The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

For those of you who have been following, you know that I’ve been working on a Graphic Novel adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I have just completed the draft of my script and await editorial comments, but I thought I’d talk some about the book—which, I’d never read before.

That’s right—I even surprised myself once I started reading it, I realized that I had only ever seen the movie. Wow. But I’d also be willing to bet that most Americans have only ever seen the movie.

For me, however, that error has been corrected. Granted I read it because I had an assignment, but I’m now glad to have done so.

While being very close to the movie in parts, there are quite a few things that the movie leaves out or just flat changes. But y’know, we have to remind ourselves (or I have to remind us for the moment) that the movie was ALSO an adaptation of the same novel I’d just read. And we all know how liberal Hollywood gets with their adaptations.

The company I’m working for is trying to stick very true to the originals—this isn’t one of those “loosely based on” ideas. The goal is to stick very close to the original and get young readers visually interested in the work so that they might actually seek the original out—or something different. Their thoughts (and generally mine, too) are that if the original is good enough to be considered a “classic,” why change it?

What are some of the differences? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The biggest difference for me was that the movie left out the second half of the book completely. After the balloon takes off sans Dorothy with the Wizard, Dorothy and crew take a whole ‘nother trip to the South where they are to see Glinda. Of course, in the movie, Glinda just magically appears.

AND—here’s the biggie, the movie treated it all as an unconscious dream for Dorothy while the book treats it as reality. In the end, when Dorothy returns home, Uncle Henry has built a new house to replace the one taken away by the tornado.

Another odd thing: When Dorothy meets the first good witch in the book, she kisses Dorothy on the forehead before sending her off on the road made of yellow brick. This red “kiss mark” is on her head throughout the entire book. In fact, it gives Dorothy protection because those who see it stay away, or decide to do her no harm.

My last thought is a funny one. Dorothy melts the Witch not to put out a fire, but because she is angry. The Wicked Witch wants the shoes, and thus devises a plan where she trips Dorothy. She succeeds in taking one of the silver shoes, and Dorothy wants it back. She gets so angry, that she grabs a pail of water and throws it on the witch. When the Witch melts, Dorothy takes another bucket of water and just sweeps her out the door—VERY funny.

Good stuff.



Filed under Books/reading, Projects, writing

4 responses to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  1. Your project sounds great! (I also like the novel progress widget…nifty.)

    I thought you might get a kick out of a new poem by Richard Howard based on a real effort by Henry James’s niece to arrange a meeting between James and L. Frank Baum. You can read it at Guernica:

  2. Jim Chadwick

    Hey Roland, I didn’t know THIS was the graphic novel you were working on. I have to admit it’s been decades since I read the Oz books, but I was big into them back in the late 70s/early 80s. Some paperback publisher back then (can’t remember who) re-released them with beautiful, new cover illustrations (can’t remember the artist either) as well as reproductions of the original illustrations. These were your basic, paperback books too, not over-sized trades. Anyway, I maybe got about six books into the series. While I was quite fascinated by them, I found that after a while they got to be a bit tedious, at least for me.

    It’s not just the details that differ from the movie, but the TONE as well. Baum’s books have a really kind of edgier sense of humor, I thought. Probably normal back then, but not something that would be looked upon too favorably by the watchdogs of kids’ entertainment today. (If I am remembering correctly–it’s been a long time.)

    I do remember a movie coming out in the mid-80s that was based on the second book (I think) and how some critics ripped the movie for its mere existence, as if it were sacrilegious to even make a “sequel” to The Wizard of Oz movie, ignoring the fact that there were literary sequels that existed way before the 1939 film and that the new movie was probably more faithful to those than the Judy Garland film was to its source. I’m not going to defend it and say it was even a good film, but it does serve as kind of a warning for what sacred ground this is property is for some people. It’s amazing to me how many people love the film but barely pay attention to the fact that it was based on a book that existed decades earlier and that was actually a very successful franchise in its day.

  3. I thought I mentioned it to you, Jim. Sorry. Would you recommend reading ANY of the follow-up novels? The first one itself can get a little tedious in places. I agree about the humor–I found myself laughing out loud in a few places, particularly when the Witch melts and Dorothy just sweeps her out the door!

  4. Jim Chadwick

    Hmm. It’s been so long that they all sort of blur together. I kind of remember liking the second one. I think that’s the one where Baum introduces The Hungry Tiger, a companion to the Cowardly Lion. He’s one of my favorite characters who provides a lot of humor. He’s always trying to control the urge to eat someone by convincing himself it’s not a nice to do to his friends, even though he’d like to.

    But I do remember getting bored with the series by about the fourth book. It really started to get formulaic and predictable. I don’t know if I made it to the appearance of Ozma of Oz, a character who I think ultimately supplants Dorothy as the main protagonists of the later stories. You do have to kind of read them chronologically though, as I recall that characters and plot points do carry over from book to book, even if they aren’t exactly continued stories. But all this was so long ago (close to 30 years now), that I wouldn’t trust my memory.

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