I was thinking about doing an Oziana reread, as I know there were aspects of some of the stories I wanted to explore further. Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the journal, and the International Wizard of Oz Club celebrated by putting up videos of stories being read aloud, by the original writer when possible. I still need to catch up on some of the later ones. It looks like they just uploaded the second part of my reading of “The Red Desert of Oz”; it wasn’t supposed to be in two parts, but that’s what my phone decided, and I had a heck of a time sending it in anyway. Eric Gjovaag did reviews of all the stories (I think he’s finished with them by now, anyway?), and Joe Bongiorno has analyzed many of them for his Royal Timeline of Oz. While I’m sure I’ll mention whether or not I liked the stories, I also plan on addressing continuity issues and general oddities, which means there will be SPOILERS. Anyway, here we go with the first issue, from 1971. It’s pretty convenient for counting which issue it is that it started in a year ending with a one.
The Patchwork Girl and the Giant, by Harry Mongold – By the author of Button-Bright of Oz and The Sawhorse of Oz, the story starts when Scraps rolls down a hill and ends up meeting an owl and, of course, a giant. While threatening, the giant turns out to be basically harmless, and useful in that he keeps the water away from a nearby hut belonging to none other than the Wizard of Oz. He uses a disguise to deal with the giant, sort of a callback to when he was Crinklink. A picture of him in this form, drawn by Bill Eubank, makes him appropriately creepy.
It’s a fun tale, and there’s some of the same weirdness as in Mongold’s two Oz books in how the giant blows water away.
Mongold also contributes the short poem “Tik-Tok Takes a Trip,” about how the mechanical man times his walks so he can get back in time to be wound again.
The Cowardly Lion Changes His Name, by March Laumer – This author is known for his books that are known to pay great attention to detail, but also to be complicated and often disturbing. He’d started writing them prior to this, but didn’t have any published until some years later. This story is a fairly simple one, about how the Cowardly Lion has fled his kingdom to escape from an arranged marriage, and also remembers that his name is Rex. There’s a pretty good joke that I didn’t get the first time I read this, about Sir Hokus having a Deed Pole that can be used to change someone’s name.
Sherlock Holmes in Oz,by Ruth Berman – I know there was a lot of overlap between Oz and Holmes fandom back in the day (perhaps there still is), so a crossover isn’t too surprising a thing. I wrote a bit about this and other Holmes-inspired Ozzy detective stories before. The story has the Wizard summoning Holmes to the Emerald City to find a missing pearl, and while the detective is surprised by some aspects of Oz, he’s soon able to use his deductive skills to catch the culprit. The pearl theft turns out not to be the main crime, with Kaliko having taken it while trying to steal his old master Ruggedo in cactus form so the former king can advise him. Probably not the best idea considering how Ruggedo generally ends up double-crossing everybody, but I suppose Kaliko can learn from his own mistakes. Dr. Watson does show up with his friend, but he doesn’t really do anything in the story.
Speaking of Oz and the Oz Club, I attended a virtual event last Saturday themed around Valentine’s Day, and it included a showing of the short film Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man, which I hadn’t seen before.
It’s a retelling of Nick Chopper’s origin story from Wizard, but with a darker tone than how it was originally written. It’s a pretty dark story anyway, but L. Frank Baum told it whimsically, while this take makes the Woodman single-minded and uncaring once he loses his heart. There’s a steampunk sort of aesthetic to it, as Nick (not that they call him that) ends up with goggles and smokestacks.
Someone also read and showed the Little Golden Book of Road, one of three very abridged Oz titles published in 1952, with illustrations by Harry McNaught.
His pictures are cute, with the dressed-up Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger being especially noteworthy. As far as the text goes, it cuts out pretty much everything except the visit to Foxville, Johnny Dooit and the sand boat, and of course Ozma’s birthday party.