Den’s Lows and Highs


The Spring 2015 issue of The Baum Bugle is primarily about William Wallace Denslow, the original illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Many other illustrators have since produced their own pictures for this seminal work, so it’s possible that you’ve read Wizard without seeing Denslow’s illustrations. And that’s not just if you’ve read one of the editions that doesn’t have pictures at all. Back in the day, however, Denslow’s work was a big deal.

He had worked with Baum on Father Goose: His Book, and Wizard was copyrighted in both of their names. This led to some trouble down the road, as Denslow demanded a large chunk of the royalties from the Wizard stage play, which led to a falling out with Baum. This was probably part of why Baum tended to be distrustful of John R. Neill, who illustrated the rest of the Oz books and a few of Baum’s non-Oz works. I’ve also heard that Neill didn’t draw the characters like Baum imagined them, but I have to wonder if Denslow did either. Neill’s drawings had more of a note of realism, while Denslow worked in more of a caricature kind of style.

That’s not to say that he couldn’t draw in other ways; the Bugle includes some early pictures of his that were much more naturalistic.

Wait, WAS Venus ever a baby?
Also in there are information and images of his work for picture books, postcards, and comics.

His strip Billy Bounce, while not particularly funny (most of the humor just depends on the characters playing jokes on each other), deserves credit for introducing the first comic character with a superpower of sorts.

I’ve written before about the Billy Bounce book that he later did with Dudley Bragdon and his Oz-like children’s book The Pearl and the Pumpkin.

As was the case with a lot of Baum’s work, Denslow intended to develop these books into musicals, but the latter wasn’t at all successful and the former was never even produced. At the height of his fame and fortune, Denslow actually bought an island in Bermuda to use as a vacation home, although he was forced to sell it within less than a decade. Finally, the Bugle issue includes a short story by Donald Abbott, a modern author and illustrator who draws in Denslow’s style, about the Wizard of Oz learning to paint and accidentally scaring off the Wicked Witch of the West.

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This entry was posted in Art, Comics, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Den’s Lows and Highs

  1. I was lucky to grow up with the original Annotated Wizard of Oz, and thus all the Denslow pictures.

    • Nathan says:

      No, not that one. I think the publisher might have been Exeter Books. I also believe I’ve seen at least one other Wizard edition with a cyclopean witch.

  2. marbpl2 says:

    I’ve seen some Russian (Volkov) ones with a cyclopean Bastinda (though I’m sure they weren’t anything you grew up with). Here are two:

  3. marbpl2 says:

    Actually, the first image is from a translation of Baum, sorry.

  4. marbpl2 says:

    Squirrel monkey?

  5. Pingback: I Like Bouncing | VoVatia

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