Sunday, October 18, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

When I started off this review of every story in every issue of Oziana, I know I had an eight hundred pound gorilla coming up: The 2016 issue. This issue broke the format and was so different that I wasn't sure what to do about it for the longest time. But by the time I wrapped up the 2015 issue, I'd figured it out: I would skip it. Don't worry, I will write about it on this blog, but not as part of the weekly short story reading. It should come up within the next three or four years (yes, this is definitely some long-term planning). So now that that's settled, let's take a look at the first story in the 2017 issue of Oziana, which is "Angry Jack" by Sara Philips, with illustrations by Emilee Philips. This is pretty much "Jack Pumpkinhead and the Terrible, Horible, No Good, Very Bad Week", as Jack is just in a foul meed. Considering his basic personality, this is a huge shock, and his friends just don't know what to do with him. Scraps, especially, makes it her business to figure out what's wrong with Jack, but her efforts get nowhere. She is so upset that she even forgets to rhyme, which is highly unusual for her. But Jack even lashes out at Ozma, and is tired of being taken for a clumsy fool. He can't help what he is, after all. A (literal) run-in with Professor Wogglebug really shows just how bad things have gotten. In the end, Jack actually decides not to attend one of Ozma's parties at the palace, but he has to go and at least deliver the pumpkin pies he's made. So of course his friends gather for an intervention. And then comes the surprise ending! I don't want to give it away, but it is a little abrupt and still feels partially unresolved. But let's at least say Jack's old personality returns in the end.

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Top 100 Fantasy Books

When I saw that Time had published a list of "The Top 100 Fantasy Books" yesterday, I will admit to some initial trepidation, as often these lists are put together by high-falutin' literary critics who look down on children's books, and Oz in particular, it seems. But no, this was actually a panel consisting of Time editors and some of today's top fantasy writers. So I was pleasantly surprised to see several children's books on the list, and Oz is indeed represented—but not by the book just about everyone on the planet would expect! No, belive it or not (I won't hold you in suspense, so I'm going to spoil it here; this is your last chance to go look at the list before I let this cat out of the bag), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not on the list, but Ozma of Oz is! Since many Oz readers actually consider Ozma to be the best book in the series (whenever there's a poll for best Oz books, Wizard and Ozma usually battle for the top spot, with Marvelous Land a distant third), but for the rest of the literary world to notice is a testament to just how good it is. Personally, however, if I were to put only one book by L. Frank Baum on that list, it wouldn't even be an Oz book. I still think that Queen Zixi of Ix may be the best thing Baum ever wrote.

One other book I noticed is not on the list: The Hobbit! The entire Lord of the Rings cycle is there, but its prequel didn't make it. I would have also included Edward Eager's Half Magic, but they were limited to only one hundred books. I do think this list may be too heavily weighted towards books of the late twentieth century and the twenty-first (so far), but half the fun of lists like this is the back-and-forth of the reactions.

Today's Oz Comic

Today is Savage Chickens, we get the rarely-seen perspective of the fifth member of our little group. No wonder he didn't talk in the first book, he didn't have anything he needed to say.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Today's Oz Comic

Today in Rhymes with Orange, It seems Dorothy kept trying other ways to get to Oz before that tornado came along.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Prisoner Under the Rainbow

The Wizard's working on his magic some more, but it's not going quite as well as anyone wants it to. In fact, a whole lot of things are disappearing from the Emerald City and appearing in the land of lost magic items under the rainbow. So much stuff is disrupting the place that the Undertaker comes up to Oz to investigate and punish whoever is causing such a mess. Once he finds the Wizard, he takes him and everyone with him—of course that would mean Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion—and confines them there. Of course the Undertaker is no fool; to keep them from escaping, he confiscates the Ruby Slippers and locks them in a magical cage. So, Dorothy reasons, it will take magic to get them out. But the only one of them who knows magic is the Wizard, whose magic got them into this mess in the first place. Lots of failed trials convince the Wizard that he isn't worthy of their faith, and he decides he's done with magic. But Dorothy helps the boys see that all he needs is a little confidence, and she hatches a cunning plan. Remembering the Scarecrow's diploma, the Tin Woodman's clock, and the Lion's medal, they give him a symbol of what he already has inside of him: A wizard's hat. (Yes! He finally takes off Professor Marvel's turban!) Sure enough, it gives him the focus and confidence to unlock the cage and, just as the Undertaker has come again, clean up everything that he messed up in the first place. They get back to Oz safe and sound, and the Wizard is a better wizard for it.

Not bad, another harmless little episode. We get a nice little tour of Oz as the Undertaker looks for the troublemaker, seeing Ozma, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch and Wilhelmina doing some magic. The callback to the Wizard giving gifts to Dorothy's friends and them turning the same table on him was a nice little touch. Let's hope the Wizard is a more capable magic-user from now on.

Today's Oz Comic

Today's edition of Eek! looks very familiar. I think this may be a rerun from last year (or maybe an even earlier Halloween season). But if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you. Although I don't think this is a specifically Ozzy comic, I don't see any reason it couldn't be about Jack Pumpkinhead.

Monday, October 12, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

A more accurate description for "Prince Pompadore in Oz" by Nathan DeHoff, with illustrations by Dennis Anfuso, from the 2015 issue of Oziana might be "This Week's Oz Novella", because it really does read more like an abbreviated Oz book, with several plot strands that go all over the place before meeting up again. And this story is a worthy successor to previous adventures about the royal family of Pumperdink, as it all starts with the disappearance of Kabumpo. Naturally, Pompa decides he has to go out and find him, over Peg Amy's objections, and he has a number of adventures in strange villageslike Itchville and Ditchville before getting on the right path. Meanwhile, it seems a transportation spell in the Nome Kingdom has gone wrong, bringing Kabumpo to Kaliko's palace! He has a time of it himself, picking up some allies before reaching the Earth's surface. Since he's now in Ev, he very sensibly heads towards the Red Jinn's palace to enlist Jinnicky's help. If that weren't enough, Peg Amy decides her husband has been gone too long, and sets out on her own adventure. Whether by design or accident, they all end up at Jinnicky's, who finally gets them all back to the Emerald City for the usual celebratory conclusion.

This very much reads like an homage to the Oz of Ruth Plumly Thompson. There's a lot of running around and visiting strange new kingdoms with their own little quirks, and everything works out cozily in the end. Despite its length, this is a light, airy little confection of a story, and there's nothing wrong with that!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Today's Oz Comics

Yet another two-fer:

  • At first glance, you may think today's edition of Strance Brew is Ozzy, but the witch with an Ozzy name doesn't look at all like we usually think she does. But it is such an Ozzy name that I had to include it here.
  • On a more forward note, Tom Toles' political cartoon today makes it extremely clear how he feels about this coming presidential election.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Today's Oz Comic

Gee, do you suppose Patrick McDonnell is referencing the Oz Scarecrow (and especially the original W. W. Denslow illustrations) in today's edition of Mutts? (Yeah, that was sarcasm, of course that's the Oz Scarecrow!)

Monday, October 05, 2020

Today's Oz Comics

Yes, it's another two-fer, and for once, neither is a political cartoon.

  • First up, today in Grand Avenue, they're getting a little jump in the Halloween costume planning. Grandma has a very familiar-sounding question about Gabby's trial, and Gabby has a terrific answer.
  • Then, even though today's Off the Mark isn't specifically Ozzy, I doubt we would have it if L. Frank Baum hadn't given us the trope of the wet witch.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Broomstormers!

There appears to be some sort of town in Oz just for the witches in Oz, and the Wicked Witch of the West and Wilhelmina pop in. The Wicked Witch is all excited about the Broomstormers sweepstakes, as she thinks it's her time to win—but so does her oldest rival, Mean Jeanne the Green! The Wicked Witch doesn't want Jeanne to win, but she has no magic of her own, either, so she pressures Wilhelmina to compete and keep the Golden Broom in the family, where it's been for five hundred years. But Wilhelmina and her broom have no experience stuntriding, so the Wicked Witch pulls out her secret weapon: Hex, a special turbo-charged broom that can do all the stunts. But Wilhelmina's first attempt results in a twisted ankle, and she can't fly. Frank and Lyman try, but they're no more successful. So, who can they recruit to ride the broom? Watching Dorothy successfully ride the Horse of a Different Color gives Wilhelmina the idea to recruit Pigtails! Dorothy, thinking it sounds like fun, agrees, on the condition that the Wicked Witch of the West is nice for one week. The Witch reluctantly agrees. But to successfully ride Hex, Dorothy has to channel her inner wickedness! Despite that, she proves to be pretty good on Hex (after a few practice rounds), and feels confident going in. Dorothy and Hex are leading in the haunted slalom, until Mean Jeanne conjures up a cyclone and throws her off course. In the cackle wackle half pipe, Dorothy has better stunts, but Jeanne's cackle can't be beat. Still, Dorothy moves up quite a bit in the standings. The next event is the full moon willy whoop (where do they get these events from???), and Dorothy nails it while Jeanne falls on her dismount. It comes down to the final event, and whoever wins the freestyle flying contest wins the Golden Broom. Jeanne conjures up a dancing black cat, but Dorothy (with a little help from a hidden button on Hex) conjurs up a cauldron full of bats. Dorothy wins! She hands the trophy over to the Wicked Witch, who also demands the Ruby Slippers. Dorothy reminds her that that wasn't part of the deal, nor is she being nice like she promised. The Wicked Witch smiles, reluctantly, and decides now is not the time to get the Ruby Slippers. But there will be another time.

Hmm. This was actually kind of a fun episode, but something kept bugging me. I finally figured out that the problem was the Wicked Witch and Dorothy teaming up. I don't think that would have happened! Oh, I suspect Dorothy would have done exactly what she did if she was asked, I just don't think the Wicked Witch would ever have asked her in the first place. I came up with an alternate take that better fit the characters: Wilhelmina gets the job, but she's having absolutely no luck at all managing Hex, so she goes to Dorothy for help, and Dorothy ends up secretly coaching Wilhelmina during the competition. It feels a little more credible to me, and it would have given Wilhelmina a bigger, juicier part, which she has been seriously lacking this season.

Also in this episode, Frank asd Lyman have blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos as flying cheerleaders.

All right, let's see if I can actually get another episode in next week!

Saturday, October 03, 2020

The Latest Oz-Adjacent Reading

It just dawned onme that I got a new book for my collection, read it, but didn't write about it here! It's not, technically speaking, an Oz book, but it's written by an Oz scholar and past President of the International Wizard of Oz Club, and it's about an incident that happened to L. Frank Baum's mother-in-law, so I think I'm justified in writing about it here. The book is The Voice of Liberty, and it's the first picture book written by Angelica Shirley Carpenter. The illustrations are by Edwin Fothringham. It's the story of how Matilda Joslyn Gage and other members of the New York State Women's Suffrage Association disrupted the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886. Why should the symbol of liberty be a women, they thought, if women can't even vote? They faced some obstaceles, but they were finally able to make their voices heard. If you've read Carpenter's previous book about Gage, Born Criminal, you may already know about how it all happened. This is a fun retelling of the events, told simply but clearly. Fotheringham's illustrtations are charming, and he dose a great job capturing their likenesses. (Carpenter could not find a reference photo of one of the organizers, Katherine Devereaux Blake, at the appropriate age, but Fotheringham does a great job of extrapolating from her later visage.)

This Week's Oz Poem

Yeah, no short story this week because this week's item from the 2015 issue of Oziana is a poem, "Tin Man" by A. Waller Hastings. It's very short, and expresses Nick Chopper's regret at growing old, even in a tin body.

Since that was so short, we have a few other brief items from this issue to deal with, nely the covers:

  • The front cover is a gathering of Oz celebrities by David Bishop entitled "Happily Ever After".
  • The rear cover is a delightful portrait of Polychrome by Isabelle Melaçon, co-creator of the fine Ozzy webcomic Namesake.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Today's Oz Comic

In today's edition of The Argyle Sweater, Dorothy meets another Wicked Witch, and my goodness, she is a bad one!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Today's Oz Comics

Yup, another busy day!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Today's Oz Comic?

My man in Japan, Michael-sensie, discovered today's edition of Half Full and wonders if this is an Ozzy witch, based on her stockings. I pointed out that the Wicked Witch of the East's iconic stockings, seen underneath Dorothy's house, were black and white, not red and white as seen in the lower panel. So while I'm not entirely convinced that this is an Oz cartoon, it's got enough indicators that I'm willing to show it here. (I'm not sure I'd feel the same way about the black and white version, however.)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

It's time to crack open another issue of Oziana, the International Wizard of Oz Club's annual literary magazine! And the first story in the 2015 issue is "The Malevolent Mannequin in Oz" by Joe Bongiorno, with illustrations by David Bishop. This is pretty much a straight up horror story, as Mombi (some time when the Wizard was still the ruler) acquires a strange, ugly doll, even though it sends a shiver down even her spine. Naturally, the doll comes to life and tries to kill her, several times. It develops into a cat-and-mouse game between them, But Mombi eventually gets the upper hand. But it is strongly implied that this will not be the last we hear from it.

What makes this one interesting is that it's told in the first person, from Mombi's point of view. This allows the reader to actually get into her head, and we learn a lot about Mombi as a result. Not only does she tell us what's happening with her and the dummy, she also reveals a lot about the machinations of all the magic users of Oz, and how Mombi sees herself fitting into how Oz works. She certainly understands that she is wicked, but at least she's not as evil as some others—or so she sees it. We also get a little more information on Drs. Nikidik and Pipt, and why they are often mistaken for each other. The back story is often more interesting than Mombi's battle with the titular character. I think this is one story you have to be a true, deep Oz fan to truly appreciate, but if you just pay attention to Mombi's battle with the dummy, you still get a satisfying, if unsetling, little tale of gamemanship. One other nice touch is that Mombi has a cat in this story named Zisca, which is the name used by the actress who played Mombi in the 1969 movie The Wonderful Land of Oz!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Today's Oz Comic

in today's edition of Thatababy, it seems the Avengers have acquired a new member! (Hmm, if this were DC, would both of them join the Metal Men?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Special Delivery

Good grief, at this rate I will never finish watching this show! However, I am cautiously hopeful that the personal stuff that's been keeping me from regularly updating on this show is mostly taken care of now, and I can get back to blogging about it on at least a semi-regular basis. So let's see what this one is about!

The Cowardly Lion is so excited about a delivery from Munchkin Country, he completely misstuffs the Scarecrow. So where is the Lion's delivery of lollipops? It seems the delivery truck was hijacked by giants, who love lollipops more than just about anything else. The delivery driver gives Scarecrow and Lion a note, sending them off on a search for Dorothy. The Giants of Tartary plan to stop all shipments to the Emerald City—including the Lion's lollipops and the mineral emerodium that powers the City—unless Dorothy hands the Wizard over to the Wicked Witch of the West! What to do? Well, how about if Smith and Tinker make a delivery truck that can smash through the Witch's blockade? One quick Ruby Slipper trip, and Smith and Tinker get to work to create the Ozmobile! Of course Frank and Lyman observe this, and report to the Witch and Wilhelmina. One quick trip to Munchkinland, and Dorothy and the gang pick up more emerodium (and lollipops), but are stopped by the giants on the way back, and they love to fight. Dorothy uses a little psychology and asks which one of them is the best fighter, and the resulting rumble provides the distraction they need to get by them. The Wizard's magic and a few tricks built into the Ozmobile gets them further along, but then the Witch and her entourage show up, demanding the Wizard. Lion is forced to give up some of his lollipops to distract them further as the Wizard enchants them to explode. The Ozmobile is almost to the Emerald City when the giants catch up to it again. Luckily, as the city is running out of power, they make it through the gates just before they close on the giants. The giants then turn on the Wicked Witch, who won't give them any sweet treats because of their failure, chasing them back to where they came. The emerodium is installed, and the Emerald City is working again. The Lion even gets to enjoy one last lollipop.

Okay, that was just plain silly. The Ozmobile in pretty cool, but it really doesn't belong in Oz. This episode was just all on ebig runaround. But as usual, the good guys win in the end again.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The 2014 issue of Oziana started with a story set in Merryland, so it's appropriate that it ends with a story about Dot and Tot themselves. "Roselawn" by Jared Davis, with illustrations by David Baker, is set in 1919, after the end of World War I. Eva "Dot" Freeland, now an up-and-coming illustrator of children's books, has returned to her childhood home, Roselawn, to welcome home her old friend, American Expeditionary Forces soldier Matthew "Tot" Thompson. But the war has had a bad effect on Matthew, and he needs a lot of love and patience from Eva and the Roselawn staff to overcome his PTSD. Eva is finally able to break through by showing some of her illustrations based on their childhood trip to Merryland, even though he doesn't really believe it actually happened anymore.

This is a powerful, raw story of two old friends and how their friendship has endured through time and hardships. It ultimately has a happy ending, but we see a lot of the bad times Tot went through in Europe. This is in sharp contrast to the lighthearted fantasy these two first went through in Dot and Tot of Merryland. This story stands well enough on its own, but it really needs the reader to have read, or at least be familiar with, Baum's original book to truly understand it all. But that is easy enough nowadays to reckon with, as the book is in public domain.