Marvel’s marvelous Oz series deserves starring role


November 9, 2012 by shepla

Marvel is synonymous with Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Thor, and a bunch of other superheroes. And yet it also publishes a secret (or at least little-known) jewel of a series of graphic novels based on the Wizard of Oz series of books by L. Frank Baum.

Writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young won an Eisner award for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first of this series, and have followed it up with equally high-quality books, including
Oz: Dorothy & the Wizard in Oz, which came out in September. Based on a recommendation from my local comic book store (thanks, Comics Dungeon!), I picked up Ozma of Oz, and was pleasantly surprised in a few ways.

First off, the Dorothy of the Marvel series isn’t meek or fretful like the Dorothy in the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland; she’s a fearless and quirky heroine who stands up to fearsome foes, such as wheeled creatures threatening to kill her. With its turn-of-the-century clothing and a mechanical man who must be wound with a key, Shandower and Young’s book has a sort-of steampunk feel to it.

This fantasy-adventure comic is also super weird, in a way I thought was exclusive to Japanese manga. From the talking hen, to a princess with a closet full of heads (which alter her personality depending on which head she decides to wear), to Ozma, who was transformed into a boy by a wicked witch as a baby and then returned to her female form by Glinda the good–it’s crazy in a way I never would dream could have been written at the dawn of the 20th century.

It’s a shame that these Oz comics aren’t given more of a center stage in Marvel’s catalog (I actually found them impossible to find on the website without searching specifically by name). But they’re on Amazon and in comic stores, and are worth looking for.

P.S. Am I the only one who didn’t know about these? I mean, I guess I had heard of them, but was totally unaware that Marvel was the publisher. Fascinating!

When Dorothy and hen Billina are thrown overboard from a ship bound for Australia, a crate saves them from the briny depths. (c) 2010, 2011, and 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wheelies: mechanical foes from a 19th-century futurist’s brain. (c) 2010, 2011, and 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Scottie Young draws Dorothy with her mouth open a lot, which makes me feel like she has a really loud voice. (c) 2010, 2011, and 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love this sassy Dorothy so much more than the meek movie Dorothy. (c) 2010, 2011, and 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.


3 thoughts on “Marvel’s marvelous Oz series deserves starring role

  1. Stephen C. says:

    I was under the impression that these Oz books were selling very well. At least one of them won an Eisner last year. I haven’t picked these up but I love the pages by Skottie Young that you’ve sampled here. The writer, Eric Shanower, is no stranger to Oz. Back in the 1980s he wrote AND illustrated several original graphic novels set in Oz. His style is very different from Young’s so the books look completely different. I’m not sure if they are currently in print or not. Here’s a sample I found online:

  2. shepla says:

    The first in the series won an Eisner and Ozma of Oz was also on the graphic novel best-seller list, so I guess saying it was “secret” was not the best way to put it–I just meant that it’s not marketed well; it gets buried under all Marvel’s superhero stuff.

  3. shepla says:

    Oh, and thanks for posting that sample of Eric Shanower’s art. I like it, but I prefer Skottie Young’s fresh take–it has so much personality!

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