Oz and comics have a rather long history together. L. Frank Baum did his own comic page, Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz
, back when he'd only written two Oz books. It wasn't what we'd recognize as a comic today, though, being essentially just a newspaper page with an illustrated short story. W.W. Denslow had his own comic starring the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, with a sort of similar theme. Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill thought about collaborating on a comic strip, but it never got off the ground. In the eighties, Eric Shanower
wrote and illustrated his own series of book-consistent Oz graphic novels. And there have been several comic adaptations of the books themselves over the years, with the most recent being a thorough adaptation released by Marvel, written by Shanower and with art by Skottie Young. Eric sticks quite closely to Baum's original text, but Young's art is quite different from Denslow's or Neill's, being in more of a Gothic style full of people with absurdly skinny arms and legs, and gravity-defying landscapes. Seeing Young's original takes on the various characters and settings is a large part of the fun in reading the comic, and the thoroughness of the adaptation allows for him to draw some of Baum's weirder creations that are often left out of other versions of the story, including the Kalidahs, the giant spider, and the Hammer-Heads. Here are some of my other thoughts on the comic:
- The Scarecrow looks kind of creepy, but at least he's less so than Young's concept art made him. Once he gets those pins and needles from his brains sticking out of his head, though, he comes across as even scarier.
- I do like the mustache on the Tin Woodman, as I think it gives him an added sense of dignity. Young's concept art shows that he originally thought of drawing Nick Chopper as an Iron Giant style of robot, but decided not to. I'm not sure why so many artists want to go with a big, old-fashioned robot look for Nick, when he's NOT a robot (that's Tik-Tok who falls into that category), but a former living person who gradually had his body parts replaced with tin.
- The Munchkin landscape on which Dorothy's house lands is much hillier than I would have imagined it.
- Interesting that Boq's house has a basket for Toto, when his household had never seen a dog before.
- The bushy eyebrows and beard on the old crow are nice touches.
- The trees near the river look like something out of Dr. Seuss.
- The comic corrects a significant mistake from the book, in that it actually shows the Queen of the Field-Mice giving the whistle to Dorothy.
- While totally different from how Denslow or Neill portrayed her, Jellia Jamb's retro wave hairstyle works for her.
- I appreciate the different styles of text bubbles for the Wizard's various forms.
- The Cowardly Lion's jumping out of the Wizard's throne room through a closed door is presumably a nod to his leaving through a closed window in the MGM movie.
- While showing the Wicked Witch of the West's castle against a gloomy, cloudy sky works on an atmospheric level, I have to suspect that such would not be optimal conditions for a woman who's afraid of both the dark and rain.
- For that matter, I'm not sure how that castle stays up. It looks awfully rickety.
- I wonder what that green liquid is that the Witch is drinking. Not water, obviously. Mombi also drinks coffee in Lost King, so I'm not sure where the line is drawn as far as what a hydrophobic witch can safely drink.
- Odd that the Tin Woodman's beheading of the wildcat was off-panel, while we actually see a wolf's head being severed from its body.
- That's an interesting assortment of weapons that the Winkies have.
- In the scene of the Witch using the Winged Monkeys to drive off the Wizard, is that a wolf pulling her chariot?
- Young does a good job at portraying the puddle of glop into which the Witch melts.
- Dorothy in the Golden Cap looks sort of Russian.
- Wow, that's a really big moon!
- I'm glad that the illustrations include the story of Gayelette and Quelala, which could easily have been excised with no real effect on the story.
- I like the overhead view of the Emerald City. It looks kind of like a stadium, actually. And there sure are a lot of trees there, aren't there?
- I suppose Toto's role in exposing the Wizard would have been difficult to show in a comic panel, so Young makes it entirely the Lion's doing.
- The Wizard has an awfully large forehead. I guess that means more room for brains. Young also seems to have gone for a sort of cowboy-ish look to the man's clothes, which fits for a guy from Omaha.
- That's an interesting assortment of items that the Wizard uses to reach the bottle of courage, making for a quite cartoony scene.
- While I know he was going for a direct interpretation of the book, I'm surprised Eric left in the bit about nobody seeing the Wizard again, since we know from later books that he did return.
- The Scarecrow overlooking the China Country was a good cliffhanger on which to end the seventh issue.
- The China Country itself looks bigger than I imagined it as being. And a china chihuahua? Has anyone ever seen such a thing? Not that I don't think it's a good drawing. And Young did a particularly good job drawing the pretty princess (who looks pretty busty for a china figurine; maybe she's wearing a porcelain corset) and the cracked clown.
- If the comic series makes it to Ozma, I guess we'll get to see whether Young follows the popular idea that the tiger in the forest is the same as the hungry one.
- Those Hammer-Heads look considerably rockier here than they do in previous depictions.
- Like the Wicked Witch's castle, Glinda's palace appears rather top-heavy. It kind of reminds me of the castles in Captain N, which often seemed to be defying gravity.
- In the second picture of Dorothy's journey with the Silver Shoes, is she crossing an ocean?
Another Oz-related comic that's still in publication is The Oz-Wonderland Chronicles
, by Ben Avery and Casey Heying. This series has a grown-up Dorothy and Alice as college roommates , involved in a plot that ties together Oz, Wonderland, and our own Earth. I've now read all of the regular issues that have been released so far (not counting the Jack and Cat Tales
volumes, but I'll probably get those eventually). The writers are definitely familiar with the books, and the comics include such lesser known Baum creations as the Orks, Quox, General Guph, and Captain Fyter. They also hold to the idea that Dorothy and her aunt and uncle came to Oz to live, but not only have they returned to the United States, but the Wizard, the Shaggy Man, and Cap'n Bill all apparently have as well. Hopefully we'll learn the reason why in a future issue. While there aren't as many stories to work with for Wonderland, there are still plenty of references to Carroll's work, including a song that I believe originally appeared in Sylvie and Bruno
. The art is mostly based on the Neill and Tenniel illustrations, but I did notice some nods to film adaptations, like the Wicked Witch's green skin and the pink and purple Cheshire Cat. Count me in as a fan of this series as well.
 They also have three other roommates, two of whom are strongly hinted to be Wendy Darling (Peter Pan) and Susan Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia). I think the third might be Pollyanna from the Eleanor Porter book of the same name, but that's one I haven't read.