The 1987 Oziana contains four stories, one much shorter than the others, all of which are of the sort that complement the main series. The front cover shows Melody Grandy’s illustration of Robin Olderman’s idea for the Quadling flag. A note in the issue calls for other flag ideas, and there’s one for a Munchkin flag in the next one. After a quiz by Fred M. Meyer, we start in with….
“The Woggle-Bug’s New Clothes,” by Frederick E. Otto – As is common for Otto’s stories, this one combines elements from a few different books to discuss a lost part of Ozian history. There’s an enigmatic reference in The Marvelous Land of Oz to the Wogglebug receiving his fancy togs when he saved the ninth life of a tailor. Here, we find out that this tailor is Stichwell J. Threadneedle from the superstitious village of Overhill in the Gillikin Country. He dies repeatedly in absurd and often humorous ways, including being nibbled to death by guppies, sneezing his head off, drowning (or possibly boiling) in a vat of chocolate, and eating bad marshmallows, some of them drawn by Bill Eubank.
Perhaps the lesson of the story is about peer pressure, as a few of these deaths result from being dared by his friends. He becomes apprenticed to Tora in Blankenburg, and while anyone reading this has probably read Lost King and knows who he is, let’s just say history could have turned out very differently if he had gone with Stichwell and the Wogglebug.
It’s while trying to escape from this town that the tailor’s apprentice runs into the insect, who has just been magnified and is on the run from a group of terrified locals. Otto identifies the character Sugarene as a Cookie Witch, probably a reference to the Cookywitch in Cowardly Lion. She makes a brief appearance in my own “The Other Searches for the Lost Princess.” The Wogglebug drops into a well because he knows that his species can float, but he sinks when thrown into a lake in Magic. This tale also says that the bug met Tip and company right after leaving Blankenburg, but that doesn’t explain how he could give them his card, as there’s no time when he could have had them printed. Yes, I realize that’s a nitpick, but it’s the kind of thing I think of.
“The Blizzard of Oz,” by Tyler Tichelaar – Jack Frost sets out to freeze the Continent of Imagination, where he’d supposedly never been before. In his previous appearances in Baum, however, he visited both the Laughing Valley and Thumbumbia, the former of which is on the continent on Baum’s own map, and the latter on the one by James E. Haff and Dick Martin. Again, though, that’s a nitpick. Jack gets tired flying over the Deadly Desert and falls into the Tin Woodman’s courtyard, where he decides he’s in love with Dorothy and proposes to her.
When she turns him down, he has his father bury Oz in a snowstorm, but Glinda finds a way to remove it. It’s interesting that this story was published around the same time as Eric Shanower’s Ice King, which also has an icy elemental propose to Dorothy. There’s an oddity in the text where Jack says, “That none of your business!”, and then there’s an explanation that he has speaking problems due to his fall. It seems likely to have been a typo, but then why include the note instead of just fixing it? I always found that weird. Also, there’s an excuse for Polychrome to show up at the end for just a few sentences, not really necessary to the plot, but it’s hard to go wrong with Polly. And it gives Bill Stillman a reason to draw her.
“The Two Peters,” by Eric Shanower – Peter Brown, who lived with his grandfather during his three recorded visits to Oz, is now a grandfather himself. He reads Pirates to his grandson, also named Peter, and the two of them talk about Oz. It’s short, quiet, and heartfelt.
“Button-Bright and the Knit-Wits of Oz,” by Jim Vander Noot – We know from Ozma that the famous inventor Mr. Smith, co-creator of Tik-Tok, drowned in a river in a picture he was painting. In this story, we find that he didn’t really die, but was instead washed up on an island and kept prisoner there. He had visited Oz in the past, which is why he was painting an Ozian landscape in the first place.
It’s Button-Bright (whose last name is also Smith, or von Smith anyway, although this isn’t mentioned in the story) who finds him, when he comes across a community of sweater makers known as the Knit-Wits. Chris Sterling drew a quite active picture of them.
As is typical with minor kingdoms in Oz, there are a lot of puns involved, some of which I didn’t really get until my wife took up knitting. The Knit-Wits create wool with their imaginations through woolgathering, and knit and dye their creations in a lake. Being cabled is the worst punishment known in the country, the inventor is imprisoned on the Fair Isle, and characters are named Jac Quard, Argyle, Purl, Picotte, Byndov, and Skane. There’s also a tie-in with Fuddlecumjig in Emerald City, as Grandmother Gnit’s husband explains that they used to be King and Queen of the Knit-Wits, but abdicated when she kept going to pieces and had to be sent away. Also perhaps worth noting is that Tik-Tok refuses to play Parchozzi because he “could cal-cu-late the role of the dice,” although it seems like that would be of limited use in a Parcheesi-style game.
Next time, the Computer Wizard comes back, the Northeast Wind is lost, and the American military accidentally stumbles upon Oz.