Aug. 17th, 2014

polychrome_pen: (EAH Hunter & Daring)
I think I'm a weird Oz fan.  Just throwing that out there to start with.  For most people who like Oz, the love starts (and often ends) with the 1939 "Wizard of Oz" MGM musical.  And while I certainly enjoy that film, it's not what caught me and made me fall in love with the original American Fairy Tale.

It all started innocently enough.  After seeing "Wicked" a few months ago (such an awesome, awesome musical!), I picked up the book "Dorothy Must Die" from the library, interested in how the current trend of going back to classic stories and making everything gritty/grimdark would work on "the merry old land of Oz."  Arguably the poster child for Technicolor. And it really was a fun read - it re-imagines an Oz where Dorothy went back after her original visit and seized control of the Emerald City.  Another Kansas girl is brought to Oz by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked to try and take Dorothy and her cronies (Glinda, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion) down.  The book is the first of a trilogy, and it definitely had me interested in reading more!

But it was the little snippets of things in the book that AREN'T related to the movie that had me really interested.  The Good Witch of the North, Jellia Jamb, Mombi, Ozma.  It made me interested in going back to the original stories.  Especially stuff dealing with Ozma, a character that I discovered is central to Oz mythology, but hardly known in the wider sphere.

So I checked out The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz from the library.

Let's start with Marvelous Land.  Dorothy is noticeably absent from this sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was originally written as a follow-up due to the success of the 1902 Broadway musical.  The book follows the story of Tip, a young boy in servitude to the witch Mombi, who escapes with his pal Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse.  They hook up with the Scarecrow and Tin Man, go on lots of adventures...and in the end discover that Tip was actually Ozma, transformed into a boy by Mombi after the Wizard took over the Emerald City.  WUT.  Glinda transforms Tip back into Ozma, and she resumes her rule over Oz.

This might be the single thing I find most fascinating about Oz - the Tip/Ozma character.  There is so much possibility for interesting story there, but I don't think it's well-tapped even in the later Baum works.  Perhaps it's really only something a modern audience can look at with a more critical eye?

Ozma of Oz, despite being titled after the princess, is actually the story of Dorothy's return to the land of Oz (well, really, the land of Ev - one of Oz's neighbors).  It introduces some really neat characters into the mix: the head-switching Princess Langwidere, Tik-Tok (literature's first robot?), the Hungry Tiger, Billina the Chicken, the Nome King.  The group has to rescue the royal family of Ev from the Nome King, who has transformed them into adornments in his underground palace.  The book also introduces an interesting concept in the Magic Belt, a magical tool at least as powerful as the Silver Shoes.

Marvelous Land and Ozma were jointly adapted into the 1985 "sequel" to the Wizard of Oz called "Return to Oz."  It featured a young Fairuza Balk as Dorothy, and even has Ozma appear in the end!  I remember watching this movie many years ago and thinking it was really bizarre, but upon revisiting it after reading the books it's based on, I can say it's a delight to see Baum's world brought to life the way it's supposed to look.  It has really great 80s special effects.  The puppetry and animatronic characters are absolutely fantastic.

The last Oz thing I've been checking out lately are the new(ish) Marvel Comics adaptations.  Featuring adorable artwork by Skottie Young and featuring scripts that hew closer to the original source material, these have been delightful reading.  I just finished Wonderful Wizard and am getting ready to start Marvelous Land.  Definitely check your library for these!

Finally, what really gets me with Oz is the deep richness of the world.  There are tons of "official" Oz books by various sanctioned authors, and so many fan-created works one doesn't even know where to begin!  The Baum books are in the public domain at this point, which makes it nice for adaptations if one wants to do something with all the iconic characters.  I really want to write some Oz stuff now...I'm debating trying a genderbent version that blends the first three books (at least?) together.  It's really been rattling around in my head, and even if I don't write the full novel-length version I'd at least like to try a few short pieces.

So my next question...does anyone have any good Oz recommendations?

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