Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Latest Oz Reading — Now with Comics!

I've been very busy in my real life of late (new, albeit temporary, job taking up a lot of time, not that I'm complaining at all!), and so my pile of Oz reading has piled up a bit. I should be doing something else right now, but I've decided that this is what I'm going to do for the next few minutes! Here we go:

  • I've read three more stories out of Shadows of the Emerald City, and as much as I'm enjoying the book, it only reinforces my opinion that this book is not meant for many Oz fans who want an Oz that's safe for children! First was "The Utility of Love" by David Steffan. This story features a totally alternative origin for the Tin Woodman, who is now and android sent out by the wizard to kill witches. He slowly learns about what it means to be human, however, from Dorothy, and eventually has a reckoning with his maker.
  • "The China People of Oz" by T. L. Barrett is the first book in this collection that takes place exclusively in our world, and may be the most accessible to fans of more traditional Oz stories. A little girl who is a big fan of the Oz books and dying of cancer gets her wish to visit Kansas. Her parents are skeptical, but it turns out there are Oz attractions in Wamego, Liberal, and other parts of the state, which she is excited to see. However, it's in a little antique store off a back road in the middle of nowhere that she finds a family of people made of china. Could it be that these were taken from the China Country in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? She's bound and determined to try to get them home if they are! I especially liked that most of the point of view in this story was from the father, and that it touches on so many real Oz sites in Kansas.
  • The third (and for now final) story I read from the collection was "Dorothy of Kansas" by J. W. Schnarr. Oz and its citizens are dying, and only the rusted out Tin Woodman and the not-all-there head of the Scarecrow even remember it. So they head out to Kansas to see if they can find Dorothy and get help, only to find that our world is in the same danger, and Dorothy can't even help herself very well. I twigged onto what was happening in this story pretty quickly, but it was still disturbing. So why does the odd timing of this one disturb me so much? (This one clearly takes place during the Cold War, yet the Dorothy of the books would have been long dead, and even Judy Garland's Dorothy might not have been this one. Ah, it's all make believe anyway, isn't it?)
  • Next up: Last month's comics order! (Good thing, as this month's came today. Just another reason for me to do this reading catch-up now!) First, Fables #126. With Bufkin's story complete at last, there was no Oz content in this one. So, moving on...
  • Marvel's The Road to Oz #5. As you can probably guess by now, I'm a big fan of these books. Eric and Skottie are still hitting them out of the park. This issue covers Dorothy's arrival at the Tin Woodman's new palace (there's even an homage to the famous picture of Neill's Dorothy seeing the Denslow-inspired statue of herself) to the Shaggy Man accepting Ozma's offer to live in the Emerald City. Hmm, so that just means the party left to go in the final issue (which I now have, and may just go off and read once this entry is done).
  • The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles: Prelude to Evil #3. Sarah's adventures in Wonderland continue, but by the end she's chosen her own path and finds her way through several other worlds. If this is confusing to you, don't worry; I don't quite get it, either. That's been the problem with these Oz/Wonderland Chronicles series: They not only come out months apart, so it's hard to follow, they also seem to have had several series going at once, which didn't help. However, if I've figured everything out, everything is pretty well tied-up at the moment. But they also promise Sarah's return in Book 3, so I guess the stor will continue some time. Maybe I need to go back and reread these books in the proper order.
  • The last comic (this month) is The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #4 (which Big Dog only seems to have for sale as a limited edition exclusive). This issue focuses mainly on Jinjur. We see a little bit about what she's been doing while ruling the Emerald City, a flashback to her first encounter with the Wizard, and her pursuit of Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, and their friends as they continue to head south towards Glinda.
  • One book I read in the past few weeks was Fables, Volume 3: Storybook Love, which collects issues 11 through 18 of the comic, and features several shorter stories. There are a couple appearances by Bufkin, but otherwise no Oz. Next!
  • The Denslow Picture Book Treasury by W. W. Denslow (who else could it be?) reprints nine of the classic picture books illustrated, and in many cases written, by W. W. Denslow at the turn of the twentieth century. It's a great collection, and the art looks fabulous. (I suspect some hardcore collectors who have the originals will find flaws in the reproduction, but I don't have the originals to compare them to, so I'm pleased enough.) The Scarecrow even makes a cameo appearance in The House that Jack Built. My only complaint is that the job is only half done, seeing as how Denslow produced eighteen of these. Therefore, I hope this one is successful enough that Dover puts out Volume 2, which would include Denslow's Scarecrow and the Tin Man.
  • As you can imagine, a lot of tie-in merchandise has come out for the movie Oz the Great and Powerful, and I'm trying to get my hands on some of it as my funds allow. Since I know it will be available for only a short time, however, I pounced on the Spring 2013 issue of Disney twenty-three magazine. Not only does it have several articles about the movie, it also includes one about other Oz projects Disney has taken on, or tried to present, including Return to Oz and the aborted The Rainbow Road to Oz. But where was The Muppets' Wizard of Oz?
  • I also read the Junior Novel. It was a pretty standard, straightforward novelization of the movie, with no real surprises or new revelations — except for Glinda's father's name (no surprise to fans of the books, it's Pastoria). My question is, however, why is there a junior novel, but not a standard novelization for adults? There's a lot that could be expanded upon in a longer book. Oh, well, we may never know.
  • I was given a complimentary review copy of The Origin of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Michele Rubatino, but I'm afraid I can't be very complimentary back. This is a very slight little book, which purports to explain how the origins of Oz rest in the King James Bible. Sadly, Rubatino does not do a terribly good job of convincing me. There are an awful lot of very earnest assertions made with little or no citations or other claims to back them up, and the book doesn't even contain a bibliography. What's more, what works that are cited are suspect, or have been superseded. The first edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz is mentioned a couple of times, but the author seems to be unaware of the superior and much deeper second edition, available since 2000. The only Baum autobiography mentioned is The Read Wizard of Oz by Rebecca Loncraine, but there are enough issues with that book that one or two others would have been excellent additional resources. And Rubatino seems only to be interested in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the maps of Oz as first published in Tik-Tok of Oz, but there is so much more to Oz, and Baum's other writings, that she totally ignores. She assigns a meaning to Noland (or, as she writes it, No Land) that has nothing to do with what happened in Queen Zixi of Ix, for instance. But my biggest gripe is that she continuously refers to a book called The Oz Omnibus and how "omnibus" has special meanings that Baum must have had in mind. The only trouble is, there are now several volumes called The Oz Omnibus (or variations on that theme), all of which collect several books, and none of which were published in Baum's lifetime. Therefore, Baum would never have any reason to associate the word "omnibus" with Oz or the Bible. This book, in short, totally fails to either delve into the breadth of Oz and Oz scholarship that precedes it, nor does it make any compelling arguments in its own right.
  • Finally, I managed to get a copy of The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic by my friend John Fricke and Jonathan Shirshekan. Much of this I already knew from previous books, but this is a nice, well-designed package, and I learned a few new things and saw a few new items I hadn't seen before. Fans of The Movie will want to track this down. But the fact that it was available for so short a time makes me wonder if we're going to get something new next year for The Movie's seventy-fifth (!) anniversary.
This is not all the Oz reading I have set aside in the current Oz reading cycle, but it's a good chunk of it. I still have my classic reread (I'm working on that right now, and it's a book that may surprise you), something by Rachel Cosgrove Payes, and a couple of new stories, so there will be a few more entries here soon.

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