I recently wrapped up my latest round of Oz reading. Here are my reactions:
- First up was the latest Oz magazine I tracked down. Famous Monsters of Filmland #266 makes a case for most young movie-goers' first monster being the Wicked Witch of the West, so they decided it was high time to feature her. (Okay, that and the then-imminent release of Oz the Great and Powerful, I suspect.) What I didn't realize is that there would be several articles by people I know! L. Frank Baum's great-grandson, Robert A. Baum, writes an appreciation of Frank's creation (and gives a lot of background that starts well before MGM started making their movie). John Fricke writes about the career of Margaret Hamilton. Jonathan Shirshekan (who I don't know, but one book he co-wrote was featured in this blog not so long ago) writes about Jack Dawn, who not only created the make-up for The Wizard of Oz, but much of the modern make-up industry as we know it. Lianne Spiderbaby (who I've never heard of before) writes about the Wicked Witch's impact on pop culture. Alexandra West (another writer I'm not at all familiar with) writes about the starting-to-get-old-now link between The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon. And finally, there's a profile of artist Mike Hill, who sculpts realistic statues of the Wicked Witch and Nikko. (As a bonus, this issue also covers The Creature from the Black Lagoon, including a look at my wife's favorite comic book character, Aquaman, and how he isn't lame any more — not that he was ever lame in the first place!)
- Then there are the rest of the Oz comics. First, Fables #128 has another appearance of Ozma while the witches try to deal with the spell that's been placed on Snow White, but beyond that, no Oz.
- The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #6 sees Jack Pumpkinhead finally getting his audience with Glinda, and he tells her the story of Ozma, and his unfortunate role in her disappearance.
- I also picked up a copy of The Steam Engines of Oz on Free Comic Book Day last month. This is a free preview of a forthcoming new series from Arcana, and it looks extremely promising. It's a hundred years after the events of The Wizard of Oz, and Oz is now all steampunk. Victoria is an engineer who works under the Emerald City, quietly going about her business and helping to keep things running smoothly. So she's a little surprised when the flying monkeys kidnap her and take her to a mysterious woman who begs for her help. What is the ruler of the Emerald City, the Tin Man, doing, why do people what Victoria to stop him from expanding the Emerald City even further, and why are she and her new allies on the run? It's all very mysterious so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
- It wasn't all comics, of course. I had a few more traditional, paper-and-ink books to read as well. For instance, there was Love's Renegade by Rachel Cosgrove Payes. This is the second volume in her Seven Sisters romance series, about a group of seven sisters all trying to snag wealthy, titled husbands in early nineteenth century London society. It's Lena's turn this year, but her aunt who introduced her older sisters is off on a tour of the continent, one sister is on her husband's estate in Ireland, and the other is extremely pregnant! So she's going to have to miss out on London society. So she must stay in Chelmsford and take a position as servant to Lady Beekman, who prefers the country to the big city. In an effort to keep off the hangers on who want her fortune, Lady Beekman comes up with a scheme to pass Lena off as her godson's fianc&ecute;e — a man Lena's never met! It all gets a little wild and complicated, and Lena also finds herself falling for Lady Beekman's coachman. Will true love win out in the end? Well of course it does! But the path to get there is not always a straight line. I was afraid that this series would be all cookie cuter stories, all too similar to the others, but already I see that Rachel is throwing all kinds of different ingredients into the mix, because this book is different enough from the first to make it a fun read on its own.
- Ruby's Slippers by Tricia Rayburn is another of those books about a kid who likes Oz and is trying to figure out the world. In this book, Ruby Lee (and her red high top sneakers) moves with her bohemian mother from Kansas to live with her estranged grandmother in Florida. Can she navigate the hazards of middle school, learning about the internet, and all kinds of other things? Yeah, she's definitely not in Kansas any more. It's a fun little book, and the dynamic between Ruby's mother and grandmother is different from a lot of other books of this type. There's not a lot of Oz in this one, and it's all movie based, but it is a fun read.
- And finally, there was an actual Oz book, Outsiders from Oz by Jared Davis. I was a little unsure about this, just because I know Jared (and I hope to meet the illustrator, S. P. Maldonado, in a couple of weeks at the Winkie Convention). I'd hate to give it a negative review. Fortunately, I can hold my head up high next time I see Jared, because it's a good one! Like a lot of good Oz stories, there are multiple story threads that meet together at the end. The Wizard and Button-Bright are examining Button-Bright's father's old pocket watch when it transports them to a mysterious land. Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Sawhorse examine a hole on Jack's property that leads into a tunnel where they encounter the Nome King! And then there are all of the adventures in Mo. It's a nicely constructed story, and it all hangs together well. More importantly, all of the old familiar Oz characters act just like they should. I heartily recommend this one!