Friday, December 17, 2010

Ozma - Iconic and Odd

Marvel Comics' Ozma of Oz hardcover  is now available at our Hungry Tiger Press on-line store. All copies of the Marvel Oz books sold thru Hungry Tiger Press will be autographed by writer Eric Shanower!

If you'd like your book personalized, just let us know how you'd like your book signed, and to whom, when you "check out."
Of course we have copies of Marvel's Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, too! If you'd like them signed just let us know.

The Oz books are not celebrated for the consistency among their stories. Debating and trying to reconcile the many inconsistencies in the Oz books is a pastime that many Oz enthusiasts enjoy. In fact, an Oz book just doesn't seem really Ozzy unless it has an inconsistency or two.

John R. Neill, illustrator of most of the Oz books, was no more consistent in his Oz character design than L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and Neill himself were in their Oz stories--yet another quality that made Neill a perfect illustrator for the Oz books. A case in point is Ozma, the royal and rightful ruler of the Land of Oz. Let's contrast and compare the many different versions of Ozma. We'll just stick to Neill's depictions of Ozma this time. Another time we'll look at many of the countless other ways Ozma has been portrayed through the years.

(And remember, you can click on any of these pictures to view a larger version.)

Here's the very first of Neill's illustrations of Ozma in an Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904). If you don't know why this little boy is a picture of Ozma, then you don't know the story. Go read Baum's book, then come join us for the rest of this blog. We'll wait for you.

Later in the same book, this Neill illustration of Ozma follows Baum's description "of a young girl, fresh and beautiful as a May morning" with "tresses of ruddy gold." Get a good look at those tresses while you can. They won't last long.

In the very next Oz book, Ozma of Oz (1907), Ozma's hair has become dark, as you can see here in one of the most iconic illustrations Neill drew of the character. Commentators have tried to explain Ozma's sudden change of hair color as Neill contrasting Ozma with his version of Dorothy, who's blond. But since this book is the first time Neill drew Dorothy, he could have given little Miss Gale any hair color he wanted. So that explanation doesn't hold much water.

Here's another of Neill's iconic images of Ozma from Ozma of Oz. Ozma crossing the Deadly Desert is Dorothy's first glimpse of the girl who would soon become her BFF - that's Best Friend Forever for those of you behind the times - a relationship exemplified by the illustration below from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908).

By The Road to Oz (1909) their relationship is pretty warm.

How old is Ozma? No one can really say, least of all Neill. He drew her sometimes as a child, sometimes as an adult, and sometimes in between - often in the same book. In The Road to Oz Ozma looks decidedly more mature than we've seen her in previous books.

Ozma's a bit small in this illustration of her birthday banquet from The Road to Oz. But it's too nice an illustration not to share.

A lovely portrait of Ozma here in the endpaper from The Emerald City of Oz (1910). This is another of those iconic illustrations that defines the character as much as Baum's text ever did.

The Land of Oz had a telephone system early on, obvious in this illustration from Emerald City. Ozma's more mature again here. There's a reason for that. Neill was never one to throw away an illustration that didn't work for one assignment if he could use it elsewhere. Many illustrations for the Oz books show evidence of being originally intended for other uses, including this one. Originally this was likely an illustration for a woman's magazine, perhaps Ladies Home Journal or McCall's, both of which Neill did work for over the years. Neill seems to have turned a generic American woman - inhabiting an up-to-date household complete with telephone - into Ozma of Oz.

And now - from the same book - Ozma's a little girl again in this glorious color illustration that's one of the Ozziest images ever created.

John R. Neill gets the credit for giving Ozma her poppies, her tall thin crown, and her tiara featuring the Oz symbol, another of Neill's creations. But Ozma doesn't always sport these trademark features - sometimes she varies her headgear, as in this illustration from The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), where the tiara and crown are missing.

Later in the same book the tiara is back, but now Ozma's exchanged her crown for some sort of feathered knob.

It's hard to even accept the character in this illustration from Tik-tok of Oz (1914) as Ozma. The blond hair is back, and that dress and hairstyle don't look so Ozzy on close inspection. It looks like another case of Neill adding Ozzy elements to an illustration of an American woman of the time. In fact, she looks suspiciously like the actress Margaret Carroll who would soon be married to John R. Neill. But the tiara with the Oz symbol is there, so we'll agree that it's Ozma and say no more about it.

In The Lost Princess of Oz (1916), Ozma's back to full traditional headgear in another iconic Ozma illustration.

Then for most of Glinda of Oz (1920), the poppies and tiara are nowhere in sight. Ozma wears only her crown, now attached to a small skull cap. How Ozma manages the rest of the time to keep that crown firmly sitting on top of her head without the skull cap is anyone's guess.

This illustration of Ozma from The Royal Book of Oz (1921) - Ruth Plumly Thompson's first Oz book - re-opens the question of Ozma's hair color. We've been so used to seeing it dark that this version of Ozma can easily be read as having dark hair, but considered objectively, she could be a blonde again.

Ozma's choice of clothes changes more than most readers are aware. Here's a rather unique robe from the cover of The Lost King of Oz (1925).

And do you remember the time Ozma wore pants? No? Well, here it is from The Yellow Knight of Oz (1930).

Once more Ozma is decidedly a mature young woman in this cover for a reprint of Ozma of Oz that Neill drew about 1929. Among circles of Oz fandom this illustration is known as "slinky Ozma."

This cover for a reprint of The Emerald City of Oz was done about the same time. It bears a striking resemblance to the illustration of Ozma in pants. Oz enthusiasts have nicknamed this one "cheesecake Ozma."

Neill's style evolved through the years, always retaining its spark of life and humor. This illustration of Ozma was drawn very late in his career, for the first of the Oz books Neill wrote himself, The Wonder City of Oz (1940). Ozma has outgrown the girlish demeanor that she displayed early in her reign. Perhaps she's become more sophisticated over the years that she's borne the responsibility of ruling Oz. She's no longer as "young" and "fresh" as she once was, but she's still "as beautiful as a May morning."

So choose the version of Ozma you prefer. As you can see, there are plenty of versions to go around.


Mike Conway said...

Even in a magic land, a girl has to change up her look once in a while. And she has a wand. Want to look younger this week? Want to look older with a pixie cut? Oh, a slinky dress and red hair! The perfect accessory for the perfect fairy princess!

James C. Wallace II said...

As the Royal Liaison to Her Majesty, I can report that Her hair retains its reddish-golden color and She still wears Her dainty headband of purest gold, with its OZ symbol in all its glory.
You made the following statement at the beginning of your post:
"In fact, an Oz book just doesn't seem really Ozzy unless it has an inconsistency or two."
Since several Oz folks have complained about some minor inconsistencies in my books, your statement implies that my books are therefor considered Ozzy.
Her Majesty will be pleased to know that.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I'd thought of Tik-Tok of Oz's featherheaded girl as Ozga, maybe.

I like the way you show that Neill's Ozma suggests different ages in a nonchronological manner. Ah, yes. Another of those delightful flaws we excuse and develop elaborate explanations for, thus exercising our creative capacities.

Ozaline said...

Thank you, I hadn't seens some of these illustrations and they are helpful for many reasons.

1) I plan to attend the Wizard of Oz exhibit at the local in costume as Ozma before it lets out. While I have a tiara and poppies to wear my dress accidently got tossed out... thanks for reassuring me that I can be Ozma no matter how I dress.

2) The telphone is good to see there was other examples to prove that Oz had telephones, there's a telephone pole near Jack Pumpkinheads house and I planned to actually make use of that in my novel... good to see that Ozma had one too.

Well they beat America to the punch on cellphones by about 100 years also.

useful in other ways that there's no wrong intepretation of Ozma...

but for me, Tiara, Poppies and overturned or circle collar are the most important parts for the default Ozma.

Sam said...

A Good Read after such a long time off the internet!

I was astounded at the quality of the images printed here.

A lot of the Colour pages shown here are BETTER than the ones i have in my official books. The first "Ozma of Oz" colour portrait has a shading on her neck which is not in my book, the colours for Dorothy & Ozma in my "Dorothy and Wizard" are not like what you show here, the "Road" Banquet is SUPERB and shows softness without losing detail (compared to teh thick black of the book printing) - I never saw her Throne/chair till now!
But Ozma never looked sunburnt nor the Tiger so strippy in my "Patchwork Girl" book as they do here.

GREAT Blog, David.

I hope to see a similar one with the Adaptations of Ozma.


saintfighteraqua said...

I love these depictions and somehow they all seem right.
The Ozma I know, however is a brunette (ranging from reddish brown to black hair) and is eternally 14-15 years old.

I always thought of her red-gold hair being like how a baby's hair can be blond as

Nadja said...

I am so glad I ran across this page! I've been looking for a good repository of Ozma images for a tattoo. I was Ozma for Halloween a number of years ago and even though nobody knew who I was, it was great fun.
Thanks for all the images!

(Here's me as Ozma-

David Maxine said...

Thanks for the link, Nadja!

Heather said...

Black haired Ozma will always be my favorite. Being a black haired woman myself. I remember discovering her and being so glad to find a pretty girl shown with dark hair. Too many Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties adorned my world.