Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Latest Oz Reading

I have actually been doing a lot of Oz reading lately, and would have done even more if I'd had more time. But that lack of time has meant that I haven't been able to say much about it until now. So let's jump in and see what's no longer in my to-read pile.

  • My Classir reread was Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Unlike the other books in this reread, I didn't get a lot of new insights in this one. It's just a romp of Dorothy, the Wizard, and their friends traveling through many intriguing underground realms until Ozma saves them with the Magic Belt, and then they party in the Emerald City for a few chapters. It's considered by many to be one of the slighter of Baum's books (and definitely one of the shortest), but it does have a lot of action and interesting ideas, and it brings the Wizard back into the series, which may be its greatest achievement.
  • I decided to follow that with an early Oz novella, Oz and the Three Witches by Hugh Pendexter III. The framing story takes place the next morning after Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, with the Wizard thanking Ozma for allowing him to stay in Oz. Glinda arrives, finally meets the Wizard, and expresses her concerns. The Wizard does not have a sparkling reputation, as one who's read the earlier books would know, so the Wizard relates his history to Ozma and Glinda, and recounts his arrival in Oz and the early days of his reign. Yes, he meets Mombi, who inadvertently helps the Wizard defeat the wicked witches of the East and West. In this story, the Wizard is indeed a humbug, but he is also clever, shrewd, and resourceful, and manages to create modern Oz almost singlehandedly. It is a satisfying explanation of how Oscar Z. Diggs became the Wizard. In the end, Glinda accepts him, and vows to teach him real magic, as seen in the books.
  • The manga reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz continues in volume 3 of Captive Hearts of Oz. Dorothy gets to the Emerald City, sees the Wizard, and heads off to deal with the Wicked Witch of the West. But there are still forces behind the scenes manipulating her story, and probably not with the best of intentions.
  • A swap with a friend gave me an unexpected bonus book, Daisy Duck in the Wonderful World of Oz. It starts off with a great introduction with all kinds of information about Baum and the original novel, but then it segues into an Uncle Scrooge comic adventure. One of Scrooge's rivals, Rockerduck, enlists the aid of Magica de Spell to get rid of Scrooge, so she transports Scrooge and all his nephews (including Donald) to Oz. Adventures ensue, some of which will seem familiar to long-time Oz fans. Back in Duckburg, Daisy cottons on to what's going on and tries to stymie Rockerburg and Magica until Scrooge can get back. It's all very silly (as one would expect), and includes the Beagle Boys as Wheelers.
  • I thought Zenescope comics was done with Oz, but they put out the Oz: The Wizard one-shot earlier this year. Queen Dorothy is ruling an Oz taht is, for once, at peace, but dark forces are moving against her, heralding the coming of a new threat, the Wizard. Yeah, it looks like we're going to get more of Zenescope's version of Oz in the not-too-distant future.
  • An unexpected Oz surprise in one of the books I picked up on Free Comic Book Day was an excerpt from The Steam Engines of Oz (issue one of which was also released as a Free Comic Book Day issue). There is no new material, but it does make for a nice ad for the Steam Engines of Oz animated movie.
  • And finally (for now), I reread volume one of the Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy, The Disenchanted Princess of Oz by Melody Grandy. I remember it being good when I first read it over twenty years ago, but I'd forgotten that it was this good! This is very much a grown-up Oz book—not like, say, Wicked is grown-up, merely that it approaches its story from a more mature and considered angle, but that is still very Ozzy. Princess Amalea of Lostland suddenly finds herself transformed into a boy, and things go downhill from there. Adopting the name Dinny, he escapes and finds himself in an incredible garden, tended by Zim the flying sorcerer. Zim is both a magician and a botanist, and combines both in his work. He cultivates magic plants from all over the Continent of Imagination, and often manipulates them into new varieties. With no place to go and no alternative, Zim takes on Dinny as an assistant, and slowly over the years starts teaching him some of his secrets, as well as taking him on trips to nearby communities. In one adventure towards the end, Dinny ends up in the Mangaboo Country, which leads Zim to cultivate a Mangaboo bush and cross breed them with the monarchs of the Rose Kingdom, creating a new strain of vegetable people with longer lifespans and kinder dispositions. Grandy's Oz is rich and vibrant, and she borrows a lot from many Oz books. But she's also very clever at her own creations and seemlessly incorporating them into the Oz we all know and love. And yes, I already have volumes 2 and 3 earmarked for my next reading sessions, so I have more Zim to look forward to!
I still have a few more books I plan to read in this cycle, but I'm not sure when I can get to them, as the library just delivered a new one and I still have a few magazines to clear out. But I hope I don't have this many to go over the next time I blog about my Oz reading!

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