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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Oz Comics

From August 1904 to February 1905, Baum authored an Oz comic page. This was titled Queer Visitors from the Land of Oz, and was drawn by Walt McDougall, one of the earliest comic strip artists. I was fortunate to purchase a nearly complete run of the strip off of eBay several years ago. I'm still missing 4 episodes - but I'll track them down someday.

The stories dealt with Oz characters visiting the United States and the seeming strangeness of this non-magical land. Toward the end of the run, the stories turned into more of Baum's American fairy tales rather than anythng particularly Ozzy.

A gimmick which ran with the early episodes of the strip was the What did the Wogglebug Say? contest. Each strip ended with a question, and readers could mail in an answer to win prizes. Two pinback buttons were distributed to advertise the contest - I've pictured both.

Denslow also did his own Scarecrow and Tinman comic page during the same time period. This followed the two main characters through various locales. Unfortunately, I don't have any of those pages!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Bookplate

A few days ago I mentioned another bookplate drawing by John R. Neill in my collection. This one is again from 1906, and bears a striking resemblance to work Neill did that year for John Dough and the Cherub, another book by L. Frank Baum. Pictured below is a first edition of the book.

This fellow looks like he could belong to the Brotherhood of Failings, or perhaps be a relative of the Kinglet. I've included a couple illustrations from the book to show the resemblance.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pumpkin Men

When L. Frank Baum wrote The Marvelous Land of Oz, he introduced Jack Pumpkinhead, who became an ongoing character in the Oz community. On the right is an image of Jack by John R. Neill, from the rear cover of a first edition of the book.

Interestingly, in 1904, the year Land was published, W. W. Denslow also published a book with a pumpkin man as a major character. The Pearl and the Pumpkin was written by Denslow and Paul West, with hopes of creating a musical extravaganza. Denslow and Baum had parted ways by this time, but one can't help wondering if the two of them had discussed the possibilities of such a character earlier, during their working relationship.

I have a drawing from The Pearl and the Pumpkin, not of the pumpkin man but of another character called the Corn Dodger. He's a corn man - close enough. The printed book illustration added a second color, a fairly common practice in books of the time. Most of Denslow's books had color added by the printer, under Denslow's supervision. The actual drawings were black & white. This is also true of most of the color plates drawn by John R. Neill for the Oz books. Only Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz had color plates printed from actual watercolors by the artist.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

John R. Neill

W. W. Denslow illustrated the first Oz book, but John R. Neill became the official Oz illustrator. Starting with The Marvelous Land of Oz in 1904, he would go on to illustrate 35 Oz books, including 3 he wrote himself, as well as the 6 book Little Wizard series. At the time of his death in 1943, he had a fourth Oz title written, which was finally published in 1995.

Above is a first edition of The Marvelous Land of Oz. Considering the amount of Oz artwork Neill created, very little survives today. I'm aware of some pieces from Marvelous Land, in particular some of the color plate drawings. Artwork also survives from later Oz books, but again, it is a small proportion of what was originally created.

The earliest piece of Neill art that I have is from 1906, and is a bookplate drawing. I have two of these, and know of a third which I believe belongs to the Oz club. They are all signed COPYRIGHT 1906 BY J. R. NEILL, but I don't know what they were created for. I think the fact that each has a copyright notice points toward the idea of them being published to be used as bookplates, rather than being drawn for particular books, since Neill didn't generally put copyright notices on his drawings. In the image I'm showing, the two children could easily be Dorothy and Button Bright. Neill didn't draw Dorothy until the following year, 1907, in Ozma of Oz, and Button Bright doesn't appear until 1909 in Road to Oz. Still, it's fun to think of these two as precursors to the more famous characters.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The MGM Wizard

The 1939 MGM film of The Wizard of Oz has had a profound influence on American pop culture. There are few people who have not seen the movie at one time or another, and even they can usually quote some of the more famous lines. I did have a friend who was quite proud of the fact that he had never seen the movie, but I think that was the result of a lot of determination.

The number of collectible items spawned by the film are almost uncountable, and I don't make an effort to collect film related pieces. Above, I have a set of Wizard of Oz Paper Par-T Masks from 1939. A similar set of masks was released by Gillette the same year for Walt Disney's Pinocchio, although that movie didn't open until 1940.

I don't have a clear recollection, but The Wizard of Oz movie must be what inspired me to read the Oz books in the first place. I know I watched it on TV every year for as far back as I can remember - early on, we used to visit an Aunt & Uncle for the big night, as they had a color television set. Much more impressive than watching it on our small black & white!

In 1975, Marvel comics created an oversized comic book of the film. Below is the artwork for a page of that comic. This was followed by an adaptation of The Land of Oz, but the series faltered and plans for a third comic adaptation were dropped.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Denslow

I don't have any Denslow artwork from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but I do have a piece done for another Baum/Denslow book, Father Goose, His Book. This was L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow's first success, published in 1899, and was a milestone in American picture books. It was the best selling children's book of 1899, and spawned a number of imitations.

The pages of Father Goose are basically a series of posters drawn by Denslow, who had already achieved recognition as a poster artist. To eliminate typesetting, and save money, the verses were hand lettered and dropped in during the printing process.

What I find interesting with the piece of artwork I own, is that the drawing looks to me as though it were drawn with the intention of printing it as it stands - the arrangement of animals, and the header of the moon (or sun) look very deliberate. Yet, in the printed book, the animals are re-arranged over 2 pages, and the moon is used for another poem altogether.

It's also interesting to note that these are the same four animals that figure in The Bremen Town Musicians by the Brothers Grimm.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The International Wizard of Oz Club

In my last post I mention IWOC - I'd be remiss not to talk about the International Wizard of Oz Club in a discussion of Oz. Created in 1957, IWOC has helped foster Oz collecting and the study of all things Oz for 50 years. The club is a volunteer organization with a periodical (The Baum Bugle), and various conventions around the country. As a budding Oz book collector, the essential information needed can be found in Bibliographia Oziana, published by the club. If you have a true interest in tracking down first editions/printings/states of the Oz books, you need this guide. The publishing intricacies of the Oz books take some sorting out, and it's easy to make mistakes through ignorance. The club website can be found at www.ozclub.org

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

W. W. Denslow

Unfortunately, the image at the top of this page is not a real Denslow drawing. William Wallace Denslow illustrated The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and created the visuals for the memorable characters created by L. Frank Baum. When the book was first published in 1900, Denslow's illustrations received as much praise as the story itself. Much of the original artwork for the book is in the collection of the New York Public Library, although there are lucky collectors out there who have original pieces from the book.

The closest I've come was an illustration offered on eBay years ago, created by Denslow for the Father Goose Song Folios, from 1900. An image of Dorothy and Toto was part of this drawing, which unfortunately I didn't win. The drawing was created for a poster, which was reprinted on the rear cover of the 1968 Baum Bugle, published by The International Wizard of Oz Club, also known as IWOC.

The piece I'm showing at the top of my blog was created by Dick Martin for the 1964 Reilly & Lee edition of The Wizard of Oz. It is a re-drawing of the endpaper design created by Denslow for the 1903 Bobbs Merrill edition which was called The New Wizard of Oz. (The bibliographic details of the Oz books are quite complicated, but there is an excellent guide available called Bibliographia Oziana, sold by IWOC). Dick Martin did a lot of Oz illustration, and really captured the look of the original Denslow piece.

Chances are, this is as close as I'll get to an original Wonderful Wizard drawing, although there are other Denslow drawings out there with the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion - most notably, the comic page he created in 1904-1905. Drawings do surface from this, so there's always a chance!

On the left, the original endpapers - sorry about the glare!

Monday, February 18, 2008

An Introduction

The Oz series by L. Frank Baum is one of the classics of childhood. The books were so well loved in their time, that the series continued after its author's death, through 6 other authors, and spanned a period of 63 years. This created what is known as the Famous Forty, the 40 books written between 1900 and 1963. Many Oz books are still being written today by devoted fans, as well as mass-market authors.

The Wizard of Oz was the first “big book” I read as a kid, and I was hooked. Eventually I ran across The Land of Oz and liked that just as well. That was as far as I got until Michael Hearn’s The Annotated Wizard of Oz was published in the early 1970’s. At that point I began to seek out the rest of the series, ending up with a set of Rand McNally paperbacks - and always searching for the two Baum titles RM didn’t publish, Rinkitink and Lost Princess. The titles written by Baum's successors were no longer available.

I joined the International Wizard of Oz Club in the late ‘70’s, but then went off to college and dropped out of the club for a couple years. In college I started to try seriously collecting the Oz series, and am still working on it nearly 30 years later. My interests lie mainly in first editions of the original books and artwork from the series - but that’s one of the best things about Oz, there are so many facets to fascinate people and collectors! As an Oz enthusiast and collector, this is a place for me to jot some thoughts on pieces in my collection.