By Jim Beard
This December, the House of Ideas rides the cyclone to the merry ol' Land of Oz astride its latest Marvel Illustrated sojourn, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, a full-blown adaptation of L. Frank Baum's beloved and magical novel of 1900.
Marvel welcomes renowned writer, artist, and Oz historian Eric Shanower, as well as fan-favorite artist Skottie Young onboard for THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. Shanower's previous Oz works include three major graphic novels, a full-length illustrated prose novel, a short story collection, and art for several other noted Oz authors' books.
"I still recall reading [the book] the first time as a child and being overjoyed that there was so much more to it than in the Judy Garland movie," comments Shanower. "The tone is different from the later Oz books, too, before Baum started writing his books with an eye to turning them into plays and movies. That different tone sets it apart from the rest of the series.
"Probably the one thing I'm most concerned about is making sure the story works as comics. While transferring it from one medium to another, I need to make sure I stay true to the source material while making sure it flows well as a comic."
Shanower's well aware of the weight Baum's original novel has made on the psyche of generations of fans across the world yet remains undaunted by the task of adapting it.
"I mean to prove that Marvel made the best choice possible in asking me to handle writing this project," he says. "I think the result will show they were absolutely right—I hope so, anyway."
"Just reading [Eric's] first script and seeing the obvious meticulous care and authority that he brings to every line and description, that was very exciting and inspiring," notes editor Nicole Boose. "His love and respect and deference to the material are going to be evident on every page.
"I think anyone familiar with the original book will have an interest in seeing how we portray it here. THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ appeals to children because it has a young protagonist who is treated seriously and respectfully, and because it touches on some dark elements that a lot of children's literature avoids. And I think anyone who's ever felt out of place in the world - which is common to everyone, but especially comic book fans! – has identified with Dorothy on some level."
Skottie Young's made an impact on modern comic book readers with his unique combination of fantastical figures and urban sensibilities. His inclusion as artist on THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ places him in the company of such past Oz illuminaries as the original 1900 illustrator W.W. Denslow and prolific Oz renderer John R. Neill.
"I've been known for taking characters and twisting the designs, but this time, the designs are there in the words of Baum and the incredible interpretation from Eric,"
remarks Young. "My job is half done for me right there. Past that, I just want to breathe life into those ideas. I'm really just focusing on the shape of characters and how much energy and life I can put into the lines that make them up.
"If I do my job right, then anyone who picks this book up will just get lost in the world and characters and not care who was behind it or why we did what we did. They'll just love the world. I just want THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ to be as true to the legacy as possible."
"I feel that I get to really tap into that kid place and just live there each day at work," he also notes of the project. "I have a blast working on super hero stuff, but this is another level of fun that I can't fully explain."
For up to the minute Marvel news spinning out of the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, visit the Marvel.com SDCC news hub. And while you're waiting in between announcements, spend some time over at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!