The Wonderful Artist of Oz: Skottie Young Talks "Return"

Newsarama had occasion to speak with both Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, the writer-artist combo of Marvel Comics' highly-praised The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As announced this weekend, the pair are reuniting for another tour of the fabled place in The Marvelous Land of Oz, an adaptation of the next book in the cycle. We asked Skottie Young about his background with, such as we did with Eric, then we branched out and talked about how the artistic process on the this kind of project works, particularly when your partner is so schooled in the lore of L. Frank Baum.

Newsarama: Skottie, going back before your previous Oz book, what was your initial exposure to Oz? Did it come from the film or from the books themselves? And how did you react to the story at the time?

Skottie Young: Mine was a little of both. I read the first few books when I was younger and saw the movie 6 trillion times. I was drawn to the story of Oz in the same way I was drawn to the Labyrinth or Neverending Story. These were tales of wonder and excitement and they were very inspiring to me, as a young artist.

NRAMA: From that initial exposure and the subsequent portrayals of Oz in pop culture, did that make it more difficult for you to form your own vision of what Oz should be?

SY: Initially it was. I just took me a few weeks of scribbling to get my mind out of what I had seen before. After that it's been pure fun.

NRAMA: Every writer/artist team has a different version of the collaborative process; how does it work with the two of you?

SY: The nature of how this project came together made this very different. I was working on New X-Men and was offered this job next. Then they roped in Eric and he started writing while I was working on X-men. I started designing Oz when I was finished and by the time I was reading to start drawing issue 1, Eric was done with all 8. [Laughs.] From there it would be me emailing for small details of the world, as Eric is the scholar of Oz.

NRAMA: You're frequently praised for the "fresh" nature of your style, and you've adopted a different look and feel for your Oz work overall. Can you explain a bit of your approach and how you go about interpreting characters that people believe that they "know" so well from other incarnations?

SY: It all comes down to shape for me. I find out as much about a character as possible and then search for shapes that will help sell that character. The lion is a coward, but we all know the look of a lion to be fierce, regal. I ended up giving his head and hair a more round, plush look to let you know in one glance that he's soft and timid. No hard angles, just big swooping lines. I used this mindset for all the characters. Sometimes a bit of the movie would creep in and I'd do my best to seek it out and change it.

NRAMA: It's fair to say that you've done a substantial amount of super-hero work, while Eric has quite the history with Oz. How do those elements, if ever, come into play in your collaboration? Does working with a writer that's also an artist present unique challenges, or is it easier? How so?

SY: It's great. Eric is a great artist and knows what works on both ends. He's made my job so easy and fun. I haven't had this much fun in years.

NRAMA: What's the best part of drawing a totally fanciful type of environment? Is there a particular moment or experience with the art that rises above the others in your mind?

SY: The freedom to say "nothing is wrong here". There are no rules or boundaries. I'm creating Baum's world of Oz as I see it. No New York to reference, not perspective on a car to get right. It's all fun and make believe. For me, the entire project has risen above my expectations. It really has been a joy from top to bottom. From Eric to Ralph, Nate and all the editors on down the line to Marketing and production. Everyone has made this a great artistic experience for me.

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