Saturday, July 31, 2010

Welcome to Ozopolis!

One Ozzy project I wanted to track down at Comic Con last weekend was the new comic Ozopolis.

I had seen the cover and a short preview on-line, and it looked "promising." I usually pay little attention to new Oz comics as there are so many these days and sadly most are "revamps" and "updates," many of which turn Oz into a dark, psychotic land of mayhem and bloodshed. But when I looked at the online preview and saw the depictions of the Wizard with his typical Neill temple curls and saw the Woozy had a starring role, my curiosity was piqued.

Happily, Ozopolis has exceeded my "promising" expectations and is an utterly charming new Oz story. Writer Kirk Kushin and artist Gonzalo Martinez have produced a very engaging story. It feels fresh, new, and absolutely right. It is the Oz we all know and love. Ozma sounds like Ozma, the glass cat behaves like the glass cat, and Kushin clearly knows and loves Baum's Oz books very much.

One of the few bows to modernity is a clothing update for Dorothy and Ozma. Dorothy gets shorts, t-shirt, sneakers, and a little Ozzy jacket; and Ozma has traded in her flowing negligee-style gown for a slightly General Jinjuresque uniform. But uniform aside, Ozma's character is right on target. She's lovely, has a fondness for protocol, very warm, but a bit opaque.

The plot in this issue revolves around the Queen of the Field Mice asking Ozma for help dealing with some unusual wildcats. Since the problem is occurring in the deadly Poppy Field, Ozma sends three non-breathing Oz folk, Tik-tok, the Glass Cat, and the Sawhorse, on the mission. All three are smack-dab in character and are very funny. And when the Woozy is sent to rescue the rescuers, a hysterical moment occurs when the field mice can't remember the right word to make the Woozy's eyes flash fire.

In typical Baumian fashion, the "villain"of this issue is not as black as he seems. And while this issue has nice closure, a bigger threat remains to carry us on to future issues. I hope there will be many more to come.

Martinez's art for the issue is very good. The characters feel fresh and new, but will be wholly recognizable to Oz purists. It's a little cartoony (in a good way), yet advances the story, as good comic art should.

The one real blemish to the book is the number of typos and missing articles in the word balloons. Even a cursory proof-reading should have caught them. If the series continues and a trade is ever issued, I hope they will be corrected.

So, if you're hankering for a new Oz adventure, I happily suggest you try a short visit to Ozopolis!

You can see more previews and order copies at:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wizard Goes to the Eisner Awards

Last week we promised you a report of how Marvel Comics’ adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz won big at the 2010 Eisner Awards ceremony. Now here's that report in the words of the project’s writer, Eric Shanower:

On the evening of Friday, July 23, 2010, the 22nd Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were presented in a ceremony at San Diego Comic Con International.

Skottie Young and I were both present at the ceremony. Our project for Marvel Comics, an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, had been nominated in two Eisner Award categories: Best Publication for Kids and Best Limited Series or Story Arc. We thought we had a pretty good chance to win Best Publication for Kids. But the other nominations in the Best Limited Series category included very popular works by high profile comics creators. The chances of winning in that category seemed so remote that it almost wasn’t worth thinking about.

The ceremony took place in the Indigo Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel, adjacent to the San Diego Convention Center where Comic Con International 2010 was taking place. Skottie Young, David Maxine, and I were seated with, among others, Dean White, Shannon Wheeler, Sean Phillips, and Duncan Fegredo at a table for nominees in the VIP section of the ballroom. After the customary buffet dinner, I got up from the table to get another drink. Skottie asked me to get one for him, too. The line at the bar was pretty long, but I figured I had plenty of time, since the ceremony hadn’t even begun. But it got underway as I was waiting to reach the head of the line. The emcees were introduced. The cast of the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim movie came onstage to announce the first several awards. I was getting closer to the bar. The first category of the evening was Best Publication for Kids, for which Wizard was nominated. I gave my drink order to the bartender and as she was pouring the drinks, the nominees for the Kids category were being announced. As I paid, the winner was announced: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Whoever was behind me in line said something like, “That’s you!” I grabbed my change and the drinks, rushed back to the table, set the drinks down, threw the change after the drinks, and hurried with Skottie up to the stage.

I accepted my Eisner statue from an actor from the Scott Pilgrim movie cast, but I have no idea who she was. I guess I’ll have to see the movie at some point in order to figure it out. Skottie and I each said a few words, got our official photos taken, and - back at the table - decided that we could relax for the rest of the evening, since winning in the other category, Best Limited Series, seemed like such a long shot.

Another project I’d been involved with also had two nominations. Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum and Walt McDougall, published by Sunday Press, was nominated for Best Archival Collection/Project-Strips and for Best Publication Design. This oversize, meticulous reprinting of Baum’s Oz newspaper stories didn’t win in either category. I’ll have to content myself that at least it was nominated and that it was really neat to see L. Frank Baum's name up on the screen for work that he created over one hundred years ago. Still going strong!

I had one more duty at the Eisner Awards ceremony. As a past winner of the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, I was presenting this year’s Russ Manning Award to Marian Churchland. Marian wasn’t in attendance, so Marley Zarcone accepted the award for her. That went smoothly.

The Best Limited Series or Story Arc was the penultimate category. I was so tired by that point - after two and a half days at the Hungry Tiger Press exhibit booth and a loooooooong awards ceremony. It wasn't till halfway through the announcements of the Best Limited Series nominees that I even remembered that Wizard was nominated. I was applauding the other nominees and telling myself to stop applauding when Wizard was announced because it's just not polite to applaud oneself. Then I immediately forgot and kept on clapping when the presenter, Dave Gibbons, got to Wizard, last on the nominee list. David Maxine and Skottie Young both said later that the sudden burst of audience applause when Gibbons announced the nomination of Wizard clued them in to what was about to happen. But I was clueless, embarrassed that I was applauding for my own project. When the award went to Wizard, Skottie and I could hardly believe it. Wins in both categories we were nominated in. Wow!

I'm so thankful to all the people connected with the Oz comics we're doing for Marvel: all our editors - particularly Nate Cosby, Ralph Macchio, and Mike Horwitz; colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu; letterer Jeff Eckleberry; the production and marketing people and everyone else at Marvel; and David Gabriel, Marvel Senior Vice-President of Sales & Circulation, who basically is the impetus behind the whole thing. And especially to Skottie Young, whose wonderful art is really the driving force behind the popularity of Marvel's Oz.

- Eric Shanower

Thanks for the report, Eric. Hungry Tiger Press displayed the Eisner Award statues at its exhibit booth for the rest of Comic Con International.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Drew Struzan in Oz

One of the Ozzy highlights of San Diego Comic Con International this year was the chance to meet legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan. While Drew has created the posters for such blockbusters as the Star Wars films, E.T., Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, and many, many more, my interest in meeting Drew was because he painted the poster for Disney's 1985 film Return to Oz.

At the presentation I saw a short preview of a wonderful new documentary on Drew, heard him speak about his career, and then many of us lined up to get things signed. I took along my main Return to Oz poster, a copy of Drew's other "Mombi Head" Return to Oz poster, and being a bit compulsive, I also took my copy of the original press kit (shown at right) and the Scholastic graphic novel which also featured Drew's poster design.

Drew's Return to Oz poster is much more rooted in the world of illustration than many of his other film posters which often have a more photo-realistic quality. It was most interesting to see the close-ups of his photo realistic posters. These show an incredibly stylized design and painting technique which strongly reminded me of J.C. Leyendecker.

Advance copies of a new book on Drew's posters,  The Art of Drew Struzan, premiered at Comic Con. Alas, they sold out very quickly and I didn't get one.

So Drew signed my RTO stuff, we chatted for a few minutes, and the nice fellow behind me in line snapped a photo for me (Drew's the one in black). It was a neat little escape from our Comic Con booth.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Oz Toy Book - Vol. 2

The very first book produced by Hungry Tiger Press (way back in 1994) was The Oz Toy Book Volume 2, a book of Ozzy cut-outs drawn by Eric Shanower. The original Oz Toy Book was a similar cut-out book drawn by John R. Neill. It was published by The Reilly and Britton Co. of Chicago in 1916. That original Oz Toy Book is a super-rarity of which only a handful of copies are known to survive.

Anyway, back in 1994, while Eric Shanower and I were pondering a good book to start our fledgling publishing company with, we came up with the idea of creating a sequel to the original Oz Toy Book. It would include Baum's Oz characters that were created after 1916 as well as some favorites from the later Oz books of Ruth Plumly Thompson and Jack Snow. We also added one page of supporting characters from The Wizard of Oz that Neill had not included, as that book was not in Reilly and Britton's catalog.

Eric Shanower drew over forty characters spread onto 14 pages, which we had printed on card stock and bound with a cover printed in blue. The book sold very well and those sales helped fund our first serious project, Oz-story Magazine.

Our Oz Toy Book has been out of print for more than a dozen years. However, while going through some old boxes here in the Tiger Den, I recently found a stash of unbound pages from the book. Thinking it might make a nice curiosity for our booth at Comic Con, I collated all the pages and made a new cover using Eric's original hand-drawn color separation. Eric had originally designed the cover to be printed in yellow and blue. But our printer in 1994 couldn't handle the job and we eliminated the yellow from the final design. So these two dozen Comic Con specials are the first to feature Shanower's cover as originally imagined!

So now I had a couple dozen unbound "portfolio style" copies of The Oz Toy Book Volume 2 and I took them with us to Comic Con this last weekend. As it turns out I have a VERY FEW copies left. If you are interested in having one these last copies, they are now available (until supplies run out) in our on-line store. Here's your chance for some Ozzy fun.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oz from Elsewhere

Foreign translations of the Oz books are another passion here in the Tiger Den. The widely varying illustration styles are one of the big draws. In general, foreign illustrators are not nearly as influenced (or ham-strung) by the MGM Wizard of Oz film as American illustrators often are.

Oz has been especially popular in Japan, and this little picture book is a favorite. This edition of The Wizard of Oz - translated as Ozu no Mahoutsukai - was published by Asahi Sonorama of Tokyo in 1980. The translation and adaptation are by Atsuko Nakamura and the illustrations are by Satoru Inoue.

This picture-book Wizard contains only twelve pages and most of them are double page spreads, many of which are quite attractive. The style is a bit cartoony - not quite Anime. I especially like the Tin Woodman. I'm not fond of the Dorothy - but pink poodle Toto is kind of a hoot! I especially like the spread for the fight with the Kalidahs (shown below).

Another cool thing about this edition is that it includes a small phonograph record (playing time about fifteen minutes) of the story, using different voices for each character and with charming little Oz songs sung in Japanese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tik-Tok Twice

A while ago I blogged about the 10" Return to Oz stuffed Tik-Tok toy who was sold only in Japan at Tokyo Disneyland. I mentioned that Tik-Tok also came in a jumbo 20" size.

Well, this last weekend someone else's big Tik-Tok came for a playdate and photo shoot. I had never seen the two sizes side-by-side before and thought I'd share some of their Tik-Tok antics.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sis Sez Sunday - 4

This Sunday's installment of Ruth Plumly Thompson's "Sis Sez" comes from Issue No. 7 of King Comics, October 1936.

I find no clear idea of what Sis means by "doggie clothes," but from Marge's illustration, Sis clearly means to be dressing up. Perhaps "doggie clothes" is simply a variant of "putting on the dog."

Seeya next Sunday, Sis!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fistsful of Eisners!

Well, Eric Shanower and Skottie Young had a GREAT night at the 2010 Eisner Awards. Their bestselling Wonderful Wizard of Oz from Marvel Comics won the awards for both Best Publication for Kids and Best Limited Series.

Everyone is really excited, really happy, and really tired! We'll share a fuller account sometime next week after Comic Con is over!


Friday, July 23, 2010

King Toto of Oz

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, one of the regular features Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote during her tenure as editor of King Comics was a "Pet Post" column under the byline of "Arty," created from her two initials R and T.

The "Pet Post" from issue King Comics No. 45, January 1940, is of some special Oz interest. Thompson announces a contest for people to send in lists of "trademark" animals like Nipper, the dog from Victor phonographs, Borden's Elsie the Cow, etc. But Thompson goes on to discuss animals in film and makes her only references to Oz in all of King Comics

I think the best performance turned in this fall by an animal actor was turned in by the small skye [sic] terrier who took the part of Toto in the Wizard of Oz film. He was so exactly like the dog in the story he might have jumped right out of Baum's book. No wonder Judy Garland wanted to keep him after the film was finished. But Toto is a graduate of a Hollywood school and highly valued by his owner. So he could not return to private life and is probably studying for his next part right now.

Of course we all know that Toto was actually played by a female cairn terrier named Terry. Her "next part" was an uncredited walk-on in George Cukor's The Women (1939). You can read Thompson's actual "Pet Post" below.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Winkie Con 2010

The 46th Annual Winkie Convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club will take place this coming weekend, July 23-25, 2010, at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. This year's conference is chaired by L. Frank Baum's great grandson, Robert Baum.

Begun in 1964, the Winkie Convention is the longest running Oz convention. This year's convention celebrates the 100th anniversary of the publication of Baum's sixth Oz book, The Emerald City of Oz (1910). This year's presentations include several by the Baum family; a marvelous presentation by Atticus Gannaway on Oz illustrator Frank Kramer, detailing Kramer's involvement with the 1940s fantasy magazine Unknown Worlds; a Collector's Roundtable on the 1985 Walt Disney film Return to Oz; a presentation of John R. Neill's illustrations for The Emerald City of Oz; a  Powerpoint talk by Robert Baum on Baum's early aviation novel The Flying Girl; plus all the Winkie Con favorites such as the Treasure Hunt, the Costume Masquerade, the Winkie Quiz, and lots of Ozzy camaraderie.

Once again for this year Hungry Tiger Press has prepared the official Winkie Convention Program Guide. It is a 140 page book of essays, illustrations, and additional reading material for the convention. The best way to make sure you get a copy is to go to the Winkie Con! It's not too late - drop-in visitors are welcome, too!

Here is a link for downloading a PDF of the info packet and registration form!

The Winkie Convention also issues a monthly WINKIE CON e-mail newsletter.

You may subscribe by using the URL below:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comic Con and The Land of Oz

Well, in just a few hours Comic Con International - San Diego 2010 will officially begin.

Hungry Tiger Press and Eric Shanower will be at our usual spot - Booth 2008 (across the aisle from DC Comics). If you're gonna be at Comic Con, please come say hello and take a look at some of our Comic Con exclusives!

The final issue of the Eric Shanower and Skottie Young comics adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz hits comic stores today. I'm especially fond of the alternate cover by Eric Shanower! I considered letting folks in on how the story ends, but you'll be getting no tip from me!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recipes from Ruth Plumly Thompson

In today's blog we have a recipe from Ruth Plumly Thompson for Popcorn Globes! The recipe was originally published in Thompson's children's page for the Philadelphia Public Ledger.

This recipe appeared in Thompson's weekly "Doll's Ledger" section, November 26, 1916. Start popping your corn!

The Cooking Class
by Ruth Plumly Thompson

Every doll and every doll mother loves to pop corn - why, even grown-up ladies and gentlemen like to. It is such fun watching the little hard kernels suddenly pop into little soft white balls - for all the world like Cinderella when the Fairy Queen waved her wand, and her old rags turned to beautiful silks and satins.

And after it is popped, here is the very loveliest way to fix it - so that it will taste every bit as good as it looks.

Popcorn Globes

Place three quarts of popped corn in a large pan. Then melt one tablespoon of butter in another pan and add one cupful of molasses and one-half cupful of sugar. Boil until it becomes hard when dropped into cold water

Then sprinkle the popcorn with salt and pour the hot syrup over it, stirring constantly. When cold enough to handle, shape in round balls, pressing as lightly as possible.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Leslie Gage, Her Book

When I got my first copy of L. Frank Baum's Father Goose, His Book (1899) there was an odd little newspaper clipping laid inside the cover. It featured a photo of Leslie Gage holding a copy of Father Goose and discussed Ms. Gage's recent visit to Minneapolis. Leslie Gage was the daughter of L. Frank Baum's sister-in-law, Helen Leslie Gage, who had coincidentally married a man with the same last name.

The clipping appeared in one of the Minneapolis papers and is dated Sunday, September 3, 1939. This date is only a couple weeks after the premiere of the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz film, and I suspect this highly inaccurate article was some sort of local MGM-oriented publicity.

Here's the article in its entirety.

Woman Recalls Here Her Uncle Who Wrote 'Oz'
His Writing Spurred on by Success of 'Father Goose'

Did you ever see a rabbit climb a tree?
Did you ever see a lobster ride a flea?
Did you ever?
No, you never!
For they simply couldn't do it,
Don't you see?

And it was verse like that that first launched L. Frank Baum on a literary career which produced the "Oz" books of children's books - now picturized in the technicolor film, The Wizard of Oz.

The story can be told by Miss Leslie Gage, Winona, Minn., now visiting in Minneapolis with Miss Matilda Frey, 3929 Aldrich avenue S. Miss Gage is the niece of L. Frank Baum, and as a girl received autographed copies of his books as they came off the press.

He lived at first in Chicago, then moved to California to live during much of the writing of The Wizard of Oz, first of a series of "Oz" books which sold a total of some 9,000,000 copies.

 *     *     *

Baum's first book was Father Goose, His Book and the foregoing verse is one of those written by him for it. The verses were hand-lettered on special illustrations from which plates were made. Success of Father Goose inspired Baum to further writing, and his California home was named "The Sign of the Goose."

Father Goose ended a period of financial straights for Baum, who had failed in an effort to run a notions store in South Dakota. He went to Chicago and there spent his last dollar for a rose - he was a lover of flowers.

The "Oz" stories were written later for his four sons and their friends. He told them the stories as they gathered before the family fireplace. His mother insisted he write them down, and he did so.

*     *     *

At the Hollywood premiere of The Wizard, Mrs. Baum, widow of the author, was an honored guest. Baum died in 1920. Miss Gage saw the picture Wizard of Oz at the first opportunity and thought it a first rate transposition of the story. Her only criticism was that the little girl of the books might have been somewhat too grown up in the picture version.

While this was certainly an interesting little article, a few of the more extreme inaccuracies must be corrected.
Baum's first published book was Mother Goose in Prose (1897) not Father Goose, His Book. Baum's home, "The Sign of the Goose," was at Lake Macatawa, Michigan, not in California. And similarly,  The Wizard of Oz was written in Chicago, not California.
It was Baum's mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage (grandmother of the Leslie Gage in the article), that suggested Baum write down his stories so they might be published. Lastly, Baum died on May 6, 1919, not in 1920.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scraps and Me

Several blogs ago I told the tale of acquiring my first John R. Neill drawing. It took four years before I finally got a piece of Neill art from an Oz book.

At the time I was working as a stagehand at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. It was my first real job, and I was earning a real paycheck. When the picture at the left came up for sale, the stars aligned, Ozma winked, and I spent two weeks' pay on a 9" x 9" piece of paper.

This, of course, is Neill's drawing for the ownership page of The Wonder City of Oz (1940). This was the first Oz book that Neill both wrote and illustrated. The number one thing that attracted me to this drawing was that it featured the Patchwork Girl. I also liked that it was from the forematter of the book. Somehow I like that it has Neill's hand-lettering on it.

Another little plus is that Scraps's body is largely hidden within the giant book she is carrying and so I can pretend she is wearing her traditional clothing and not the boy's swimsuit she dons for much of Wonder City.

The original art is about a third larger than the printed image in the book (shown at right). the only notation by Neill is the word "bookplate" scrawled on the back. As you can see, there is also a "B" in a circle. This may stand for bookplate, too, or is possibly a note for the printer to show the order of the forematter. You can also see some erased pencil lines showing that the book had been a good deal bigger before. Neill also repositioned Scraps's foot.

The drawing is hardly one of Neill's masterpieces of pen-and-ink like those for The Road to Oz. But when examining this piece up close the effortless lines in Scraps's face are just great! While Neill clearly tossed this drawing off - possibly in minutes! - the life and character he put into Scraps's face, using only a few lines and blips of ink, are what make John R. Neill so wonderful.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Color Me Kansas

I was looking through some Oz stuff here in the Tiger Den and ran across a set of lobby cards from the 1955 release of the MGM Wizard of Oz. I only have four of them; there were eight in the set. All eight lobby cards feature black-and-white photos that have been rather crudely colored. The colorist seems to have had no idea what the film looked like. Dorothy wears a yellow and red dress and the ruby slippers are sort of blackish. This color-tinting technique was used on many lobby cards of the era. Oddly, the 1939 lobby cards were colored much more accurately. The images for the 1955 set were first used in 1949.

The most interesting of these photos is the last one (above) as it shows Dorothy waking up in Kansas in color, one of the scenes that's supposed to be in black-and-white.

These images were also used in various MGM licensing over the years, as can be seen here in a jigsaw puzzle produced by Jaymar in the late 1960s.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ding, Ding, Ding went the Trolley

Of course we know Ruth Plumly Thompson best for her twenty-one Oz books. But few know her first novel, The Wish Express, which was published in book form for the first time in 2007.

The Wish Express was originally serialized in the Philadelphia Public Ledger from July 9th through September 24th, 1916, in Thompson's Sunday children's page. She later edited down the material for inclusion in The Wonder Book (1929), an anthology of her non-Oz writings published by Oz book publisher Reilly and Lee.

In the novel, Thompson exhibits all of the qualities she later displayed when she took over writing the Oz books. It may even have been this story that got her the job writing the Oz books after Baum's death. The Wish Express features a boy named Berens and his dog, Rags. They hop on a magical trolley and depart for a tale of self-discovery, talking animals, Thompsonesque towns, and of course, a happy ending.

The book features the original illustrations by Hammon from the newspaper serialization. But I wanted to give the book some extra flourish. And the magic trolley in the book provided the inspiration. 

In the running title of each page I placed a little drawing of a trolley. And on each page of the book it's in a slightly different position. So as you read the story, the trolley progresses across the top of the left hand page, and by story's end, the trolley is on the far edge of the right-hand page. But of course you can also flip through the pages quickly and make the trolley zoom across the top of the pages and disappear in a little flip-book movie. On the last pages of the story, and the two-page biography of Thompson, the trolley vanishes in a puff of magical smoke.

So, if you've never read The Wish Express, why not give it a chance? And for all of you Shanower-collecting completists, the little trolley was drawn by Eric Shanower.

All Aboard!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brunch in Bunbury

In L. Frank Baum's sixth Oz book, The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy Gale and her entourage visit Bunbury, a village of living baked goods. Dorothy is rather hungry and wonders if the tasty citizens of Bunbury might find her something to eat:
Then a big, puffed-up man, of a delicate brown color, stepped forward and said;
"I think it would be a shame to send this child away hungry, especially as she agrees to eat whatever we can spare and not touch our people."
"So do I, Pop," replied a roll who stood near.

"What, then, do you suggest, Mr. Over?" inquired Mr. Bunn.

Well, things go down hill pretty quickly after Toto eats several of Bunbury's citizens. But in today's blog you can sample a genuine Bunbury treat by following L. Frank Baum's recipe for Popovers!

Baum's granddaughter, Ozma Baum Mantele, wrote, "Grandfather Baum liked to cook, as did my father [Kenneth Baum], who used to say that breakfast was a favorite meal in their house. On Sunday mornings we always had meat for breakfast, such as pork chops, lamb chops, lamb kidneys sauté (a particular favorite), plus popovers, another favorite. According to my father, these were favorites of his father." So here we present L. Frank Baum's very own popovers!

A recipe by L. Frank Baum

Grease six custard cups and place in a 450 degree oven. Beat two eggs, add one cup milk and one tablespoon cooking oil. Add one cup flour and one-half teaspoon salt. Beat until smooth. Half fill hot custard cups. Bake 25 minutes, then reduce heat by 100 degrees and bake fifteen minutes more, until firm. Prick each popover before removing from oven to allow steam to escape. Serve hot.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Original RETURN TO OZ

I especially love finding Ozzy things that I didn't previously know existed. This 12" LP recording was certainly a surprise. It is an album of all the music from the 1964 Rankin Bass Videocraft Production of Return to Oz. This animated television feature was released as a follow-up to the short-lived Tales of the Wizard of Oz television cartoon series.

The record was produced for internal studio use and was seemingly distributed to the production staff only. The record label says "Not for Sale or Broadcast" and has a copyright date of 1963, the year before the film was broadcast. The record has music on only one side and the back is blank, containing neither label nor sound. The copyright is to FTP music, Inc., the initials of the three songwriters: Gene Forrell, Edward Thomas, and James Pollack.

When I re-watched the film recently to compare the film score to the newly acquired LP, I was surprised by two things. First, the film was better and much more enjoyable than I had remembered. The early 1960s design and animation has a charming retro feel to it now, instead of just looking cartoony and cheap, as I'd remembered it.

The second surprise was that the LP features a song that was not used in the final version of the film called "I'm a Wise Old Wiz of a Wizard," which is sung by the Wizard, of course. Otherwise the music on the record matches the music for the film. It's a neat little record.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Toy TIK-TOK Talk

Wel-come to to-day's blog. I am Tik-Tok. I am a hard-to-find RE-TURN TO OZ toy of Ja-pan-ese man-u-fact-ure.

Okay, enough of that! This charming little fellow was produced in Japan in 1985 as part of the huge merchandising campaign for Walt Disney Studios' Return to Oz. Tik-Tok and his friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and Jack Pumpkinhead, were seemingly sold only at Tokyo Disneyland. They were produced by a company called Heart à Heart and were issued in three sizes. The smallest were 3" to 4" tall and made of hard plastic (the Scarecrow and Jack wear fabric clothing).

The middle-sized version of Tik-Tok is shown here. He stands about 10.5" tall and is stuffed. His skin is a slick copper-colored vinyl fabric. His three friends were issued in proportional sizes and Tik-Tok is the shortest of each set. Much bigger versions of all four were also issued in which Tik-Tok stands about 20" tall.

Read about a Return to Oz Scarecrow toy in a later blog post!

If you want to see some cool Return to Oz stuff, exchange stories, ask questions, and share collecting tips, you should come to the Winkie Convention in Pacific Grove, California, July 23-25, 2010. On Saturday morning at 10:45 AM, Return to Oz collector Freddy Fogarty will present Returning to Oz: a Collector's Roundtable. Twenty-five years after the film’s release, it has a grown into a cult favorite. Come share your feelings and memories about the movie and see some of the incredible merchandising the film generated! Information on the Winkie Con is available in the link below, as well as a link to subscribe to the monthly Winkie Con newsletter. Take a look!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sis Sez Sunday - 2

Well, it's Sunday morning and time for the comics! Thus we offer another installment of the Ruth Plumly Thomson and Marge comic book feature "Sis Sez" as printed in King Comics.

This installment is the earliest one I have and possibly the very first. It comes from King Comics No. 5, August 1936. This issue also contained the first chapter of Thompson's Oz-like fantasy novel King Kojo. Thompson had begun writing a monthly "Letter to the Readers" an issue or so earlier.

So hop on your bicycle and let's go for a spin with Sis, Ruth, and Marge!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dirk Gringhuis in Oz

Over the years I have tried to explore the non-Oz work of the various Royal Historians and Imperial Illustrators of Oz. The Hidden Valley of Oz (1951) was illustrated by Dirk. And like most people, I never had any great fondness for Dirk's illustrations in Hidden Valley.

The pictures are sloppy, the anatomy of the animals (especially Percy the rat) is preposterous, and the book just isn't particularly attractive - though I like Rachel R. Cosgrove's story quite well.

Dirk's last name is Gringhuis - but the illustrations for Hidden Valley are credited simply to Dirk. I initially thought, "Well, with a last name like Gringhuis, no wonder he chose to only use 'Dirk.' " But that wasn't the case. On all of the other books he illustrated (and sometimes wrote) he always used his full name. Perhaps Dirk really disliked his work on the Oz book and chose to distance himself from the project.

Much of Dirk's other illustration work is better than his work for Hidden Valley. We can take a look at a few things in the coming months.

While I couldn't locate any original Oz book art by Dirk in the Tiger Den, I can share the image above, which is a large print produced by La Presse Militaire in Lansing, Michigan, in 1963. The image of Chief Pontiac is printed in black ink on a rough watercolor-like paper. But this copy of the print was watercolored by Dirk and then signed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Twin Tin Woodmen of Oz

Since W. W. Denslow illustrated the first Oz book, The Wizard of Oz, in 1900, the story has been illustrated countless times by artists all over the world. But the rest of the Oz series rarely gets new illustrations--at least in the USA. For many readers John R. Neill's illustrations seem inextricably linked to the post-Wizard Oz books. But there have been occasional attempts to replace Neill's work.

L. Frank Baum's Oz book for 1918 was The Tin Woodman of Oz. As usual, it was illustrated by John R. Neill (below left). Decades later in 1955 Oz book publisher Reilly & Lee brought out an edition of The Tin Woodman of Oz with new illustrations by Dale Conner Ulrey (below right), former cartoonist on the comic strip Apple Mary (which later became Mary Worth). These new illustrations for The Tin Woodman of Oz seem to have been the start of a plan by the publisher to make the Oz books appear more up-to-date.

As you can read on the cover of the Ulrey-illustrated edition, her illustrations were "adapted from original drawings" by Neill. Let's compare Ulrey's work with Neill's to see how close her adaptation was. If you want to see any of these illustrations in a larger size, just click on it. Then hit your "back" button to return to this blog.

Above on the left is Neill's depiction of Nick Chopper, the Scarecrow, and Woot setting out on their journey. And on the right is Ulrey's. Although it's the same moment in the story, Ulrey has gone so far as to rearrange the figures into a more symmetrical composition. Her design of Woot is younger than Neill's--and happier. But Ulrey didn't always take such liberties with her adaptation.

These illustrations of Woot, transformed into a green monkey, escaping from an underground den of dragons are virtually identical in composition. Ulrey's altered a few details for her illustration on the right, but otherwise hers is clearly taken directly from Neill's on the left.

Neill's full-page illustration (above left) of Ozma and Dorothy riding in the Red Wagon is closely matched by Ulrey's illustration of the same scene (above right).

Neill did a number of double-page illustrations for The Tin Woodman of Oz, such as the one above left, showing Ku-Klip meeting his tin creations once more. Ulrey matched Neill's version with a double-page illustration of her own above on the right, altering the scene to make, for one thing, Polychrome more prominent.

More often Ulrey turned Neill's double-page spreads into single-page illustrations. Here's the characters meeting Mrs. Yoop, the giantess. The moment of the story is the same, and even the positions of the figures are similar in both illustrations, but Ulrey's version on the right radically alters the composition of Neill's on the left.

Here's another major change in Ulrey's adaptation of Neill. In Neill's illustration above left, Nick's and Captain Fyter's enthusiatic acceptance of one another is immediately conveyed by the way their arms are thrown over each other's shoulders. In Ulrey's version above right Nick and Captain Fyter shake hands politely, but their pleasure is much more subdued.

Take a look at both illustrators' versions of Polychrome riding the Hip-po-gy-raf. They're extremely similar. Please note, however, that Ulrey has taken more care with the details of the story by giving Polychrome the Scarecrow's clothes to carry.

Neill's Polychrome in The Tin Woodman of Oz is not as attractive as his earlier illustrations of her in The Road to Oz, Sky Island, and Tik-tok of Oz. She appears slightly older and even seems to have put on some weight. Ulrey's Polychrome is less ethereal than Neill's tends to be, but her Polychrome is quite appealing and--in this story at least--more attractive than Neill's.

Ulrey's illustration of the Scarecrow stuffed with hay is interesting because her positioning of the Scarecrow (above right) is almost a mirror image of Neill's (above left).

Neill chose not to draw a black and white illustration of one of the story's most dramatic scenes--the discovery of Captain Fyter. He did, however, provide a color plate of Polychrome helping to oil the poor, rusted guy (above left). Ulrey's illustration of Fyter's discovery (above right) incorporates all the drama that the scene offers. It's one of the more striking of her illustrations for The Tin Woodman of Oz. What other eye-catching drawings might she have given us if she'd not constrained herself to "adapting" Neill's illustrations?

Dale Ulrey drew new illustrations for Reilly & Lee's 1956 edition of The Wizard of Oz, the first version of that book from the publishers of the rest of the Oz books. Ulrey also began new illustrations for Baum's third Oz book, Ozma of Oz, originally published in 1907. But that project was not published and Reilly & Lee's attempt to update the look of the Oz books with Dale Ulrey was abandoned. Ulrey's work is lively and attractive, particularly when she's not slavishly aping Neill. It's too bad she didn't continue to let us see Oz through her eyes.