A Foray Into Animated Enchantresses

A few days ago, Tavie brought up how both Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons have witches named Witch Hazel, both voiced by June Foray, and said I should write a post about that. From the brief research I did, it turns out the name has also been used by other cartoon studios, Wikipedia mentioning MGM, Famous Studios, and Rembrandt Films’ Hazel Witch, as well as the recurring character in Little Lulu comics.

There’s a mention here of a young character called Witch Hazel showing up in a Casper cartoon as well. It’s an obvious play on words, and apparently no one was able to copyright it because it’s the name of an actual product. The name of the shrub and the astringent made from it apparently have nothing to do with witches, even though herbs and potions are their stock-in-trade. Rather, it means “pliable,” in reference to the leaves. Disney’s Witch Hazel appeared in the 1952 Donald Duck cartoon Trick or Treat, which was also adapted into a comic by Carl Barks. She helps Huey, Dewey, and Louie when Donald refuses to give them any treats.

Unless I’m mishearing the line, I believe she tells Donald her first name is Edith, but that doesn’t seem to be used anywhere else. Chuck Jones was inspired by the Disney cartoon in creating his own Witch Hazel, and Foray says she pitched the character to him. For some reason, the first Looney Tunes short to feature Hazel, Bewitched Bunny, doesn’t have Foray doing the voice; it’s Bea Benaderet, a regular voice actress for Warner Bros. who was later the voice of Wilma Flintstone. Foray does voice the character in her other main appearances, starting with Broom-Stick Bunny. There are clearly some influences from the Disney character in addition to the voice, like how both Witch Hazels (Witches Hazel?) have brooms that act like animals and separate their bristles into legs to walk around on the ground. And they both parody Shakespeare’s Macbeth when cooking up magic brews, although I’m sure that was standard well before cartoons. But while Disney’s Hazel is mostly good, if perhaps a little overly vindictive, WB’s is mean, always wanting to cook Bugs Bunny or use him in a spell. She’s drawn as fat and green-skinned, with an enormous chin that touches her long nose when she’s not talking, and hairpins that fly out of her hair when she’s excited. She also has a habit of laughing at her own jokes.

Foray has voiced witches in other cartoons as well, albeit not with the name Hazel. She was a witch in a Tom & Jerry short before Broom-Stick Bunny was released. And in the original DuckTales, she was the voice of Magica de Spell, a nemesis of Scrooge McDuck introduced by Barks in 1961.

Fantagraphics hasn’t yet reached her stories in their Barks collections, so I haven’t read any of the original Barks ones.

She lives on Mount Vesuvius, and her main thing is that she wants to create a magic amulet from the first coin earned by the richest person (well, duck) in the world. Not wanting her to be the typical old hag, Barks modeled her on Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren, as well as Morticia Addams. Oddly, in DuckTales, Foray gives her an Eastern European accent similar to the one she used for Natasha Fatale in Rocky and Bullwinkle instead of an Italian one. Apparently some comics have paired Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone with both Magica and Witch Hazel (the Disney one), but I don’t think there’s any Foray connection with her. Mim was voiced by Martha Wentworth, and while she’s made cameo appearances more recently, I don’t think she’s had another speaking role.

Posted in Authors, Cartoons, Comics, Disney Afternoon, Etymology, Halloween, Holidays, Humor, Magic, Names, Television, William Shakespeare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Men Are Pigs

Circe, by Madeline Miller – When I heard about this book, I knew I should probably read it, but it took me a while to get a digital copy from the library. It’s a reinterpretation of the story of the witch from Greek mythology, daughter of Helios and the nymph Perse, and one of Odysseus‘ lovers. In truth, she’s not really even presented as a totally evil character in the myths; she turns Odysseus’ men to pigs, but she later changes them back and grants them hospitality on her island. And we know that Odysseus’ crew are a bunch of reckless dumbasses anyway, opening the bag of winds and killing Helios’ cattle. Perhaps they’re more in need of reformation than Circe, as it seems pretty classist to make the commander a tactical genius and all his subordinates idiots. And Odysseus himself is the one who had affairs with two women while his wife remained faithful to him. But revisiting witches has been in vogue for a while, and Miller is able to incorporate a feminist attitude. Circe is given a rather modern attitude in a society of largely indifferent gods, with deeper emotions than her compatriots. She shows sympathy to Prometheus, is spurned by Glaucos after making him into a god with her witchcraft, bonds with Daedalus, and has an affair with Hermes without ever really trusting him. She’s involved in the birth of the Minotaur to her sister Pasiphae, and her transformation of Odysseus’ crew is due to her having been harassed in the past. While some versions of the story give Circe a few children with Odysseus, the book simplifies it by giving her only one, Telegonus, who inherits his father’s passion for storytelling. When Telegonus sets out in search of his father and accidentally kills him, he takes Penelope and Telemachus back to Aiaia, where they all bond somewhat. Penelope turns out to not be especially mad with Circe, as it was really Athena who took him away; and she gains an interest in witchcraft herself. Telemachus bemoans his inability to live up to his father’s legacy, and how Odysseus was a distant and sometimes cruel father anyway. A widow bonding with the woman who’d had an affair with her late husband reminds me of Wicked, which is also an attempt to rehabilitate a wicked witch. Miller hews more closely to the source material than Gregory Maguire does, though. The account of Odysseus’ death by a spear made from the tail of a stingray (I guess he and the Crocodile Hunter had similar deaths) is said to appear in a lost poem known as the Telegony.

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Spidey, I’m Coming Home

Spider-Man: Homecoming – This was the only movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe I hadn’t yet seen. I saw all three of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and didn’t really have any interest in the Andrew Garfield ones, although I saw part of The Amazing Spider-Man on television. The re-reboot takes place after Captain America: Civil War, and has Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, returning to Queens. I guess that’s part of the meaning of the “Homecoming” part of the title, although it also refers to his coming home to the larger Marvel universe, and the film involves the homecoming dance. Holland plays Spidey as appropriately nerdy and awkward, although I don’t recall him wisecracking all that much in this movie. He also has a fancy new suit given to him by Tony Stark. With Stark funding much of Peter’s work, I wonder if that means this incarnation of the character isn’t going to be taking pictures for the Bugle in order to make money. J. Jonah Jameson isn’t going to be too happy about that.

There’s no mention of Uncle Ben or of spider-sense. As far as other characters from the Spider-Man universe, Flash Thompson has become a rich snob rather than a jock, and Liz Allan shows up as a love interest for Peter. Well, except her last name isn’t Allan, because she’s the daughter of the Vulture, Adrian Toomes.

Played by Michael Keaton, this is the character’s first appearance in a live-action film. They’d wanted to put him in the other two iterations of the franchise, but never got around to it. His company loses the contract to clean up after the Chitauri attack in The Avengers, so he holds on to the technology he was able to salvage, and uses it not just to fly but to make super-weapons to sell to criminals. One of the buyers, Aaron Davis, in addition to having the name of a guy I know online, is the uncle of Miles Morales, who became Spider-Man in a different universe where Peter Parker died. Then he was incorporated into the main universe after a crossover event.

Peter’s friend Ned owes a lot to Miles’ friend nerdy Asian friend Gange, although he’s named after Bugle reporter Ned Leeds.

Spider-Man as a franchise is always kind of sad and awkward (successfully so, that is), as disappearing and coming up with lame excuses is such a significant part of his character. We know it’s for important reasons, but no one else ever does. Maybe I should just assume everyone who ever cancels on me is a superhero as well. Nah, I’m not that generous. There’s a lot of awkwardness in this film, which I guess makes sense when a lot of it centers around high school. And while the Raimi films had Peter saving people on the Roosevelt Island Tram and the subway, here he does the same on the Staten Island Ferry (although Iron Man ends up stealing his thunder). How many other sorts of mass transit will feature in this franchise? Overall, I liked it. I recall the first two Raimi movies making me feel more for the characters, but it’s a fine way to incorporate Spidey into the larger universe. And the orchestral version of the Spider-Man theme at the beginning was cool. I understand his next solo outing will occur after the fourth Avengers film.

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Monstrous Fun for the Whole Family

I’ve been writing about Dragon Quest a fair amount recently. I went back and finished Dragon Quest VI about a month ago, and last week I did the same with Dragon Quest V. I actually had even less of that one left to play. I’m not really sure why I put it aside all those years ago. I probably either started focusing on a different game or just wasn’t playing any games for a while. I seem to recall this one’s plot better than that of DQ6.

This game was quite innovative in a few ways. Perhaps the main one is that of having it take place over three generations, including a choice of which character to marry. This wasn’t the first time something like this happened in an RPG. I remember the same idea being heavily promoted for Phantasy Star III, and I think there your choices might have affected the plot even more. (That reminds me that I should maybe try that game again; I have the Game Boy Advance version.) But it works quite well here, working in the family idea while retaining the traditional elements of a DQ game.

There’s a lot going on, even though I don’t know that it’s really any longer than other games from the same time period. The use of time skips helps to create a more epic feel without actually making you play the in-game equivalent of the eighteen years over which the story occurs. The story starts out with the main protagonist living in the small town of Whealbrook with his father Pankraz and his assistant Sancho. In the original Japanese, the father’s name was Papas, which I guess was too obvious in English, but I’m not sure why the new name sounds like an internal organ.

You assist fairies in an alternate world, and hunt ghosts and rescue a sabercat cub with Bianca Whitaker, the daughter of the innkeeper in Roundbeck.

During a journey, Pankraz is killed by a nasty piece of work called Bishop Ladja, and you and the bratty Prince Harry of Coburg are enslaved, made to build a giant temple to evil called the Crocodilopolis.

There’s a ten-year time skip, after which you escape and try to honor your father’s wish to find your mother and locate the Zenithian gear and the legendary hero who can equip it. Along the way, you come across a rich guy named Rodrigo Briscoletti, who wants to marry his daughter Nera to someone who can obtain the Circles of Fire of Water. Once you do so, you have the choice of marrying Nera, her spoiled sister Debora, or Bianca, who helps him to retrieve the Circle of Water. I chose Bianca, who I guess was basically the obvious choice as she was a childhood friend. The DS version does try to mitigate this somewhat by having Rodrigo and his daughters show up earlier in the game, but you still never really get to know them. Debora, by the way, was added for the remake as well; you only had two choices of bride in the Super Famicom original. There’s some obvious replay potential in choosing a different wife, which I understand doesn’t affect the main plot much, but does result in very different dialogue. Hopefully I’ll go back and do that someday.

But anyway, after reaching the Kingdom of Gotha, you learn that you’re the heir to the throne, and also that your wife is pregnant; she gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl, while you’re off performing the rite of passage to earn the crown. There’s no time skip for the pregnancy, so I guess you just have to assume more time passes than appears to. Ladja turns both the hero and his wife to stone, but eight years later your kids and Sancho find your statue and disenchant you. It turns out that your son is the legendary hero who can equip the Zenithian equipment, which is a little confusing as the term “hero” is generally used for the main character, and here they’re two different people. The hero’s father apparently has no issue with dragging two eight-year-old children on a quest to defeat the forces of evil, but hey, neither did HIS father. You then have to rescue your wife from the Crocodilopolis and fight the main villain, Grandmaster Nimzo, finally meeting your mother along the way.

In addition to the family aspect, another innovation is being able to tame monsters. Probably inspired at least partially by how the Healslime Healie and the dragon Sparkie are uncontrollable party members in DQ4, some monsters will volunteer to join the party after you defeat them in battle. This mechanic would later take center stage in the Dragon Quest Monsters spin-off series, but there’s generally some variation on it in later main series games. It’s even somewhat relevant to the story here, as you find out that the people of Lofty Peak, your mother’s old hometown, have the ability to tame monsters. You can have four active party members plus four in the wagon at any time, and this includes monsters. One I found myself using quite a bit was the golem Mason. I switched him out for Bianca after rescuing her, even though she was rather underleveled due to her time as a statue, mostly because it felt right. In the final battle, however, my human characters were wiped out, and it was Mason (they all come with names, which you can change but I never bothered) who struck the killing blow against Nimzo. What’s kind of weird is that the recruited monsters apparently just wait around during the eight years the protagonist is a statue; I can’t recall if that’s addressed in the game. There are a few other optional party members in addition to the monsters. Once you’re established as King of Gotha, Sancho and some of the soldiers can be added to your group.

In terms of transportation, DQ3 and 4 both had a sailing ship and a method of flight, a bird in the former and a balloon in the latter. In 5, there are three ways of flying. The first is a carpet that can’t fly over high mountains, a mechanic that’s used again in the next two games. Then there’s Zenithia Castle, once you get it out of the lake into which it’s fallen.

Finally, to access the Crocodilopolis on Mount Azimuth, you need to get a ride from the Zenith Dragon himself.

I think I’ll end this post now, although I might want to write another one about lore and references in the game, of which there are plenty. I also sort of want to look at DQ heroes in general. Any thoughts on these ideas, or anything else you want me to address? Let me know!

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Catching Up with Constance (and Others)

Not counting the one on The Lost Tales of Oz, how long has it been since I’ve done a book review post? I checked, and it looks like it’s been about a month. And on Goodreads, I’m still listed as currently reading a book I finished a while ago. So let’s see if I can rectify that.

Constance Verity Saves the World, by A. Lee Martinez – This is the follow-up to The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, the title of which is inaccurate. Although Connie has broken the spell that keeps her constantly adventuring, she’s still doing so on a somewhat less frequent basis, essentially as a day job. Most of these adventures are in the background, with the focus being more on Connie’s attempt to have a normal relationship with her boyfriend Byron. Her past continues to have a profound effect on her life, however, as the apartment building in which she and Byron are living is also inhabited by mad scientists and aliens, and an old lover who’s trying to turn around the evil organization he inherited from his mother appears to still have feelings for her. It doesn’t feel like it covers as much ground as the earlier book, but I still enjoyed it.

The Girl at Midnight, by Melissa Grey – You know, I really wanted to like this. It tells the story of two warring groups of people, the bird-like Avicen who live under New York City, and the dragon-like Drakharin, both trying to find the Firebird. The protagonist, Echo, is an Avicen girl who lives in the New York Public Library and works as a thief. For some reason, though, I really couldn’t get into it, and I’m not sure why. I didn’t dislike it; it just didn’t hold my interest that much.

The Abominable Showman, by Robert Rankin – The steampunk world with incredible technology and interplanetary colonization in the Victorian era that featured in Rankin’s last few books meets the recurring characters of Barry the Time Sprout and a fictionalized version of a young Rankin. Barry takes the boy to an alternate version of 1927 that some people still remember, where Queen Victoria is celebrating her ninetieth year on the throne, and Prince Albert is still alive as well, but with many prosthetic parts. Most of it takes place on board the giant spaceliner Leviathan, where Count Ilya Rostov, magician and master of ceremonies, is planning a scheme. Or is he? As is typical for Rankin, there are frequent twists for the sake of jokes, and plot threads that don’t go anywhere. That’s typical for Rankin, and it can be frustrating sometimes, but for the most part it’s best to roll with it, as it’s still generally funny and creative throughout. It’s also typical Rankin in that the protagonist undergoes a lot of misfortunes, somewhat deserved as he’s a bratty, self-centered character with little regard for others (and remember, this is Rankin basically writing himself), but still uncomfortable at times. And it sometimes allows even worse characters to triumph. There’s an explanation of sorts for how the steampunk universe was replaced with the more familiar one, partially involving the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, the Garden of Eden, and the first girl born in space. I guess the explanation from The Witches of Chiswick is from another alternate universe, but Rankin’s sense of continuity is often rather messy. Barry even comments on the two different origin stories he’s given in earlier books, and refuses to explain how both can be true. Also worthy of note is a bit of comedy involving the Three Als: Crowley, Jolson, and Capone.

The Lord of the Ring Roads, by Robert Rankin – In his latest book, Rankin returns to the ongoing adventures of the clueless but generally well-meaning Jim Pooley and John Omally of Brentford, who frequently find themselves dealing with supernatural adversaries despite really only wanting to hang out at the pub and maybe get rich with little effort. Here, they’re roped into a scheme by a council member to build a ring road (basically the same as what Americans call a beltway, as in the Baltimore and Washington areas) around the borough, even though it doesn’t get much traffic. (See, the title here is both clever AND relevant, unlike some of Rankin’s earlier ones.) It’s revealed to be part of a plot by a dastardly fairy, which also involves sacrificing Prince Charles. The conflict is never resolved, but the end promises a sequel. Most of the familiar characters from the earlier Brentford books reappear, and there’s a friendly giant as well.

Half-Off Ragnarok, by Seanan McGuire – While the first two books in the InCryptid series starred Verity Price, this one instead features her brother Alex, a nerdy but still bad-ass sort who works as a herpetologist at a zoo in Ohio with a gorgon for an assistant. He also has a pet church griffin, which is more like a house cat than a lion, who’s a really cute character. When people at the zoo start getting turned to stone, he has to find a way to identify and catch the culprit. It also turns out that his girlfriend, Australian zoologist Shelby Tanner who works with the big cats, is familiar with cryptids, and she becomes an ally. It seems that the protagonists in this series (at least so far) are always good-looking, something the cover artist seems to focus on at the expense of the fantasy elements. That said, both Verity and Alex’s relationships actually came across as pretty sexy.

Posted in A. Lee Martinez, Authors, Book Reviews, Brentford Trilogy, Greek Mythology, Humor, incryptid, Monsters, Mythology, Relationships, Robert Rankin, seanan mcguire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dream Dragon Warriors

I wrote a post about Dragon Quest VI a few weeks ago after finishing the game, and I have a few other ideas for video game entries, but before I go there I’d like to take a closer look at the characters from DQVI. As with DQ4 and 5, you can only control four party members in battle, but you can bring four others along with you in a wagon, and they also get experience. There are six party members who always join in the course of the game, as well as several optional ones. There are SPOILERS in what follows, if you’re concerned about that kind of thing.

We start with the hero, who as usual is named by the player and present throughout the game. DQ heroes generally don’t have any dialogue, which I suppose is so you can imagine what he’s saying, but I think it often makes the hero the least developed member of your party. He can equip the legendary equipment and is good with both weapons and magic. Due to the job system, any of the characters can develop pretty much any skills, but some are still better in some areas than others. The hero this time is the Prince of Somnia, although he doesn’t know it until a while into the game. There’s a part earlier on where he has to pretend to be the Prince, so I assumed that was leading up to that being who he really was, due to storytelling conventions. Well, he’s actually the dream version of the Prince. The two selves were separated by the Dreadfiend Murdaw when he initially took on the monster with the help of two companions, Carver and Milly.

Carver was known as Hassan in the original Japanese, but I don’t know whether that means he was supposed to be Middle Eastern. He apparently speaks with an Irish accent in Dragon Quest Heroes II and in a Cockney dialect in DQ9. His name was presumably changed for the sake of wordplay, as he’s a carpenter, although he dreams of being a martial artist. He’s a big guy and a good friend to the hero.

Milly is from the Kingdom of Felonia, where her parents sold her into slavery, and she became a dancer for the King. Later, she became an apprentice to the Dream Sage, Madame Luca Luminista. Carver finds his real-world body as a statue in Murdaw’s castle, and the hero’s has been hanging out in the small Somnian village of Weaver’s Peak. It’s never explained what happened to Milly’s body, but she’s apparently already found it before you encounter her again. It seems like such a thing should have been explained, but it isn’t.

Another character is Milly’s younger brother Terry, whose inability to protect his sister made him wander the world seeking weapons and power.

You come across him a few times before you’re able to recruit him, but even if Milly is in your party, he doesn’t show any sign of recognizing her. Finally, he sells his soul to the Dreadfiend Dhuran in exchange for power, but after you defeat him and Dhuran, he joins your party.

He has a smug attitude that presumably resulted from his childhood trauma. Terry seems to have been the popular favorite from this game, as he’s also the protagonist of Dragon Quest Monsters. He and Milly (called Milayou in the original English translation), both children (this is apparently before they were sold into slavery), are taken to the Kingdoms of GreatTree and GreatLog to train monsters and compete in the Starry Night Tournament.

A lot of bosses from the main DQ series show up, and at one point you have to fight Dhuran, who has an older Terry working for him. He at first scoffs at his younger self, but later apologizes, presumably never realizing who the child is. He’s also the only DQ6 character to be playable in Dragon Quest Heroes; DQH2 has both him and Carver. I’ve seen it pointed out that, if you combine the siblings names, you get “military,” but I don’t know that there’s any real significance to this.

The other two required characters are Nevan and Ashlynn.

The former is a nerdy, egotistical, and rather sheltered priest from the village of Ghent, and perhaps the first DQ character to wear glasses, although the two male protagonists in DQ2 are shown in artwork wearing goggles for no apparent reason. Well, there’s also Avan in the spin-off manga The Adventure of Dai, who was introduced before Nevan, but never appeared in a game.

Ashlynn was called Barbara in Japanese, the change possibly having been made for the same reason Tina in FF6 became Terra; it’s just too common in the West. The name Ashlynn is derived from Irish Gaelic for “dream,” and an Irish name makes sense for a redhead. In addition, her real body was burned to ashes, although an application of Dream Dew allows her to interact with the real world. She has amnesia when you first encounter her, but is eventually revealed to be from Sorceria, a town destroyed in the real world and sealed away in the dream one. She has feelings for the hero, but since I didn’t use her much, it wasn’t really something I picked up on.

She fades away with the dream world at the end, but then turns up in Cloudsgate Citadel.

The only optional human character is Amos, a local hero from the town of Scrimsley who turns into a monster during the full moon. There are monster characters as well, as in DQ5, although there are considerably fewer in the 3DS version than in the Super FamiCom one. Most are Slimes of some variety or other, but there’s also a Hackasaurus named Lizzie who’s defeated by Terry early in the game, and will join the party at his request.

Peggy Sue, the horse who pulls the wagon, also gets a bit of development.

The hero and Carver capture her when she’s running wild in Somnia, and she’s later revealed to be the legendary Pegasus, although she only regains her powers of flight when you obtain the Celestial Reins. I thought the wordplay with her name was pretty clever, and it apparently didn’t exist in the original Japanese.

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We’ll Get Lost in Hoztory

The Lost Tales of Oz, edited by Joe Bongiorno – I guess this doesn’t count as a traditional review. I’m in this book, so of course I’m going to recommend it. I do want to take a closer look at the individual stories in it, however. Overall, it’s an attractive volume, with illustrations by Eric Shanower. It does look very plain under the dust jacket, but you can’t have everything. There’s a framing device of Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot exploring the Royal Library (possibly the same as the Public Library of Oz from The Wonder City of Oz?) and finding some previously unwritten tales. Each one has an introduction from one or more of the girls, and there are a few interludes featuring them as well. I’m not sure that there’s any particular order to the stories; they’re definitely not chronologically arranged.

The Great and Terrible Oz Mystery, by Michael O. Reilly – When one of L. Frank Baum’s own mystery stories becomes popular in the Emerald City, it leads to the invention of a mystery game in which many citizens participate. This, however, leads to Ojo and Tik-Tok (a pairing I can’t recall seeing before) getting involved in a REAL mystery, that of the palace being haunted. It’s also suggested by Jellia Jamb that the Wizard of Oz himself could be an impersonator. With some help from Dr. Pipt, they manage to solve the mystery.

The Witch’s Mother of Oz, by Paul Dana – I’d seen it suggested before that Mombi, who appears to have particular skill in transformations, might be a Yookoohoo. Paul runs with this idea here, with Mombi being born into a Yookoohoo family but leaving to practice other sorts of magic, and being visited by her mother late in the events of The Marvelous Land of Oz. There was some preparation for this in Paul’s books, as Bina Radget and her family have made appearances.

The Trade: A Langwidere Story, by Mike Conway – Princess Langwidere offers to trade one of her heads to Dorothy in Ozma, but Dorothy adamantly refuses. Here, the Princess encounters a girl who WANTS to trade, and a lesson that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know Conway’s Oz writing often tends toward the dark, but while there are a few heavy themes here, they still hew pretty close to Baum’s own tone. There may be more about Langwidere coming in the near future.

Ojo and the Woozy, by J.L. Bell – In the spirit of the Little Wizard Stories, we learn how this pair adjusts to life in the Emerald City after the events of Patchwork Girl. While the Woozy remains easy-going, Ojo has some trouble making friends. The story has baseball being popular in the Emerald City, which doesn’t entirely fit with the Ozites appearing to be unfamiliar with it during Peter Brown’s visits, but it is mentioned as a sport the students at the Wogglebug’s college play back in Emerald City.

The Other Searches for the Lost Princess – This is one of mine, which I wrote because I always thought there were several perfectly good premises left out of Lost Princess. It’s pretty much how I wrote it, although I noticed the joke about Elvis appearing in tabloid headlines before he was even born was cut. I thought it was funny, but I guess it stretches believability a bit. I worked in a lot of references to both my own work and some other lesser-known writings.

Chop, by Eric Shanower – This one is a horror story about Chopfyt from Tin Woodman, who has gone from lazy and surly to downright psychotic over time. Button-Bright has a close call visiting the mixed-up man. This is followed by an interlude explaining how Chopfyt was made to drink from the Water of Oblivion and his victims were restored, presumably to bring it into line with Melody Grandy’s Forever, where Chopfyt is still a jerk but not on the same level of destructiveness. It’s interesting that the few people who chose to work with Chopfyt made him a villain, but the situation at the end of Tin Woodman doesn’t seem that likely to last, and he literally has multiple personalities.

In Flesh of Burnished Tin, by Jeffrey Rester – From what I’ve heard, Jeff has a complex mythology worked out that encompasses many different aspects of Oz and some other fantasy besides, but he’s so far only had short, enigmatic stories published based on it. This one touches on why Nimmie Amee is staying with the Wicked Witch of the East in the first place, although it doesn’t fully answer the question.

Diplomatic Immunity, by David Tai – Betsy and Trot come across Sky Island on the ground in Oz (I guess it must have landed in a way that didn’t cause any serious damage or injury), and have to get it up in the air again, which means dealing with the unfriendly giant frogs of the Fog Bank. It also shows Trot trying to balance her responsibilities and powers as a diplomat for Ozma and Queen of Sky Island, and a temporary falling out between her and Betsy. There’s some good characterization of the protagonists, and it’s nice to see Sky Island again.

The Scrap Bag Circus of Oz, by Margaret A. Berg – I remember reading some writings by the late Mrs. Berg back in the nineties, and corresponding with her a bit as well. One idea that recurred in several of her books was that of cloth dolls made by Margolotte accidentally being animated with the Powder of Life. Here, Scraps and the Sawhorse (who is credited as the author, with Berg as editor) come across a group of these dolls who have formed a circus, and are made of some of the same scraps as the Patchwork Girl herself.

The Wizard in New York, by Sam Sackett and Joe Bongiorno – I believe Mr. Sackett died while this book was in production. He’s the one who wrote Adolf Hitler in Oz, which I haven’t read yet but probably should, even though I find the idea of Hitler being an Oz villain as…not trivializing, really, but rather too whimsical for someone who caused so much actual harm in the world. But yeah, I should read it before I judge it. Sackett’s two stories here, some of the longer ones in the volume, are sort of prequels to the book. This one has the Wizard visiting New York City during the 1939 World’s Fair, and also watching the MGM Wizard of Oz at the theater and reacting to it. There’s a lot of description of the Fair, which Sackett visited as a kid. He even briefly appears in the story, although he says he wouldn’t really have been as rude as he portrays himself. I’ve been to the site of the Fair in Flushing (it’s the same place where the 1964 one was held), and I’m kind of disappointed that we don’t really have anything like that anymore. I think there just isn’t as much optimism about the future. Of course, this story indicates that the optimism was largely misplaced then as well, as the Wizard’s exploration of the Fair is interspersed with his finding out more about the brewing war in Europe.

Ali Cat in Oz – The follow-up to the last story has Ali Cat, a pet the Wizard finds as a stray in New York, exploring Oz and finding how different it is from what he’s experienced in the Outside World. He comes to terms with how the life of a carnivore works in Oz, and encounters several other cats. Catty Corners from Lost King doesn’t appear, but is discussed. There are several references to other semi-obscure Oz works, including an appearance by one of the Noyzy Boyz from Ruth Morris’ Flying Bus. It does seem a bit anachronistic, though, as that story presumably takes place a few decades later.

Lurline and the Talking Animals of Oz, by Joe Bongiorno – Presented as the journal of someone who was around at the time of Lurline’s enchantment that resulted in animals talking, the tone is somewhat more reminiscent of Narnia than Oz, heavy in moralizing and mysticism. It’s also interesting that, with religion usually being glossed over in the Oz series, the narrator specifically mentions a minister at a local church preaching from the Bible. There are a few origin stories incorporated, including the beginnings of Rigmarole Town and the reason so many lions live in Mudge. The Wizard Wam and the dog Prince also make appearances, and it ties in with the wraparound story by explaining who the Royal Librarian is. I thought I remembered Joe mentioning before that there would be an origin story for the Lonesome Duck, but while a duck does play a role here, I don’t recall anything beyond that.

Tommy Kwikstep and the Magpie, by Jared Davis – This details the beginnings of a relationship between Tommy Kwikstep and Jinjur’s son Perry, with some help from a magpie and the former Good Witch of the North. I think it might have been Dave Hardenbrook who first proposed that Tattypoo in Giant Horse was someone who’d had her form switched with her predecessor Locasta, and Jared goes along with that, although the details are different. Here, Locasta has taken to running a music hall.

Ozma and the Orange Ogres in Oz – This is one I originally wrote back in high school that Joe expanded for this anthology. His background for the ogres and details of their leader’s reformation tie in some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology, giving it a bit of a heavier feel that I originally gave it. He also came up with the entertaining idea of the magically animated residents of the Emerald City getting together to scare the ogres, which is great.

Quiet Victory, by Marcus Mebes – This short tale features Victor Columbia Edison, the live phonograph from Patchwork Girl, who is quickly dismissed by the other characters. Sure, he’s noisy, but a few fans have noted how the rejection likely makes him lonely. Here, he meets up with the Musicker, who’s also ostracized due to being involuntarily loud and obnoxious. While proud of his his musical insides in Road, here he’s gotten rather tired of it, but he’s also a sympathetic friend for Victor. The Red Jinn, a favorite character of Marcus’ (and of many fans, really), also plays a role.

Vaneeda of Oz – Vaneeda, daughter of the Wicked Witch of the East, was a character briefly proposed but never used by Ruth Plumly Thompson. I’d previously come up with some ideas about her and her family, so I incorporated them into this story. I wrote it before “Other Searches,” which also uses the character of the Cookywitch Paella; and I don’t think it’s the last we’ll see of this clan. Jinjur’s daughter also plays a significant part.

The Puppet-Mistress of Oz, by Andrew J. Heller – The final story here is a rather disturbing one, but it makes sense with what we know of Glinda. It shows the events of Dorothy’s original adventure from her pragmatic perspective, and explains such things as why the Wizard of Oz would send an unarmed girl off to fight a Wicked Witch.

There’s also a companion booklet about the ancient history of Oz, completely written by Joe, that was sent to contributors and is available to buy as well. Addressing Oz and the surrounding fairylands from the third century to the thirteenth, it ties together not only the brief canonical references to this time period, but also such elements as Henry Blossom’s details of the life of Ozroar, Phil Lewin’s Enilrul, and Paul’s take on Lurline and Tititi-Hoochoo. And there are crossovers with non-Oz fantasy works as well, and the early settlers of Oz have their hands full battling eldritch monsters and mad priests of toad gods. I have to suspect that Clark Ashton Smith’s Tsathoggua or one of his fellows is the giant toad the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion meet in Secret Island. There’s a rather fanciful explanation for the confusion between Lurline and Lulea as well.

Posted in Animals, Book Reviews, Characters, David Tai, Eric Shanower, Jared Davis, Jeff Rester, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Marcus Mebes, Melody Grandy, Monsters, Oz, Oz Authors, Phil Lewin, Places, Relationships, Religion, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment