27 May 2008

What Did You Do in the Oz-Wonderland War, Grampa?

Earlier this month Bully at Comics Oughta Be Fun! offered a comprehensive (read: image-heavy) look at Oz comics, with particular attention to DC's 1986 miniseries Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! in The Oz-Wonderland War Trilogy.

That came out just after I stopped buying comics for a long time, so I obtained my copies a few years ago at an International Wizard of Oz Club convention.

Carol Lay's art is quite inventive: a melding of John R. Neill, John Tenniel, and the usual depiction of Captain Carrot and his team, who are cartoon animals that spoof superheroes and thus borrow a bit from both genres.

The plot involves--what else?--the Nome King's attempt to take over Oz. He's already turned most of the country's celebrities into ornaments for his palace. And not a chicken in sight. But Dorothy Gale, the denizens of Lewis Carroll's dreamlands, and Captain Carrot and His Zoo Crew still stand in his way.

You really do have to see it to understand the madness.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure this was Carol Lay's "usual" depiction of the Captain Carrot characters. I don't think she'd drawn them before. Lots of people seem to be impressed by Lay's job on this comic. I mentioned it to her at a comic convention in about 1997. She said she could hardly remember doing it. I have to say that I think the quality of her current and long-running strip, Story Minute, is far better than the Oz-Wonderland War stuff.

The Oz-Wonderland War was in preparation when I was entering the comics field. Joey Cavalieri showed me some of the pencilled pages up at the DC offices in 1984. I was also in the process of preparing a short Oz war story for publication in DC's Sgt. Rock comic. Joe Kubert was the editor. He shared an office with E. Nelson Bridwell, one of the writers on The Oz-Wonderland War. Joe and I were going over the plot of my story, "General Jinjur of Oz," in his office up at DC. When I was relating how the Army of Revolt was going to defeat the Nomes, Nelson broke in to explain how the characters were planning to defeat the Nome King in The Oz Wonderland War. Nelson reminded me a LOT of the late Oz Club executive secretary Fred Meyer.

To play this Oz-comics connection out even further and more tenuously, a few years ago at an Oz convention, I was talking to book designer Linda Sunshine, who recently designed a book featuring Oz items and illustrations from the collection of Willard Carroll. I mentioned to Linda that I was a cartoonist. She wondered if I knew E. Nelson Bridwell. One of her first jobs back in the 1970s was on a series of books collecting stories of DC superheroes: Superman from the 30s to the 70s, Batman from the 30s to the 70s, and Shazam from the 40s to the 70s. She'd worked with Nelson, who was the DC editor for those volumes. Unfortunately, I had to tell her that Nelson died a few years ago, but I still have a couple of those books (sorry, J.L., I don't have the Batman one--only got it from the library) and think they're great.

J. L. Bell said...

To bring this full circle, when I was entering the publishing field, I was at a firm outside of Boston with a smaller office in New York. In memos from a few years before my time, I kept coming across the name of an editor or production person that struck me as unusually cheery.

Yes, it was Linda Sunshine.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Eric, for the peek inside Oz-Wonderland War. Yes, I hadn't realized that this miniseries was Carol Lay's first poke at the characters. Then again, I hadn't realized the original series had run its course by this time until recently.

I also took the opportunity to add a link to Lay's webpage, and here's one directly to Story Minute.

What struck you as similar about E. Nelson Bridwell and Fred Meyer? (Not that I don’t see a resemblance between that Dave Manak caricature and Fred at his happiest.)

Anonymous said...

I thought E. Nelson Bridwell and Fred Meyer were similar in their encyclopedic knowledge of their respective pop culture enthusiasms: Nelson for DC comics and Fred for the Oz books. They both struck me as very left-brained, more interested in relating to others about information rather than on an emotional level. I think they belonged to the same type.

They were physically similar too, although Nelson was nowhere near as overweight as Fred was. Both had a bland, mid-20th century style of dressing and haircut. Their movements and mannerisms seemed to be focused on the paths they had laid for themselves, not particularly open to swift or radical change. Not that this was necessarily what they were actually like--Fred surprised me a few times and I barely knew Nelson--but their physical lives gave this impression.

J. L. Bell said...

For the past day I've been unreasonably pleased with the thought that some of the resources of the media giant Time Warner went toward a discussion of different ways to conquer the Nome King. Just knowing that makes me feel safer.