Friday, February 28, 2020

Double Your Oz Pleasure

Marvel Comics is bringing their Oz graphic novels back into print in attractive, affordable paperback editions.

Recently released was the first volume, Oz: the Complete Collection, volume 1, which contains the first two graphic novel adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. I wrote the scripts, Skottie Young drew the artwork, Jean-Francois Beaulieu colored, and Jeff Eckleberry lettered. The book includes two complete stories and reproductions of all the original covers, including variants. Skottie Young supplies brand new artwork for the cover of the book, featuring characters from both stories.

The book costs $15.99, which is a bargain for more than 400 pages of comics in full color. Buy it at your local comic store. If you don't already have a regular comic store to shop at, find one at this link to the Comic Shop Locator.

The next four Oz graphic novel adaptations will be issued in two volumes. Two stories in each volume. Same format.

Here's a review of the first volume at this link.

It's been just over ten years since Skottie Young and I worked on these faithful adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. When Chris Allo at Marvel Comics first approached me to write a comics adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I wasn't sure I wanted the job. I worried about what the art would look like. Would Dorothy be given big tits or even guns, as so many other Oz comics have done in the past couple decades?

I was told that Skottie Young was the artist they'd chosen. I'd never heard of him, so I looked up samples of his art on line. It was fine, but I wasn't particularly of the opinion that he was the perfect artist for the project. However, knowing that literary adaptation comics aren't usually popular and disappear fast, I accepted the job, figuring that if the end result were disappointing, not many would notice it. I'd take the paycheck and move on.

Skottie and I talked on the phone. His view of the project sounded reasonable. I told him that I believed the key to the whole project would be his design of Dorothy, since she's the character that the reader must go on the adventure with. If Dorothy wasn't sympathetic in her design, the project wouldn't work. Skottie understood my view and basically agreed.

The first art sample I saw from him was a sketch of Dorothy and Toto. I knew when I saw it that a major hurdle was behind us. Skottie's design of Dorothy was spot on for the character, a young girl of the American plains in the late 19th century. She didn't look like Denslow's Dorothy, not like Neill's Dorothy, not like MGM's Dorothy. She was Skottie's Dorothy and she was just right.

I had the entire script written before I saw any of Skottie's comics pages. I didn't want any disappointing art to dampen my momentum for adapting the book. But Skottie's pages worked well. They pulled the reader into the story and they were attractive. They had heart. I wondered how much push-back there might be from Oz fans, since the look was different from any Oz anyone had seen before. But I wasn't overly concerned. The project was starting to seem like it might be a gem, even if it probably wouldn't get much attention.

When I saw Skottie's artwork for the episode where Dorothy and her companions cross the river on the raft, I finally recognized that Skottie's art was golden. The first issue hadn't been published yet and I still figured that the project wouldn't be seen very widely, but I knew for myself that it was beautiful.

The first issue finally came out in late 2008. It was a smash sell-out. I was thrilled, not only for myself, but for L. Frank Baum and for Skottie Young, too. I credit Skottie's art with the lion's share of why the project was such a success.

Marvel had approached Skottie about drawing the project three times before he accepted. Like me, he assumed a comics adaptation of a literary property would be largely ignored. He wasn't interested in spending time on a project no one would care about. Finally he gave in and drew the thing. These days, he's glad he did. He credits the Oz project with making his comics career.

Copyright © 2020 Eric Shanower. All rights reserved.