Coping with Immortality


We’re up to the 1978 Oziana, with a cover by Bill Eubank that appears to be partially based on a John R. Neill illustration from Kabumpo in Oz.

Then there’s an Oz-E-Gag by Eubank, comparing The Wizard of Oz to the then quite new Star Wars.

I’ve seen several attempts to draw parallels between these two stories, and it’s not too surprising there are some, as George Lucas was a fan of Joseph Campbell’s ideas on universal mythology and storytelling. That said, I don’t think there are too many direct references. Luke Skywalker, like Dorothy, lives with his aunt and uncle, poor farmers in a largely barren area. And the heroes use costumes to infiltrate the villains’ base, but that was in the movie and not the book. What might be a direct reference is Princess Leia’s cinnamon bun hairstyle resembling Ozma’s poppies, and she’s not even in Wizard. Then there’s a word find based around stuff from Neill’s Oz books before we get to the stories. There are four of them in this issue, none of them all that long. We begin, appropriately enough, with:

“The Woozy’s Tricky Beginning,” by March Laumer – An early attempt to provide an origin story for one of my favorite characters who doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, it starts out with the fairies of Burzee (including Espa and Ereol from Queen Zixi of Ix) telling riddles of the “What do you get when you cross X and Y?” variety. A pixie named Dementia is confused by the concept, and instead of the jokey answers that are intended, she wants to know what the actual result of such matings would be. One of these results in the Woozy, and it’s strongly implied that his father was Winnie-the-Pooh. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the Woozy as particularly bear-like, but the only real comparison I know of is L. Frank Baum’s indication that his skin is sort of like that of a hippopotamus. The tale also posits that the Woozy doesn’t actually consume bees, instead being a sort of living beehive. There have been other origin stories for the Woozy that I like better, including one by Gili Bar-Hillel in a later Oziana. Glinda claims to be good friends with Lurline, and contacts her on a two-way wrist radio. Does Glinda know Dick Tracy? The Sawhorse is also given a proper name, Lignum, from the Latin for wood. I don’t think this name has caught on with other writers, though. The story has one illustration by Bronson Pinchot, but the back cover by Lau Shiu Fan is also related to it, showing the meeting with the Queen Bee.

Laumer later wrote a follow-up to this, “The Woozy’s Sticky End,” co-written by Johanna Buchner and Paul Ritz, and appearing in the anthology In Other Lands Than Oz. The tale is also accompanied by honeycomb borders on the pages. The introduction to the issue mentions that the author had completed the manuscript of The Green Dolphin of Oz, his first published Oz book, and I believe the only one of his Oz works I haven’t read. Maybe I should give it another try, but what I did read didn’t feel that Ozzy. I’ve also heard there’s some stuff in it about incest and bestiality, but I never got far enough to confirm that.

“How Ducky!”, by Harry Mongold – A short poem about Queen Coo-ee-oh’s transformation into a swan, accompanied by a picture by Dave Billman illustrating the metamorphosis.

“The Adventure of the Missing Belt,” by Vincent Ward and Jay Delkin – The second of the Great Detective stories, this one has the character trying to find the Magic Belt when it’s gone missing after Ozma’s reception for three women from the Enchanted Mountain in the Quadling Country.

The solution involves a cat that doesn’t talk, but couldn’t it have just chosen not to? As Joe Bongiorno mentioned, it’s kind of weird that the women were allowed to practice magic at all, but maybe they’re friends of Glinda’s or something. The references to Sherlock Holmes’s England are kind of weird. I find it difficult to believe that the Sawhorse runs on a timetable like British railways, and the Detective apparently had a near-death experience at the Ozenbach Falls. I also don’t know of any previous indication that Oz uses the metric system. It’s interesting that both of the first two Great Detective stories reference Menankypoo, here in the context of an Iron Rush that involved some transformations. That could be an interesting story in and of itself. The illustrations for this are once again by Melody Grandy.

“Scraps’ Ditty,” by Clara Jean Curzon – In an insert, Curzon sets one of Scraps‘s poems from Patchwork Girl to music. I tried out the melody on the guitar (maybe a keyboard would have been preferable, but I don’t have one handy), and it fits.

“Zimbo and the Magic Amulet,” by George Van Buren – The author of “Tempus Temporis in Terra Ozis” returns with another story that uses Latin, including quoting the famous opening to Julius Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars. It’s kind of a silly story, as evidenced by the fact that its villain is named Zimboobo, but it also has some interesting takes on the Ozian world. One is that the Pillars of Hercules at the Strait of Gibraltar are a portal between the Great Outside World and the Nonestic Ocean.

This transportation must not happen all the time, though, or nobody could have gotten from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Plato wrote of the lost continent of Atlantis as lying right beyond them. There’s also a confirmation of the idea from Lost King that anyone who goes to the mortal world after living in a deathless country would regain the age they’d have had if they’d aged normally, and adds that, if they were old enough, they’d die within a half hour. And there’s a way to cross the Deadly Desert according to a mathematical pattern, although I’m not entirely sure how it works. Maybe it’s like dance steps. Anyway, a boy named Zimbo saves a wizard and receives an amulet that he can’t understand, and his nasty uncle Zimboobo misinterprets its answers as meaning that Toto has great magic powers, so he takes his nephew to Oz to try to dognap him. Zimbo thwarts him by picking a six-leaf clover and getting arrested, as Ojo did in Patchwork Girl.

How does Ozma always know when that happens? Does she have some clover-specific alarm set, or was she just coincidentally looking at the correct scene in the Magic Picture? There’s also a joke I think I’ve seen in other stories from around the same time that not only does Tollydiggle play games with prisoners, but forces them to do so whether they want to or not, and there are handicaps in place that work in her favor. It’s not exactly in line with the pleasant prison shown in Patchwork Girl, but maybe the jailer has gotten bored over the years. In Melody’s Tippetarius, Jinnicky guesses based on Zim‘s name that he’s from the Isle of Zimba, presumably a reference to this story. I don’t think it actually gives a name to Zimbo’s homeland, but since Zimba Bay is there, the Isle of Zimba works. Maybe their anthem is Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra,” although that song wasn’t released until 1979. It does, however, quote from an earlier poem by Hugo Ball.

“Beyond the Rainbow,” by Daniel K. Cox – The author of “The Threat of Civil-Oz-Ation,” who was on the magazine’s staff, contributes this piece on what a visitor to Oz who hasn’t had a real adventure or saved the country might go through. Qwerty Jones, the son of a typewriter manufacturer, is propelled into the air by a sewer gas explosion in Santa Monica, and is then taken to the Emerald City by an Ork. There are some thoughts on how Ozian immortality might feel to people not used to it. We’re told how tastes change even when a person doesn’t age, and how Dorothy and the Shaggy Man both hold on to reminders of their past. The Wizard of Oz comments on how the Water of Oblivion is sometimes used on people who feel they don’t have anything to live for, and how eternal life in Oz could interfere with someone’s religious beliefs. I like his line, “You see, eternity is better when taken a little at a time.” One oddity to this tale is that the Wizard claims Jenny Jump had left Oz to explore the stars and planets above after being given back her temper, envy, and ambition. While I prefer Jenny to have remained in Oz, this story does say she would be welcome to return, and I figure the time she spent in space coincides with Number Nine earning his degree in wizardry. The end of the story seems a bit abrupt, particularly as there’s no ending quotation mark to Ozma’s speech, but it’s not like anything is obviously missing. It’s followed up by a picture of Ozma that’s in sort of a pin-up style, drawn by Billman, and that’s the issue.

This entry was posted in Animals, Art, Characters, Comics, Games, History, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Language, Magic, Magic Items, March Laumer, Melody Grandy, Music, Mythology, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Poetry, Religion, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Star Wars, Winnie-the-Pooh and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coping with Immortality

  1. Ethan Davis says:

    It feels so unusual seeing Ozma pose like that. Personally, if it was me, I’d probably would’ve drawn Polychrome in that style instead. She seems like a better character to use for those types of illustrations

    • Ethan Davis says:

      I also find the idea of Woozy being Winnie the Pooh’s son really bizarre. But Laumer was always a strange author in my opinion.

      • Nathan says:

        That’s definitely true. I think he did a lot of stuff just to be as bizarre as possible. He was definitely familiar with the books, though.

  2. Pingback: Purple Horse, Pink Goat, Blue Woozy | VoVatia

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