It’s time for another trip back to Oz as Eric Shanower and Skottie Young continue their award-winning adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s original novels with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz from Marvel, which hits stores next week. We spoke with Shanower and Young about this latest tale, which reunites Dorothy with the Wizard when both are hurled into an underground kingdom with new friends – and deadly foes. It’s one of the strangest and most controversial Oz stories – and we have the creators here to tell you all about it, along with an exclusive preview of next week’s first issue!Newsarama: Eric, tell us about the story of this new volume, and what it represents to the Oz canon.
Eric Shanower: Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz takes readers on a weird underground journey through one fantasy land after another. The constant threat of death gets a little intense at times, and frankly, the book ends sort of in a minor key. But among the thrills along the way are plenty of wonders, laughs, and fascinating new characters.
The major, canon-influencing event in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is the Wizard’s permanent return to Oz. From this point on the Wizard will embody the combination of American homespun inventiveness with real magic, which is an underlying theme of Baum’s Oz books and a major innovation that sets them apart from most other fantasy.
Nrama: Were there any plans to include the full title of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz: A Faithful Record of Their Amazing Adventures in an Underground World; and How with the Aid of Their Friends Zeb Hugson, Eureka the Kitten, and Jim the Cab-Horse, They Finally Reached the Wonderful Land of Oz, or would that logo have proved unwieldy?
Shanower: Now you’re being silly.
Nrama: Tell us a little about the historical context of this story and its relationship to a real-world earthquake, and how you feel this event is echoed in the narrative, consciously or otherwise.Shanower: The book Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz was first published in 1908, so L. Frank Baum would have written it more or less within the previous year previous. The great San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire were in 1906.
The effects of this disaster were so devastating that everyone was aware of it—just like Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina. It’s still a landmark disaster in US history. Baum certainly knew of it and used details of it in the book.
The text clearly indicates the correct time of the earthquake—just after 5 in the morning, and of course, Dorothy is traveling near San Francisco. Clearly Baum had the San Francisco earthquake in mind when he wrote the story.
Other details of Baum’s don’t match the reality of the quake—in reality it was relatively localized but in the book Dorothy is miles away from San Francisco, in reality there weren’t really foreshocks but in the book the foreshocks go on for hours. Because Baum got these details wrong, some Oz scholars have argued that the quake in the book can’t be the San Francisco quake.
But I think that’s an unfortunate adherence to the minutiae of Baum’s words while abandoning their spirit. Baum doesn’t name the earthquake that he describes in the book, but there’s no question in my mind that his intent was for readers to think of it as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Nrama: Skottie, what have been the biggest challenges so far in crafting a story with more real-world historical influence?Skottie Young: Well, I haven't hit too many challenges yet as I'm just now getting started. I only finished Ozma of Oz a few weeks ago.(Newsarama Note: This interview was done a while back)
But I've never been one to let anything "real world" keep me very grounded. I'll always find a way to put a fantastical twist on things.
Nrama: Eric, tell us about some of the new characters in this story, including which are your favorites.
Shanower: New characters include Dorothy’s cousin Zeb, a California farm boy a year or two older than Dorothy. What I like best about Zeb is the contrast he provides to Dorothy. While she is pretty accepting of all the strange, unbelievable, and dangerous situations they have to contend with, Zeb is mostly just freaked out.
Jim is Zeb’s horse. Jim used to pull a cab in Chicago, but now he’s old and worn out. Mostly he just wants to be left alone, but he can be counted on in a pinch. Jim starts out really likeable, but he ends up not really fitting into the Land of Oz.
Eureka, Dorothy’s kitten, doesn’t have a very good time in the Land of Oz either, but she’s sassy and sarcastic and a joy to spend some reading time with. Eureka is probably my favorite of the new characters.
The Nine Tiny Piglets are pets of the Wizard. He uses them in his magic act.The villains introduced in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz are among Baum’s scariest. The Mangaboos, the underground vegetable people, are just creepy. The man-eating invisible bears are terrifying because you can’t tell whether one’s standing next to you ready to slash your guts out at any moment. The silent wooden Gargoyles are so alien—I can’t wait to see how Skottie draws them.
Nrama: This is known as one of the darker Oz books, and also one with a few continuity issues from the previous volumes. While I know you're very dedicated to Baum's original intent, are you taking any steps to bring the story more in line with the other volumes, specifically with regard to the Wizard's giving Ozma to Mombi, etc.?
Shanower: To say that Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is one of the darkest Oz books is no joke. The characters are in danger of imminent death in nearly every chapter. Baum’s evocation of the underground caverns they’re trapped in is oppressive. It’s weird and creepy, and those are reasons I love this book.
As far as continuity issues in these comic book versions of Baum’s stories, yes, I try to smooth over the continuity gaffes. Volumes have been written trying to reconcile and integrate all the contradictions, and I certainly have all that background in mind.Nrama: When you view Oz as part of a wider series of books, as opposed to just the characters and situations from the Judy Garland movie, what would you say is the biggest difference or surprise for readers?
Young: That there are so many layers to the Land of Oz. It's a fully realized world that seemingly goes on and on.
Shanower: The biggest difference to me between the Judy Garland movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz and Baum’s Oz books is that the movie embraces sentimentality so strongly and Baum rarely—if ever—becomes sentimental.
These two approaches are, of course, products of their times. And I think they are both strengths of each particular work. The movie without Judy Garland’s heart on her sleeve would probably be far less enjoyable. But Baum’s straightforward, no-nonsense directness is delightful to read and a value to emulate in real life.
Nrama: What's proven uniquely challenging about adapting this book?Shanower: The main challenge of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is the scene where Ozma rescues Dorothy and her friends. I don’t want to give anything away to those who don’t know the story. But this point is a major disappointment to a lot of readers, and I’m trying to finesse it so it works better in the story.
In this book and in several of the other Oz books Baum has actually supplied me with the details to make it work better, so I’m taking advantage of that. I admit, however, that while previous Marvel Oz comics were steadfastly true to Baum’s texts, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz will depart slightly from that practice because I’m trying to solve this plot problem that Baum left me with.
Young: The most interesting challenge for me is trying to keep that energy that we had we started but finding new ways to get fans, Eric, and myself excited. This will be my fourth year illustrating Oz books, and when you get that comfortable it's easy to start resting on what you've done already. It's good to remind myself to push to new places, keep experimenting and trying to surprise everyone.
Nrama: If you were a vegetable person, what kind of vegetable would you be? I'd be an eggplant.
Young: Red pepper.Nrama: What's next for you?
Shanower: More Age of Bronze, my Image comic book series about the Trojan War. I’m currently dealing with the climax of the Troilus and Cressida episode.
I’m still in the middle of scripting Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, but as soon as that’s done, I’ll be on to the next Oz book, The Road to Oz.
Young:: More Oz books on the art front. You'll also start seeing more writing from me this year. I've got a Spidey story coming in September that's a part of all that fun Spider Island comic booking going on. And I'm at the beginning of a four issue mini-series that will be announced when we get a little further into. I'm very excited to see what other artists do with my ideas. It's going to be fun.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Shanower: Thank you, all you readers who have made the Marvel Oz series a success. I’m so glad to be bringing the Oz stories to a new audience and I think the rest of the team-members on this project are terrific.
Head underground with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz on Sept.28.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!