Comic Book Fix: Planet Comicon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 04:57 Written by david golbitz Wednesday, 14 March 2012 09:00
It’s convention season! Yes, it’s that time of year when the sun comes out, the weather warms up and comic book fans cram by the thousands into convention centers across the country to meet their favorite writers and artists while dressed as their favorite characters. This weekend is Wondercon, which is usually held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, but is taking place this year in Anaheim while the Moscone undergoes renovation and expansion. But for the Midwestern fanboy who can’t make it to southern California this year, fear not, there are plenty of convention opportunities to be had, including C2E2 in Chicago from April 13-15. But if you don’t want to wait another month, you can check out Kansas City’s Planet Comicon, March 24-25.
The largest convention in the Midwest outside of Chicago, Planet Comicon features a host of film and television stars in addition to a veritable who’s who of comic book creators. This year, special guests include Tim Sale (Batman: The Long Halloween), Dave Johnson (100 Bullets covers), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) and Jason Aaron (Scalped, Wolverine and the X-Men). It’s sure to be a great weekend of nerding out and talking comics.
Also in attendance at Planet Comicon will be artist Skottie Young, whose amazing pencils have graced Marvel covers and interiors for a number of years now. In addition to his covers, Young has been busy illustrating Eric Shanower’s adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. And so, in honor of Kansas City’s biggest comic convention, check out my review of Shanower and Young’s first collaboration, Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy may not be in Kansas anymore, but you will be if you attend Planet Comicon.
There have been numerous adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s whimsical fantasy series of Oz books since they became part of the public domain in 1956, including books, television shows, video games and even a film version starring Kermit and the Muppets. Some of these adaptations are good, though many are not. And one of the very best is a comic book published by Marvel: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, faithfully adapted by Eric Shanower and beautifully illustrated by Skottie Young.
Unlike previous adaptations, including the beloved 1939 Judy Garland musical, Shanower’s Oz hews closely to the plot of Baum’s original novel. It begins, of course, with young Dorothy Gale and her little dog Toto being swept up and away by a tornado, house and all, from the colorless Kansas farmland and deposited in the magical world of Oz, whereupon Dorothy discovers the house has landed on and crushed the Wicked Witch of the East.
And there was much rejoicing.
What follows is the well-known adventure as the Good Witch of the North bestows upon Dorothy the magical silver shoes — not the ruby slippers of the Garland musical; I guess sparkly red looks better on-screen — the Wicked Witch of the East had been wearing when she died. The Good Witch of the North then sends Dorothy on her way down the yellow-brick road toward the fabled Emerald City, where, Dorothy hopes, the powerful Wizard of Oz will help her return home to her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.
Along the way, Dorothy meets her beloved companions: the Scarecrow who only wants a brain, the Tin Woodman who wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who wants courage. Dorothy convinces each one that the Wizard can help them, and they agree to accompany her on her journey.
I don’t remember the last time I watched the 1939 film, let alone read the original books, so I was coming into this adaptation cold, with only a few fleeting images from the movie rattling about inside my head. I had no preconceived notions about the book, save for Young’s artwork, which I knew was going to be gorgeous, and I was certainly not disappointed in that assumption.
In fact, the star of Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is without a doubt Skottie Young, whose imaginative interpretations of these iconic characters are nothing short of masterful. Young has a sketchy cartoon style of artwork that perfectly captures the childlike essence of these 100-year-old characters while updating them for today’s visual medium. He takes these characters and puts his own spin on them while maintaining their charming familiarity.
Dorothy is sweet and innocent, with big, expressive eyes, while the Cowardly Lion is a big ball of cuddly fur, more kitten than king. The Wicked Witch of the West is a creepy old crone, with sickly green skin pulled tight over her boney face. (The coloring by Jean-Francois Beaulieu perfectly complements and enhances Young’s pencils.)
The collection is rounded out with images from Young’s sketchbook, allowing insight into his creative process as he tries to get the characters just right for the tone of Shanower’s adaptation. Young’s initial Cowardly Lion looks more stately and lean, dark and brooding, like something out of The Lion King, while his early Scarecrow design looks like it escaped from a Batman comic, which, now that I think of it, I would love to see Young penciling a Batman series, if for no other reason than to see his interpretations of the villains. I imagine Young’s Joker would be particularly frightful.
The story plays out as expected, with Dorothy and her new friends arriving at the Emerald City and being granted an audience with the great and powerful Oz, who promises to grant their wishes, but only if they agree to kill the Wicked Witch of the West for him.
Shanower’s script is full of energy and keeps the story moving at a good clip. There’s never a dull moment, just the occasional pause for breath to better enjoy Young’s lush pencils. The Wizard of Oz remains a classic with good reason, and Marvel’s adaptation is poised to become a classic in its own right, a fairy tale suited for kids and adults alike.
Originally published as an eight-issue mini-series, Marvel’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is now available in both hardcover and softcover collections. Shanower and Young followed up their delightful first collaboration by adapting Baum’s sequels, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz.
Top Picks of the Week
- Conan the Barbarian #2 (Dark Horse), by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
- Locke & Key: Clockworks #5 (IDW), by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Saga #1 (Image), by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Saucer Country #1 (DC/Vertigo), by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly
- Thief of Thieves #2 (Image), by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer and Shawn Martinbrough
- [Comics] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Marvel) (geeky-guide.com)
- [Comics] Ozma of Oz (Marvel) (geeky-guide.com)
Tags: comic conventions, Comics, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy Gale, Emerald City, Eric Shanower, Graphic novel, kansas city, L. Frank Baum, Marvel, planet comicon, Review, Scarecrow, Skottie Young, Tin Woodsman, Wicked Witch of the West, Wizard of Oz