Thursday, November 10, 2011
Horsing Around with John R. Neill
Eric Shanower discovered the piece the first time he visited Joan Neill Farnsworth (Neill's youngest daughter). We made plans to borrow it and have a transparency shot the next time we were both going to visit her.
This is an unused color plate created by John R. Neill for the original 1907 edition of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. It is not known why it was rejected. The image, as you can see, shows Zeb, Dorothy, and Jim the Cab-Horse falling through the earth to the land of the Mangaboos. Neill's original painting is not know to survive; but what does survive is a proof copy still in the Neill family archives. The proof is printed on the same paper as the published color plates.
In any case, Neill redrew this image as a pen-and-ink drawing for the book. The ink version is much stronger. It has a better composition, the addition of the rocks up top and the clouds below give a better sense of place, and Dorothy is a bit better drawn. All this leads me to believe the ink version was created after the color version.
I do have a pet theory for why this color plate might have been rejected. In some books (not usually Oz books) color plates are sometimes viewed sideways, in landscape mode. If this image is looked at sideways it kind of looks like there's been a buggy accident and little Dorothy is gaping open-mouthed at their dead horse.
The falling rocks and clouds of the ink version make it clear that buggy and horse are falling. Also note that Eureka (in the birdcage) has been moved from the luggage area in back of the cab in the color version, to the more prominent spot at Dorothy's feet in the pen-and-ink version.
That's it for today's Oz history lesson! Remember to check out the hit new comics adaptation of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz at your local comic book store. And don't forget that we have copies of the first three Marvel Comics collections available at our online store. If you'd like to get them autographed by Eric Shanower just ask in the "Special Instructions" field during checkout.