Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Royal Post Office of Oz

A few weeks ago I stumbled across some beautifully produced Wizard of Oz stationery created by 7321 Design.

It is based on illustrations from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, yet the designers have gone to great lengths, in both research and creativity, to create a very original package. At right you can see one of the envelopes. It is printed to look very old and stained, it has some faint typing in the upper corner, and a faded ink inscription. Both are text from Wizard.

There is also a canceled one-and-a half cent Oz postage stamp in the upper right-hand corner showing the Cowardly Lion. It's pretty cool! That said, it does seem like this letter writing paper is more for one's amusement rather than for actual use. It would be a shame to have to cover up the Oz stamp with a real one, and I don't imagine the U.S. Post Office would honor the Ozzy one either.

The Poppy Field letter writing set (at right) comes with two different paper and envelope designs. The alternate envelope features a monogram inspired by Baum and Denslow's initials in the colophon of the first printing of Wizard as well as more decorative Ozzy writing.

There is also a set of letter-paper featuring illustrations from when Dorothy and her friends arrive at the cottage just outside the Emerald City. It too comes with two letter and envelope designs (see below). The stationery sets also include a set of  red foil letter-seals, each embossed with the Baum/Denslow initial design.

There is also a  greeting card set. It comes with only one card and one envelope - but it's pretty cute! I especially love the visual quote of music from the "Poppy Song" from the 1903 WIzard of Oz musical.

The envelope is decorated with another of the Ozzy postage stamps. The interior of the greeting card is printed with another illustration of the Poppy Field. Instead of the foil letter seal the greeting card comes with an adhesive backed "seal" made of sealing wax (or possibly plastic). It says "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in Denslow's own font and features the Lion entwined OZ (see below). Pretty cool stuff!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Miss Thompson and the Jack Rabbit

All right, while this photograph does indeed show the Royal Historian of Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson, the creature beside her is most definitely not a Jack Rabbit - in fact, it's Thompson's dog Taffy.

They are here to help let you know that our April TIGER TALE has just been posted. This month it's the story Why Jack Rabbit has Long Ears and No Tail  written Ruth Plumly Thompson for the Philadelphia Public Ledger for May 16, 1920.

There are now over 120 free online Tiger Tales! Check out the archive for your reading pleasure!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nice Hat, Mister!

It's always fun when I can give you a sneak-peek at an upcoming issue of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's Ozma of Oz from Marvel Comics.

So here is Skottie's cover for issue seven!

Remember that you can order signed copies of both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz  at our on-line store. It's easy! In the "Special Instructions" box simply let us know that you'd like your books signed and if you'd like them personalized to someone in particular.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday - 39

Poor Sis is on the run this week - and that's no bull!

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 38, in May, 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ozma in Japan

This weekend I bring you another post focusing on L. Frank Baum's third Oz book, Ozma of Oz. Many of you are following Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's adaptation of that book from Marvel Comics and I thought you might like a look at Ozma through foreign eyes.

This weekend's Ozma post focuses on a charming Japanese picture book published by Popura Shabunko, of Tokyo, in 1987. The book's title is a bit unusual, Ozu no Mahoutsukai to Ozuma Hime which translates as "the Wizard of Oz and Princess Ozma". Other Japanese editions of Ozma translate the title more traditionally as Ozu no Ozuma Hime "Princess Ozma of Oz". There are picture book editions of The Wizard of Oz and The Land of Oz as well. I suspect that the popularity of Disney's Return to Oz film that motivated the publication of these three titles. There is similar set with different illustrations by another Japanese publisher, also published in 1987.

The edition was published in hardcover with a dustjacket and has 44 pages. Below you can see several of the more interesting illustrations. At right, Dorothy gale enjoys a meal from the Lunch Pail Tree while Billina looks on. The way these lunches grow you can sort of see what you're getting - they're more like cafeteria trees - you just pick a couple sandwiches, a piece of fruit, and a doughnut and you're all set!

I think the design for Tik-Tok is pretty cute.I'd love a toy version! The wind-up key at the front is a bit odd as it seems like Tik-Tok might be able to wind himself. I've always assumed Tik-Tok's manufacturers placed his wind-up keys on his back and under his two arms so that Tik-Tok couldn't be self-winding, thus preventing their robot from attaining true autonomy. The inability of the traditional Tik-Tok to wind himself is one of the things that helps define him as "non-living."

The Japanese illustrator did follow Baum's text and hang Tik-Tok's "operating instructions" from a clunky cardboard sign around Tik-Tok's neck. It seems like it could easily get lost, IMHO. Below you can see Tik-Tok giving the Wheelers a hard time.

The arrival at the entrance to the Nome King's caverns is striking and very different. We also get a nice view of the Nomes slaving away in the jewel mines. Click on any of the images to see them enlarged.

Every spread of the picture book contains one full page color illustration and one page of text with a small illustration echoing the larger image. Below you can see a sample showing Dorothy giving the Nome King what-for. The book is really cute!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ozopolis and the Winkie Convention

Kirk Kushin
One of our special guests at the Winkie Convention this summer will be Kirk Kushin, writer of the Ozzy and acclaimed new comic book series OZopolis. At the convention Kirk will be telling and showing us all about OZopolis and will also be participating in the Oz Comics Panel to be moderated by John Bell, best known to Oz folk for his blog Oz and Ends. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Kirk to be included in the Winkie Con Program Book.

How were you originally introduced to Oz and Baum? I believe it was the MGM film, but when my Grandmother gave me the softcover edition of The Land of Oz, that really sparked my imagination. I recently looked it up online and it was published by Rand McNally. I was curious because I vividly remember the weight and feel of the volume. She would always inscribe everything she gave me, so it's really too bad that it got lost in my multiple childhood moves. She was actually the person I dedicated our first issue to because it's thanks to her that I realized there was an Oz beyond the classic film.

What is most appealing to you about Oz? What do you find so intriguing that you wanted to be a part of it?  I especially remember being in the fifth grade and really wishing I could move to Oz! I recall specifically thinking I would have to take some modern clothes, because I did not want to dress up like Button Bright! But other than the fashion I think it was the Michael Herring cover illustrations that made it seem like a real place you could visit. Obviously the designs were all John R. Neill, but something about the covers on the Del Rey paperbacks really captured my imagination. So I really did want to be part of it - too bad I couldn't jump through those paintings!

So how did OZopolis come about? I had been reading the books out loud to my son and he liked to make little "detours" from the story, so we started expanding the novels on the fly. My older daughter also liked the Oz comics out there, especially the manga versions from Antarctic Press by David Hutchison, so we started doing a manga story together for fun. We really didn't get that far, but we had created a villain I really liked, so I began wondering if I could do something with her.

What are the long-range plans for OZOPOLIS? We will keep doing one or two installments a year for the foreseeable future. I've really been encouraged by the warm response it's gotten from Oz fans and other people in the comic industry.  I'm careful to try to keep the stories more or less self-contained since it's not coming out that often. But each installment does move the overall story line along toward a bigger picture.

How did you get into comics - both reading them as a kid and creating them as an adult? I was lured into comics by Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. I wasn't interested in super heroes until I was sick and my mom happened to buy me a comic. It ended up being Uncanny X-Men #141 (the beginning of the classic Days of Future Past story) and I was like, "I don't understand what the heck is going on, but I love it!" From that point on I was hooked. Many years later, I was working in commercial advertising and I was producing a spot with some sexy ninja girls, a clown, and a guy with an eye-patch. I loved the visuals because they reminded me of those old live action Saturday morning shows, so I decided to develop it further with my friends. We ended up with this Get Smart / Charlie's Angels farce called B.A.B.E. Force. I thought it had the makings of an interesting movie, so I got a booth at Comic Con. It was there that I met a gentleman who wanted to produce a comic book based on it. Even though we never got a movie deal, we ended up getting a little comic book series. But I was not happy with what the company was doing with the story, so once the license lapsed, I started self-publishing. I'm a glutton for punishment, so I've been doing comics ever since.

When did you and artist Gonzalo Martinez begin working together?  I met Gonzalo while I was doing B.A.B.E. Force and he did a back-up story for me. I told him I was interested in doing a super hero high school comic along the lines of a John Hughes movie. We really clicked, so we did about 9 issues of Super Teen*Topia together. I was looking for another project to do with him and I asked him if he'd be interested in working on an Oz project with me.

OZOPOLIS is one of the few Oz comics to present a  “traditional” version of Oz. Why do you think so many creators want to reinvent Oz in a “dark” vein? What motivated you to make OZOPOLIS so true in spirit to Baum’s Oz? I always treasured the original stories, and Baum created so many amazing characters. I wanted to go visit that big mansion on the hill I had always seen from a distance. Plus, I am not a big fan of dark stuff, so it was a really comfortable world for me to craft a story in. I always say my writing is essentially about fun, likeable people that you'd like to spend the day with, so it's a good fit for Baum's universe.

Dorothy Gale in OZOPOLIS
You and Gonzalo have given Dorothy and Ozma a bit of a makeover. How did you decide what to change and what to keep the same? Dorothy has traded in her party dress for shorts and high-tops - but the Wizard is still in a frock coat with an ascot. Well, the girls in Baum's novels were supposedly very young, but we've made them teenagers because that's essentially how he wrote them, especially in Glinda of Oz. As I mentioned, even as a boy I thought there were some fashion challenges in Oz, so it was probably a mutual decision on the make-overs.  There is a scene in the next installment that pays tribute to Dorothy's party dress, so it's gone but not forgotten! One of the things we end up discussing the most is the traditional Neill look versus an updated version. I worship Neill's original illustrations (except for those frumpy frocks), but I have to let Gonzalo process those and come up with his own take. There is a lot of thought that goes into each character, so don't expect Button Bright to show up dressed as a skater boy. We don't take "OZopolizing" old friends lightly around here!

Thanks, Kirk! I hope you'll have a great time at the Winkie Con in July! For information on attending, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Freddy the Pig

Over the years I've found quite a few Oz fans are also fans of the Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks.

Well, this coming weekend the Friends of Freddy are having a weekend long convention at University of California - Fresno at the Arne Nixon Center. The Oz Club held a similar Oz conference there last year.

Click Here for information. Presenters will include Eric Shanower and Michael Cart, who among other illustrious credits wrote the foreword to our lovely edition of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz.

Yellow Brick Road

For sixteen and a half years Eric and I had a most wonderful dog child. He can be admired at left. His full name was The Road to Oz - but we called him Road.

He was named after L. Frank Baum's fifth Oz book, The Road to Oz, in which Oz illustrator John R. Neill drew Toto looking like a Boston terrier. Road got to know most of our Oz friends over the years and he attended quite a few Oz conventions with us - sometimes rather covertly.

But at least once, he was not covert at all. That was the year he participated in the 1994 Ozmapolitan Convention costume contest! He came dressed as a Yellow Brick - which made him The Yellow Brick Road.

He was very good about wearing his costume, though I am sure he didn't like it very much. Road went on to win a prize, too. You can see him standing in the winner's circle below with my BF Eric Shanower. I do miss Road.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blog 200 - Chicken Kiev

Well here we are at our 200th blog post. It seems hard to believe how quickly time sure is flying by!

Many of you are eagerly reading Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's adaptation of Ozma of Oz from Marvel Comics. So I've decided to start a short series of blogs on unusual editions of Ozma of Oz.

We begin with a lovely, if very different, Russian translation from the Ukraine. This oversize hardcover, titled Ozma iz strani Oz was published in Kiev in 1994 by Spalax Ltd. The book is profusely illustrated in full color by S. M. Starosuk.

New, and often very original, illustrations are one of the great joys of collecting foreign editions of the Oz books - especially neat are translations of the later Oz books with new illustrations. This Ozma is one of my favorites.

The illustrator seems to have had a lot of fun with Billina. She is in almost every illustration and always full of character. Note her calm demeanor as she sits on the wave-tossed raft holding her morning egg.

Tik-Tok is very original, too, looking a bit like a mechanical Conquistador. (See below)

I also really like the the Elizabethan look of the Queen of Ev. We see her below freshly disenchanted by Billina in the Nome king's ornament room (see below).

Roquat the Nome King is also in high-renaissance garb as you can see (at left) when the Sawhorse gives him a good kick. I really like the Russian Hungry Tiger, too. He's such a little fur-ball!

That's it for today. We'll take a look at some other editions of Ozma of Oz in the coming weeks.

Sis Sez Sunday - 38

No fun for Sis this week either! Umbrellas, and babies, and dogs, Oh my!

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 38, in May, 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just Bouncing Along

On rare occasions I have had a dream involving unusual Oz stuff. I stumble into a bookstore and find a previously unheard of Oz book by L. Frank Baum. Or I wander into a garage sale and find a ratty old box marked "Geo. M. Hill" and it's full of many pristine first printings of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - all in immaculate dust jackets.

The find described below is certainly not as much fun as finding a box of Hill Wizards would be, but it is almost as unbelievable! Here's a little background.

Original Wizard of Oz illustrator W. W. Denslow was also one of the first comic strip artists. In 1901 he began a comic page called Billy Bounce. In 1906 Billy Bounce became a children's book with illustrations by Denslow and text by Dudley A. Bragdon.

Well, one of our readers recently discovered an animated pilot for a Billy Bounce TV series. Made in 1963 by some of the Terrytoons animators, Billy Bounce was probably un unaired pilot. Denslow and Bragdon are fully and prominently credited for the source material. The credits even going so far as to imitate the way Denslow signed artwork - including his signature hippocampus! (That's the seahorse.)

This single episode is based on the over-packed first chapter of the 1906 novel. The villains, Nickel Plate and Bumbus the Bee, hire Billy Bounce to deliver a message to the Bogey Man. Billy asks Mr. Gas for help and is given an inflatable rubber bouncing suit.

The newly discovered cartoon is a big improvement over the source material. Were there any more episodes? Since this one has remained unknown for so long, there probably weren't. But who knows? Maybe a complete long-lost Billy Bounce television series is out there somewhere!

So here is the video of the first episode of the long-lost 1963 animated  Billy Bounce. Who would have imagined such a thing existed!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Age of Bronze and the Eagle

Great News! Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze comic series has been nominated for an Eagle Award -  "Favorite American Comic - Black and White." So hooray and congratulations to Eric!

Introduced in 1976, the Eagles are the comics industry's longest established awards. Acknowledged as the pre-eminent international prizes, they have been featured on the covers of leading US and UK titles across the last 30 years. Unique in that they reflect the people's choices.

The Eagles are voted on by readers - so you can go add your vote. You can register your vote by clicking here. There is no obligation to vote in every category. The awards will be presented on May 27, 2011 at London's Comic Con EXCEL LONDON.

So congratulations, Eric!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday 37

Poor Sis just can't get a break! Isn't that her BF Bill dancing with the girl in the red dress?

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 36, in March, 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sally, Dick, and Mo

In 1944 the Bobbs-Merrill Co. decided The Wizard of Oz needed a face-lift. The Denslow illustrations were a bit old-fashioned to everyone's WWII-era eyes. And they hadn't been reproduced well in over forty years, anyway. The publisher chose a young illustrator named Evelyn Copelman to give the book a new visual life. Sixty-five years later her version is still in print. You probably know it well.

Less well known, though, is that in 1947 Bobbs-Merrill asked Copelman to reillustrate L. Frank Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo. Undoubtedly, the publisher chose this title as it sounds like a perfect follow up to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Copelman Mo was not successful. It is not one of Baum's best books, and title aside, it's not very much like The Wizard of Oz. It is little more than a closely related group of nonsense short stories. Copelman's illustrations are very interesting, though - in part because they really don't fit the book very well. The original Mo illustrator was Frank VerBeck, and his pictures were cartoonish in an Edward Lear kind of way. Copelman's were hyper-realistic and seem at odds with Baum's goofy text.

Copelman's work is very pretty. In fact her style would have much better suited Baum's Queen Zixi of Ix or even John Dough and the Cherub - far better than Mo.

In Mo it just doesn't work. Baum describes the titular character as "not very tall, nor is he very short; he is midway between fat and lean; he is delightfully jolly when he is not sad, and seldom sad if he can possibly be jolly. How old he may be I have never dared to inquire..."

But Copelman's realism kills off Baum's whimsical mystery. She has provided a very specific Monarch, a real-looking young man made of flesh and blood. On the cover (above) he's actually kind of cute!

A few of Copelman's pictures are just not very good either. The painting showing the King having lost his head and pursued by the Purple Dragon is badly composed. It looks as if the Monarch might still have a head - that it's just hidden behind the limb of the tree.

Perhaps this was a request on the publisher's part, to keep gore to a minimum. Therein lies one of the problems in turning a nonsense book into realism. That said, until seeing the Copelman illustrations, I never would have imagined the Magical Monarch as having cute legs!

Somehow it's both fascinating and jarring too see the strawberry lily-pads growing in the cream at the edge of the Milk River.

Does this illustration style make Baum's text come to life, or does it kill the mental imagery of the reader? I remember when I first saw this image I thought, "Wow! So that's what it would look like!" But this was followed by a certain "Ewww..." factor.

But take a good look at the way Copelman painted these two kids, especially the one on the left. Look at their clothing, their faces. I'll come back to that in a bit.

 Copelman's style works a lot better during the Land of the Civilized Monkeys episode. Perhaps this is because to modern eyes it resonates with a bit of Planet of the Apes or Lancelot Link.

In the late 1990s I got to meet Evelyn Copelman at an Oz Convention. She was only in her late 70s at the time. She was very young when she illustrated The Wizard of Oz. It was her first major job. That weekend she autographed many people's copies of The Wizard of Oz - she signed one for me, too. But I was the only one I saw who had also brought along The Magical Monarch of Mo. She signed it "Best Mo wishes, Evelyn Copelman."  I was quite pleased.

Evelyn Copelman told everyone a secret at that Oz convention. She was asked what else she did in her career. After all, she had illustrated a hugely successful edition of The Wizard of Oz and this Mo book and that was about it. Well, in fact, she did a lot of work, work even better known than The Wizard of Oz. But she had done it under a pseudonym, Eleanor Campbell. She was the illustrator of many of the Sally, Dick and Jane books, beginning in 1946 with the first-grade reader Our New Friends.

So take a look again at the boy and girl sitting on the banks of the Milk River and then look at the picture below. It adds a whole new perspective on these Mo illustrations - almost like Sally, Dick and Jane get to go to Fairyland!

Original drawing by Evelyn Copelman for a Sally, Dick, and Jane reader.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Heavy Metal in 1903

About fifteen years ago I began collecting very old recordings from the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical. I found many 78rpm records, old wax recording cylinders, and player piano rolls.

But a few years into my little obsession I made the acquaintance of a fellow Oz fan and vintage recording buff. She said she owned two Mira music box discs featuring songs from the 1903 Wizard, and asked if I'd like to hear them. Of course I said yes, and a week later I got a tape of her two Wizard of Oz discs, Must You? and Sammy. They were charming and tinkly and a very neat find.

The next year my friend came to the Winkie Convention and brought the two music box discs for her show-and-tell. They were made of heavy gauge steel, 15" in diameter, with holes punched through the steel leaving sharp teeth sticking out the back. The disc could easily double as a nutmeg grater!

I included recordings of both my friend's discs on my 2 CD set Vintage Recordings from the 1903 Wizard of Oz. Since the CD came out a couple mores discs have surfaced featuring the Oz songs, The Bullfrog and the Coon, and I Love Only One Girl in this Wide, Wide, World. I eventually acquired a few for my own collection including the Must You? disc shown above. That one is actually a smaller 7" disc - and it has a much shorter playing time than the big ones.

Steel music box discs were produced by many different companies in the early 1900s. They came in all sizes, too, ranging from 5" mini-discs on up to 33" monsters. There were many competing brands and, for the most part, one company's discs will not play on another company's machine.

You can find out more about the song Must You? in our TIGER TUNES Archive. You can listen to a 1903 Edison cylinder recording of the song, follow along with the lyrics, and even download the sheet music.

Okay, it's time to give this steel Frisbee, this musical cheese-grater, a spin! I don't actually own a player, but a friend generously made a video of the disc in action for me. So click below and listen to Must You? from the 1903 Wizard of Oz.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eric Shanower with Sea Monsters

When Eric Shanower attended art school at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, one of his teachers was illustrator Greg Hidebrandt. He was Eric's painting teacher.

At the time Hildebrandt was also in the midst of illustrating a series of much beloved classics. Often Hildebrandt would ask students to pose for him. During his second year at school Eric Shanower was asked to pose as Perseus rescuing Andromeda by slaying the Sea Monster. You can view the results at right.

It wasn't a long posing session for the painting. Eric simply lay on the floor, Greg shot reference photographs, and then painted from them. The illustration appeared in Greg Hildebrandt's Favorite Fairy Tales (1984).

As many of you may know, in 1985 Hildebrandt illustrated a new edition of The Wizard of Oz. It's still available and quite beautiful in many ways - Hildebrandt's Hammerheads are unique!

Interestingly, there is also book on Hildebrandt's artwork called From Tolkien to Oz (1986) that features a number of illustrations from Wizard as well as the painting of Eric Shanower slaying the Sea Monster. Below are Eric Shanower's memories of posing for Greg Hildebrandt:

"On Fridays in spring 1983 Greg Hildebrandt taught painting to my second-year class at the Joe Kubert School. This was during the time Greg was estranged from his twin brother and painting partner, Tim. One Friday Greg asked several students, including me, to pose for illustrations for a new book.

"The same day I'd asked Greg to write a recommendation for a scholarship I was applying for to get tuition money for the next school year. Greg agreed, telling me to write a paragraph or two and he'd sign it. I had to mail the scholarship application and recommendations that day. After school Adam Kubert and Jay Geldhof--in Adam's car--picked me up and we went to the post office where I mailed the application.

"Then Adam drove us to the home of Jean Scrocco, Greg's agent. Hildebrandt Brothers paintings hung throughout the Scrocco house. Greg pointed out how his painting technique had loosened up over the years. I particularly remember a Lord of the Rings painting done with his brother where the brush strokes were so tight that they were barely visible. In the living room hung a painting by Greg of Jean and her then-husband in a fantasy setting, done in a much looser style.

"Later Greg and Jean both divorced their spouses and married each other. Jay asked me back then whether I thought Greg and Jean were having an affair. I guess Jay sensed something between Greg and Jean, but how serious it was at the time I don't know.

"The basement studio where Greg photographed models for his paintings had a bunch of costumes and props. Ron Wagner was first to be photographed as Seigfried. A lot of us knew that Ron usually went commando, but fortunately he'd gone home to change between class and posing since his fur costume didn't meet in the back. Then Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, and Jay were Odysseus's men. I was last, dressed in a piece of fabric pretty much like what you see in the painting with a tan leather strap for a belt. I lay down on the floor and held a sword in the position that Greg had indicated in his preliminary pencil sketches. I rested the point of the sword on the floor, but Greg had me raise it about an inch, so that I was actually holding it in the air in front of me. I probably made the skinniest Perseus ever. Greg stood on a step-ladder to point the camera downward. He used a Polaroid in order to see the photographs immediately. That was the same technique he taught when we students illustrated Edgar Rice Burroughs's At The Earth's Core for his class.

"After the photo shoot, Adam, Jay, and I went to White Castle for burgers. The Kuberts loved White Castle. Later that evening I went to a crazy body-painting party with a bunch of other students--including Jay as well as Anna-Maria Cool (then Coleman), who since has illustrated Oz books. The party started at one house, moved to the house I was living in, then ended up at the Rockaway Mall midnight movies to see Rude Boy with The Clash.

"The following year, my third year at the Kubert School, Greg was planning the paintings for The Wizard of Oz. Greg wasn't one of my instructors anymore--he taught the second-year class--but I mentioned to him that it would be great if he illustrated a different Oz book since Wizard is so commonly re-illustrated. I thought that The Patchwork Girl of Oz might interest him. I believe he actually considered this suggestion, but I'm not surprised that he decided to stick with Wizard. It's better known and surely from a sales standpoint a better bet.

"I hoped to pose for Greg's version of Wizard, but he didn't start photos till after I graduated from JKS in May 1984. I didn't keep in touch about posing and was busy with other work. However, that summer signed copies of the published Greg Hildebrandt's Favorite Fairy Tales arrived in the mail for Jay and me, who were sharing an apartment at the time. It was great to see the final book."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday - 36

Look like Sis had a rough weekend - hope yours was more fun!

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 36, in March, 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

I've been quite curious about Andrew Lloyd Webber's revamp of the MGM Wizard of Oz which recently opened in London. Today a video appeared of one of his new songs, The Red Shoes Blues, sung by Hannah Waddington who plays the Wicked Witch of the West.

I like the song  - but I don't think it fits into the MGM score very well. It's too character driven, and the MGM score just doesn't really support this kind of song. It's also interesting to look at this and realize how much WICKED is reinforming people's views of the MGM film. I really wish Andrew Lloyd Webber had just written a new musical version of Wizard from scratch.

But here, you can listen for yourself.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dorothy Gale in San Francisco

I've already mentioned on this blog that my partner, Eric Shanower, is currently writing the scripts for Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the fourth volume in Marvel Comics' graphic novel series adapting L. Frank Baum's classic Oz books.

I ran across an unusual bit of primary research today and thought, "I should tell Eric about this." But then I thought, "Gosh, just share it with everyone!" So here it is.

It's a ten-minute film photographed from a vehicle traveling down Market Street in San Francisco just six days before the infamous 1906 earthquake. Dorothy Gale is caught in that quake in the opening pages of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz at 5:18 AM Wednesday, April 18. She and Uncle Henry had recently returned to the United States from Australia, and they've been sight-seeing in San Francisco for a few days before Uncle Henry's visit to relatives on Hugson's ranch. So this film shows San Francisco exactly as it appeared to Dorothy. She would have been there when this footage was shot.

I think it's fascinating to see the little kids playing, see how the automobiles are beginning to outnumber the carriages, see the actual San Francisco that Dorothy would have seen. It is also a San Francisco that would be destroyed by earthquake and fire six days after this was filmed.

There is one sorta kinda Oz reference in the film - at least I'm deciding it's an Oz reference. At time-marker 8:30, a wagon passes in front of the camera. It features bold lettering on the side: "Eureka - California."

Imagine Dorothy has just found a stray kitten. She decides she would like to keep it. An old rattle-trap wagon comes lumbering past Dorothy and Uncle Henry on Market Street and Dorothy says, "Eureka? That's a funny name for a town, isn't it, Uncle Henry."

Uncle Henry explains that "Eureka" means "I found it."

"Well," says Dorothy, "I just found my kitten! I'll name her Eureka."

The film was shot on April 12, 1906, six days before the earthquake on April 18th. You can read a bit more about it by clicking here. The video link below is to the best restored version of the film I've seen online. Turn your speakers off to avoid the weird new-age soundtrack.

Now sit back and enjoy ten minutes of Dorothy Gale's San Francisco.