It’s almost the twenty-first of August, which means it’s time to celebrate the birthday of Ozma, Royal Ruler of Oz. Okay, I don’t know that I’m really going to be doing much celebrating, but I do like to acknowledge it. Ozma is a somewhat odd character, seeing as how she threatens her way through Ozma of Oz, and then refuses to fight even to save her people in The Emerald City of Oz. I’m hoping she found somewhat of a happy medium. Actually, although Ruth Plumly Thompson sometimes writes her as more vindictive than L. Frank Baum did, most of the time she’s defined by her kindness and idealism. I think a good reflection of her character appears in Edward Einhorn’s Paradox in Oz. Here, Ozma inadvertently changes history and ends up in a dark version of Oz, where she meets an alternate version of herself. This other Ozma is still basically good, but has no problem making an alliance with the Nome King and other evil beings, which she plans to break. When our Ozma recommends rescuing Glinda and Mombi (who is good in this Oz), the other Ozma replies, “They’ll have to fend for themselves….In times of war, everyone faces danger.” When she hears this, the Ozma we know high-tails it out of that universe as quickly as she can. The needs of the many might outweigh the needs of the few, but for Ozma the question shouldn’t even arise.
The thing is, I’ve come across some interpretations of Ozma that strike me as having more in common with the alternate Ozma. One such instance is in the game Emerald City Confidential, which turns Oz into a film noir kind of setting. Obviously the characters aren’t going to be entirely in line with their canonical portrayals, but most of them were amusing. The cold Ozma, however, kind of bothered me. Part of the back story for the game is that Ozma handed over the brother of your character, Petra, to the Phanfasms in order to end a war. I have to suspect the Ozma of the books wouldn’t have stood for this. Also, I’ve been reading Fables, and while I haven’t gotten up to any of the stories with Ozma in them (the Nome King has, however, made an appearance), I understand she’s pretty mean in Bill Willingham’s comics.
J.L. Bell discusses Willingham’s take on her and other Oz characters in this post. So why change Ozma’s essential nature? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a reflection on how Oz itself has become darker in these stories, but a gritty Oz is pretty much a cliché by this point. People can do whatever they want with Oz, but I prefer to think of the land and its ruler as the canon left them.