30 March 2010

Adventures in Oz Fandom

Last month Alameda librarian Eva Volin wrote about

books I know I purchased, but I never see on the shelf; the books are checked out, they come back three weeks later, and go out again the same day.

For example, we’ve owned Eric Shanower’s Adventures in Oz for only two and a half years and it has already circulated 45 times.
That’s 45 check-outs in approximately 130 weeks, or once every 2.9 weeks. That book really is spending no time on the library shelf.

Fortunately, a delightfully inexpensive spin-off has appeared in comics stores: Little Adventures in Oz, volume 1. I’ve joked about how that title suggests all-chibi versions of Shanower’s 1980 Oz comics. In fact, this volume—the first of a possible pair—reprints two of those tales in a smaller trim size with all the draftsmanship, color, and storytelling that appear in the big omnibus. It also contains a few of the extras that appear in Adventures in Oz, and that, I realized, represents a collision of two forms of fandom.

One common aspect of Oz fandom is treating the books and all the other Oz stories one likes as a fairly accurate history of that fairyland. Such fans try to line up the stories in a single chronology, and reconcile the books’ contradictory statements. (I understand that Sherlockians do the same.)

In contrast, a common aspect of comics fandom is to celebrate the process of creating the stories, including preliminary material and creative dead ends. Many collected comics volumes offer such extras as artists’ sketches (especially early character designs), writers’ scripts, variant covers, other artists’ versions of the same characters, and so on. That would be the equivalent of publishing a novel with some pages from the author’s early drafts—we just don’t do that.

Little Adventures in Oz includes such sketchbook material—in particular, penciled pages of Shanower’s first crack at The Enchanted Apples of Oz. In this “draft,” young Trot, Cap’n Bill, and the Glass Cat do what in the finished version is done by Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Billina the Yellow Hen. From the perspective of comics fandom, this is good stuff: we get to see behind the scenes, that art doesn’t go to waste, we learn a valuable lesson about copyrights in the 1980s.

From the perspective of Oz fandom, however, it’s potentially disturbing. For readers who believe that Enchanted Apples presents an actual adventure that Dorothy and her friends had in 1904, those extra pages pull back the curtain on an entirely different reality—a parallel universe in which Trot has almost the same adventure. Spooky!

1 comment:

ericshanower said...

Ah, the paradoxes of Oz--oh, wait, that's a different book.

Little Adventures in Oz volume 2 will be out in June, also with a brand new cover and a piece or two of new art inside.