I’ve been looking recently at how the Wizard of Oz is portrayed throughout the Oz series, and this Lit Brick comic offers another good example of the character being a jerk, and oddly enough it’s known that it’s not entirely L. Frank Baum’s fault. You can read the story here, and it’s quite short, but just to sum up it has Dorothy and Toto wandering in the wild parts of Oz and coming across a shape-shifting magician named Crinklink, who forces Dorothy to wash his many dirty dishes.
When Crinklink falls asleep in his tiny form, Toto springs on him to kill him (shades of “Puss in Boots” here), only for the magician to reveal that he’s really the Wizard in disguise. From what I understand, Toto originally DID kill Crinklink, but publisher Sumner Britton thought it was too disturbing for kids, and suggested the Wizard-in-disguise ending. Because I’m sure children would much rather read about a trusted friend playing a nasty trick in order to teach a lesson than about a problem actually being overcome, right? Of course Dorothy doesn’t really kick the Wizard in the balls, but her reaction is far from humble: “‘You’ve given me a good scare, Wizard,’ she added, with dignity, ‘and p’raps I’ll forgive you, by’n’by; but just now I’m mad to think how easily you fooled me.'” Not only is the Wizard being nasty here, but he’s going back to his old habit of appearing in costume in order to trick someone, albeit with actual magic instead of props.
As J.L. Bell pointed out when this book was discussed on the Ozzy Digest, the Wizard also wears disguises in John R. Neill’s The Wonder City of Oz, in fact being almost as obsessive with them as Notta Bit More. Neill might have had the Crinklink story in mind, but perhaps a more likely source is how Frank Morgan appeared around the city in various costumes in the MGM movie, which would have just been released when Neill was writing. There’s a lot in Neill’s Oz writing that comes across as really confusing, probably more because of sloppy writing and/or editing (I’ve heard that a lot of the edits to Wonder City were made without Neill even knowing about them) than anything else, and one particular incident in Wonder City definitely qualifies. At one point, Number Nine runs into the Wizard, but mistakes him for the janitor, only to learn the truth in the next scene. The thing is, however, that the illustrations of the man make him look nothing like the Wizard.
And Wizard or not, that guy is CREEPY.
On the endpapers, however, there’s a picture labeled “broom man” who does resemble the Wizard.
Weird, huh? In Neill’s next Oz book, Scalawagons, the Wizard is no longer disguising himself, but has the equally annoying habit of vanishing right in the middle of conversations.
John Troutman comments on Crinklink’s threat to turn Dorothy into a doorknob, which is actually not unique to this story. In Lucky Bucky, we’re told that the magician Trickolas Om was known for “disturbing the peace and quiet of the nation by transforming innocent people into lost keys and door-knobs,” and Bucky comes across some enchanted doorknobs. I have to wonder if Trickolas was responsible for this transformation, but we’re never told. And in Jack Snow’s Shaggy Man, the wizard Conjo has a cabinet full of “books of magic recipes and formulas–everything from changing people into door-knobs to curing headaches.” Was transformation into doorknobs a common trope, or were Neill and Snow inspired by the reference in “Little Dorothy and Toto”?
Finally, look at this picture, down between Crinklink’s feet. What’s with that horse and cart on the shore? Are they totally ignoring the giant right next to them, or are they supposed to be speeding out of his way? What’s the deal, Neill?