Friday, January 8, 2010

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Graphic Novel)
By L. Frank Baum
(Adapted by writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young)

rating: 6.5 out of 10 "books"

Like many people, I had seen the Judy Garland film production of “The Wizard of Oz,” but never actually picked up the original story written by L. Frank Baum. It was only after my boyfriend suggested I read the graphic novel version of the story that I even thought about the original text created so long ago.

The main story line is still the same: Dorothy is caught in a tornado in her Kansas farmhouse that transports her to a strange but beautiful land called Oz. When she discovers her house has fallen upon and killed the Wicked Witch of the East, she is hailed by all the “Munchkin” peoples, who were at the time enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the East. But this does not make her feel any the better, and longs to return home to her aunt and uncle in Kansas. Thus begins her journey to the Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz, whom she has been told is her best chance of getting home.

While the yellow brick road and the scarecrow, tin man, and lion are all the same, there are some major differences between the Hollywood movie and the original story. For one, Dorothy’s shoes, which she confiscates from the Wicked Witch of the East, are silver not ruby red (a minor difference but so what!), but also the timeline of the story is different. Dorothy meets the colorful characters of the scarecrow, tin man, and lion, but the greatest part about these characters is that we are given their back stories. We not only find out the usual stories of the scarecrow wanting brains, the tin man a heart, and the lion courage, but we discover how these wishes came to be. For instance, I would never have known that the tin man (called the wooden tin man in the story), had actually once been a man, but when his ax was enchanted by the Wicked Witch of the East it caused him to chop off his limbs and body, and he had them replaced with tin. I thought the most interesting back story was that of the flying monkeys. Having only seen the movie, I thought they were pure evil, doing the bidding of the Wicked Witch of the West, but it turns out they were not that way at all, that there was a lot we did not know from just watching the film.

The City of Emeralds was also very different. When Dorothy and the rest of the group arrive at the city gates, they must wear spectacles when entering the city because they are told the brightness of the city could blind them. Everything in the city is bright green, even the people. They end up staying in the palace of the Wizard of Oz for several days, because although Oz has agreed to see them, he will only see one person a day. Oz only agrees to help them if they can all ensure the destruction of the Wicked Witch of the West, who is very different from the movie character herself. The Wicked Witch of the West is terrified of the dark as well as water and only has one eye. There is really no mention of the Wicked Witch of the East and West having been sisters, and it seems the only reason she wants Dorothy and her friends destroyed is because they are in her territory and unfit to be slaves. I don’t think it had anything to do with Dorothy accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Other differences occur involving wolves, crows, bees, a city made of china, etc., that make for a pretty entertaining story.

Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable read. It was a bit repetitive at times. Between the characters repeating that if they had a brain/heart/courage they could do this, or because they didn’t have it (a brain/heart/courage) they could not do whatever, it got a little annoying. If I had been more interested in the story matter, I probably could have knocked this graphic novel out in one sitting. I found the background on writer L. Frank Baum a bit more interesting than the actual story. I never knew that he had actually written thirteen sequels to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” or that after the rights to the story were made public after the 1950’s, there have been tons of adaptations. However, I have to take into account the adaptation itself when it comes to rating this story. The story, combined with the awesome drawings interpreted by Skottie Young, led me to the 6.5 rating I landed at. If you are looking for something short to read with a lot of really cool pictures, I’d recommend this story. Or, if you are a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz, then this graphic novel is definitely for you.

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