Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Latest Oz Reading

I may not have said a lot about what I'm reading lately, but I have been reading. So here's the latest recap of all kinds of Oz and related works I've read recently:

  • My weekends have become clearer (although still way too busy) recently, so I'm back to reading a short story from Oz Reimagined. First was "One Flew Over the Rainbow" by Robin Wasserman. As you can guess from the title, this one is set in an asylum, where three inmates help Dorothy escape. This ine just felt like an excuse to write a story set in an asylum, to be honest, with the Oz motifs tacked on.
  • The other story is "The Veiled Shanghai" by Ken Liu, and while it does the same as the previous story (basically retelling The Wizard of Oz in another setting), this one is so much richer and interesting. In 1919 Shanghai, Dorothy Gee lives with her Uncle Heng and Aunt En. Caught up in one of the riots during the May Fourth Movement, Dorothy is whisked away on a bus, only to wake up in the Veiled Shanghai, a parallel version of the city just out of reach of consciousness for most people. It's a little different, with magic, steampunk, and other aspects that confuse Dorothy, but she goes along with things anyway. The rest of the story is, as is traditional, the journey of her trying to get home and helping those she meets to achieve their goals. Scarecrow is an Iowa farmboy who stowed away on a freighter in San Francisco and wound up there. Tin Woodman was a woodchopper who allowed himself to be roboticized so that he could become more productive. Lion is an old Boxer who fled a battle during the Boxer Rebellion. And the Wicked Warlord is keeping China under his thumbs, until Dorothy comes along. It's a clever use of a very different background to tell the story, and I feel like I learned a little bit more about early twentieth century China as well, at a time when it was dominated by European, American, and Japanese imperialism. There are lots of fun little nods to both the book and The Movie, and everything turns out for the best in the end, of course. I think both of these stories were the first to truly embrace the idea suggested by the book's title, reimagining a different version of The Wizard of Oz rather than just telling a new story set in a version of Oz. Anyway, this is still a fascinating book, and I still have seven more to go, so I may finish some time over the summer.
  • I'm not sure I can exactly review The Wizard of Oz Mad Libs, just because it's not complete without folks supplying words for it. We did have some fun with it at our last Oogaboo Rendezvous, but it didn't last too long. Although it's mostly based on The Movie, the first one is a background one that talks about the book (by L. [Name of Person in the Room (Male)]). It's not to be taken terribly seriously, of course. It's just nice to have a little fun with. Incidentally, for old fuddy-duddies like me who haven't played Mad Libs for a long time, they now have a solo version built in where you can supply the words yourself, and then see how they fit, so that you don't need a whole gang of friends to enjoy this.
  • The big fiction read of the current spate of Oz reading was The Law of Oz by Paul Dana, and the first offering (of what looks like will be several) from The Royal Publisher of Oz. This book has had a long genesis, as parts were started over twenty years ago, and it shows. It's actually a series of three novellas and a short story, all starring Ojo and Button-Bright. The two friends go out seeking adventures, and Ojo persuades Button-Bright to teach him how to get lost. He does a little too well, however, and travels back in time to the enchantment of Oz! Fortunately, all goes as it should have (unlike what happened in Paradox in Oz), but through the course of events, Ojo acquires magic powers. Traveling back to their own time, Ojo is sent off to Lureline's home in the Land of An to train, while Button-Bright ends up exploring his own family background, which proves to be a lot different than anyone expected. Dana's writing matures and grows confident as the book progresses, and it all unfolds logically, but with many interesting twists. The title, incidentally, refers to Ozma's law against practicing magic, and the consequences when she tries to enforce it.
  • Then there are the comics. Surprisingly, there was only one Oz comic in this month's order, and that was issue #17 of the always awesome The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West. Glinda confronts Gale about possessing more than one of the guns of power, but it does not go well. (It seems Gale may truly be embracing her new title of Wicked Witch of the West.) Meanwhile, Dr. Pipt enlists the help of the Field Mice to destabilize the tunnels that General Jinjur is digging, but that proves to be exactly the wrong thing, and it appears that the Nome King may soon be freed. Oh, yeah, this is a good one!
  • That wasn't my only recent Oz comic, however. I recently picked up a copy of Graphic Classics Volume 15: Fantasy Classics, which includes an adaptation of "The Glass Dog", a story from L. Frank Baum's American Fairy Tales. It was a decent and faithful adaptation, and fun to see. I can't help thinking, however, that Baum wrote better short stories that may be more deserving of this treatment. The rest of the book is good, too, with the main event being an adaptation of Frankenstein, as well as works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and H. P. Lovecraft.
  • I also picked up the hardback collection of Marvel's The Emerald City of Oz, by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. There's not much to add from my comments about the original single issue releases, but this adds a cover gallery, an introduction by Shanower, and reminiscences and farewells from Shanower and Young, as they confirm that this is their final trip to Oz, at least through Marvel.
  • And finally, a comic book I haven't even gotten yet! Zenescope was kind enough to send me a digital edition of the entire first issue of Warlord of Oz, their upcoming new OZ miniseries. While the Witches have been vanquished, their influence still lingers, and the King and his advisors (including the Scarecrow) have much to do to make Oz and its subjects happy. Meanwhile back in Kansas, Dorothy is still having dreams about Oz a year after her return. When the Scarecrow and Lion set out to find out what's happening to the Lion's people, things are starting to look bad as an ancient evil from the early history of Oz is awoken, and Dorothy and Toto find themselves transported back. This version of Oz is clearly not influenced by the books, and not even that much by The Movie, as they make up just about everything from scratch. And it must be pretty warm in this version of Oz, because those poor women barely have anything to wear! (Hmm, it might be interesting to see Zenescope's take on Jinjur and the Army of Revolt!)
  • That's all for the reading, but I have one more quick review, as I also managed to get Minnie's The Wizard of Dizz, a story from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series. This version of the story is clearly aimed at a lot younger viewer than me, and the computer animation is a bit crude, but it was fun. When a windstorm hits the clubhouse, Minnie and Pluto are caught outside and are whisked away to the Land of Dizz, where everyone tries to help them get home. Chip and Dale are the Chipmunchkins, Clarabelle the Cow is the rather forgetful Good Witch, Goofy is the Scarecrow (of course), Mickey is the Tin Mouse (who needs to be wound with a key, so he's a bit more like Tik-Tok than Nick Chopper), Donald is the Lion, Pete is the Wicked Witch of the West (who reforms rather than getting melted, which is probably in keeping with the very young demographics this show is aimed at), and Professor Ludwig von Drake is the Wizard. It's all fun, but probably not for everybody (including my wife, who went off to do something else after about five minutes).
That's about it for now. I don't anticipate a major Oz reading any time soon, but I suspect there will be comics here and there. I'll likely also get some new stuff that just can't wait at the Winkie Convention in August.

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