977), so I am really looking forward to reading those old issues again.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Today's Classic Oz Comic

Here's a rerun from My Cage that posits a very interesting theory as to how one recent-ish TV show could have ended. Based on the brouhaha that erupted over its ending, maybe this one would have gone down better.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Latest Oz Reading

Yes, I'm still at it. So, let's jump in!

  • A Brief Guide to Oz by Paul Simpson. This appears to be part of a series of "Brief Guide" books in Britain, and despite the title, it is a long and thorough look at Oz. The cover claims it's about "75 Years Going Over the Rainbow", clearly to tie in with the latest anniversary of The Movie (this was published in 2013), but the contents go way back even further, with the life and career of L. Frank Baum and the Oz books he wrote. Simpson even writes short synopses and reactions to all of the Famous Forty books, something most comprehensive guides to Oz like this almost never does. Simpson doesn't dwell much on any one topic—even The Movie doesn't dominate—and this book covers stage shows, other movies, television, and even radio. It doesn't dwell too deep on any one topic, but what it does cover it does thoroughly. The occasional tiny error creeps in (and the section on the musical Wicked keeps calling the author of the original book Gregory Mitchell, which is even more surprising when they get it right in the section on the book), so a quick vetting by an Oz expert might have been a plus. But overall this book makes it clear just how broad the topic of Oz is. Even more surprising is that the book and the author are British, which probably threw up a few road blocks while researching.
  • Fables, Volume 9: Sons of Empire by Willingham. This is a seriously cool comic, and I'm really glad that the extremely tenuous Oz connection means I get to read the whole saga (even if I'm not quite going about it in the right order, since I started with issue #101). In this collection, the Adversary and his allies—including a very Neillesque Nome King, who is running Oz—begin forming their plans to rid the Mundy world of the exiled Fables and invade for themselves. Meanwhile, Bigby, Snow White, and their children continue to explore the cubs' heritage by finally meeting their grandfather, the North Wind. Plus, Amrose meets Santa Claus (another Oz character, but I doubt he's in this series because af that connection). Bufkin the Flying Monkey has a decent role in this volume, upping the Oz interest even more. Plus, in one issue, Willingham wrote a series of very short stories to answer reader questions about the series, a very nice touch (and probably also made for a good filler issue in case production went astray). One of the questions is about Bufkin, and another is illustrated by Eric Shanower, so even more Ozzy interest. (But if you're not an Oz über-completist like me, I wouldn't worry about trying to collect all of Fables. Instead, you should collect, or at least read, all of Fables just because it's so good.)
  • Small bonus story today was "...And the Power..." by Rachel Cosgrove Payes, part of the anthology And Walk Gently Through the Fire and Other Science Fiction Stories, edited by Roger Elwood. A pair of researchers are investigating faith healers, and are trying to determine if there is a scientific basis for it. They find one who seems to be the real thing, but when one of the researchers gets sick, he may not be powerful enough to cure him. A nice little story, but what impressed me is what other authors are also in the book: Ted White, R. A. Lafferty, Barry N. Malzberg, Robert Bloch, Robert Silverberg, and Philip José Farmer, among others. That Rachel is in a book with some of the biggest names of mid-twentieth century science fiction says a lot about her and her works. So yes, I do plan to read the rest of the book as well, but I'm not expecting any Oz connections (except possibly from Farmer)
And there will be more soon, including one from Rachel Payes' other popular genre.

This Week's Oz Poem

No, not a short story this week, because the next item in the 1974 edition of Oziana is "Excerpts from the Oziad: Part Two, How It All Began", clearly meant to be a continuation of the first excerpt from the previous year's issue. What makes this interesting, however, is that it wasn't by the creator and writer most associated with the Oziad, Fred Otto, but Harry Mangold. He wrote a brief retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in quatrains. It's passable, but Mongold is no Fred Otto, and I know Fred later did his own poetic version of The Wizard of Oz anyway. As a bonus, the second page also includes the first of Bill Eubanks' "Oz-E-Gags" cartoon, which were a regular feature in Oziana for several years. In this one, while sitting on the Sawhorse and playing a piano, Jack Pumpkinhead asks, "Why are you singing 'Camp Town Races,' when I'm playing 'MELON-COLLIE-BABY'?" Yeah, they weren't all winners...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Emerald City: "Science and Magic"

Okay, we're halfway through the series, and now we have four storylines to juggle:

  • Dorothy and Lucas are staying off the Brick Road (when did it get bricks?) to stay away from the Wizard's guards, but encounter a mute girl. Lucas wants to leave her and be on their way, but Dorothy wants to take her to the nearby village and find her parents. A couple claim her, but Dororthy's not convinced, and later finds them turned to stone while holding on to the girl, imprisoning her. Dorothy frees her and they all escape, but not before Eamonn confronts them and recognizes Lucas. The next morning, the guards find them. Dorothy manages to get away, only to be knocked out by a boomerang thrown by Ojo.
  • Tip, distraught over what she (yes, I guess at this stage we have to think of Tip as being exclusively a girl—if nothing else, it makes using pronouns easier) did to Jack, attempts to jump off a bridge, but a captain stops her and takes her to Glinda's convent. West comes by, however, and wants to take Tip to learn to be a courtesan. Tip is not wild about either choice, but tells West she wants to learn her magic.
  • The Wizard, hearing about a new magic portal, frees Anna from her cell to go with him to investigate, but Anna is injured and causes it to disappear. The village alderman, meanwhile, confronts the Wizard about his actions leading to the alderman's wife's death, and the Wizard wonders what to do. He seeks Anna's council once she regains consciousness, and she convinces him not to kill the alderman, but make an ally of him. The Wizard is able to do just that, and the alderman publicly rejects magic and embraces science—and then we discover that one of the Wizard's guards is threatening the alderman's unborn grandchild! (I really don't like the Wizard, but I don't think we're supposed to! I also really like how Vincent d'Onofrio is playing him, however.)
  • And what happened to Jack after last week's cliffhanger? It seems he didn't die, but was recovered by an Evian surgeon, who gives him a new metal body. Only Jack's head and right arm and shoulder seem to be intact. And yes, this means he has a new, mechanical heart. Jack learns how to use his new body, only to then be sold into the palace of Ev, where he meets Lady Ev, the Princess Langwidere.
Okay, so we finally have a Tin Woodman, with a touch of Tik-Tok thrown in. So I guess thi means Jack isn't really Jack Pumpkinhead. And yay, another new character, although this version of Langwidere changes her personality when she changes masks, not her entire head, which I guess wouldn't quite work in this iteration of Oz. (At least it makes more sense than changing hats, which is what happened in the 1980s Cinar anime series.) Still no Lion.

One recurring theme that keeps, um, recurring is The Beast Forever, which is some sort of phenomenon that comes through Oz every once in a while and cleanses the land. The Wizard managed to deal with it once before, but there is a very strong implication that Dorothy is somehow connected to its next appearance, and the Wizard wants to stop it again. So, yeah, that has nothing to do with what L. Frank Baum wrote...

Next week's trailer seems to show Dorothy meeting the Wizard at last. I doubt that's going to go well!