Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Latest Oz Reading

Yeah, I'm still catching up on what I've read recently. This is the comic book edition!

  • Oz Annual: Patchwork Girl from Zenoscope sees Queen Dorothy having to deal with the dangerous criminal Patch and her bug companion escaping not only Ojo prison, but Oz! The tornado they summon to destroy the prison also transports her to Kansas, where she uses her powers to turn people into lifeless rag dolls to go on a spree. To step her, Dorothy's heading home! Yeah, like most of Zenoscope's Oz books, this is a weirdly warped mirror of the "real" Oz, but at least they seem to be digging into the books for inspiration now. Patch is truly creepy, and Dorothy has to make some hard choices to deal with events. And we get some nice flashbacks to her time in Kansas before she went to Oz.
  • The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #21, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, continues the story of the Wild West version of Oz now that Queen Ozma has been restored to the throne. One of her first decrees is that Gale must turn over the enchanted guns, which does not go over well at all. Oh, and then there's the looming threat of the Nome King to worry about as well.
  • Tribute: L. Frank Baum is a comic book autobiography of—well, you can probably guess from the title. Because of the low page count, this is necessarily brief and doesn't cover much of his life in depth. But they do touch on just about everything he did in his life, not just The Wizard of Oz. It's mild and harmless, but also needs to be taken with a grain or two of salt.
  • Cthulu Invades Oz, another Kickstarter success, is just what it says on the cover. What's intriguing about this is that it starts off with Dorothy in Kansas, convincing Cthulu to invade Oz so as to distract it from our plane of reality! It only gets worse from there, as we see the results of the Old Ones taking over Oz in a series of short stories, spread out over several months. The magicians and wizards do their best to keep them at bay, but Cthulu finds allies in Oz as well. The final result is surprising, but then Dorothy comes and presents Cthulu with some surprising options of what to do next. I'll just drop the name of the follow-up book, revealed on the final page: Cthulu Invades Wonderland.

This Week's Oz Short Story

Heading back over to the third story of the 2021 issue of Oziana, I had the pleasure of reading "A Week with Mr. Baum" by Laura DeNooyer, with illustrations by Spinner Martin. This is part of a trend I like in Oziana, with stories about L. Frank Baum and the creation of Oz. Lodemia Jane is a young girl on vacation in Macatawa, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan, in 1904. Unfortunately, even on vacation her parents are strict and impatient with her, punishing her for not doing her chores (on vacation???) properly or dropping things or, worse of all, daydreaming. So when she notices the family next door and how much fun they seem to be having, she is intrigued. The family is Frank and Maud Baum and their two youngest sons, Harry and Kenneth, and they draw her into their world. She visits with them for the week they are there, and they let her be a kid. Frank listens to her stories and shares some of his with her (and imagine her surprise when Janie finds out Frank is the author of her favorite book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!) They go swimming in Lake Michigan, and Frank even breaks out a printing press and helps Janie print her own little book. It all helps Janie to cope with her own life a little better, to see that there is another way to be a good person besides her parents' strict parameters.

This was a charming little slice-of-life tale. The Baums ring very true, based on what most of us know about them, and the contrast between them and Janie's family is stark. But she looks ready to take on whatever life gives her.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Dorothy's On Hold

I've hit two technical issues that will prevent me from watching and reviewing Season 3 of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, namely:

  1. For some reason, I never managed to get a recording of the next story on the DVR.
  2. The DVR's fan went out, it overheated, and (long story short), we're getting a new DVR today. That means everything on the old one is lost to us. Since that was mostly episodes of Dorothy ond the Wizard of Oz and last year's Oz-themed Hallmark movie If I Only Had Christmas, that's some Oz content I'm now missing.
So Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz is on hold for a while. I have enough other things going on anyway that I'm probably not going to miss it much, but I do hope to get back to it eventually. Maybe more episodes will come out on home media. Maybe Boomerang will be absorbed into HBO Max, which I already have, and which already carries a lot of other cartoons on Boomerang. Or, if worse comes to worse and neither one of these comes to pass, I can get Boomerang for a few months to round off the series.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

My Latest Oz Readings

I'm still clearing out the backlog of Oz things I have read recently. Today, it's new Oz fiction.

  • 20,000 Leagues Under Oz by Marin Elizabeth Xiques and Chris Dulabone tells the tale of the town of Ciudad del Niño, New Mexico, which was transplanted to Oz in an earlier book. The citizens of the town are getting used to their new home and all that living in Oz entails. More importantly, Paxton the pig decides he wants to go out and have adventures on the high seas. Eventually, he is allowed to join Captain Samuel Salt and his crew on a voyage on the Crescent Moon, where they eventually meet up with King Anko, Queen Aquareine, and the Sea Fairies. It's not a terribly deep book, but it is a lot of fun.
  • The End of Oz by Danielle Paige. This is the final novel in the "Dorothy Must Die" series, and boy, does it end with a bang! Amy is now in Ev, where Dorothy is hiding out with the Nome King. Eventually, the Nome King persuades Dorothy to marry him so that they can jointly rule over both Oz and Ev. But even this hardened, selfish, bitter version of Dorothy doesn't entirely trust the Nome King, and thanks to some timely intervention from Amy, she finds a way to not only defeat the Nome King, but also redeems herself, giving her younger self the opportunity to become a better person. But she does alter Ozian history, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the prequel novellas. Something else that makes this book interesting is that many chapters are told from Dorothy's point of view. Before, we saw events unfold only through Amy's viewpoint, but that was not possible here, so Dorothy became a secondary viewpoint character. It made for an interesting tonal shift, and experiencing her point of view was a neat twist.

Monday, July 19, 2021

My Latest Oz Reading

Oh, so many things I've read recently, and so little time to actually write about it. But I'll try to squeeze in a few reactions over the coming days and weeks. I'll group them in loose categories, but these two aren't with anything else, so I'll just do them.

  • Pharaoh is my Eloise Jarvis McGraw reread this time around. This is her only adult novel, and for good reason. It covers a lot of political wranglings in ancient Egypt during the rule of four different Pharaohs, and it is just a plain long epic. There are also some hints of adult topics, but these are touched upon rather than described explicitly. Thankfully it is also split into four parts, so I was able to read one part, take a break and read something else, read another part, take a break, and so on. Anyone who thinks gamemanship and oneupmanship is a new thing will learn otherwise when reading this book, as it keeps happening, primarily from Hatshepsut, who convinces herself that she should be Pharaoh, and does all she can to make it so, up to and including exiling her nephew, Thutmose III, to Babylon. (Looking over the biographies I've linked to, I can see that Eloise may have made up some of the events and relationships in this book, which she herself does not deny. She clearly states in her foreward that this is a novel based on what is known of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Plus, we've likely had another fifty-some years of research and discoveries since Pharaoh was published, too.) It is a sprawling, epic story, and I'm glad I reread it. But something tells me I may not get around to reading it again.
  • The Wizard of MGM by A. Arnold Gillespie. If you think the name Buddy Gillespie may be familiar, you may know him as one of the chief special effects men at the M-G-M studio during the Golden Age of Hollywood. He started off in silent films (one of his earliest credits was the original 1925 film version of Ben Hur), and before long he was running the entire department. This was his attempt to distill all his knowledge and experience into a textbook that he hoped would benefit future filmmakers. He covers all kinds of pictures, and it might surprise some people just how many films need special effects of one sort or another. At times, it does get a little dry and technical, but Gillespie also peppers this book with all kinds of anecdotes about his long Hollywood career and the people he's worked with. With a title like this, you'd think there would be a lot about the special effects in The Wizard of Oz, but surprisingly there isn't although there is some. So this book is for the true hardcore movie and special effects fans more than Oz fans.

This Week's Oz Short Story

I am still working my way through the 2021 issue of Oziana. Due to OzCon International being this past weekend, however, I didn't have a lot of time to read, so I thought I'd skip the longer third story (don't worry, I'll tell you about that one next week) and go on to the fourth, which is "Heartless" by Templeton Moss, with illustrations by Darrell Colt Sprandlyn. It's a brief retelling of the Tin Woodman's origin (the version from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, not the later, slightly revised version from The Tin Woodman of Oz), but adding some background details. For instance, the old woman Nimmie Amee works for is a minor witch herself, which is why she can get an audience with the Wicked Witch of the East and persuade her to help kill Nick and Nimmie's love. We are also privy to a lot more of Nick's internal thoughts and feelings (while he has them). It's a good extrapolation from what we already know, yet doesn't embellish so much as to make the story unrecognizable. True, it adds very little to the mythos of Oz. either, but it is a very short little tale.

Today's Classic Oz Comic

Over at thefarside.com, this all-time classic is running today. Yup, no matter where you are, there's always lots of scary stuff to look out for.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Today's Oz Comic

In today's edition of Rubes, I guess that's another way the Tin Woodman can get his heart.

What Ozzy Thing Am I Doing Now?

As part of this year's OzCon International, Karyl Carlson and I were interviewed about our book, Queen Ann in Oz. Take a look!

Friday, July 16, 2021

This Week's Oz Political Cartoon

The other day, Kevin Siers has Joe Biden giving himself some musical advice. (Unfortunately, the lyrics don't quite scan in some places.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Today's Oz Comic

It feels like it has been a very long time since we had an Oz reference in the comics. Fortunately, today's edition of Thatababy comes along and, like a thunderstorm after a drought, reminds us of why we're here and refreshes us with its Ozziness.

This Week's Oz Short Story

The second story in the 2021 issue of Oziana is "The Butter Lamb of Oz" by Nathan DeHoff, illustrated by David Valentin (who also provides a color picture from the story on the back cover). With Easter coming up, Jinjur decides to sculpt a lamb out of butter, then paint its portrait to preserve it for posterity. A mischievous ryl brings the lamb to life, however, with surprising consequences. The rest of the story turns into a quest to find a way to preserve Boutros the lamb so that he won't melt. Jellia Jamb, Carter Green, and Jack Pumpkinhead all accompany him, and they end up in such places from the books as Preserva and Doorways until they end up in, of all places, the Garden of Meats, from the lost chapter of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In the end, of course, Boutros ends up just fine. Like DeHoff's earlier story in this issue, "The Butter Lamb of Oz" serves little more than a means for the writer to bring in and tie together as many different Oz stories as he can. In fact, both stories even include bibliographies of what stories elements were taken from. It strikes me as less of a way to tell a good story and more of a way to show how deep the writer's Oz knowledge goes. Once the quest starts, our titular character, Boutros, all but disappears as everyone around him deals with events.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz: The Return of the Silver Slippers

Yes, they're back! I don't know how regular these are going to become, but I really want to try and get Season 3 done as quick as I can. And this one is going to be a little different. Usually, when I do these recaps and reactions, I write them as I'm watching them. That works out great for one that takes up a single segment and takes less than fifteen minutes to watch, with ads. But "The Return of the Silver Slippers" is four parts long, and Boomerang showed them all at once in an hour-long episode. So I watched it last night, and am now going to do the recap. It probably won't be as detailed as usual, and I can't guarantee I got all the details right. Dorothy and the boys are in Munchkinland, helping a Munchkin cursed by Wilhelmina, when Frank and Lyman try their latest attempt to get the Ruby Slippers. No shock, they fail. But in the course of events, it turns out that the slippers are on the fritz, and Dorothy can't transport very far with them. They have to walk back to the Emerald City, where Ozma tells her to see the magic cobbler, the man who first made the Ruby Slippers. Dorothy reluctantly gives the slippers to the cobbler to examine them—and he turns out to be the Wicked Witch of the West using a magic locket to disguise herself! She puts the slippers on, and her magic is restored! Now that she is free to do so, the Wicked Witch creates havoc in the Emerald City. Since she doesn't need the Ruby Slippers any more, she locks them up in Wilhelmina's castle. Dorothy and the boys go to retrieve them, where they also find the real magic cobbler, who tells Dorothy the problem isn't in the slippers, it's in her! They make it back to the Emerald City, where Dorothy calls upon Glinda to help them out. Glinda arrives, and takes Dorothy to her palace (all pink and made of spheres that look like bubbles!) to talk about the slippers, while the boys stay behind to help Ozma and the Wizard defend the Emerald City. In her palace, Glinda reveals some secrets behind the ruby slippers. First, they can do a lot more than transport the wearer. Essentially, the ruby slippers give you all kinds of magic powers. Second, the reason they're not working for Dorothy is because Dorothy is lacking self-confidence. Dorothy only needs to start believing in herself again, and the slippers will work just fine. Third, the ruby slippers once belonged to Glinda! They were designed to help the wearer protect Oz, but the Wicked Witch of the East stole them from Glinda and used them for her own nefarioun purposes. Fortunately, not long afterwards, a certain hous elanded on the Wicked Witch of the East and stopped her from being a threat. Glinda recognized Dorothy as someone who could also protect Oz, and so decided to let her have them. Fourth, there's another pair of magic slippers! When they were made, there were two pairs, ruby for Glinda and silver for Ozma. And finally (!), after the ruby slippers were stolen, the silver slippers were hidden to protect them. They were hidden so well, not even Ozma and Glinad know where they are. Of course, Frank and Lyman overhear this and report back to the Wicked Witch of the West, who now has a new mission: Find the silver slippers! After all the revelations, Dorothy practices using the ruby slippers for more than just transportation, and gets a decent handle on her new powers. She then returns to the Emerald City and helps her friends defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. But now everyone has a new quest: Find the silver slippers! The title is a misnomer, since nobody finds the silver slippers. But at least the knowledge of them is out in the open. Based on some of the story titles later in the season, it looks like this will be a continuing arc. One nice touch in this episode is seeing the Wicked Witch of the East in a flashback. (And you thought the Wicked Witch of the West looked like a bad character!) I also liked the Wicked Witch using the magic locket, from way back when this show started, to impersonate the magic cobbler. The season is off to a good start, and I look forward to where this is going to go.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

My Latest Oz Acquisitions

I have been reading and/or acquiring a lot of new (and old) Oz things lately, so now that I have a little free time, I figured I may as well start talking about them. Most of them are books, so I'll give short reviews and/or reactions, but I thought I'd start with all the playing cards. Yes, you heard me, playing cards. For some reason, three new sets of Oz playing cards are out this year, and I have two of them. (The third one is part of a subscription service, and decided the cost to both become a member and then buy the cards was just too steep.) So, let's jump in:

  • The Shadow of Oz Tarot Deck. Okay, not playing cards, but a reissue of a set Illusive Comics and Games did many years ago. This is a huge improvement! Bigger, stiffer cards, a beautiful new silver-accented back, and a very nice box to keep them all in. And all the cards are represented by Oz characters. Nice!
  • Adventures in Oz Collector's Poker Deck. Double Critical put these out before their current Kickstarter project, the Adventures in Oz 5e roleplaying campaign books (yes, I backed it), and these are gorgeous! A lovely metallic green design on the back, the Jokers are flying monkeys, and the face cards are all familiar Oz characters. The Kings are Dorothy and her friends, the Queens are the witches, and the Jacks are supporting characters. Naturally, one of those is Jack Pumpkinhead! But I think these guys made two mistakes. As cool as the monkeys are, wouldn't Mr. Joker the china clown be more appropriate? However, he's not a well-known and recognizable character, so I can see why they wouldn't use him. But there's no excuse for not having the Tin Woodman be the King of Hearts! But for some reason, he's the King of Diamonds, and the Scarecrow is the King of Hearts. Oh, well. (If I were to actually use these for a game of some sort, I would have house rules that the Kings of Hearts and Diamonds swap.)
  • Fig 23's Animated Flip Deck. Another successful Kickstarter campaign, with a very similar model to the Double Critical deck. These guys, however, use W. W. Denslow's original art from The Wonderful Wiard of Oz. Again, one of the Jokers is the Flying Monkeys, the Jacks are supporting characters, the Queens are the Witches (but the Wicked Witch of the East is replaced by, appropriately, the Queen of the Field Mice), and the Kings are Dorothy and her friends. And they got it wrong again! Here, the Tin Woodman is the King of Clubs, and the Lion is King of Hearts! Again, were I to play with this deck, house rule of swapped Kings! This deck has a bonus in that, if you line them up in the right order and rifle through them, you get a little animation of the house flying through the cyclone.
The famed Oz illustrator and researcher, Dick Martin, was also a playing card aficionado and collector. Somehow, I suspect he'd approve of this trend. But he might also design his own deck with the Tin Woodman representing the proper suit.

Monday, July 05, 2021

This Week's Oz Short Story

Well of course I'm going to keep this series going long enough to at least cover the 2021 issue of Oziana. Oh, I have a few other short stories I want to cover, but for a while I may only be able to cover the new issues of Oziana when they come out. But that's down the road. This issue opens with, naturally enough, "The Wizards of Silver and Gold, Part 2" by Nathan DeHoff and Joe Bongiorno, picking up where part 1 left off in the last issue. I'm not going to try to summarize everything, because I'm not sure I can. It's not a terribly memorable story, and it kind of splays out all over the place. Lots of secondary or one-off Thompson characters pop in, and even one Neill characters shows up, as it appears this story is set between Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz and The Wonder City of Oz, bridging the gap between the two authors and kind of giving an explanation for why Neill's Emerald City is so much wilder than we've ever seen it before or since. Even Rosine and the Laughing Dragon from Frank J. Baum's The Laughing Dragon of Oz show up. But my bigget issue is that all the dangling plot threads all get tied up a little too quickly and neatly at the end with about a half page of exposition. A story of this length, spread out over two issues, could have been more carefully planned and avoided this issue. Oh, well, not every story can be a winner, I suppose.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Today's Oz Comic

Today in Lio, it seems there is now a replacement for the Golden Cap. Good thing Lio is only using it for good.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

This Week's Oz Short Story

The Little Wizard Stories of Oz concludes with "The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman", a short little tale of their bromance. It may be the slightest story in the collection, because all it is is the two friends going out on a boat ride. Of course, water doesn't agree with either character, and so hijinks happen as the Tin Woodman falls overboard, while the Scarecrow ends up rubbing off an eye while trying to rescue him. Eventually, an anchor and a flock of crows help get the Tin Woodman out of the river, but the crows decide to cause some mischief and leave the two of them stuck in a tree. Eventually they make it back to dry land, but the Tin Woodman is so rusted and the Scarecrow so waterlogged that neither can do much. It takes the Wizard to show up, on the Sawhorse, to put them both to rights.

I think the only comment I can add to this is that the titular characters need to stay away from boats and water. Why they even went out on a boat ride in the first place, I will probably never understand.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Yesterday's Oz Political Cartoon

I discovered this little number from Matt Davies too late last night to post it yesterday. Yeah, the Supreme Court's decision on college athletes being able to receive compensation beyond their scholarships is going to have a huge effect, and expose a lot of the NCAA's operations and just how much money they actually have. It's going to be very interesting!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Today's Oz Comic

Hey, is that the Scarecrow from the famous movie version of The Wizard of Oz in today's edition of Bizarro? Is he two-timing on Scraps? Or is that supposed to be the Scarecrowess from the infamous Disneyland Records adaptation of The Tin Woodman of Oz?

Monday, June 21, 2021

Today's Oz Comic

Today in Shoe, we are introduced to a new character. Maybe he sells insurance.