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.


J. L. Bell said...

Fond as I am of Neill’s artwork for Tin Woodman (it was the first Oz sequel I read), I was quite taken with Ulrey's pictures for the book when I first saw them.

I’m not so pleased with her work on Wizard of Oz. The clean line serves her better than that blotchy two-tone, and her Dorothy doesn’t look right.

ericshanower said...

I'm with you on Ulrey's Dorothy, J.L. I found the glossiness of Ulrey's Ozma hair's fascinating when I was a child, though otherwise her Ozma was a bit too sophisticated.

And I agree that the two-color technique used in Ulrey's Wizard doesn't serve the artwork that well, especially the darker second colors--the yellows are okay. But I love that look just as an example of mid-20th century style.