23 September 2008

Dorothy Gale, Who Are You Wearing?

Oz author and theatrical empresario Edward Einhorn interviewed Oz and Trojan War illustrator Eric Shanower at the Theater of Ideas blog. Eric illustrated Edward's books Paradox in Oz and The Living House of Oz, as well as his own Oz comics and novel and many stories by other writers (including, I'm happy to say, one of mine).

Among the topics they covered was how Eric chose to depict Dorothy Gale:

One conscious progression I’ve made is in the clothing Dorothy wears. This is on display front and center in Adventures in Oz. Over the forty years John R. Neill illustrated Oz books, he always dressed Dorothy in clothing of the time, so I believe it’s part of her character to dress that way.

In my earliest professional Oz illustration, I didn’t want to make a radical break with the last of Neill’s Oz books in the 1940s, so I put Dorothy in dresses that could have been from the 1940s or from the 1980s. But as soon as I could, I found excuses to put her into pants.

In Ice King she wears a parka and snow pants for most of the book. And in Forgotten Forest she’s in pajamas. I reverted to a skirt in Blue Witch, just because I still didn’t think anyone was ready for Dorothy in blue jeans, but since then I’ve illustrated entire books with Dorothy in shorts. I think shorts are visually close enough to skirts that it’s not jarring.

But people still complain. I don’t know why they do. Dorothy always wears what girls in the Great Outside World wear. Not that girls don’t wear skirts and dresses today, but they don’t wear them to go off on adventures full of strenuous walking and climbing.
I was among the readers a little startled to see Dorothy in a T-shirt and shorts on Eric's cover for The Giant Garden of Oz. The stylistic changes Neill made between 1907, when he first drew his Dorothy, to 1943, when he died, seem less significant at our distance. Furthermore, the three artists who illustrated Reilly & Lee Oz books after Neill--Frank Kramer, Dirk Gringhuis, and Dick Martin--put her in pre-war skirts so readers could recognize her.

But Eric's depictions and argument have brought me around--to an extent. I now imagine Dorothy dressing in practical clothing when she expects to have an adventure. But for court visits, I still imagine her choosing to wear a dress from the first half of the last century. I figure her tastes in fashion were formed as a girl on a Kansas farm around 1900.

Edward's interview also gets into the Wizard of Oz adaptation that Eric has scripted for Marvel Comics, now being drawn by Skottie Young. Earlier this month Young posted his cover for issue two, when Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion. Earlier previews here, here, here, here, and here.

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