Friday, September 20, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

When my man in Japan, Michael-sensei, started sending me Oz-themed comics from the strip CowTown, I went ahead and subscribed to it myself, as it was a frequent theme, and I only have about five dozen comics I read online every morning, a few more won't hurt, right? I swear, I read the comics this morning, but somehow I missed this one. I finally saw Michael-sensei's posting of it this evening, which is what now lets you see it, too. And hey, she's from Kansas, Dorothy could very well know a few things about Kansas City-style barbecue.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

This Week's Oz Short Story

Actually, I'm not sure if "The Crystal People" by Jack Snow, first printed in the Autumn 1967 issue of The Baum Bugle, quite counts as a short story, as it appears to be a chapter from an earlier version of The Shaggy Man of Oz with an added subplot about Cap'n Bill leading a sailing expedition to find the headwaters of the Gillikin River. (I suspect this is from an earlier draft of the novel, as the Shaggy Man is on the boat, whereas in the published book he was off having adventures with Twink and Tom outside of Oz.) The expedition sails into a cavern with pillars of crystal growing from both the ceiling and the ground. It turns out that these crystals are people: Men growing from the ceiling, and women rising up from the ground. Prince Stalag tells them that they are all looking forward to the day when they will grow together and join up, and then they can leave the cavern and take their rightful places as the true rulers of Oz. This concerns Ozma, who is part of the expedition—until Stalag tells her that that day is over 340,000,000 years in the future. Ozma decides she doesn't have to worry about it much, and the expedition moves on.

The encounter makes for an intriguing event on its own, but I'm glad it never got published in a book. It would have been one of those one-and-done adventures that doesn't add anything to the story or the characters. If Shaggy Man was running long, I can see why Snow's editor suggested cutting it out.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: General Jinjur

Yay, another episode about a classic character from the books! Dorothy and the boys are out picking berries that taste like whatever you're imagining when she is kidnapped by a troupe of dancing girl soldiers! One of them loses a heel from her boot, so when the guys investigate, they suspect Wilhelmina. Her heels are intact, so she kicks them out, but she and the Wicked Witch deduce that it's Jinjur and her dancing army. So the Wicked Witch sends Wilhelmina to rescue Dorothy! If Jinjur wants the ruby slippers, the Witch wants to stop her so she can get them herself. Meanwhile, the captured Dorothy meets the general, who tries to recruit Dorothy for the army. Wilhelmina finds the boys, and they reluctantly team up to rescue Dorothy. They walk in, and Wilhelmina starts trash-talking Jinjur until Dorothy suggests a way to figure out who should have her: a dance off! With a little help from her magic, Wilhelmina dances circles around Jinjur and is declared the winner. The army unties Dorothy, and Dorothy uses the slippers to zap out of Wilhelmina's way, foiling Wilhelmina's latest attempt to get the slippers. Jinjur is despondent that the war is lost, and tells everyone about the continuing dance battle with Field Marshall Foxtrot. Dorothy asks what the original war is about—and Jinjur can't remember! Dorothy suggests ending the war and giving Foxtrot a nice gift: some of the berries!

I'm not wild about Jinjur being turned from the leader of an army of revolt into the leader of what is essentially a kickline. But her tenacity and other aspects of her character are still there. This version just appears to be channeling her ambitions through dance rather than overthrowing the government. This may have something to do with Ozma being on the throne instead of the Scarecrow. And Jinjur and Wilhelmina's dance battle is a lot of fun. (I kept wondering where the music was coming from!) Still, this was a pretty pedestrian episode, not much to write home about.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

Today in Brevity. Dan Thompson creates a Baum-worthy pun.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

It's been a little while, hasn't it? For a while there, it felt like we were getting an Oz-themed comic just about every day. But this current dry spell is broken with today's edition of Strange Brew, where the Tin Woodman has a pithy comment about our society today. Yeah, I don't think I want to live in this version of Oz.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

This Week's Oz Short Story

It seems that in the 1920s, children's programs at radio stations around the country would read "The Enchanted Tree of Oz" by Ruth Plumly Thompson, a story with a cliffhanger ending. The listeners were challenged to come up with an ending, and the best would receive prizes. No records of any of those endings are known to exist, but The Baum Bugle published the story in its Autumn 1965 issue, and challenged members to come up with their own endings. In this fragment, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are out reminiscing while they're heading to Nick Chopper's palace. Veering off the road (uh-oh), they encounter a tree with a single odd-looking fruit. Since Dorothy is hungry, the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman want to pick it for her. The Lion is more cautious, and suggests they don't. When they insist, the Lion insists on trying it first. But once he climbs a few branches, a few of them intertwine around the Scarecrow and he is engulfed in the tree! On a missing page, it seems Dorothy does the same! When the original strange fruit falls and bursts, a strange little man pops out and tells them to chop the tree into kindling to save their friends, naturally the Tin Woodman starts chopping down the tree to save his friends while the Lion runs off to find help. But no matter how much he chops, more branches form—and then it begins to rain, and Nick is rusted solid. So how does it end?

Fortunately, Bugle readers back in the day didn't have to wait long to find out, because Bill Eubank provided a conclusion in tho Christmas 1965 issue. The Lion, disoriented, runs back just in time to see the Tin Woodman also engulfed, and turned into a tin fruit—a TIN CANtaloupe, to be precise. Sure enough, Dorothy and the Scarecrow have also been turned into giant fruits. Ozma, however, catches what's happening in the Magic Picture, and enlists the Wizard's help. While the Lion has captured the strange little man, the Wizard uses his new lightning machine to destroy the tree, and even stack the remains into two neat piles of kindling. Ozma uses the Magic Belt to transport everyone back to the Emerald City, where they try to force the little man to tell them how to disenchant their friends. He refuses, but Ozma then reveals that this tree was one of many created by the Wicked Witch of the West to capture slaves. Once a large fruit appeared, she would pick it and then disenchant it when she needed a new slave. Just then, Scraps comes in, and in her excitement, knocks all the fruits off the table, breaking them. But it turns out, that's the disenchantment. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Nick Chopper are safe. The little man, as punishment for not revealing anything he knew and hindering them, is sentenced to seeking out the rest of the trees and directing the Wizard's lightning to destroy them. The whole adventure ends with a celebration party.

Even with Ozma and the Wizard stepping in like a deus ex machina, I like Eubank's resolution. I'm not too sure about his treatment of the little man, however, who was only a victim of circumstance and an enchanted fruit himself. I don't understand his rationale for wanting to keep the others prisoners. (I suspect Thompson had something very different in mind for him, but that wasn't her part of the story to tell.) Still, he is punished, and in a very appropriate and Ozzy way. It's always fun to get a new Oz tale from a Royal Historian, and the complete-the-story format made this one especially fun.

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Scarecrow Knows Best

This episode opens with the Scarecrow explaining all about quicksand to Dorothy. Unfortunately, the topic comes up because the Cowardly Lion is trapped in some! This leads into a general discussion about just how smart the Scarecrow is. Back in the Emerald City, Ozma declares a friendship parade, celebrating the friendship between the Emerald City and Munchkinland. She declares that the venue will be the Yellow Brick Bridge joining the two together. Then Scarecrow points out that there isn't a Yellow Brick Bridge! Since this won't do at all, Ozma puts the Scarecrow in charge of constructing a bridge before he can explain that he doesn't actually know how to build a bridge! Wanting to save face and not letting everyone down, the Scarecrow bluffs his way through things. After several false starts and a few hijinks, they eventually put up a rickety bridge-like structure—that Dorothy, Tin Woodman, and Lion fall through, getting swept down the river! In his attempt to rescue them, the Scarecrow knocks himself out, and the rest must have saved themselves somehow because he wakes up to their concerned faces. The Scarecrow admits he doesn't know how to build a bridge, and Dorothy explains that that's okay, nobody can know everything, because then there'd be nothing left to learn. The gang all pitch in to rebuild the bridge, which looks a lot stronger, and it is dedicated by Ozma and the Munchkin mayor. All's well that ends well, but the Scarecrow seems to have had enough of bridge building.

This is probably not this show's finest hour, as there is a lot of acting out of character. I would have thought the Tin Woodman and the Lion, at least, would have observed the Scarecrow's difficulty and asked if he knew what he was doing. This version of Ozma is a bit of a steamroller, which isn't out of character. And Dorothy's understanding and positive can-do-it-iveness once she finds out totally fits. And I did have a little insider knowledge grin when the Lion mentioned making other bridges to Winkie Country, Gillikin Country, and Quadling Country.

One last thought: Hey, Ozma, do you have no construction crews or architects or anyone else in the country who can do anything? Why do Dorothy and her friends have to do it all?

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Toto Transformed

Toto runs away from his bath. Dorothy and the boys eventually track him down in a bubble-soaked throne room, but Dorothy worries about losing him on adventures. She asks Ozma for a bell to put on Toto's collar, and she finds one. Later, a big black monster antagonizes a group of Emerald Citizens, and Dorothy and the boys investigate. The Wizard appears and tells them all about Ozsquatch, the biggest, scariest creature in Oz, causing everyone to run away panicking. Dorothy and the boys head to the Munchkin village, where everyone is boarded up in their homes. Then Ozsquatch appears. Dorothy can't find Toto, but he turns up just as Ozsquatch disappears. Then, while she's holding him, Toto's new bell rings again, and he turns into Ozsquatch! Yup, it's an enchanted bell. As soon as it rings again and he changes back to his lovable old self, Dorothy removes the bell, and Ozma appears, having remembered the enchantment on the bell. She takes it back to the Emerald City, but not before ringing it herself, transforming into what Dorothy calls Ozmasquatch!

It's silly and fluffy, and Ozsquatch is more cute than frightening (well this show is aimed at very young ids), but it is an excellent showcase for Toto, who hasn't gotten a lot of love on this show until now. So that alone makes this episode a recommendation from me.

This Week's Oz Short Story

Robert R. Pattrick was a charter member of the International Wizard of Oz Club and an early Oz collector, researcher, and author of what would best be described as Oz fanfic. Unfortunately, he died way too young, in 1960 at the age of only 33. His notes paved the way, however, for the Club's maps of Oz and a lot of Ozian research through to today, so even after his passing he has been very influential. And he wrote fun short stories, too. One of them, "The Tin Woodman and the Tin Soldier of Oz", was published in the Christmas 1963 issue of The Baum Bugle, and so I reread it from The Best of The Baum Bugle 1963/1964. (It was also published in the program book for OzCon International last year, which is what prompted me to go back and examine short stories published it the Bugle.) It's not terribly long, but we do find a little bit more about Captain Fyter, and what he's been doing since he was introduced in The Tin Woodman of Oz. Nick Chopper pays him a visit, at the Captain's tin cottage on the edge of a Gillikin wood. They chat about their shared history and make-up, and decide that they are cousins. The Tin Woodman then decides to give his cousin a first name: Abel. Captain Abel Fyter. (Yes, Pattrick liked puns, too.) Abel tehn tells Nick some of the problems he's been having with a patch of wildflowers and other vicious plants nearby, and maybe Nick's axe could be of assistance. Sure enough, the two of them make short work of dandelions, tiger lilies, snapdragons, crabgrass, dogwood, and so forth that try to attack them. Fortunately, the Wizard has provided the Captain with seeds for some new, more user-friendly plants to replace them, such as goldenrods, sunflowers, bellflowers, bread trees, butterball, honeysuckle (that grow pots of honey), and other plants that grow items that travelers might find useful.

This story isn't meant to do much more than reintroduce the Tin Soldier and then give a long list of plant-based puns, but it does both of these well. It would be nice to see more of Captain Abel Fyter, cousin to the Emperor of the Winkies, in some of the royal histories.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

There are two good reasons to post today's Thatababy here. One is, of course, the poster on the wall at the right. But if you know about that poster, then I doubt you need it to understand the actual joke in the comic. So go take a look already!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

Today in Break of Day, Dorothy shows us the problem of going out on the town. (This reminds me of a book, Fantasy Baseball by Alan Gratz, about a kid from our world in a coma who ends up playing on the Oz Cyclones in a fantasy league—every team is made up of characters from children's books, comics, nursery rhymes, that sort of thing. Dorothy is the captain, and has silvery-ruby baseball cleats. The one time she doesn't have those cleats, she isn't able to score a run, even when another player bats her in, because she needed those shoes to go home.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

Apparently The Argyle Sweater today is watching the hipster version of The Wizard of Oz. (Did I get that right? Is that a hipster thing? I'm so unhip I have no idea.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Today's Oz Political Cartoon

The next Presidential election is still more than a year away here in the United States, but the jockeying and campaigning have already begun—which also means, so have the political cartoons! Tom Stiglich is the first out of the gate with his comparison of one of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination to an Oz character. I'm not sure I agree with him, but I do like the art.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Three Friends and a Magic Crystal

Even though it’s not fall, Dorothy and the guys are raking all leaves off the yellow brick road. Turns out, it’s one of Wilhelmina’s traps! But Wilhelmina gets stuck in her own leaf cocoon trap—with Dorothy! The boys go to get help from Ozma, with Frank and Lyman right behind them. Ozma finds out that they need a magic crystal from the Crystal Forest. Despite their doubts, they find the right crystal immediately. Good thin, too, because Wilhelmina’s attempts to get Dorothy and her out of the cocoon has them rolling over a cliff! Good thing Ozma comes along and saves them. Frank and Lyman try to steal the crystal (I don’t know why, they both want to free their friends from the same trap!), but it cracks. As Frank and Lyman fly off to tell Wilhelmina the bad news, a baby crawls out of the crystal! The guys can’t figure out what to feed it, and so once they rescue it from a shark-infested lake (in Oz???), they go to Queen Ozma to figure out what to do. It turns out that the magic crystal was exactly what Ozma needed, because the baby they found was a baby wogglebug, and baby wogglebugs eat leaves! Sure enough, the wogglebug eats the cocoon, freeing Dorothy and Wilhelmina. The leaves were also enough for the wogglebug to grow to adulthood, and he thanks them all for the delicious meal. All’s well, Wilhelmina at least expresses gratitude that the snipers are still safe, and Lyman gets to happily roll around in a bunch of leaves.

Come on, Wilhelmina, haven’t you figured out by now how nice these guys are to you, and that you’d probably be better off just becoming friends with them? Alas, once again her own shortsightedness is her downfall, and Wilhelmina doesn’t get the Ruby Slippers again, she has to stay tied up with Dorothy for a while. On another note, we see the DatWoO debut of wogglebugs, who aren’t much like the esteemed Prof. H. M. Wogglebug, T. E. of the books. Still, we get another piece of evidence that the writers are reading the books! The title of the episode, by the way, is a reference to the movie Three Men and a Baby, as the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion get into some hijinks as they try to deal with the baby wogglebug.

This Week's Oz Short Story

Running across an old story in last year's OzCon International program book, I realized that the International Wizard of Oz Club published short stories before Oziana started publication in 1971. So I thought I'd go back in time and revisit some of those old stories, published in the Club's journal, The Baum Bugle, in the 1950s and '60s. (Unlike my Oziana rereads, I will be skipping poems also published in the Bugle during this time. I'm also passing over short stories by L. Frank Baum, as I have future plans for those.) And what a way to start, with "A Murder in Oz" by Jack Snow, first serialized over five issues from 1958 to 1960, and now collected in The Best of The Baum Bugle 1957-1961, which appears to be out of print now. (If you can find the Jack Snow anthology Spectral Snow, it's in there as well.) It's late at night, the kids have gone to bed, and several of the adult Oz characters are enjoying more grown-up pleasures (alcohol, the Shaggy Man smokes a cigar) in Glinda's library when the topic of conversation turns to whether or not someone can be murdered in Oz, especially those who came to Oz from the outside world. Their meditations are interrupted when Dorothy runs in about Ozma—she's dead! The Great Book of Records has only one cryptic entry, but from that the Wizard is able to deduce the identity of Ozma's killer. Sure enough, a search turns up a small boy: Tip! It seems he had enough identity that he didn't entirely vanish when he was transformed back into Ozma, so he decided to take his life back. The Wizard and Glinda, however, are confident that they can restore Ozma without sacrificing Tip again, essentially giving Ozma a twin brother.

It has clearly been some time since I read this, because I remember there being a lot more happening between the discovery of Ozma's body and finding Tip. But no, the Wizard manages to figure it out pretty quickly, but doesn't let on to the other characters (nor, it turns out, the reader) until his suspicion is confirmed. It is, however, a satisfyingly Ozzy ending, and it would have been fun to see Snow writing more stories with both Ozma and Tip. The idea of Tip having a separate identity from Ozma has been more thoroughly explored in the Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy, but this is probably where the whole idea originated.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Today's Oz Comic

Today in The Argyle Sweater, it appears that not just humans want to go see Oz plays on Broadway.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: The Return of the Wicked Witch

Yes, our epic tale featuring the return of both the Wizard and the Wicked Witch concludes with this segment. Everyone is out of the crystal ball, including the Witch possessing the Wizard! But the Witch fools them all into thinking she's gone for good, including Wilhelmina, who mourns the loss of her auntie. The Scarecrow sneaks the crystal ball out and takes it back to the Emerald City, not trusting the Wizard. In a private conference, the Witch steals Ozma's wand, and uses it to take over Oz and transforms Ozians into animals, trapping Ozma in butterfly form in a bell jar. The Wizard takes control long enough to tell Dorothy what's happening, but the Witch transforms the Lion into a pig to get the Ruby Slippers from Dorothy so she can get her old body back. Dorothy gives her one slipper—which looks really, really odd on the Wizard's foot—but then Ozma escapes, causing the wand to give her her real form and return to her ("I had no idea my wand could do that!"). They nearly trap the Witch in the crystal ball, but Wilhelmina zaps it and takes the wand back. Left with no choice, Dorothy hands her the other slipper, and the Witch regains her old body. She's primed to bring trouble to Oz—but she has no magic powers. They're still in the Ruby Slippers, which are still on the Wizard's feet! He's tempted to use the Slippers himself to gain magic powers and rule Oz, but he now knows that that wouldn't be right, and he gives the Slippers back to Dorothy. The Witch vows revenge, but doesn't even have the power to fly a boom, so she hitches a lift on Wilhelmina's broom back to the castle. The Wizard, however, seems to have gained the Witch's powers, and can do some magic. He's still so uncoordinated with it, however, that nothing he tries goes right. He's settling down to practice, and Dorothy is sure he'll get there in the end.

This was a satisfying conclusion to this storyline, and sets things up nicely for the rest of the series. The Wicked Witch is back, but needs to get powers before she can take over Oz. The Wizard is not only back, he even has real magic now, but doesn't know how to use it. And there's still several episodes left! But it looks like this is now going to become a weekly update. So I'll see if I can tell you about the next episode this weekend!

The Latest Oz Reading

I know, I know, I said int was going to be a while before I had another of these. But that was before the comics order came! There were a few Oz items in it, so I guess I'd better summarize them here.

  • Grimm Fairy Tales #30. This is Zenescope's flagship title, and the Ozzy cover caught my eye, and I found out part of the storyline took place in their version of Oz. Unfortunately for me, this was not the first issue of their Oz storyline, and I may have to go back and get a few more issues (plus stay on top of things until it leaves Oz again). I gather that Skye, the title's main protagonist, captured some Munchkins in the previous issue, and accompanies them to their village, where she meets up with their sage. The sage helps Skye decode the writing on a shield from Camelot, and so Skye is off on a journey to find other magic items and the ingredients needed for a spell. Not much actually happening, but Skye does get to learn more about Oz and pick up some allies.
  • Oz: Heart of Magic #5. Dorothy's quest to regain her true form and save Oz continues. She and her allies manage to infiltrate the Nome Kingdom and find Glinda and Adastra, awakening them. But in the Emerald City, Bartleby, the Scarecrow, finds out that the usurper's plans have nearly come to fruition, and they reveal themselves to be the Mad Wizard and Ann Soforth, exiled empress of Oogaboo! And what's worse is they hold Ozma in their power. Good thing there's only one issue left of this miniseries.
  • Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir and Sarah Andersen. Way back when, before he became a bestselling, award-winning science fiction writer, Andy Weir wrote fanfic, and even created crossover comic books. One of those featured Dorothy Gale, Alice Liddell, and Wendy Darling meeting up and having adventures in each other's worlds. Weir would be the first to tell you, however, that his art was not terribly good. So when it came time to collect this adventure into one book, he wisely decided to find someone to draw proper illustrations for it. Sarah Andersen fits the bill very nicely, and this collection is the result. Not a lot has changed about the actual story, which eventually sees the Wicked Witch of the West and Captain Hook allying themselves to take over various realms, and the three girls and their friends stopping them. They make clever uses of their various abilities and magic talismans, and it all comes to a satisfying ending, while still leaving the door open for further adventures (yes, please). I'm glad this story has finally been properly published, and in such an attractive form, too.
And that's it for now! I have no idea if I'll have another entry in this series soon, but Oz books just keep popping up at this house all the time!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Escape from the Crystal Ball

When we last left the Wicked Witch's castle, everyone was stuck in her crystal ball. And I mean all the regulars, good and wicked, along wit the newly-returned Wizard, whose loyalties seem to be in some flux. The only way out is if Dorothy uses the ruby slippers—but then the Wicked Witch of the West would also be free! Dorothy surprises everyone by choosing to keep the witch from making trouble and staying in the crystal ball! Then Dorothy wonders how the Witch survived her melting, which leads to a flashback of the events of The Movie, and we see the Witch's spirit (looking something like a sickly green pollywog) possess Lyman and Frank as she tries to get to the Emerald City and acquire the ruby slippers, just as Dorothy is taking off in the balloon with the Wizard. The Witch possesses a cat to lure Toto away, keeping Dorothy in Oz. The Witch finally makes it into the crystal ball before fading away entirely, and just before Wilhelmina returns from witch finishing school. As the flashback ends, the Witch sends Wilhelmina off for the first time to fetch the ruby slippers so the Witch can escape for good. The Witch ten starts crying crocodile tears, trying to convince Dorothy that she's reformed. But she overplays her hand and Dorothy sees right through her intentions. Dorothy decides to use the slippers to get everyone out except the Witch, so everyone (yes, even Wilhelmina, Frank, and Lyman) grabs on, Dorothy clicks her heels, and they're free—with no sign of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Wizard speculates that she's still trapped in the crystal ball, but then he cackles evilly as the episode ends!

Despite this being almost entirely exposition, this episode really books along at a good clip. The flashback is padding, in that the story would work out just fine without it, but just getting the chance to see The Movie with these versions of the characters is a lot of fun. (The Emerald City sure looks a lot like a green version of Munchkinland, however.) Kudos to this episode go to Laraine Newman (yes, that Laraine Newman, one of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players), channeling her inner Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. This isn't her first episode as the Witch (nor is the series her first time, having also voiced the role in Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz), but this is probably the most she's had to do the voice in one episode, and she's good at it. She definitely has a lot of the same cadence as Margaret Hamilton did in The Movie, but with a little more sass and humor, more in keeping with the audience this show is aimed at.