Saturday, December 05, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

Now it's time to examine the 2019 issue of Oziana, where the first story is "An Odd Transformation" by Sara Phillips, with illustrations by Lyan Tjally. This is one of those ideas that's so obvious in hindsight, you wonder why it's taken this long for someone to write it: Four strangers come to Ozma seeking her help. They claim to be the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Patchwork Girl, transformed into meat people! It takes some work, but sure enough, they manage to convince their friends that that's what happened. While Ozma and the Wizard try to figure out what happened and how to undo the effects, Dorothy is tasked with keeping them company and helping them adjust to being human. Having already been a human once before, Nick Chopper has the easiest time of it, although he had been tin for so long he realizes it's not for him anymore. The Scarecrow is philosophical, and decides to at least find out what this being a meat person is like. Scraps is disconsolate and miserable, since she can now be hurt when pulling her antics. She was transformed in the middle of a flip and skinned her elbow, which came as a complete shock. She spends much of her first day sulking by herself on a couch. Jack Pumpkinhead seems the most at ease with the transformation, marveling that his hands work much more effectively and his new brain works much better than pumpkinseeds. And it turns out there's a reason for that, for when the Wizard sets up a spell to find the culprit, it turns out to be Jack! He confesses, and says he only wanted to turn himself human. The others were an accident. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Scraps head off to Glinda's for the cure, while Dorothy and Jack have a heart-to-heart about what he did and why, and Jack eventually comes to the conclusion that he wants to go back, too. All is right again with the four friends—but the story concludes with human forms of Tik-Tok, Captain Fyter, Benny, and other manufactured citizens of Oz showing up at the palace, also having become human.

While I was reading this, I thought how much this story has a lot in common with "Angry Jack" from the 2017 issue. Sure enough, that one was also written by Phillips, who seems to have it in for Jack Pumpkinhead! Both stories delve into Jack's personality and how he feels oters perceive him, and it doesn't always reflect well on him. In "Angry Jack" it's not his fault, but here he deliberately sets out to do something about the situation, with unintended side effects for his friends. Scraps is especially angry with him, and based on how she supported him in "Angry Jack", I can certainly see why. Scraps is wise enough to know, however, that she is also going to forgive Jack eventually. There is a particularly charming image of Scraps hugging Jack at the end of the story, in fact, after they've both been restored. We also get to see, fleetingly, Tik-Tok's second transformation into a human, the first time being in 2003 (which I somehow remember being a lot more recent than that).

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