Archive for Wizard of Oz

Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1 (2014) by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , on February 16, 2017 by Paxton

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A week or two ago I reviewed Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It’s the first in a series of books that take place several years after the original Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum.  It reimagines Oz as a place in serious peril where Dorothy has returned but she’s changed.  She’s become obsessed with magic and has essentially usurped Ozma as the ruler and with the help of Glinda starts literally strip mining Oz for magic.  It’s an interesting enough premise and the author really digs in and reuses characters from the books in very interesting ways that made me want to continue the journey into this Oz.

Aside from the main books in the series, Paige has written a series of novellas that act as prequels to the books.  I went to my local library and I found the very first collection of novellas called Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1.

DMD Stories 1

This book contains the first three prequel novellas; No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns.  I didn’t really know anything other than the titles going into these but I was intrigued. Mostly by The Wizard Returns since that character is very cagey in Dorothy Must Die so I was very interested to hear how The Wizard got back to this particular Oz and what his agenda may be.

No Place Like Oz
The first novella, No Place Like Oz, is very Dorothy-centric.  It’s also the longest one by about 100 pages.  It picks up with Dorothy a few years after her original return to Kansas from Oz.  It’s her sixteenth birthday party.  We see that Dorothy is sort of unhappy as many people think she’s crazy with her ramblings about a fairy magic land with talking lions and people made of tin.  Even some of her friends don’t believe her.  Plus, Dorothy is finding out that life on the farm in rural Kansas is not as exciting as it was in Oz.  Once you’ve encountered magic, nothing else can really live up to it.  So we see this Dorothy, who’s become a little bitter because no one believes her about Oz, even her friends.  Plus she sort of enjoyed the fame that her disappearance caused in Kansas and once that started to fade she began resenting her life there.  After her birthday party ends embarrassingly bad, Dorothy shuts herself up into her room and opens a mysterious gift to find a pair of red, high heeled ruby shoes.  She puts them on, clicks them together just as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry walk into her room and transports all three of them to Oz.

This is the gist of the story.  Dorothy is back in Oz, this time with Em and Henry. She meets Ozma and reunites with her old friends.  And being back in Oz, instead of making her happier, starts to enhance some of her feelings.  You see her obsession with magic really take hold.  It’s a really good story.  I feel like Paige made the reason that Dorothy sort of turns bad believable.  It’s not a 180 with no explanation.  It makes a bit of sense.  And you get to see the setup for Dorothy as we find her in Dorothy Must Die.

The Witch Must Burn
The next story, The Witch Must Burn, is told from the point of view of Jellia Jamb, the head house maid in the Emerald City.  She plays a fairly big (and ultimately important) part in Dorothy Must Die.  And Jellia’s story here is really a vessel to tell the story of Glinda and her possible future plans for Oz.  You also get to see a bit of just how horrible Dorothy has become, but it all leads to Glinda “borrowing” Jellia from Dorothy and what happens to Jellia because of this.  I was not expecting this story but it was a good read.

The Wizard Returns
Like I said, the third and final story is really the one I was most interested in.  The Wizard Returns starts off with the Wizard leaving Dorothy at the end of the original Wizard of Oz.  The hot air balloon he’s in crashes and we see him land in the very same poppy field that Dorothy was trapped in.  Fast forward twenty five years and The Wizard is awoken and he has no memory of himself or his past actions.  This particular story started off a bit slow, but the back half really saved it.  You still don’t really 100% know The Wizard’s agenda by the end, but you know what happened to him before the events in Dorothy Must Die.

All three of these stories are honestly good and do a great job of setting up the world we see in Dorothy Must Die.  However, I thought my favorite story was going to be The Wizard Returns, but honestly, I think it turns out being No Place Like Oz.  I’m glad I read this collection.  There is another set of prequel novellas that take place after this.  They are about Dorothy’s friends; Heart of Tin, The Straw King and Ruler of Beasts.  However, I’ll probably get the full sequel novel The Wicked Will Rise and read it before delving back into these prequel novellas.

I guess the ultimate question with these prequel novellas is, should you read them before or after you’ve read Dorothy Must Die.  It could go either way but I’d recommend reading them after DMD.  They fill in the world of the books and I feel like you may want the basis of the full novel first before the novellas.  But I think if you did the prequels first and then DMD, it would honestly still work.

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I return to an alternate Oz with Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , on February 3, 2017 by Paxton

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From time to time I’ll read stuff that isn’t part of the established “Oz canon”, but is directly inspired by Baum’s Oz works or it takes Oz and re-interprets it in an alternate way. The 1985 movie Return to Oz would be an example of this.  Or Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series.  Whenever I read this stuff I’ll try to throw a review up to add to my ever growing Oz review archives.

Recently, after watching Return to Oz for the Cult Film Club podcast and reading its novelization, I decided I was ready to try another “alternate Oz” story so I pulled the trigger on a book I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about; Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

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I wasn’t for sure what to expect from this book when I started to read. Was it a reboot of Wizard of Oz? A sequel? A sidequel? I had no clue.  So I loaded it on my iPad and hoped for the best.

It starts off a little slow.  Amy lives in Kansas.  Her father left her and her mom.  The mom has become an addict.  Life is not good.  And we sort of get beat over the head with this for the first 75-80 pages.  Amy’s life sucks.  I get it.  This early building of character angst for Amy is sort of tiring and why I no longer read as many YA books as I used to.  That being said, the fun begins when the freak tornado hits and Amy wakes up in Oz.

What this book turns out to be is a sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  I’d like to definitively say it’s a sequel to the book or the movie, but, like Return to Oz, they sort of hedge their bets and use iconography from both.  Mainly, of course, it’s the damn slippers.  But Paige is a little bit more ambiguous about the slippers.  She mentions that Dorothy wore silver slippers, however there are statues in Munchkinland featuring Dorothy in ruby slippers and when we finally meet her, Dorothy is wearing ruby slippers.  She never takes them off actually.  But it’s honestly a minor thing, there’s a lot more going on than the slippers.

The biggest strength of this book’s story is the world building.  The events in this book seem to take place many years after the original Oz book/movie.  From context clues in the story it seems like events in the first two Baum Oz books (Wizard of Oz, Marvelous Land of Oz) happen as normal.  It’s Dorothy’s return in the third book (Ozma of Oz) that events seem to “take a turn”.  Many years before the events in this book, Dorothy returned to Oz from Kansas and Ozma made her a princess.  Those events basically happened in the Baum books, but over the years Dorothy sort of becomes obsessed with magic.  This obsession changes Dorothy’s behavior.  It makes her more erratic.  And with this change, her closes friends, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and the Lion sort of change with her.  Dorothy supplants Ozma as the ruler of Oz and conscripts Glinda to enslave the Munchkins to start mining Oz for magic.  Oz’s magic lies deep within its land so everyone is busy strip mining Oz and hoarding magic for Dorothy.  And like I said, Dorothy’s friends sort of follow her lead. Scarecrow becomes obsessed with getting smarter.  He starts experimenting on Oz citizens like a mad scientist.  Studying their brains and creating weird monster hybrids. The Tin Man is in love with Dorothy and becomes the captain of her guard.  The Lion goes savage and starts just indiscriminately eating people and drinking in their fear.  It’s a very interesting idea that the gifts bestowed upon Dorothy’s friends (brains, heart, courage) are the very thing that are driving them mad.  It can be dark and frightening, but I’m enjoying the world that Paige is building up.

Wanted: Dorothy

So Amy shows up in the middle of all of this.  We slowly learn all the backstory stuff I just talked about.  Amy is put in a dungeon by Dorothy but is saved by The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.  The Order is a group of the witches of Oz that have banned together to stop Dorothy’s tyrannical rule.  They include Gert, the former Good Witch of the North. Glamora, the twin sister of Glinda.  And Mombi, the witch that originally secretly held Ozma in captivity from that second Oz book.  The Order trains Amy to go undercover in Dorothy’s court in the Emerald City in order to get close to her and hopefully assassinate her and allow Oz to once again be free.

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Review of Oz Book 15: The Royal Book of Oz (1921)

Posted in books, Classic literature, movies, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , , , on September 5, 2013 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

L Frank Baum died in May 1919. Baum’s final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, wouldn’t be published until 1 year later in 1920. With Baum now gone, Reilly & Lee, decided to continue the Oz series with a new author. They selected Ruth Plumly Thompson to write the fifteenth book in the series. John Neill would return to illustrate the book as he had the previous thirteen books. However, Baum would get author credit on the cover and not Thompson.

Royal Book of Oz

It has been said that this book was written off the final Oz notes Baum left in his typewriter after he died.  It has never been proven without a doubt that Baum even left final Oz notes.  Regardless, it is pretty much a given that this book is all Thompson.  Thompson trying a bit to write in the style of Baum, but still 100% Ruth Plumly Thompson.  I really love Neill’s cover for this book.

The story itself is interesting.  HM Wogglebug, TE gets the idea that he is going to chronicle the royal lines of Oz in a book called, of course, The Royal Book of Oz.  While pitching the idea to Ozma, Wogglebug insults Scarecrow (former ruler of Oz and current Emperor of the Winkies)  by saying he wasn’t born from a royal family and, in fact, has no ancestry.  It is interesting to note that this is the first time that we see outright annoyance and dislike towards HM Wogglebug.  In earlier books, characters would imply that he’s tiring to listen to, but nothing outright.  In this book, the characters effectively come right out and say, “We don’t f**king like you.  Go away.”  Especially after he insults the Scarecrow.

So the Scarecrow runs away from the Emerald City back to the pole on the farm Dorothy found him.  He slips down the pole to the Silver Islands that exist way below Oz (and far enough down to not be considered a part of Oz).

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Scarecrow tumbles down the bean pole to the Silver Islands

We learn the background of the Scarecrow and how he is the vessel for the spirit of the leader of the Silver Islanders.  We meet his family and learn how he came to be on the pole when Dorothy found him.  However, as these things tend to do, events turn sour and Scarecrow is trapped in Silver Islands and Dorothy and company must set out to find him.  And we learn other cool things like Oz characters CAN die if they are taken out of Oz.  It’s Oz’s magical fairyland properties that are keeping its citizens effectively immortal.  And we get to meet Sir Hokus of Pokes, an elderly, valiant, well-meaning knight who would show up in three more Thompson Oz books (one with the character center stage) and one of John Neill’s books.

Like I said, on the surface, I like this plot.  I like learning back story to a main character.  We see a similar back story for the Tin Man in The Tin Woodman of Oz.  However, and I hate to say this, but the entire endeavor feels hollow.  It feels like Thompson is mimicing Baum’s style but can’t replicate his heart.  There is so much sincere, heartfelt innocence and imagination in Baum’s books, you can’t help but love them.  This book felt like a shallow copy.  Thompson used less of the puns and clever dialogue Baum was known for while simultaneously using multiple plot threads that Baum rarely used.  So I guess, in a way, she didn’t really follow Baum’s style at all.

Overall, I was just bored with this book.  I wasn’t engaged in the story and for the last half just wished it was over.  This is the first time that has happened in my reading of the Oz books.  There were one or two Baum books I didn’t fully enjoy, but I was never bored or wished it to end.  So, no, I can’t really recommend this.  However, John Neill’s artwork is again the centerpiece.  Truly great illustrations.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envy anyone following in Baum’s footsteps.  And this was Thompson’s first effort.  Thompson eventually wrote 18 more books after this so I assume she gets better the further she moves out of Baum’s shadow.  Looking at the list of her books, a few of them do look interesting; The Cowardly Lion of Oz, The Yellow Knight of Oz and maybe Pirates in Oz,  We’ll see how many I actually get to.

Spending my kid’s college tuition on Hake’s Auction #209

Posted in Batman, comic books, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, Superman, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2013 by Paxton

LEB This week’s assignment for The League is to browse Hake’s Auction #209 and find all the cool stuff we’d buy if we were rolling in dough like P-Diddy. So I spent my fair share of time at work this week perusing the enormous auction catalog and came up with some stuff that I would like to buy.  Assuming, of course, that money is no object.

hakes_star_wars There were several awesome Star Wars items I found interesting. Firstly, the C3POs cereal lot featuring a full size C3PO standee and three box flats. I have always had a fascination with this particular cereal and the ephemera it created. These are particularly good examples of that. The seven Star Wars Coca-Cola promotional posters are also pretty awesome. Four of them are from Burger Chef/Burger King giveaways in 1977 and feature Del Nichols artwork. Three of them feature Boris Vallejo artwork and were to promote the release of Empire Strikes Back. Finally, I am in wet, sloppy love with the full size Return of the Jedi Burger King glasses Darth Vader standee (1983).

There were lots of comic book and super hero related items that I want. Tops on that list would probably be The Great Comic Book Heroes book from 1965. hakes_great_comic_heroes_book It’s signed by several comic luminaries like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Shelly Moldoff and Will Eisner. Yes, the creators of both Superman AND Batman signed this thing. Plus, I’ve looked at this book before and it’s pretty awesome.

hakes_superman_items

Speaking of Superman and Batman, I found several items featuring those heroes that rock my Casbah. The boxed Mego Superman doll from 1977 is particularly awesome because I’m kind of in love with the packaging art. And the art on the 1954 Superman metal lunchbox is pretty close to melting my eyeballs out of my head and that’s only the picture. And these Mego Comic Action Heroes figures from 1975 (in package!) are also incredible. And speaking of incredible, check out the awesomely weird and bizarre cover to issue #33 of the comic World’s Finest. Why the hell is Superman spinning Batman and Robin in the air WITH HIS FEET?!  I love the Golden Age. I also would buy Flash #147 featuring the second appearance of Reverse Flash with a great cover homage to Flash #123.  I actually already own Reverse Flash’s first appearance in Flash #139.  And what will I put all of these comics in when I own them?  That’s right, my very own g***amn comic spinner rack from the late 70s.  I’ve wanted one of those retail spinner racks ever since I started collecting comics in the early 80s. Continue reading

Review of the TV movie The Dreamer of Oz (1990)

Posted in movies, pop culture, TV shows, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2013 by Paxton

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I’m going to continue with my reviews of all things Oz with a TV movie that NBC aired in 1990 called The Dreamer of Oz.

Dreamer_of_Oz_title

The movie was a fictionalized biography of the adult life of L Frank Baum and how he was inspired to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I remember watching much of this when it originally aired.  My family had no desire to watch it so I was vetoed during commercials and had to switch back and forth, sometimes missing chunks of the story.  However, I remember it fondly and I wanted to revisit it for my Oz series.

In the movie, L Frank Baum was played by John Ritter.

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Baum’s wife, Maud, was played by Annette O’Toole. Maud’s mother, Mathilda Gage, was played by Rue McClanahan.

doo_annette1 doo_rue1

Also of note, Ritter’s real life son, Jason, played one of his sons in the movie which I thought was a nice touch.

The movie is actually book ended by scenes at Grauman’s Chinese Theater (aka, TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood) in 1939 during the world premier of the MGM musical version of The Wizard of Oz. A reporter takes an elderly Maud Baum aside and asks her about her husband Frank and how he came to write the book.

The rest of the story is told in flashback and begins about the time Maud meets Frank during a party thrown by one of Frank’s sisters. We see the courtship of the couple and the many lean years in which Frank tries to do different jobs and make ends meet. We see him start to tell his children and the children of the neighborhood pieces of a larger story about what he calls “The Magical Land”. The ideas are developed over the years and we see some of the inspirations for characters along the way. Eventually Baum meets WW Denslow while writing the book Father Goose which would go on to be a big hit. Baum gambles the royalties of that book to sell what is now called “The Land of Oz” book. And, obviously, it hits. Big time.

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Continuing my journey down the yellow brick road…

Posted in books, Classic literature, movies, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

On January 31, 2012, I made a resolution to read all of the original L Frank Baum Oz books in 2012. I completed that goal on Dec 20, 2012, just under ten months later.  You can visit my Oz Archive to see the reviews of all 14 of those books.

Oz checklist

It was a fun ride and I’m really glad I finally did it.  I have such an affection for the original movie, which led me to read the original book and even through reading these 14 books, I have kept that love.  The books were mostly good.  Yes, there was some bad, but nothing was just terrible.   I would have thought that by the end of this challenge I would be a little “Oz’d out” if you know what I mean.  But, honestly, it’s just kindled that flame a little bit more.  I think I don’t want this column to end.

While I don’t plan on making another year long resolution, I do plan on reading more Oz and L Frank Baum books.  After Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson took over Oz for another 19 books.  Will I read all of those?  Maybe.  Eventually.  But not next year.  There are also other movies like 1974’s Journey Back to Oz and the upcoming Oz the Great and Powerful which will be released in March 2013.  I will continue to consume this media and review them under this banner.  I’ll even continue to read some of Baum’s other non-Oz writings like The Sea Fairies, Dot and Tot in Merryland and Father Goose: His Book.

I just have enjoyed myself so much experiencing this challenge that I want to keep it going.  And I plan to.

Thank you for experiencing it along with me.  Stay tuned for more to come.

Review of Oz Book 14: Glinda of Oz (1920)

Posted in books, Classic literature, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

L Frank Baum’s fourteenth and final Oz book was published the year after his death in 1920. It was called Glinda of Oz.

Glinda of Oz

It has been said that Baum only barely finished the manuscript for this book before his death. I’ve also read where he didn’t finish it and either an editor at Reilly & Lee or one of his daughters finished the book. It is unclear which is the truth. But the majority of the book was indeed written by Baum before he died. The very next book, The Royal Book of Oz, was actually originally credited solely to Baum with the publishers saying it was written from Baum’s final notes. However, this isn’t true, The Royal Book of Oz is entirely a story written by Ruth Plumly-Thompson and this book was Baum’s last.

In this story, illustrated again by John Neill, Ozma and Dorothy travel to some of the outlying lands of Oz to settle a dispute between two peoples, the Skeezers and the Flatheads.  Both people are set to go to war and Ozma wishes to stop it before it gets to that point.  However, Ozma and Dorothy are trapped by the Skeezer queen in her glass covered city which is magically submerged under the lake on which it previously sat.  A group of Oz’s greatest citizens band together to figure out how to raise the city and save Ozma, Dorothy and the other trapped Skeezer people.

There are parts of this story that are pretty good, and there are parts that aren’t very good.  One of the things that seemed completely ridiculous were the amount of people that traveled to help Ozma and Dorothy in the end.  There were like 20 people traveling over land to try to raise the submerged city.  The only people that absolutely needed to go were Glinda and The Wizard.  That’s it.  They are the only two people in Oz who can legally work magic and since the city is, you know, magically submerged, they are the most logical ones to go.  Woggle Bug didn’t need to go.  What the hell was he going to do?  And Shaggy Man?  Was he going to use the Love Magnet to make the city love him so much that it raises above the lake’s surface?  Absurd.  The whole of the Oz council went.  Jack Pumkinhead was there for some reason.  Why did all of these people need to go?  They didn’t.  Glinda and The Wizard wound up needing help from three other ancient wizards to fix the entire mess anyway.  Just seemed a little excessive to me.  Like using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.

Glinda of Oz art
(Via My Delineated Life)

While I only kind of liked the book, it’s a bittersweet ending knowing that this is the final Baum Oz book.  After this Ruth Plumly-Thompson writes like 19 or 20 books in a row.  All illustrated by John Neill.  So while this isn’t the best of the books, it’s still an okay read.  I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire series.  I hate to see it end.  But, it doesn’t have to end there.  There are still some other Oz goodies I can read/watch/review.  I may even start delving into Plumly-Thompson’s archive.  I honestly would love to read John Neill’s three Oz books that he wrote and illustrated, but they are long out of print.

Below is my checklist of Oz books.  I’ve crossed off all of the books.  I was able to finish all 14 of the original L Frank Baum Oz books in 2012, which concludes the challenge I set for myself and started back in February 2012 with the very first Oz book.

Oz books checklist