Saturday, October 31, 2015

Giant Garden and the Grand Tour!

A brand new edition of Eric Shanower's first Oz novel, The Giant Garden of Oz, has just been published by Dover Books! This story has always been rather special to me, and, in fact the book is dedicated to me. The story of the writing of this book and why I got the dedication has never been told - until now!

So get out your passports and be prepared for a Grand Tour of Europe and we'll tell the tale of the creation of The Giant Garden of Oz!

In the Summer of 1989 Eric Shanower and I decided to make our first trip to Europe. We had been a couple for about a year and a half, though we were still living on opposite coasts at that point - Eric in San Diego, me in college at NYU in Manhattan.

We planned a Grand Tour, cramming in everything we possibly could. This over-stuffed trip played an important part in the creation of The Giant Garden of Oz. Here is the story:

Eric flew to New York a few days before my junior year of college let out. At which point we both flew to London where we spent several museum and theatre-packed days. We took side trips to Stonehenge and the Salisbury plain, hit up Oxford, York, went on up into Scotland where we visited Edinburgh and Sterling.

Me in front of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

Then it was back to London and off to Dover to make the crossing to France. We arrived in Calais, visited the cathedral in Amiens, and journeyed on to Paris where we spent several days.

Me and a friend at the top of Notre Dame cathedral.

We also spent an afternoon with French cartoonist Jean "Moebius" Giraud at his apartment in Paris. Eric was working with Moebius at the time on The Elsewhere Prince.

Eric Shanower and Jean "Moebius" Giraud in Paris, 1989.

We took a day to go to Chartres, and then a very fun side trip up to Mont Saint Michel where we followed my Art History teacher's advice and spent the night on the island (an even more magical place once most of the tourists have fled as the tide came in). We went to Versailles for a day and then journeyed south to Marseille, traveled to Nice, made a lovely afternoon side trip to Èze (at the suggestion of Oz friend Peter Hanff).

The beautiful town of Èze

Me in Èze, France. I bought those shorts in Salisbury, England.

Then after a short visit to Monaco we hopped back on the train for Italy. As I recall we stopped in San Remo and had pizza at the quaintly named "Snow White" pizzeria. This was not "white" pizza but "Snow White" as in seven dwarfs! Then on to Milan, followed by a wonderful day or so in Brescia where my college roommate's family lived. They entertained us wonderfully! Then back on the train to go to Venice (which I loved!).

Me in Saint Mark's square in Venice.

From Venice we went to Ravenna and then Florence (which was very disappointing).  I had hoped for a life enriching experience a la Room with a View, but found it instead came across as the worst tourist trap on earth - harassed by peddlers selling "Statue of David" key chains and charging astronomical fees for the crappiest food ever. But on to Rome to do as the Romans do.

Eric Shanower at the Colosseum in Rome, 1989

We had to cancel our planned trip to Naples and Pompeii due to a train strike - so headed for the heel of the Italian boot where we boarded a large boat for an overnight cruise to Patras, Greece, which seemed a boring modern city. Luckily we proceeded directly on to Athens where we spent several days. The Parthenon and some of the museums were great, but on the whole I rather hated Athens. (I went back to Greece a couple years ago for a several week visit and found it wonderful!)

Are you getting tired yet? Well, we've still got more trip to go! We hopped on the train from Athens to Vienna. It sounds romantic, visions of the Orient Express come to mind, but it was a hot, noisy and unpleasant journey. The most interesting aspect (in hindsight) was that the train took us thru Yugoslavia - we stopped very briefly in both Belgrade and Zagreb. I remember thinking the country looked so incredibly pastoral, near idyllic with jolly peasant women herding sheep, artsy young students driving their Yugos, etc. . . well, the next year the country shattered into a multi-participant civil war. We truly are getting to the Giant Garden of Oz part of this story, I promise!

We arrived in Vienna. It was lovely! We took lodging in a Viennese woman's home - a sort of bed-and-breakfast, though I'd not heard that term yet. We went out walking and ate sausages and drank beer. We tried to get tickets to the Vienna Opera to see Tristan und Isolde, but neither of us felt up to it and I wasn't a Wagnerian yet! So we ate another sausage and I had a beer.  At some point we bought (and ate!) a Sacher Torte. We were about ready to leave Vienna and, feeling a bit tired of sausages and beer, we decided to have dinner at some nice Viennese restaurant. I ordered this thing which turned out to be a very large dumpling about the size of a soft ball. It was OK and kind of "interesting," but I couldn't finish it and felt very tired. We took the tram car back to our lodgings and went to bed. In the middle of the night I had the worst nightmare of my life. I won't share the specifics, but it was literally a nightmare in a nightmare in a nightmare. In the dream I jolted awake from a bad nightmare only to find a few minutes later that I was still in the bad dream. I kept trying to wake up and when I finally did actually awaken I was very scared and had trouble accepting that I was really, finally awake - fearful that the dream was still continuing. All I can say is that I was sorry I'd ever seen Rosemary's Baby or eaten that cursed Viennese dumpling.

Eric comforted me; and I eventually got back to sleep. The next morning I awoke with a very bad case of the flu (or possibly severe exhaustion). We were supposed to check out that AM, but I was in no condition to stand up, much less travel on  to Salzburg. Our B&B hostess had already rented our room to another traveler, but she took pity on my sad physical state and she and Eric made a sort of bed for us on the floor of her husband's home-office.

I was very sick. Eric brought me juice and fluids to drink, and to entertain me Eric told me a story that he made up on the spot. It was what became The Giant Garden of Oz. I don't recall how far he got in the story before I got better after a couple days rest.

I felt a good deal better by this point and we took the easy train trip from Vienna to Salzburg.

Me having a Julie Andrews moment in Salzburg.

I loved Salzburg! It was lovely and magical! Eric and I took a long toboggan ride down what looked like a small Alp. We went to see the Marionette Theatre of Salzburg (they did a puppet version of Marriage of Figaro which was slow and dreary). We went to the deep and cavernous salt mines outside the city (I'd never realized that "Salzburg" means "Salt Town"). And . . . we took the Sound of Music tour! And Eric told me more about Dorothy, and the giant vegetables, and Imogene the cow . . .

It was again time to move on and we were both getting very tired. We decided to forego a visit to Berlin and simply return to England for an extra few days in London. I regret this now, as I would have liked to have paid a visit to Berlin before the wall came down. We boarded the train from Salzburg to Oostend, Belgium, so we could take the hovercraft back to England. We went to another few museums, we saw the then-newly restored Lawrence of Arabia, and Eric told me more about Dorothy and Imogene, and the giant vegetables.

Our first Grand Tour of Europe was over! We did all of the above in forty days! We flew back to the United States and a few days later went to the 1989 Winkie Convention. Eric did not finish telling me the story that summer. It kind of came to a halt after the balloon basket slid down the rainbow.

But in 1993 Eric finally finished "my" story. And right there on the dedication page it told me that story was mine! Go buy a copy!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Map of Oz Monday - Merry Go Round in Oz

Today we explore the mapping of Merry Go Round in Oz (1963). Chronologically this post should come in the midst of our discussions on the Oz Club's maps, which were first published in 1962. But structurally, it seems best to finish our discussion of all the maps in the main forty Oz titles before we delve into the Oz Club's maps.

Merry Go Round in Oz was written in 1963 by Newbery Honor author Eloise Jarvis McGraw and her daughter Lauren McGraw Wagner. Many Oz fans consider it one of the very best post-Baum titles.

While we will certainly talk about the map included in the forematter of that book, the bulk of this post will be about the map that wasn't included in the book.

So let's look at the included map. This map was drawn by the book's illustrator, Dick Martin; but it was very much influenced by a map or maps drawn by the McGraws. We'll discuss that further below. My first observation is that Dick Martin did not pay any careful attention to the delineation of the Quadling/Munchkin border. He has simply drawn a curvy line.

Dick Martin's illustrated map from Merry Go Round in Oz (1963).

As you can see, the map splits the difference between a traditional "flat" map and an "illustrated" pictorial map, i.e. the Easter Bunny's Cave is indicated by a basket and eggs. Below you can see how Martin rendered the same locations in the later printings of the Oz Club maps, in the "flat" style.

Locations from Merry Go Round in later printings of the Oz Club maps.

On March 27, 1963, Reilly & Lee wrote to McGraw and told her that they were accepting the manuscript of Merry Go Round in Oz; and on April 1st, McGraw wrote a lengthy letter back to the publisher. Halfway through the letter McGraw wrote:

Speaking of illustrations, a couple of years ago my daughter, Laurie [co-author Lauren Lynn McGraw], drew a map of Oz for her own amusement, placing on it all the little countries and castles and so on that she could find by looking through old Oz books. It is an "illustrated" map; that is, the little country of Ragbad is indicated by a patchwork quilt, Pumperdink by a portrait of Kabumpo, Monday Mountain by blue hills and a washtub, etc. It's charming and gave me the notion that just such a thing would be fun for endpapers in the book. The territory covered by the travelers in this book could of course be drawn in, with their routes traced in dotted lines. Laurie's map reverses the positions of the Munchkin Country and the Winkie Country and contains a few other errors, but if you want a corrected version as a suggestion and source material for the artist, let me know. She or I one can easily draw an accurate one. In any case, using a map as endpapers may not appeal to you or the artist; please don't think I'm trying to urge it on - merely an idea.
It will turn out that Lauren McGraw's directions were correct, or at least, that she was using the Baum "Munchkins in the East" directions. Eloise was more deeply rooted in Thompson's Oz and was more familiar with Thompson's predominant "Munchkins in the West" viewpoint. But back to our discussion: Merry Go Round editor Maxine Rieckoff didn't address the map idea until her reply of April 24, 1963:

When I wrote you before, I realized after the letter had gone that I had not mentioned Laurie's maps. I think they would make charming end papers and would like to have you send them on. Incidentally Laurie may not have made a mistake in the positions of the Munchkin Country and the Winkie Country. Dick Martin told me a mistake had been made in the printing of certain maps which was later corrected. He gave me a couple corrected maps to send Laurie.

These are no doubt the then-very-new Oz Club maps that Dick Martin had just finished drawing only a few months earlier. Below are Dick Martin's typed notes on Oz Geography which he stresses are "small technicalities, but important."

Dick Martin's notes to McGraw on "Oz geography" -  Click to enlarge

Clearly Martin is trying hard to prevent conflicts with the new Oz Club maps he and Jim Haff worked so hard on. He mainly points out places where McGraw needs to simply reverse east and west. But he also explains that one can't pass the Scarecrow's Tower and Tin Woodman's castle on one's way in the Munchkin Country as both structures are in the Winkie Country. Lastly he tells McGraw that there is no Yellow Brick Road where she placed one as a border dividing the Munchkin and Quadling countries.

Note that McGraw dutifully check-marked each of Martin's suggestions as she implemented them. McGraw wrote Rieckoff back on May 12, 1963: "All [Mr. Martin's] geography suggestions are taken care of now. . . . I am very eager to see how Dick Martin will interpret my characters. I'm sure, fundamentalist that he is, he will see them much as I do."

On May 18, 1963, McGraw wrote:

The map will go off to you today. As it turned out, I drew it myself; Laurie lives twenty miles or so from here, doesn't drive, and has an extremely active 7-month-old son to take care of. I could see the new version of the map wasn't going to get done in time for publication if she had to do it. Anyway, it was my idea to revamp it and submit it for possible use as endpapers, so it was really my responsibility anyhow.

I had a wonderful time for a couple of days and evenings, doing it - nearly blinding myself but enjoying every minute of it. I've corrected the location of various places, in line with the "official" Oz map you sent, and of course added all the places mentioned in Merry Go Round in Oz; otherwise it's merely a recopying of Laurie's old map. Therefore it's still a collaboration, and I've signed both our names to it.

I've no idea whether it will be usable or not, but if possible, I'd like to have the original back when everybody's finished with it there. I got rather fond of it while I was working on it, and think it would be fun to have on my study wall. By the way, see what you think of the Halidom coat-of-arms I invented. Upper left hand corner of the map. Those things in the left half are a trefoil (fleur de lys), a quatrefoil, and a cinqefoil.

Sadly there is a break in the editorial correspondence until July 12, 1963. Rieckoff explains that she is freshly out of the hospital, but there is no indication from her on what happened to McGraw's map drawing. But the answer can be found in Dick Martin's correspondence with McGraw. On June 12, 1963, Martin wrote:
Lauren's map is a great addition - the Oz fans will be especially pleased with it. I copied the section covered in the story, and the travelers' routes, labeling it "Diagram of a Journey - drawn by Robin Brown & helped by Dorothy and Fess." It will be in the front of the book. By the way, I'd like to include Lauren's drawing in the "Oziana Exhibit" at the Oz convention next week, as it will be of great interest. I'll return it promptly afterwards.
McGraw wrote Martin back on June 30, 1963:
The map is actually my drawing - based on an old one Laurie did once for her own entertainment. Both of us love to draw - in fact, I spent ten years, in my younger days, learning to be a muralist and portrait-painter. . . . Anyway both Laurie and I are flattered that it will be (or has been, I guess, by now) exhibited at an Oz convention.
One must assume Martin dutifully sent the map back to McGraw after the Oz convention. But Eloise never mentioned the map in her various Oz-related interviews later, it was not hanging in her study when I visited, and Lynn McGraw no longer knows where either her mother's or her own Oz map ended up.

I am glad that a portion of the McGraw map got used in Merry Go Round in Oz, but I really wish that the McGraw map had been used as the endpapers to the book as was originally planned!

Click here to go to our next installment of Map of Oz Monday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

White Edition Wednesday - Weekly Reader Goes to Oz

My loyalest readers may recall one of our most popular blog series, "White Edition Wednesday." I am quite pleased to offer an additional installment! If you prefer, you can re-read the entire "White Edition Wednesday" series from the beginning by clicking here:

In our WEW post called "Offspring," I mentioned the Weekly Reader boxed sets as seen above. These boxes survive in a number of Oz collections, though they do not always have the same books in them. One box claiming to be "as issued" contains the seven titles shown at right. The first seven Baum books (Wizard through Patchwork) do not seem to fit.

In the "comments" on the "Offspring" blog a reader named Len mentions having received his set in 1965 or 1966.

I had never seen any publicity suggesting how these sets were sold. Was there a mail-in campaign? I mainly remember the Weekly Reader as a small newsletter given out to kids when I was in First Grade. But, no matter, a few days ago I acquired a lovely piece of vintage "white edition" publicity created by Weekly Reader!

It is a large 2-sided poster, or rather, brochure, measuring 22" x 17." It is printed in full color. I've shared fairly large images so that when you click on an image you can probably read almost all of the type. Here's the front side.

Weekly Reader Oz book poster - Click to enlarge.

The promotion is offering a free copy of The Wizard of Oz if one agrees to "examine" the later volumes. Obviously Weekly Reader is hoping the parents will buy the lucky child the full set. The text on the brochure is quite well-written. I was especially pleased to see they used male pronouns, as in:
When you give your child this wonderful Oz book, exciting things happen. Almost like magic, he is whisked to the fascinating, enchanting world of Oz. Here he meets little Dorothy Gale . . .

The early 1960s family is rather engaging in a retro sort of way.

The text on this side goes on to mention the 1939 Judy Garland film, "Millions thrilled to the antics of Judy Garland and Ray Bolger," and the book has a lengthy quote from Baum discussing what age his Oz stories are written for.

The other side of the brochure is equally attractive as the first.

Weekly Reader Oz book poster - Click to enlarge.
We get a spread from Wizard, showing the book at actual size, the covers of eight of the later Oz titles, and a long excerpt of Edward Wagenknecht's afterword.

In the lower left corner, in the box with the ordering information, there is am item entitled: "Calling all children: an Interview with the Wizard himself." This is pulled from the 1965 issue of The Ozmapolitan. You can read that issue by clicking here. The article is the one on the first page with the Japanese characters.

This brochure may well have been part of a more elaborate mailing. The instructions for ordering say to: "Just slip your FREE BOOK TOKEN into the 'Yes' slot in your Free Gift Certificate and this book is yours." Anyone out there want to send me a book token and certificate so I can complete my set?

The ordering info explains that you will receive Wizard for free, to be followed by volumes 2 and 3 at approximately four week intervals, sent on approval. Once you've accepted those two volumes along with your free copy of Wizard, Weekly Reader mails you the remaining eleven titles all at once but with the option of paying for them monthly, one at a time. The Weekly Reader price for the Oz books is $3.29 per title. Reilly & Lee was charging $3.95 each when the books were first released.

There is no date on this elaborate bit of publicity. There is also no mention of the fine boxed set I showed at the top of this post. Perhaps the box was offered at a later point in time, but the "comment" from Len that I referenced above suggests that he got his boxed set in 1965-'66. Does this imply that the boxed set came first and this "book club" deal was offered later? There are still some mysteries to solve in "White Edition Wednesday!"

Well, now that this blog series is complete, there is only one thing for you to do - go back to the very first post and reread all eighteen "white edition" blogs from the beginning! Have fun!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Map of Oz Monday - Minor Map Mop-Up

We are quickly running out of maps in the main series of forty Oz books. Today we'll look at a couple of the remaining few. First we come to the "Diagram of a Journey" in Neill's Lucky Bucky in Oz (1942). As described in the illustration it is clearly "not a true map," yet it does have a couple interesting features, besides being a handsome image.

LUCKY BUCKY Map - Click to enlarge.

The geographic detail in this image, such as the Zeron's Mountain, Dollfins, etc., could easily be incorporated into a "true" map. There is a lot of detail in the mountain range as depicted. But one thing I found especially interesting is that Neill gives us a view of Ozma's palace from the south. You might remember we discussed the northerly view in a previous blog post. Here Neill has definitely drawn a different view of the palace without the grand entrance or the pair of high towers in the wall. Is Neill consciously drawing it differently, as he has clearly shown he beleives the main entrance to the palace is on the north side?

Note that we see Ozma's Palace, surrounded by its high wall, but surrounding it are many small Oz-style cottages with their domed roofs and "stick 'em up!" chimneys, shown both to the north and south of the palace. Neill does not show any outer city wall. Does this suggest that Neill may have considered the entire green area on most traditional Oz maps to be "the city" and that only the palace is behind the wall? This might explain why he seems to never show the outer wall in his later Oz book illustrations. Essentially he is giving us the walled Palace and grounds surrounded by Emerald City suburbs of traditional Oz-style homes. Then again, this isn't a "true map."

The next map in the Reilly & Lee Oz series comes to us as the endpapers of Jack Snow's Who's Who in Oz (1954).

1954 Map of Oz - Click to enlarge.

Since it is hard to see the complete image when it is used as endpapers I have reproduced the above from a postcard-size version of the same map that was probably prepared by the publisher for Snow to send to his various Oz fan correspondents.

There is not much new to say about this map. The most interesting thing is that it combines the two 1914 maps into one. Thus we have the detailed "Map of the Land of Oz" embedded within the "Map of the Countries Surrounding the Land of Oz."

One correction that I suspect Snow might have personally asked for is that the "corn ear" that was used to represent Jack Pumpkinhead on earlier Reilly & Lee maps has been replaced with a drawing of Jack's head. The map also has the mountains drawn in the representational style I associate with Tolkien maps, where you see the profiles of the mountains instead of the more topographical view used in the earlier maps.

The last odd design choice was that the Deadly Desert is populated with assorted cactus, cattle skulls, broken wagon wheels, and the like. Ride 'em cowboy!

The map was reused two years later in the first Reilly & Lee edition of The Wizard of Oz, which was otherwise illustrated by Dale Ulrey. But in this 1956 edition of Wizard the map is reproduced in color!

1956 Map of the Land of Oz - Click to enlarge.

As you can see, the staff artist that colored the map also eliminated the countries surrounding Oz. And then, coloring the area beyond the desert a couple shades of blue, they have given the impression that Oz and its Deadly Desert is surrounded by an ocean rather than the usual adjacent countries.

Next week we'll look at the last map printed in any of the main forty Oz titles. See you then!
Click here to go to our next Map of Oz Monday post!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

From Russia with Love

Earlier this year I got a set of little plastic Russian Oz figures. At first I wasn't quite sure what they were, but after a little poking around I was able to identify them with the help of a few Ozzy friends on Facebook. You probably recognize the middle four and Toto, but the woman with the magic wand at far left is the Good Witch of the North (Volkov's Villina) and the figure at far right seems to be the Wicked Witch of the East (Volkov's Gingemma).

They are based on the characters in the 1999-2000 animated series Adventures in the Emerald City (Приключения в Изумрудном городе). This animated series combined aspects of Baum's Oz with aspects of Volkov's Magic Land. The series included what we think of as The Wizard of Oz and The Land of Oz.

As you can see from the Tin Woodman in my hand at right, the figurines are a nice size. They are very similar to the 1967  "Ozkins" figurines produced by Aurora in the United States.

The card below is said to be part of the packaging for the little figurines. But my set was just the seven loose figures.  The card says: Heroes of the Emerald City. Factory of Children's Playthings Made 11/2002.

You can watch the animated film via the link below. While it is in Russian, if you know the two stories, that should prove little problem.

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Biblical Beefcake by Dirk!

Adam in the Garden of Eden, or: Mowgli grows up!

I thought that title might get your attention! And no, this isn't the scene at the offices of Hungry Tiger Press, but an illustration of Adam in the Garden of Eden from a book of Bible stories illustrated by Oz book illustrator Dirk Gringhuis a few years before he illustrated Hidden Valley of Oz (1951).

Marian's Favorite Bible Stories was first published in July 1948 by Erdmans Publishing company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The stories are adapted by the titular Marian M. Schoolland. Dirk supplied a dozen full page color plates like the one above. The book stayed in print for decades and eventually got a new pictorial cover design which certainly looks like more of Dirk's work to me. The back cover of this latter edition says: "The pictures are new and exciting, with all the appeal of full-color paintings, and are done by a nationally-known illustrator of children's books."  The adaptation contains sixty-three stories. Surprisingly it jumps from Daniel in the Lion's Den straight into the New Testament.

I wonder if Dirk enjoyed painting Bald Eagles? He has placed one in the Garden of Eden, and you'll see a few more flying in to watch Sampson wrestle a lion down below.

Cover used on some later printings of the book.

I have seen this book on eBay many times but only recently broke down and purchased one. Copies are usually on sale for less than ten dollars. The book also has illustrated endpapers that are very reminiscent of Dirk's Hidden Valley illustrations.

I had initially hoped there might be a picture of David slaying Goliath and I thought I might make a cute blog post referencing Jam doing battle with Terp the Terrible. But Dirk didn't choose to illustrate that scene, which seems a bit odd, but so be it. We'll have to settle for some Biblical beefcake!

Sampson wrestles the Cowardly Lion.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Map of Oz Monday - The Emerald City Part III

Now, mapping the Emerald City raises multiple questions. What era Emerald City are we actually mapping?  There seem to be four stages of EC urban design:

1) The Wizard's Emerald City: this is the "gray" version of the city that is only "emerald" because of the green spectacles locked onto people's heads to make everything appear green.

2) The Scarecrow's Emerald City: his hay-stuffed majesty seems to have begun a major renovation, making things truly green and installing many actual emeralds and precious metals, as evidenced by the fact that Jinjur and the Army of Revolt steal said emeralds.

3) Princess Ozma's Emerald City: This is the lovely, palatial version first seen in John R. Neill's illustrations for Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz and much expanded upon in The Road to Oz, where it seems kind of like a green version of San Simeon/Hearst Castle.

4) The Neill books' Emerald City: this version seems to preserve Ozma's palace design, but the houses have literally come to life and there is a distinct new wacky/cute aesthetic.

This fourth version of the city is by far the richest in known detail. But can anyone really imagine the Neill Emerald City when reading a Baum Oz book? I certainly can't, but I do admit having a great fondness for the Neill-era Emerald City design as depicted in his three Oz titles. Perhaps, as I alluded to in a previous post, this comes from having a deep fondness for Sid and Marty Krofft's Pufnstuf and Living Island where everything is alive.

So when I was writing Part One and Part Two of this Emerald City Map series I had been thinking that Neill's Emerald City urban design and aesthetic were limited to his three books. I began thinking how bizarre it would be to imagine Dorothy and her three friends first encountering the Emerald City in Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz if they had arrived at Neill's Emerald City. And then it hit me, Dick Martin had done just that in his 1961 picture book abridgement!

Dorothy and friends' arrival in the EC from Dick Martin's 1961 abridgement.
Martin's EC has the same zany, cartoonish aesthetic that Neill's does. I had always just imagined this was Dick Martin's version of the Emerald City, but, in fact, I believe it is explicitly Neill's vision that Martin is emulating.

Below, note the cover of Martin's picture book showing the main entrance to the Royal Palace and how closely it matches Neill's double staircase design, massive towers on either side of the entrance, and layered turrets reaching higher and higher.

Martin's EC palace entrance compared to Neill's EC palace entrance.
Well, that's sort of neat, I thought. I wonder if Dick Martin explicitly utilized Neill's architectural and urban design in his other books. And then, duh! I immediately realized that Martin had used Neill's EC design in his Cut and Assemble the Emerald City of Oz (1980) from Dover.

I pulled my copy off the shelf and there is Neill's Emerald City!

It's simplified, of course, but the above view is virtually the same view we get in the wonderful cityscape Neill drew for The Wonder City of Oz below. The palace stands towering over the city in the middle, the shorter anthropomorphic houses surround the palace on all sides, and the city's circular main street rings itself around the city, broken up by spokes of road to create the city blocks.

Some of Dick Martin's buildings are very similar in design to Neill's, such as the Ozmapolitan Building below:

Even more interesting is that Martin provides an additional map of the Emerald City that I had never even considered, though it is, in fact, just his layout suggestion printed in the book.

Dick Martin's "map" layout of the Emerald City.

This truly is Neill's Wonder City of Oz design, Strawberry Street and all! Indeed, Martin pays some homage to Neill in the final paragraph of his instructions:

Many Ozian authorities state that the Emerald City is circular in layout (see the diagram). If you agree, you might make a Yellow Brick Road of yellow construction paper, "paved" to match the sections under the Emerald City Gates. The Road should be about 2" in width, the outer diameter of the circular part being about 18".  This may be mounted on the center of a sheet of green poster board, about 24" square in size. A short length of road, extending from the front edge of poster board, should lead directly to the city gates. Side roads might lead, like the spokes of a wheel, from the palace entrances, as shown in the diagram; as a finishing touch, trees or flower beds could be made to ornament the palace grounds.

Now for a bit of behind-the-scenes info and bibliographical detail. The original printing of Martin's Cut and Assemble the Emerald City of Oz did not contain an actual Yellow Brick Road, but only Martin's instructions above, on how you might make one. But in Spring of 1983 I was in a bookstore, flipping through a copy, and noticed the addition of a new centerfold containing all the pieces needed to make a Yellow Brick Road as described in the instructions above.

Yellow Brick Road added to later printings of the EMERALD CITY book.

I was corresponding with Martin quite a bit in the early 1980s and asked him about the addition. On April 8, 1983, he replied:

Yes, the new printing of the Emerald City cut-out book has an added doublepage spread of Yellow Brick Road. It was quite a surprise to me, as I knew nothing about it until someone pointed it out to me. (Now, there's an example of an editor making changes without informing the illustrator!)

I may have one more part in this discussion of mapping the Emerald City. But it is a bit tangential and I may just plow on to our next more general map of Oz. You'll find out next Monday!

Click here for the next installment of Map of Oz Monday!

Dick Martin's Neill-styled anthropomorphic Emerald City buildings.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Mystery of Dirk's Castle

I just finished reading Mystery at Skull Castle by Dirk Gringhuis. I suspect a few of my loyal readers may be rolling their eyes and mumbling to themselves, "Boy, that David sure has eclectic taste in choosing his Ozzy reading matter."

Perhaps I do, but this book, written and illustrated by the illustrator of Hidden Valley of Oz (1951), has more than a few bits that I think you'll find interesting.

To begin with, the book was published by Oz publisher Reilly & Lee in 1964. I had not realized that Dirk had done more work for Reilly & Lee after illustrating Hidden Valley. But what makes the book even more interesting is that the "castle" in the story is based on the castle at Castle Park in Holland, Michigan, where the Oz Club held its Ozmopolitan Convention each year from 1967 to 1984. I attended the Castle Park Oz conventions from 1980 through 1983.

Photo of Castle Park in 1984 by Eric Shanower.

To be honest, I am surprised that so few Oz fans seem to know about Dirk's Mystery at Skull Castle. He himself seems to have told Fred Meyer about it and it is mentioned in the Dirk interview in the Autumn 1971 Baum Bugle. A year or two ago I was reading that issue of the Bugle, saw the reference, and immediately went online and bought a copy.

The book is not actually set in Holland, Michigan, but in a fictional Michigan town called New Vollendam which is just a stand-in for the town of Holland. The castle of the book's title was built in 1870 by "non-Dutch outsiders or 'Yankees,' a suspicious lot not to be trusted and given to dancing, fiddling and putting on airs. No honest Dutchman would have thought of building such a place. Designed to be used only in summer, it was a shameful waste of money."

The real castle at Castle Park was built as a residence for Michael Schwartz and his family. It was completed in 1894. But the Schwartz family moved away within a year and the real castle lay abandoned for a year or so before being purchased in 1896 as a summer camp for kids. You can read a much more detailed history of the real Castle Park here.

In the story the castle was a social hot-spot for one glorious summer, until one evening in September it was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground, only the ominous tower remaining. The action of the book supposedly takes place in 1880, ten years after the fire. I'll come back to that in a bit.

A fine photo of Dirk Gringhuis from the jacket of the book.

The book is set up as a late-nineteenth century, Hardy Boys-style mystery with lots of Dutch immigrant detail: Dutch slang, Dutch foods, etc. The story begins rather well, but soon the story of Dutch Hardy Boys devolves into a sort of Dutch Scooby Doo. The two teenage protagonists, Bram and Piet, are characterized by totally ineffectual and nonsensical behavior.

I don't really feel like going into the plot, but I guess I must. If you find it as tedious to read as I find it to write, skip ahead a paragraph: The boys are secretly saving money to purchase a new buggy for Piet's uncle. They move their savings to the old burnt-out castle for safekeeping. While at the castle they find a stash of jewels and seconds later meet Major Willoughby, supposedly the long lost heir to the man who built the castle, and his East Indian servant, Singh. The Major cons the boys into leaving their money in the same niche that the jewels were in and tells them to keep quiet about the discovery. In the end Major Willoughy is a phony and the jewels in the castle are fakes that the major leaves as substitutes when he steals the real Dutch Crown Jewels that just happen to be on display in New Vollendam, Michigan! Bram's ten-year-old cousin Bertram witnesses the theft and yells the news to anyone within ear-shot. But Bram and Piet vouch for the Major, so no one listens to Bertram. Since Bram and Piet can identify the fake jewels, the Major and Singh take the boys prisoner, tie them up in the old Castle, and plan to kill them.

Piet and Bram
This is problem number one: Bram and Piet are stupid and oblivious. They are gullible to every idiotic suggestion and notion the Major tells them. They ignore the truth even when little Bertram is telling them flat out he just watched the Major steal the jewels. Even after they manage to escape their bonds in the castle they don't run for help in town but allow themselves to be cornered on the shore of Lake Michigan where they cower until Piet's uncle solves the mystery (he recognized the red mud of the castle grounds on the major's wagon wheels) and comes down to the shore where he hears the commotion and shoots the Major. In a children's mystery, shouldn't the main characters be the ones to find the solution? Not only do Bram and Piet not solve the mystery, their primary goal at the beginning comes to nothing, since the uncle has no interest in a new buggy.

Now if the plot is a problem, it is nothing when compared to the novel's horrendous editing issues. In the book's first eighteen pages it is explicitly stated that the time period of the story is 1880.

Now in 1880 it still stood. A blind tower staring sightlessly across the timeless water of Lake Michigan. A mute monument to folly, the villagers said. . . . This suited young Abram Van Dam perfectly.

But on page 18 the book is suddenly set in 1897. Bram has been defending Piet's uncle but Bram's mother won't hear of it:

"Well, it's time he realized it's 1897 not 1847 when he came over on the boat." Mrs. Van Dam turned her back and headed for the kitchen.

The action of the novel lasts only two or three days, not seventeen years! I suspect Dirk means for the action to take place in 1897. In addition to the quote above, he explains the New Vollendam town fair is celebrating fifty years since its founding in 1847.

Also, a number of elements in the story demand the 1897 date: the boys listen to a cylinder-playing juke box via listening tubes. The New Vollendam marching Band plays "Stars and Stripes Forever," which premiered May 14, 1897. Apparently, New Vollendam was on the cutting edge of 1890s pop-culture! None of these date specific inventions or compositions is integral to the plot. Did Dirk add them and decide to change the date of the book from 1880 to 1897 to make historical sense? Possibly. But Dirk had a solid knowledge of the Dutch immigrants in Michigan. Indeed, it is the focus of several of his other books. It's a mystery to me why he ever introduced the date of 1880 into this story.

And this brings us to another Dirk Gringhuis/Castle Park connection. Many Oz fans that attended the conventions at Castle Park will recall that there was a bar in the basement. The walls were adorned with drawings by Dirk Gringhuis showing the history of Holland, Michigan. In 2012 the Oz Club held a convention in Macatawa, just down the road from Holland. A few of us spent an afternoon over at the old Castle and I took some mediocre cell-phone photos of Dirk's drawings in the bar.

Dirk Gringhuis artwork from the bar at Castle Park, Michigan.

In the one above, "Building Holland's First Home - 1847," we can see further evidence that the book's New Vollendam closely mirrored the real Holland's history. Both were founded in 1847. The half-century celebration in the story almost certainly indicates that Dirk meant it to take place in 1897.

Below is another of Dirk's Castle Park drawings, "Welcoming New Settlers - 1847."

Dirk Gringhuis artwork from the bar at Castle Park, Michigan.

But this still leaves the question as to how the book can be so explicitly set in 1880 for the first eighteen pages. The date references are not typos as they're all story specific details that establish two contradictory dates. Frankly, it seems like Reilly & Lee may have typeset an early draft or a combination of two different drafts of the manuscript. This is further evidenced by a few other glitches that made it into the published book. On page 179 Bertram has the line:

"Never mind about that," shrilled Bertram. "How about the buggy?"

Which is immediately followed by the line:

"What about the buggy?" shrilled Bertram.

Clearly one of the lines of text shouldn't be there. Someone on the Reilly & Lee editorial staff was slacking off. At the end of the book the two boys are still rather fond of the fraudulent Major. Bram says: "I sort of hope he gets off. He did save our lives when Singh wanted to use his knife. Even though he isn't a major, maybe not even English."

Huh? I totally missed this "saving of lives" part and can't find it in the book still. So who can say what happened? My guess is that Reilly & Lee used some wonky draft of Dirk's manuscript.

However, I can pin one odd bit directly on Dirk. At the festival parade Bertram decides to play a little joke and sucks on a lemon, which causes chaos in the marching band when the members' mouths begin to pucker up, thus ruining the music. I found this event preposterous. Aren't the musicians looking at their charts? Aren't they looking at who is marching up ahead? At the band leader? At anything other than a ten-year-old boy sucking a lemon? And the entire brass band sees Bertram and becomes incapacitated?

I stopped reading the book and told Eric about it. Surprisingly, Eric said, "I think Dirk stole that from a Robert McCloskey book called Lentil." When I looked at a copy of Lentil (1940) a few days later, there was the scene much as Dirk had written it. Coincidence? If only poor Dirk had been able to write and draw as well as Robert McCloskey.

I wish the book had been better. There was such an interesting series of connections between this Oz book illustrator and "the Castle" where we used to hold Oz conventions. And it's sort of sad that no one tried to get Dirk to attend the Ozmopolitan Convention. He lived all his later years in East Lansing, Michigan, where he died in March 1974. He could have attended any of the Castle Park cons from 1967 to 1973. But the Oz Club has a long history of missed opportunities. But that is another blog for another time.