Sunday, February 23, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The final story of the 2009/2010 flipbook edition of Oziana, from the 2010 side, is "Invisible Fence" by J. L. Bell, with illustrations by David Lee Ingersoll. When Dorothy uses the Magic Belt to take her to the Wizard, she finds him in the midst of an undercover investigation with the Tin Soldier and Snif the Iffin into illegal magic in the midst of a Gillikin forest. They must take her into their confidence, and Dorothy ends up assisting. The group manage to capture a young boy and his cat who are bartering magic items from their home. In the Emerald City, the prisoners are looked after by Tollydiggle, but they still almost break out in spite of the magic invisible fence around the prison. Clearly things are not as cut and dried as things look, but the wild card proves to be Ozma, who recognizes one of the defendants at the trial, which puts things in a whole new light.

There is, as I'm sure you can guess, a lot more to this story, but I don't dare say any more. This is a tightly woven story, and any attempt to explain further would unravel it for anyone who hasn't read it but may want to in the future. But it is a very satisfying story in the end, and as happens in the best of all Oz stories, everything works out in the end. But what an interesting journey to get there! One thing that struck me during this reading, though, is just how well J. L. Bell understands the Oz books and its characters. He is not afraid to dig deep into the series for a character or a story hook, and he uses them well without completely rehashing what has done before. This is a rare trait in any writer, but especially one digging around in someone else's sandbox as he does with Oz.

Today's Oz Comic

Somehow, when Tom Hutchinson created the terrific Oz-reimagined-as-a-Western-comic The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, I don't think he had today's edition of Strange Brew in mind.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Today's Oz Comics

Yup, we've got another two-fer today!

  • I know The Wizard of Oz often gets mashed up with other books, but today's edition of Non Sequitur has mashed two together you may have never anticipated. And yet, strangely, ti kind or works.
  • Meanwhile, over in Reality Check, the Scarecrow has some modern day problems looking for what he wants.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Emerald Thumb

Ozma needs ingredients for a potion, but they can't find enough growing wild. Dorothy suggests planting a garden, but as often happens when creating something by committee, everyone has their own ideas of what to do. The Scarecrow wants to build the scarecrow first, the Tin Man tries to break up the soil with his axe, the Lion uses the rake as a backscratcher, and Toto just wants to dig. But Dorothy manages to straighten things out and sow the seeds, meaning a few weeks' wait for results. The Wizard comes by and puts a little magic into the garden to hurry things along, against Ozma's better judgement. Sure enough, a beautiful garden grows almost instantly. The next morning, though, all the plants are gone! It looks like a monster or a giant came and ate them all, and then skedaddled down the yellow brick road. Some giant holes at first seem to indicate gophers, but instead some giant Audrey II-style plants, with eyes and mouths and long twining arms, emerge. (The Wizard thinks his spell may have worked a little too well!) The encounter does not go well, and it soon becomes clear that the plants need to be stopped before they can gobble up all of Oz. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina is trying to give Frank and Lyman their biannual bath, but are interrupted by the plants climbing up the castle walls! Wilhelmina tells them to stop, and they do! She's green, so they appear to respect her. She puts them through their paces, and then has them try to capture Dorothy and the gang when they turn up. A little wilting magic from Ozma stops them, but then Wilhelmina fortifies them with more green magic. It backfires, however, and the plants turn on Wilhelmina and the Wicked Witch. Another zap from Ozma doesn't stop them this time, so Dorothy figures frost will stop them. Nope, they just throw snowballs back. A plague of insects doesn't work, either. Finally, Toto suggests a rabbit. Ozma conjures one up (a classic magic trick, of course), the Wizard uses his magic to make it grow, and the giant bunny eats the plants. The day is saved, and Wilhelmina and the Witch aren't terribly grateful! Now the problem becomes what to do about the giant bunny as it takes a bite out of the Emerald City.

I think it's fair to say that this show has become a slapstick farce. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Yeah, it was silly, but the plants do add an air of menace, and Dorothy does manage to use her Kansas smarts and logic to deal with the problem. Now if only the Wizard can learn the limits of his own magic, they can actually get things done!

Today's Oz Comic

The premise behind today's edition of Rubes is that Dorothy is off on an adventure with the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, and Snufferbux (Ojo's friendly bear companion in Ojo in Oz) when they all get the call of nature at roughly the same time. Well, that's one interpretation, anyway.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The second story in the 2010 half of the 2009/2010 double flipbook edition of Oziana is "Fiddle's Revenge" by Arianna Brown, with illustrations by Dennis Anfuso. This takes place not long after the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the Scarecrow on the throne of the Emerald City and the flying monkeys enjoying their newly won freedom. Prince Kuku drops the Golden Cap in the heart of the forest, however, and none of the flying monkeys are brave enough to get it, thinking there's no way anybody could find it anyway. Unfortunately, they're wrong, in that Fiddle, the son of the giant spider slain by the Cowardly Lion, is there. He uses the monkeys to exact revenge for his mother's death! While he's tying up the Lion, however, Kuku slips away and goes to the Scarecrow, asking for his help. The Scarecrow's plan? Poppies! He gathers as many poppies from that poppy field as he can, and drops them over Fiddle, causing him to sleep. Not wanting to kill him, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and king of the Flying Monkeys tell him that, now he is the new ing of the forest, he has to pass a test that involves him giving something away (the only thing Fiddle has is the Golden Cap), and then spend the night in the Deadly Desert before returning home on his own. And that's the last they end up seeing of him.

It's a little brief, and the ending is abrupt. It's implied that Fiddle can survive in the desert—remember, this was before the desert was known to turn living creatures to dust—and would prefer it there. But maybe, some day, Fiddle will leave the desert and come back to Oz to exact even more revenge.

While we're at it, the only extras for this issue are the two covers. The 2009 cover is "Lifting the Curtain" by Charnelle Pinkney, and it depicts Toto lifting an emerald green curtain to show his old home in Kansas. The 2010 cover is "The Queen and Her Court" by Tim Art-McLaughlin, and shows Ozma and some of her famous friends.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Scoodlers

The title alone intrigues, as the Scoodlers are a group of not-very-pleasant characters from The Road to Oz who want to turn Dorothy and her friends into soup! So, let's see how Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz handles them!

The Wizard has taken Dorothy and the boys out on a balloon ride, but an Ork attacks, knocking Tin Man out. Some quick thinking and an umbrella keep him from crashing, but now he's trapped in a barren wasteland all alone. He barely survives an encounter with some sort of rock creature, and then he meets the Scoodlers. They have two faces (one happy, one angry) on their reversible, removable heads. They do not appreciate an intruder in their territory, so they tie him up and carry him off. The balloon, meanwhile, lands in a tree, and Toto picks up the scent. In the Scoodler village, the chef decides the Tin Man would make an excellent soup pot, but the Tin Man pulls a shiny new soup pot out of his chest, as well as a peach basket that he hangs up and uses one Scoodler's head to demonstrate how to play basketball. This amuses them, but the Queen then shows up and has him locked up. By this time, Dorothy, the Wizard, and the rest have also encountered the Scoodlers, and they are captured as well. An anti-magic field around the village means the Ruby Slippers don't work, so Toto and the Lion dig themselves out of the cell. The Tin Man, in a separate cell, is about to be cut up to make a soup pot, but Dorothy and the Wizard figure out that the Queen has the biggest head, and thus that is how she became the Queen. All they need is a bigger head! A quick paint job turns the balloon into a giant head, and the Wizard's amplified voice convinces them to let the Tin Man go. But the paint keeps dripping off, and their ruse is discovered. A swift kick from the Tin Man causes the Queen's head to go flying, however, and he manages to grab the rope Dorothy drops from the balloon. Are they safe? Not quite yet! The Ork is back! But when he spots the face on the balloon, he flies off, scared.

This may be the best use of characters from the books the show has done so far. They are very much like they are originally portrayed there, but the show's writers have put their own creative twist on them to fit the show and the position their version of the characters are in. Using Scoodler heads as basketballs is inspired, even if it doesn't actually result in much. Fortunately, the Scoodlers are not as scary here as they are in the book (they don't want to turn Dorothy and her friends into soup, fortunately), as this show is aimed at very young children. This may not be a crucial episode, but f\at least from this long-time Oz fan's point of view, it is very satisfying.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Today's Oz Political Cartoon

Even though The Wizard of Oz is an American movie (based on an American book) and a major touchstone of American popular culture, it is also known all over the world, and can therefore be used to make political points in other parts of the planet. Take this commentary by South African political cartoonist Zapiro. It all ties into an investigation of the wealthiest woman in Africa, Isabel dos Santos, and how she very likely acquired that wealth at the expense of the people of Angola. But hey, she used the term "witch hunt", so the resulting cartoon should come as no surprise.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

For once, I actually have a little spare time tonight, so I thought I'b be early for once in talking about this week's story. Now that I've finished 2009, it's time to hit the 2010 half of the 2009/2010 flipbook edition of Oziana. Not that there's much to "Celebrating Ozma: The Silver Jubilee Issue" by Andrew and Rachel Heller, with illustrations by Tim Art-McLaughlin: it's a description of several commemorative stamps from the Royal Oz Post, celebrating the life of Princess Ozma. And let's just say a lot of thought and imagination goes into these stamps! Since they're free, Oz stamps serve another purpose, namely actually being able to magically deliver your mail. A little bit of magic also goes into the design of the stamps, as they're able to do things philatelists on this side of the Deadly Desert only wish the stamps they collect could do. Yeah, this one packs a lot into only two pages that aren't really even a story.

Today's Oz-Related Comic

Today's edition of TrivQuiz is about that 1974 sci-fi classic (?) Zardoz. Now, no matter what you may think of this movie, it is definitely one fans of The Wizard of Oz need to know about, because there is a connection with Oz. Heck, the title alone comes from Oz. So check out the comic, and maybe eventually the movie, too.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Today's Oz Comics

A two-fer today:

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

So how crazy has my life been lately? I read this week's story early, planning to put the write-up here first thing when the weekend came. Then other stuff happened. I'm only now carving out the time to write this, but here it is at last. The final story in the 2009 half of this flip edition of Oziana is "The Trouble with the Magic Belt" by Steve Teller, with illustrations by John Mundt, Esq., and it starts with a conversation at an Oz convention. The veterans are discussing the Magic Belt and how powerful it is, and how it could solve just about any problem that cowes up in the Oz books. On the fringes, in more ways than one, is Sterl Nephel, and he decides to do something about it! He locates all kinds of magic artifacts, explores all kinds of arcane knowledge, and even tries the spell to go to Mudge from The Cowardly Lion of Oz, but can't get to Oz no matter what he does—until he starts making the magical sign Dorothy used in some of the early Oz books. Eventually, Ozma gets word of this, and brings Sterl to Oz out of sheer curiosity. He requests one wish from the Magic Belt, and manages to wish its influence out of existence! Sure enough, back at the convention, the conversation turns to just how powerful Ozma's wand is.

This is a fun meta-crossover between Oz fans (many of them very thinly disguised parodies of people Teller and I both know) and the rules of magic. The logic of the story is air tight, and someone probably could make the same wish on the Magic Belt and cause the same problems. This was a fun one to read.

As a bonus, there is also a puzzle. The story opens and ends with pictures of Oz fans gathered around talking, both before and after Sterl's visit to the Emerald City, with some subtle differences. The solver's goal is to find the differences.

The Latest Oz Reading

A lot of stuff going on in my life has prevented me from getting a lot of reading done. I am so close to my next cycle of Oz reading, but everything else going on is making it a challenge to get there. But I am keeping up on reading the comic books that come through our door, and much to my surprise Oz popped up! When I picked up Shazam! #9, I thought, hey, is the the Scarecrow behind the Big Red Cheese's right shoulder? A Neill-esque Scarecrow, no less? Sure enough, this issue has a trip to Oz—sort of. The current storyline is about how Billy, Mary, and their siblings are stuck in a number of lands branching off from the Rock of Eternity. Here, they end up in The Wozenderlands, a mash-up between Oz and Wonderland. (Alice and Dorothy brought them together during a crisis to protect them from the Monsterlands.) The Scarecrow and the Munchkins take the Shazams to see Dorothy, but Billy has to deal with some family issues first, and we don't see a resolution to this part of the storyline, nor do we meet Dorothy. Meanwhile, Sivana and Mr. Mind have found the Rock of Eternity, and the issue concludes with the line, "Next: The War of the Magiclands". So I suspect we'll see more of this version of Oz in the next issue.

One of the oldest comic books I own is one from the '40s featuring Captian Marvel, Jr., encountering a bunch of Oz characters. And these were contemporary Oz characters, as they all came from the books penned by John R. Neill. So the current version going to Oz may not be quite as astonishing or unprecedented as one might think. And The Wozenderlands definitely fits into what the writers are creating here. Needless to say, I am really looking forward to how this plays out, and seeing some other Oz characters turn up.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: The Nice Witch

The Wicked Witch of the West is having a bad day, and Wilhelmina and the monkeys are trying to snap her out of it. Nothing works, so Wilhelmina decides to whip up a "say yes" spell for her auntie. It works, and they work out the next scheme to steal the Ruby Slippers. They scope out the gang in a meadow, where Dorothy is braiding the lion's mane. Once she's done, she asks, "Does anybody else want braids?" to which the Wicked Witch says, "Yes!" Okay, not suspicious, but just to be safe, Dorothy also asks if anyone is hiding behind the rocks. Again, the Witch says, "Yes," and Wilhelmina and the monkeys head home, knowing the jig is up. Wilhelmina thinks her auntie is still up to something, but Lyman believes the say yes spell backfired. Meanwhile, her hair freshly braided, the Wicked Witch confesses to Dorothy and the boys that she became a grouch after losing her powers, but the new hair makes her feel much better. The Tin Woodman then suggests a full makeover. They take her to the Patchwork Girl (yay!), and the Witch says yes to everyone's suggestions—so she ends up looking like Dorothy! Complete with ruby cowboy boots! While Wilhelmina works on the reversal spell, Ozma comes to Dorothy for help, and is all confused by also seeing the Wicked Witch there. Wilhelmina flies in with the reversal spell in a cup of tea, and asks the Wicked Witch if she wants to drink it. Of course the Witch says yes. But then Dorothy asks if the Witch wants to stay happy. She says yes to that, too! Arguing and grumbling breaks out as the Wicked Witch agrees to whatever anyone says. Finally, Dorothy says that Wilhelmina is right ("Wait, Pigtails thinks I'm right?" Wilhelmina asks), and that the Witch should drink the tea and make up her own mind about how to be, not be influenced by a spell. Well, she drinks it, and she's back to her old self again. I guess she didn't like being nice after all. The witches and monkeys fly away while Dorothy, Ozma, and the boys laugh off the adventure.

This was a little disturbing, in a good way. I mean, when are the Wicked Witch and Wilhelmina going to figure out that Dorothy's not so bad, and they may as well just get along with Ozma's regime? They can pretty much do what they want now anyway (except have the Ruby Slippers), nobody's going to bother them. But it is amusing to see the Wicked Witch being nice and agreeable for a bit. Lyman gets some really fun one-liners in this one, as well.

Today's Oz Comics

We have one definitive and one doubtful today:

  • The definitive one is, believe it or not, today's Ripley's Believe It or Not!. I don't think I have much to add to this one, they definitely got their facts straight.
  • The doubtful one is today's rerun of PreTeena. Yeah, she doesn't even call herself Jack, does she? Then again, he was just called Pumpkinhead in Journey Back to Oz, so maybe that's not a disqualifier after all.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Today's Oz Comic

Today's edition of Brevity is one of those Oz jokes that's so obvious, you wonder why it's taken this long for someone to tell it!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: Sir Hokus of Pokes

I have to admit, the title of this one was enough to excite me, since Sir Hokus appears in The Royal Book of Oz. That's right, this would be the first ever screen adaptation (movie or television) of a character created by a Royal Historian other than L. Frank Baum! But I'm sure it won't quite live up to expectations.

Dorothy, Toto, and the guys are playing some weird version of volleyball with a big hand on their head while bouncing around on some sort of pogo ball. They are interrupted by the arrival of the legendary Ozian knight, Sir Hokus of Pokes, and his mighty steed, Stampedro (yay, another Thompson character)! He turns out to not be quite as impressive as his first appearance, however, as he is a little old man that pops out of a door in the rear of his armor. Nevertheless, he starts bragging about the many foes he's vanquished (a who's who of Oz monsters, including Kalidahs, Gargoyles, and Choggenmugger). Over tea, he tells more tall tales, including his conquest of a band of winged monkeys. He keeps going on, but finally admits that he's had adventures all over Oz—except in the Emerald City. Dorothy and the Tin Woodman set out to give him a gentle, safe adventure to fulfill his dream, and enlist the help of the Woozy to pretend to attack the Emerald City. But Sir Hokus makes the mistake of whispering in front of the Woozy, enraging him. The Woozy give chase, and Sir Hokus and Stampedro draw him out of Emerald City and into the woods, where Dorothy and the boys manage to distract the Woozy and snap him out of it. Going along with the act, the Woozy, now "defeated" by Sir Hokus, surrenders, and vows never to attack Emerald City again. Sir Hokus, now having hda his final adventure, starts to tell the story of how he conquered the Woozy. A few well-placed cookies cuts it short!

Well that wasn't so bad! The map of Oz (looking very much like the endpapers of Tik-Tok of Oz makes an appearance, and all kinds of Oz monsters are name checked. And the portrayal of Sir Hokus of Pokes (the latter pronounced to sound like "Pocus", thus giving us the pun that I believe was originally intended) actually isn't too far off from the books, even if he's not an amnesiac. I would not mind one bit if he shows up again in the third season,

Saturday, January 25, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The third story in the 2009 part of this flipbook edition of Oziana is "The Ransom of Button-Bright" with a script by J. L. Bell and art by S. P. Maldonado. This is Oziana's first ever story told in comic book form, and it really works well in this format. If you recognize the title as being a parody of the classic O. Henry short story "The Ransom of Red Chief", you probably already have a good idea of what happens in this story. Wandering in the woods, Button-Bright (pretty sure that he is lost again) is taken by a pair of wannabe bandits, hoping to ransom him off for a lot of money from his friends in the Emerald City. Naturally, things do not go as planned, and Ozma and Joe King make a counteroffer that, by the time they get it, the bandits are only too ready to accept. The fun part of it is that Button-Bright remains pretty oblivious throughout, and just sees it all as another adventure, which totally fits his character. A classic Ruth Plumly Thompson character makes a welcome appearance at the end to fetch Button-Bright, too. This was a lot of fun, and not to be taken too seriously at all, thus fitting one of the themes of this issue.

Today's Oz Comic

It seems like it's been a little while, but today's edition of Rubes has an extremely clear Oz theme to it. The caption even quotes the song "Tin Man" by America.

Monday, January 20, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The second short story—and it is very short—from the 2009 half of the 2009/2010 flipbook issue of Oziana is "Barry Portor and the Sorceress of Oz: A Parody" by Eleanor Kennedy, with illustrations by Sheena Hisiro. An alarm brings Glinda to a special room in her castle developed to contain extradimensional threats to Oz, but all she finds is a small, sad, but determined boy who ended up there when he went through a door during a battle at the Ministry. They chat, Glinda finds out more about him, and then she sends him back. Not a lot happens, but Glinda grows to admire this boy wizard, and wants to do everything she can to help him.

I think this is subtitled as a parody only for legal reasons, because there is nothing at all humorous about the story and situation. I'm sure fans of J. K. Rowling's most famous works can effortlessly substitute the proper names in for all the rather transparent renames, and the whole thing really reads as a little behind-the-scene at the climax of the fifth book. We also find out more about what Glinda gets up to at times, as it seems she has been to the wizarding world and knows the headmaster of the school there. There is also the news that the walls between dimensions are weakening, and Oz faces threats from all kinds of other worlds, which paves the way for all kinds of other crossovers to come.