20 March 2024

The Characters of Oz “a real treat”

In the latest Baum Bugle from the International Wizard of Oz Club, Scott Cummings calls The Characters of Oz “a real treat and a fresh addition to the Oz reference shelf.”

I’m flattered by the review’s praise for my essay on the Wizard himself, especially how the “insightful comment that ‘Baum built most of his characters around contradictions’ casts a valuable light on the entire volume.” I’d been looking for a place to install that comment in Oz commentary. Those paragraphs got some extra airing back here.

Part of the brief for contributors to this collection was to examine the characters through multiple forms of the Oz mythos. The story has long sprawled across stage, screen, comics, and other media. Thanks to the public domain, there has been an explosion of adaptations in the last few decades, though only a few have really embedded themselves deep in the culture.

I could have applied my lens of “a good man but a bad wizard” to such later retellings as The Wiz, Wicked, and Oz the Great and Powerful. But I felt on surer ground looking at the Wizard as he appeared in the first forty years, from the original book to the MGM movie. That allowed for a more manageable narrative, and narrative is how I naturally think.

That choice evidently worked out, with Cummings calling that chapter, “Perhaps because of the tighter focus,…especially successful.”

Looking back, I see that approach paralleled how I looked at the first thirty years of Dick Grayson for another collection from the same publisher. So I guess that’s what I like.

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