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!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Today's Classic Oz Comic

Over in today's Doonebury rerun, Boopsie has regressed into one of her past lives. Thank goodness she has a tried and true way of finding her way back!

Monday, January 16, 2017

This Week's Oz Short Story

Continuing my reading of the 1974 edition of Oziana, "Jimmy Bulber of Oz" may be the oldest Oz short story not penned by a Royal Historian. Frank J. Baum, L. Frank Baum's son, wrote it about Zoru the Witch, who was mentioned but not encountered in his novel The Laughing Dragon of Oz. Speculation is that the younger Baum wrote it to secure a trademark on the word Oz, wanting to become Royal Historian himself, but his mother and the publishers weren't going to have that. Anyway, Zoru wants to enchant people who come to her forest. The only problem is, her forest is so old and dark that nobody wants to come to her forest. So she decides to bring light to the forest, and so creates a man with a giant light bulb for a head. A mischievous nome (clearly not the same as the ones from the Oz books) brings him to life and gives him the name Jimmy Bulber. Jimmy wanders off to find adventures… and that's where things end. Not a lot, but a nice little read. I am glad Frank J. Baum did not succeed in his quest to become Royal Historian, because he just doesn't have his fathers flair, imagination, or gift for writing, nor does he really seem to understand Oz. But I am at least glad this story has an outlet and made its way out to the wider world.

Today's Oz Comic

And we all thought 2016 was a horrible year for celebrity deaths. Today's Trivquiz proves that there's always someone famous dying, including an actor from The Wizard of Oz. Go take a look, see who it was.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Latest Oz Reading

And they just keep coming!

  • I decided that, if I was going to read everything on my shelf that comes between The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz (most of which I already blogged about the other day), that would have to include this book about the failed stage show, The Woggle-Bug. Granted, not much in this is by Baum, at least the parts I read because I skipped over the music pages. So I pretty much read about how the show came about and failed to woggle, as well as a number of contemporary articles, interviews, and reviews. I suspect this would have gone better if I could play the music.
  • For my non-FF reread, I went pretty far back, to one of the earliest such books in my collection, and one of the first true self-published Oz fanfic novels, The Blue Emperor of Oz by Henry Blossom. Two years after The Hidden Valley of Oz, Jam finds a stuffed gump head in a junk shop, which winks at him! Yes, it's that gump head, from The Marvelous Land of Oz. It turns out the Gump has been hiding a secret that allows Jam and him to get back to Oz, and the adventure begins! Despite these two lead characters, the story is pretty much an homage to Ruth Plumly Thompson, as so much of the book is based on what she wrote, and ties up several loose ends from her books. The main plot involves the search for the mysterious Blue Emperor (mentioned by Thompson on a few occasions) and the warning about his drinking mug being broken. While Jam, the gump (named Namyl—take a look at that name carefully, it will come to you) and another, intact gump named Muab start off from the Fiddlestick Forest (last seen in The Cowardly Lion of Oz), the court of Pumperdink also gets a warning, so Kabumpo heads to the Emerald City to enlist the aid of Dorothy and the Wizard. Then the villain of our tale, the magician Mossolb, rears his head as well. Everyone comes together and takes care of things in a satisfying, if rushed, manner. And we even finally meet the Wizard Wam in person. All in all, a good read, but it's too bad copyright issues mean it likely can't be reprinted and made available to a wider audience.

Emerald City: "Mistress-New-Mistress"

Yay, another new episode! So here's a brief summary:

  • First, Dorothy, Lucas, and Toto are still wandering around the countryside. They catch a lift with a circus, but when some of the Wizard's guards start searching, they presume they are searching for Lucas and sneak away—only to then overhear thatthey're looking for Dorothy! Well, then, if the Wizard can't help them, maybe that tornado swirling over East's castle can take Dorothy home. There, her ruby gauntlets (did I mention the ruby gauntlets that appeared on Dorothy's hands last week after East offed herself?) lead the head of the household, Sullivan, to think Dorothy is the new mistress and Witch of the East. She manages to use the tornado to transport her somewhere, but it's not back home, apparently. She does, however, find a jacket with her real mother's name. So, hmm, something is going on there. But after Dorothy makes it back to the castle and starts demanding answers from Sullivan, he accuses her of not being a witch after all, chases them all off, and the tornado destroys the castle (I think—something like that, at least).
  • In Emerald City, three women use magic levitation to hang themselves, it protest of the Wizard's actions. He accuses West of engineering the spectacle, but she protests her innocence. Meanwhile, he confides some of his goals and fears to one of his councilors, Anna, including his real name, Frank Morgan! The Wizard also clashes with Glinda (probably a recurring plotline). There's also a lot of talk about
  • And finally, Tip and Jack head to the city of Ev to get more of the medicine Tip thinks he needs. Waiting to find out if more can be made, Tip has to deal with being a girl. But the apothecary they finds says he can't make more, as it's an illegal magical elixir meant to suppress one's true nature. In other words, Tip was born and is meant to be a girl. Tip freaks out, and accidentally pushes Jack over a railing after Jack tries to kiss her!
Okay, I think this worked a lot better as a single hour, and not trying to digest too much in two hours. I also think a binge watch, after the series has ended (and yes, I am recording every episode), will be more effective at understanding it all than trying to watch it once a week.

A few observations:

  • Dorothy seems awfully jaded. I know she's a grown-up and a nurse, but she just seems to wholly accept everything that's going on and treats it so matter-of-factly. Come on, there's a lot of weird stuff going on here, at least show some curiosity.
  • The steampunk city of Ev is great, and a nice contrast to the more medieval Emerald City (which, by the way, isn't terribly green). Ooh, maybe Tip will find a steampunky Tik-Tok there! (Confidentially, I'd love to see the focus of the story move there.)
  • Seriously, the Wizard's real name is Frank Morgan? Yes, a nice nod to The Movie, but if they're basing this more on the books, I would think Oscar Diggs would be more appropriate.
  • I thought for sure the lion in the circus would join Dorothy and Lucas. But no, it was basically one shot. So where are Dorothy's other friends, then?
  • The Wizard is a jerk!
I'm still intrigued by the show, if for no other reason to see how the Oz books and its characters are going to be incorporated, but I doubt this is going to go down as the definitive take on it. Based on what I've seen so far, critics have not been impressed, as it's getting middle-of-the-road and mixed reviews. The ratings appear to be decent, however, although it's still early and they will likely trail off. I do plan to get the Blu-Ray set (if there is one) someday, as I think it will, if nothing else, look gorgeous on a large hi-def screen.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Today's Oz Political Comic

I gather that Steve Breen thinks the current winter storm system moving through California means an end to the record-setting droughts they've been having there. I hope he's right, but the lack of moisture down there has been so protracted for so long that I'm afraid it may not be enough.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Emerald City: "The Beast Forever"/"Prison of the Abject"

It was my plan to blog about every episode of the new TV series Emerald City every Saturday, after each new episode airs. But I was so tired last Friday night that I didn't even get a chance to watch, then got so busy over the weekend that I didn't get a chance to finish watching it. Only the horrible snow that's been piling up and keeping me from going to work, plus early morning insomnia, has even given me the time to finish watching it and blog about it now. I hope that this is a one-time delay, but I'm not counting on it.

I will admit to being a bit skeptical going in. Being advertised as The Wizard of Oz meets Game of Thrones does not bode well, because Oz is supposed to be a generally happy place, which I gather Westeros isn't (no, I don't watch Game of Thrones, primarily through lack of opportunity). It does not help that ads and other early publicity also make it look a lot like a warmed-over Tin Man doesn't help. Still, I liked Tin Man, even if it wasn't the Ozziest production ever, so I'm willing to give Emerald City a chance. And so far, I am guardedly optimistic. I think these first two episodes (and yes, this two-hour premiere was actually two episodes mashed together) are setting up a lot of stuff that will likely pay off down the road, but there's already a lot of intriguing stuff going on.

My first fear was that the opening scene showed baby Dorothy being delivered to the Gales meant that she was a kidnapped princess of Oz, which we've seen several times before (including Tin Man), but if her mother is still in Kansas, then maybe not—but then again, why focus on her real mother so much if it isn't going to pay off later? Now-grown-up Dorothy is a nurse in Lucas, Kansas (a real place) who ends up in a police car during a tornado, and the tornado whisks her and the K-9 dog to you-know-where and kills the Wicked Witch of the East. She and the dog, now protecting her, encounter the Munchkin tribe, whose leader, Ojo, wants to kill them, but he is overruled by the elders, and Dorothy and the newly named Toto ("toto" being the Munchkin word for dog) are exiled. They find the road to the Emerald City (yellow because it's covered with poppy pollen) to ask the Wizard to help them. Along the way, they find a horribly injured man with no memory. Dorothy, being a nurse, takes care of him as best she can, then brings him along in the hopes of finding more aid. He tricks her into giving him a name, and she calls him Lucas, because that's her home. They encounter a local apothecary, Mombi, who shelters them and gives Dorothy some compounds that Lucas needs to complete his treatment. Meanwhile, Mombi's ward, Tip, finally manages to run away (with Dorothy's help), and Tip and his friend Jack are now on their own. Without the drugs Mombi kept forcing upon him, however, something very strange happens to Tip. (If you know the Oz books, I'm pretty sure you can guess what that is.)

Meanwhile, in the Emerald City, the Wizard keeps throwing his weight around. Having already banned the use of magic, he does allow the two remaining cardinal witches—Glinda, of the North, and of the west—access to their temple so that they can sing their sister from the east to her afterlife. (There are indications that there was once a witch of the south, but that she's already gone, too.) Why Emerald City continues the Movie-inspired tropes that the witches are sisters, and that Glinda is the witch of the north, is beyond me. Anyway, one condition that the Wizard makes is that the funeral be open to the public, so that the people can see just what the witches are capable of. The Wizard, it seems, rules by science, and doesn't want the competition. But stuff happens, and it may not be that easy.

So, it's a start. I am at least enjoying all the little references to all kinds of Oz things, and I am intrigued to see how it is all going to pay off later. And we still have the Tin Woodman or the Cowardly Lion to look forward to. So I am going to reserve final judgement until I've seen the entire series. But I doubt this is something I will return to very often, as it's not the real Oz&mdast;but it's not trying to be, either.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oz on Other Game Shows

As you can probably guess if you're a regular reader of this blog, I'm a fan of the game show Jeopardy!. I've been watching that from the beginning of its current run, and even caught quite a few of the original Art Fleming episodes when I was a kid. And yes, I will have more Oz clues from recent episodes of Jeopardy! now that some technical issues have been dealt with. But I'm also a fan of other game shows, and I was really pleased that ABC revived some classic game shows last summer. One of them was Match Game, with all the ribald humor of the '70s version still in place. I was particularly pleased when the final episode of the first season had an Oz question. As I had no idea it was coming up, I didn't record it in a format I could download and present here, but you can view the entire episode yourself right here. But I can at least present a transcript of the relevant parts. But be warned, there is a reason ABC shows it at 10:00 at night. There is some very adult humor here, so children and sensitive readers may want to stop reading this now.

Still here? Okay, here we go. It's the first round, and the second contestant, Billy, a former football player, gets question A.

ALEC BALDWIN (our host): Dorothy got so freaky in Oz last night—

AUDIENCE AND CELEBRITIES: How freaky was she?

ALEC: She had to take the Yellow Brick Walk of Shame after she woke up next to blank.

(As the famous Match Game think music plays and everyone banters…)

J. B. SMOOVE: Oh my gosh, don't make me say it!

ALEC: Write it down! You sick, sick bastard, write it down.

KRISTIN CHENOWETH (yes, that Kristin Chenoweth!): I should know this, I should know this.

ALEC: Dorothy got so freaky in Oz last night, she had to take the Yellow Brick Walk of Shame after she woke up next to blank. She woke up next to blank!

LEAH REMINI: Eww, okay.

ALEC: Randall?

RANDALL PARK: Yes, got it.

ALEC: Waiting for you, J. B.

KRISTIN: Put it in, put it in the hole.

(J. B. puts in his answer, and the music stops. He and Kristin clink glasses after the audience laughter.)

ALEC (to Billy): Why you football throwing stud, you. Dorothy got so freaky in Oz last night, she had to take the Yellow Brick Walk of Shame after she woke up next to…

BILLY: …used condoms.

CELEBRITIES: WHAT?

AUDIENCE: BOO!

JACK McBRAYER: Get out!

ALEC: I just want to say, I was in the movie Concussion, where they say football causes brain damage. And now we have the proof. Now we have the incontrovertiple proof.

[In case it wasn't already pretty clear, Billy's answer was not a popular one.]

LEAH: A used condom?

BILLY: Somebody's got that. [Billy is an optimist!]

ALEC: She woke up next to…?

JACK: Well, mine's not classier, but it makes sense. [His card says, "Toto". He is buzzed for not matching.]

ALEC: Leah Remini?

LEAH: This is not that bright either, but… [Her card also sayo, "Toto". She is also buzzed for not matching.] I don't like the buzzer thing. Like am I wrong, Alec Baldwin, or is he wrong?

ALEC: Billy is more wrong than pretty much everybody in this whole building. Randall?

RANDALL: Well, I was going to say "Election ballots" [a callback to an earlier question], but… [His card reads "Toto {something nasty that's blurred out}. He is buzzed for not matching.] Just to make it clear, just to make it…the visual… [I really want to know what was blurred out!]

ALEC: Sarah?

SARAH PALIN (yes, that Sarah Palin!): Uh…out of all the choices, Billy! [She shows her card.]

ALEC: The Scarecrow. [She is buzzed for not matching.]

DAVID (the other contestant): Good answer, good answer!

ALEC: J. B. Smoove?

J. B.: The safest sex ever. [He shows his card.] A Munchkin, of course!

ALEC: A Munchkin!

J. B.: Am I wrong? Am I wrong for that? Am I wrong for that?

KRISTIN: No!

BILLY: That's a good one!

ALEC (to Kristin): Most people would consider, as you were the star of the Broadway musical Wicked… [big cheers from the audience] Who did Dorothy wake up next to?

KRISTIN: I mean, I think he's long, I think he's hard, and he's the… [She shows her card, which reads "Tin Man". She is buzzed for not matching.]

LEAH: You said long and hard, yes! Yes! The Tin Man!

Both players ended round 1 with no points, but Billy got a slam dunk question in the next round and got five matches (the only one he didn't match was Kristin), which David couldn't beat. In the audience match part of the bonus round, he went with Kristin's answer and won $3,000 (and a nice long hug from Kristin!), but didn't win the super match.

Apparently the game show revivals were a hit, because Match Game was brought back earlier this month, as well as their updated version of To Tell the Truth. (Now, come on, ABC, just bring back your excellent version of The $100,000 Pyramid, too!) On a recent episode of the latter, three of the contestants claimed to be Lauren Meno, who survived being thrown about by a tornado, but only one of them was telling the truth. As one might expect, we got this line of questioning:

LARA SPENCER: Number one, Wizard of Oz, favorite character?

LAUREN #1 (a Southern white woman): Uh, Dorothy.

LARA: Number 2, favorite character, The Wizard of Oz?

LAUREN #2 (a New York black woman): I'm sorry, it's The Wiz. [She didn't ask Number 3, who was Asian, which might have made for an interesting answer.]

Turns out that Lauren #1 was the real Lauren, and all of the celebrities guessed it was her. Lauren #2 was Shonya Axius (a name I am totally certain I misspelled), and she is a mother of two whose house looks like a tornado hit it. Lara, meanwhile, was the worst guesser of the bunch, and had to tweet a lie at the end of the show.

And that is it—for now—for non-Jeopardy! Oz stuff on game shows.

The Latest Oz Reading

Yes, it's that time again, to delve into the Ever-growing-but-not-fast-enough pile of Oz and Oz-related books, read some of them, and tell yau what I think of them.

  • I'm starting off with my reread of the FF+, but this one is tricky because what comes after The Marvelous Land of Oz? No, not Ozma of Oz, but the earliest Oz comics. But how to read them? I didn't want to read Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz: The Complete Comic Strip Saga 1904-1905 because that thing is huge and bulky to read. Fortunately, I had a more reasonably sized alternative in The Visitors from Oz from Hungry Tiger Press, which is the complete texts of not only the comic page, but The Woggle-Bug Book as well. For those not already familiar with this series, they transcribe the adventures of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, the Wogglebug, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, and the Gump in a strange and far-off land called America. These are really very short stories, and in some cases the visitors from Oz barely appear. But a consistent throughline is how amazing they find America and its accomplishments, nicely dovetailing with Baum's views of American progress. Looking at what we can now accomplish with computers, digital technology, and other more recent innovations, I don't disagree. This despite the fact that our friends can do magic, something they can't do in the regular Oz books. I also found all kinds of other inconsistencies with the (later) Oz books, which leads me to think that Baum didn't see these stories as part of the Oz series. Some time, I'd like to go through and put together a detailed explanation of why these adventures don't fit. Maybe I'll go back and reread these individually as part of my short story readings once I'm done with Oziana (but as I still have over forty years worth of that to go, it may take a while). The Woggle-Bug Book rounds out the collection, and it does not hold up well at all. The story of the Wogglebug falling in love with a Wagnerian checked dress is, frankly, pretty slight, and as he follows it from one owner to the next, Baum gets to trot out a tired tirade of ethnic stereotypes that were probably not even that funny over a hundred years ago, but now are extremely offensive. Things look up a bit when he gets to a jungle of civilized animals (shades of Prince Zingle and the monkeys in The Magical Monarch of Mo), but by then it's pretty much too late to save things. The whole thing ends with the Wogglebug making it bark to America, but we never see him reunite with his friends, let alone all of them returning to Oz.
  • I figure if I were going to read Baum's comic page, I may as well also read W. W. Denslow's comic page of the same era, also about the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion having adventures in America and the Caribbean. So I also grabbed my copy of The Scarecrow and Tin-Man of Oz, also collected in convenient-to-read book size, even though they are also reproduced in the big book. Denslow's style is much gentler and based more on the situations the characters find themselves in, rather than situations others often put them in as happened with Baum. Things sort of morph from the characters being from Oz to the characters being from the then-running stage show, so it makes sense that the final part of this volume would be the text of the picture book Denslow's Scarecrow and the Tin Man, recounting their adventures when they decided to take an afternoon off and leave the theater.
  • The final book in the current reading was The Visitors from Oz, ironically the first book to be published under that name. This came out in 1960, not long after the original "Queer Visitors" comic was rediscovered by Oz scholar and artist Dick Martin in a Chicago newspaper archive. He thought there was potential for a book, Reilly and Lee agreed, and so this book came about. About a dozen of the stories were rewritten and updated a bit (although I was surprised at how much of Baum's original text actually remained), and the order was rejigged so everything hung together better. The visitors first arrive at an amusement park in New York, where they are directed to Kansas in the hopes of finding Dorothy in time for her birthday. They keep getting turned around and going in the wrong direction, which means having to get out and figure out where they are (and having a new adventure each time as a result). But of course they make it to Dorothy's farm just in time, and help her celebrate. The Wogglebug even adds Aunt Em's cake recipe to his book of spells. The final story sees the Gump racing Santa and his reindeer as they're headed back to Oz. I really like this book, the story is charming and does a nice job of adapting the originals while putting it all together in a more timeless format. Martin's painted illustrations are charming, and he drops in a few sly Easter eggs for Oz fans to discover.
  • Finally, although not part of the regular Oz reading cycle, I also read this year's edition of Dunkiton Press, the twenty-fifth (!) consecutive year that editor Ruth Berman has put out a collection of rarely seen newspaper stories by Ruth Plumly Thompson and other Oz notables. This year the subject is "The Perhappsy Chaps" #5. This year those friendly little fellows help out with a town full of mice, an unhappy old man, a student who doesn't like to do math, a boy being raised to not have any fun, and a farmer unable to bring in his crops. Another charming collection. I can't help but think that someone needs to compile the definitive book of all of the Perhappsy Chaps stories into one volume.
That's it for now, but I'm sure I'll have more later.

Monday, January 09, 2017

This Week's Oz Short Story

And we're back at last to Oziana and the first story from the 1974 issue, "Abra Kadabra of Oz", written and illustrated by Melody Grandy. Ozma comes into possession of a mysterious and powerful fire gem, only for it to be brazenly stolen from her own magic room. Some detective work reveals that the thief is Abra Kadabra, the daughter of two old friends of Glinda that she's lost track of. Ozma, Glinda, the Wizard, and others find Abra in the far northern Gillikin Country, only to find that her motivations are entirely benevolent, and that she is protecting Oz from a phenomenon that will cause everyone in the country to age. Melody Grandy is one of the acknowledged masters of Oz fanfic (her Seven Blue Mountains of Oz Trilogy is phenomenal), and this appears to be one of her earliest published works. She's great at believable characters with clear motivations that others may not always see, and all of those show up here. The issue is off to a great start, but the second story is by one who could once have legitimately claimed the titile Royal Historian of Oz—but I'll have to tell you more about that next week!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Today's Oz Political Cartoon

I believe I've featured a cartoon here on this same subject before. And I very much doubt that what Joe Heller has given us today will be the last time we see this theme, too.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Today's Oz Comic

Hey, is today's edition of The Chuckle Brothers the first new Oz comic of the year? I believe it is! And in light of the many comments and observations others have made about Glinda in The Movie, it may not be too far off the mark, either!

Monday, January 02, 2017

This Week's Oz Short Story

And at last we come to the end of A New Wonderland with the appropriately named "The Ends of the Purple Dragon". The Purple Dragon has finally been caught eating the plum pudding crop, so the King calls a council of war to decide how to finally defeat the Dragon once and for all. Try as they might, nobody can think of a way, until the king suggests pulling out the Dragon's teeth. This works more spectacularly than anyone can imagine, so that proves to be the end of the Purple Dragon—and of the book.

Next week, I plan to return to my reading of Oziana!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Other Day's Classic Oz Comic

I've been out of town the past few days, so I missed this classic Doonesbury rerun when it ran on Friday. But here it is right now! To provide a little context, Zonker bought a British title, and was called into the House of Lords to defeat some measure proposed by Margaret Thatcher> Needless to say, there was a reaction of Ozzy proportions in the final panel!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Today's Oz Cartoon

I've been on the road a lot today, so I've only just this evening discovered the latest comic strip that Michael-sensei discovered for me. Yes, that does appear to be the witches of the eas and west facing off in today's edition of WaynoVision.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

This Week's Oz Short Story

Yeah, I'm a little late. But I'm on winter break, so that's okay, right? Anyway, even though A New Wonderland was one of the earliest things L. Frank Baum wrote as a writer, he was already starting to experiment with how to tell a story, as evidenced in the penultimate story, "The Fate of the Wise Men". The plum pudding crop is being poached, so of course the king asks his wise men for their advice. They name random animals around the kingdom, only to find that the fox, the bullfrog, and the yellow hen (definitely a precursor of Billina) were all having their own adventures, and so couldn't have done it. This gives Baum to tell three even shorter stories within the framework of this story. Of course the king finally figures out the problem is the bad advice he's getting from his not-very-wise men, so he takes action and does something about them. I won't tell you what, but it works, because the wise man finally reveals that the thief is the Purple Dragon—and we're left on a cliffhanger ending, to be resolved in the final story of the collection, which I will tell you about some time next week. Stay tuned!

Today's Oz Political Cartoon

Sick and tired of Oz-themed cartoons about the election and our impending new president? Yeah, I think we all are. Which is why it's so refreshing that today, Clay Jones gave us an Oz-themed cartoon about Israel!