Crafts and Cons

As I said last week, I’ve already written about the 2003 Oziana across two posts back when it was new, and I still agree with what I wrote. I didn’t go into much detail, though, so I’ll examine it a little more closely now. The cover was drawn by Melody Grandy and colored by Marcus Mebes, and shows several characters who appear within the issue, including a few new ones.

“The Bashful Baker of Oz,” by Kieran Miller – As I said before, this tale is focused on Ozites who aren’t part of Ozma’s court or people who get swept into an adventure, but rather some more ordinary types from the Gillikin town of Crafton. Everyone there is encouraged to pursue a specific craft, but Maria and Derek feel they don’t really belong. Maria does her job as a baker quite well, but even her own family thinks she’s kind of weird, and she figures the Craftonites only like what she can do for them. Derek has talent as a fashion designer, but that isn’t considered a real craft by the other villagers. So he relocates to the Emerald City and works for Jenny Jump, but also lives a double life as a mysterious man named Luka who visits his old home to see Maria, his childhood crush. The two strike up a romance, but Derek eventually has to come clean when Maria realizes his story doesn’t hold up. Comic artist Luciano Vecchio illustrated this, and has done other Oz work since then.

The back cover uses a picture from this story of Maria meeting Omby Amby, again colored by Marcus.

He later published this one in book form with an extra illustration of Derek and Maria, but a quick review shows that the text is essentially the same, aside from not mentioning Jenny by name. The two Craftonites are in the back on the front cover. They also reappear in The Royal Explorers of Oz, having their honeymoon on the Crescent Moon.

“Tik-Tok’s Transformation,” by Jimm Phillips – While Tik-Tok can think, speak, and act, he’s very forthcoming about the fact that he isn’t alive. The topic came up on the Nonestica email list about what would happen if he were magically brought to life, and this story addresses that concept. Eureka gets mad at the mechanical man for almost sitting on her, causing her to accidentally break a statue and get blamed for it, and considers using the Powder of Life on him in revenge. While she thinks better of it, she spills the Powder anyway, turning Tik-Tok into a flesh-and-blood man, interestingly rendered by Vecchio.

That’s not exactly how the Powder tends to work in other cases, but the copper man might be a special case. What’s disappointing is that the story says very little about Tik-Tok trying to deal with his new form, instead focusing on Eureka trying to turn him back. This one mentions a Scalawagon, and isn’t clear on how Ozma has some of the Powder of Life in her palace when the impression given in other books is that all that Dr. Pipt made had been used up. In fairness, though, we don’t know for that sure. As the center spread, which ended up being in the middle of this story (well, technically more towards the beginning), is Lee Theriot and Dick Martin’s game Oz Quest, which was never officially made. The instructions are partially based on Randy‘s quest to prove himself worthy of the throne in Purple Prince, each player having to accomplish four tasks before they can reach the Emerald City and win. It’s pretty simple, but includes a lot of different references, and is very much in Martin’s style.

“Dr. Byz Zaar in Oz,” by Daniel Gobble – A hypnotist comes to the Emerald City, allegedly just to put on a show, but turns out to have much more sinister goals in mind. Based on the description and the illustrations by Linda Medley, it’s pretty obvious he’s up to no good, but I guess we can’t fault the Ozites for not realizing this.

The Wizard of Oz does suspect him immediately, as he has experience with being a conniving showman. In order to free Ozma from her trance, Dorothy recruits the help of Zaar’s assistant, an unwilling owl named Fanto, who is shown flying over the Shaggy Man’s head on the cover.

On the subject of Oz, I attended a lecture and panel discussion at the Grolier Club last night, featuring Michael Patrick Hearn, who was responsible for The Annotated Wizard of Oz.

He gave a presentation on the different stage and screen adaptations of Oz, and while I already knew most of the information, he did have some interesting personal accounts. After that, he was joined by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked and other musicals; Bert Lahr’s daughter Judy; Gabriel Gale, who wrote the Ages of Oz books; and Margaret Hamilton’s grandson Scott Meserve.

Judy mentioned how her father was very critical of his own performance, but when they watched the MGM movie together late in his life, he said it was good but Ray Bolger was a ham. Apparently Hamilton didn’t get along well with Bolger either. Schwartz talked about how he was sold on the idea of Wicked before actually reading Gregory Maguire’s book, so he read it with a mind on his adaptation, and what he would and wouldn’t use. Victoria Calamito from the Oz Vlog asked about how a pretty dark book ended up becoming a generally family-friendly musical. He also praised Yip Harburg, and said that he was influenced by Harburg’s tendency to invent new words for his lyrics. I still haven’t seen Wicked. I can’t say I was that excited by Maguire’s book (although I’ve read the sequels, so it’s not like I hated it either) or the soundtrack, but it’s also the sort of thing I feel like I should see, and a lot of people love it. I also bought a copy of Gale’s The Art of Oz, which has new interpretations on the classic characters.

I’ve looked through it, but I haven’t examined it thoroughly yet. I am interested in the Lahr biography that Judy was selling, written by her brother John; but I didn’t want to spend that much money.

If I’ve written about the 2004 Oziana already, I can’t find it. So I guess it will be business as usual next time, but with a new editor for the magazine. We’ll see the Glass Cat foil a kidnapping and Dorothy try to rescue a Prince of Ev from the Nome Kingdom without realizing he went there willingly. I’m also rereading another apocryphal Oz book, and while I haven’t finished yet, it’s pretty short. So that might be coming, if not next week, at least in the near future.

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15 Responses to Crafts and Cons

  1. Ethan Davis says:

    Ozma in that illustration from Dr. Byz Zaar looks like someone called her a bad word LOL

  2. Reblogged this on Scott Andrew Hutchins and commented:
    I went to this presentation at the Grolier CLub. Unfortuinately, Michael was already up to The Woggle-Bug (1905) by the time I came in. I bought Notes on a Cowardly Lion. I wanted The Art of Oz but didn’t feel comfortable spending that much money at present. Even buying Notes on a Cowardly Lion, a book I’ve known about since childhood but never read excpet a little bit when my parents wanted to tour a new subdivision and that book was on a desk in one of the houses, at $22 was very anxiety producing. I already have The Annotated Wizard of Oz.

    Stephen Schwartz, whom I met for at least the third time (previously at The Dramatists Guild and Unity) said he read Wicked thinking of it as source material and felt blessed to have gotten the rights. It was interesting how the feedfback he got from audiences was basically that the MGM Wizard of Oz was a documentary that he couldn’t contradict, although Baum (and Maguire) could be contradicted all he wanted. There’s just something about it that seems to make book-faithful adaptations of Baum too trepidatious for producers, much like conforming Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus to ideas in “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (author disputed), which Baum felt free to ignore in his 1902 novel, giving Santa Claus ten reindeer (Glossie, Flossie, Racer, Pacer, Reckless, Speckless, Ready, Steady, Fearless, and Peerless), for example.

    I remember a young woman at my first Oz club convention, Michelle Naylor, telling me that she was disgusted by a traveling puppet show early in the novel Wicked that depicted a mother and daughter in a threesome with the same man and throwing the book against the wall when she reached that point. It is certainly interesting the way Oz fandom, at least at that point, had its conservative strands (an incident in which the club’s founding secretary, Fred M. Meyer parked his wheelchair in front of the door Dee Michel’s talk on The Appeal of Oz for Gay Men at the Oz Centennial convention at Indiana University and prevented children from entering even though I’m told the talk was no more sexual than the heterosexuality in Disney films. (Not being LGBTQ+, I was more interested in another panel, but the fact that Fred pulled this stunt garnered a lot of negative attention.)

    Nathan and I did see each other there, but we didn’t really speak except to say hi.

    My 1st cousin once removed, Johanne Hunter Fairs Grewell, who unfortunately passed away last year (on my birthday, no less, which might have explained some of sadness I was feeling that day even though it took several months before I found her obituary) told me that she and my Uncle Clarke got to see The Wizard of Oz in the theatre in 1939, and my grandfather, who was known as Oz (short for Osburne), was really angry because they were so terrified by the Winged Monkeys that they wanted to leave. That was frequently brought up as being more frightening than Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch.

    It was also really interesting that Stephen Schwartz said he was initially pronouncing Elphaba with emphasis on the second syllable until Gregory Maguire told him how he pronounced it, and that it was based on sounding out L. Frank Baum’s initials as a word. That’s how I pronounced it until I learned otherwise, too.

    Like Nathan, I haven’t seen Wicked, but I do really enjoy the cast album. I even found the German version at sa thrift shop (as one can see in my music collection, the German cast album uses the same orchestral backing as the original album, and only the vocals were recorded separately).

    Michael noted that the only actors “Maggie” Hamilton didn’t get along with were Don Ameche, Tony Randall, and Ray Bolger, which was pretty amusing. Both Jane Lahr and Scott Meserve gave the impression that Bolger was not very well liked. (Bolger was married but never had children, so we don’t really get to have his side of that. Sarah Bolger, who played Aurora on Once Upon a Time, has been quoted saying that she gets asked a lot if she is related to him, but said she wasn’t. For years, I also said that I wasn’t related to Robert Maynard Hutchins (University of Chicago president) but found out that I was, although our common ancestor was named Joseph Peck–our Hutchins lines reach unknown without touching, but even then it’s pretty distant–8th cousin three times removed), so I won’t be surprised if someone finds a connection between Sarah Bolger and Ray Bolger, but she didn’t know him, so it’s pretty trivial.

    • Nathan says:

      It’s probably possible to get a used copy of Notes on a Cowardly Lion for a lot less money, but of course then it wouldn’t be autographed. As for the reaction to the puppet show in Wicked, I did get the impression that Maguire purposely played up the raunchiness just to contrast with Baum’s pleasant, child-friendly tone, and it was perhaps a bit overdone. As such, for some readers, it’s not even necessarily a conservative attitude as it is an expectation that stuff like that doesn’t belong in Oz.

      • I generally don’t like to buy used books unless they look like new or are not easy to come by. I shouldn’t have the anxiety just because HRA are being dicks and making me submit the annual RAP Renewal again when I did so back in June. They always pretend that they never got paperwork you mail them. I remember I got so fed up when Bloomberg was mayor that I started sending my SNAP and Medicaid renewals with delivery confirmation.

  3. rocketdave says:

    Though I’ve read the Wicked Years books, I also have yet to see the musical version, despite the fact that it would be fairly easy to do, as bootleg recordings frequently crop up on YouTube. It’s kind of funny how, just as a more lighthearted musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has largely overshadowed the book upon which it was based, the same thing ended up happening with Gregory Maguire’s work.

    Reading about how Ray Bolger may not have endeared himself to people who knew him reminds me of the mini-rant Homer Simpson went on about how “Ray Bolger is lookin’ out for Ray Bolger!” I’m inclined to think that the Simpsons writers probably just picked that particular actor for Homer to rail against because of the absurdity of it, however, rather than it being based on any specific knowledge of Bolger’s personality.

    • Nathan says:

      I suppose the MGM movie is more lighthearted than the book, in that it doesn’t have all the animals being killed and such. On the other hand, I get the impression that people find the Wicked Witch and the Winged Monkeys way scarier in the movie.

      • Ethan Davis says:

        My Mom never read most of the Oz Books as a kid (save for one) but, she did love the movie and yes, she did find the Witch and Flying Monkeys quite scary (in fact, she was more afraid of the Monkeys then the Witch!)

      • Nathan says:

        I think the fact that Denslow drew the Witch and the Monkeys in his usual humorous style took some of the edge off. But then, when I first read the book, it didn’t have the Denslow illustrations.

      • Ethan Davis says:

        Yeah, maybe. But, it’s better to have funny illustrations for evil characters in a Children’s Book because, you don’t want to give your kids a book that’ll scare them so much it’ll keep them up at night (Shea Silverstein’s photo on the back of The Giving Tree in my opinion is more likely to scare children then an illustration from the Wonderful Wizard of O (save maybe The Wizards floating head…)

      • Nathan says:

        Denslow’s floating head wasn’t even that creepy.

      • Ethan Davis says:

        Maybe so, but realistically, seeing a giant, floating head is guaranteed to freak anyone out.

  4. Pingback: Crafts and Cons – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  5. Pingback: Someone in Oz | VoVatia

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