Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Del Rey Oz covers

In 1978, the Del Rey company decided to start reprinting the Oz series as trade paperbacks and market them as science fiction. As part of their re-packaging, new covers were created for the books. These covers were painted by Michael Herring in the super-realistic sci-fi style of the time. A couple years ago I managed to acquire a number of these paintings.

The first cover Herring did, to secure the job, was for Ozma of Oz. For this cover he took a Neill drawing from the book, and translated it into a full scale painting. This was the technique he followed for most of the Baum titles. It is interesting to compare the original Neill drawing, and the painting based upon it. The essentials are the same, but Ozma is now a blonde. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman have more of a resemblance to their MGM counterparts rather than the book characters, and Ozma has been given a greater sense of purpose. She now looks as though she's driving forth to conquer, not simply crossing the desert in her chariot. Also, the magic carpet the characters are using to cross the desert has been given a curve, rather than the severe straight line of the drawing.

Some of the whimsical quality of Neill's original is lost, along with the sun rays bursting as clouds scud across the sky. In the new version, an unobstructed space had to be left for the book title. On the published book cover, the image is cropped - more severely on the right side.

The originals of these cover paintings are very well done, and much larger than the paperback covers for which they were created - Ozma is 22" x 30", and an impressive piece. This is the best series of major Oz paintings that I am aware of extending past the first, and best known, title. Certainly these images are iconic for those reading the Oz series in the 1980's, as this was the most readily available set of the books. I've been unable to find any current information about the artist - there were a few articles in the Baum Bugles of the time period. Any more recent information would be appreciated!


Chandra said...

You have a fantastic blog here! I grew up with the Del Rey editions and, therefore, have a deep nostalgic attachment to them. I still have all of the Baum titles, but only 2 or 3 of the RPT titles. I wasn't even really aware of how many more RPT titles there were! Of course, now I feel compelled complete my Del Rey collection now!

Bill Campbell said...

Thanks! Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote 19 Oz titles for Reilly & Lee, from 1921 to 1939. Del Rey ended up reprinting the first 15 of these, and they're still available from the Random House/Del Rey website as print-on-demand titles. They also turn up pretty frequently on the second-hand market.

Chandra said...

Thanks so much for the information! I do believe I'm going to see what I'm going to do to start collecting these!