Friday, July 31, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The next tale from the 2013 issue of Oziana is "The Way of a Lion" by Jay Davis, with illustrations by Sam Milazzo. It is a poignant, charmingly told tale of a young lion cub dealing with the loss of his parents before learning all that a lion needs to know—including the meaning of courage. Yes, this is an origin story for the Cowardly Lion, and it is very good. (I choose to personally believe it over Roger Baum's version in Lion of Oz.) Davis does an excellent job of taking what little we know about the Lion's early years, and some details and events from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and weaving them together into a story that just feels right. Milazzo's illustrations are also charming and complement the story well. I highly recommend this one!


Jay said...

It had always got to me that the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman both had origin stories while the Lion just briefly tells some details about his life.

I had initially come up with the idea that the Lion was actually a Quadling-born cub who had eventually fled to the Munchkin forest while brainstorming ideas for an Oz screenplay. I had eventually decided that perhaps the idea was good enough to write as a short story, so I did so.

I had read up on real lions and found that as long as lions have nothing to fear and are cared for, they can be pretty docile. I did address some differences between how real lions live versus how they live in Oz in the story.

I had been rather dissatisfied with Roger Baum's Lion of Oz because it complicated the Lion's story needlessly. My idea was to simplify the story and set up a story arc that would actually pay off in Wonderful Wizard, if you read my story first then the first Oz book. I wanted to avoid the problem with prequels where they introduce all these new characters who are somehow just not present in the original works. Any characters introduced are not in the original Oz books for a reason or aren't consequential enough.

There's also a couple Easter eggs for people who've read The Annotated Wizard of Oz and seen the Russian stop-motion series based on the Volkov books.

And you know that I wound up submitting it for the Research Table for 2013 where it won for fiction. I had already submitted it for Oziana and Marcus was too happy to accept it.

Sam said...

Thanks for liking this so much, it's very flattering!

This was my 2nd job of illustrating for Oz, the first being only a handful of pages in "Outsiders from Oz", but Jay insisted I do it and I'm so glad he did!

The Oziana edition doesn't have the "Lurline" illustration that appears in the little book - a picture which I liked and was excited to do but was disappointed in that first time due to my sister's interference, but these last few years I have been working on revising it for the better - and even then I was considering a bigger more detailed/elaborate version of the "Meat Bush" and "Beginning" pics, which I intend to show some day.

It was unusual for me to draw the Lion with almost no mane, as I really wanted to do that in one picture with the Kalidah, but it was a good learning curve and for me to not rely so much on his long hair.
I did look to Disney's "Aristocats" for a little bit of guidance on drawing the feline body in action for one picture, plus a google search for the Hawk.

Back then I didn't know the importance of doing illustrations in a large size, with their own separate sheets, or the necessity of scanning at a larger rate ... but I certainly am much more aware of those nowadays and am rightfully taking them in to account for past, current and future drawings!

I look forward to revisitng+redoing all the illustrations (and hopefully adding some more, with a new cover) for a future (revised?) book in later years, should the opportunity present itself.

Thank you again for your kind recommendation!

Jay said...

And this is kinda spoilery...

The monster that forces the cub to run away from the forest in my story is supposed to be the Monster from Chapter 21 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And yes, the Lion's parents are dead. But the Lion avenged them in Baum's book.

I plan to reprint the story in "The Good Witch of Oz and Other Stories."