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#372465 - 10/10/08 11:42 AM SHANOWER'S WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA

BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Although most people might know the award-winning Eric Shanower for his work on the epic Age of Bronze, the writer is no stranger to the works of L. Frank Baum. He's spent several years in the magical land of Oz working on a variety of characters and situations. Now, after creating further adventures for several of the Oz staples, he's finally adapting the original story for the Marvel Illustrated line. Shanower's working with artist Skottie Young on the miniseries. He told THE PULSE, "I hope that this adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz undercuts expectations on the part of readers who think they know the story."


THE PULSE: I know you've loved the Oz world since you were six years old. When we last spoke about Oz, IDW was getting ready to republish your five graphic novels about the world of Oz. How did you feel when you saw the final versions of those reissues?

ERIC SHANOWER:
I felt wonderful. The book, Adventures in Oz, is really thick and heavy. I was surprised by how much it weighs, especially the hardcover version, which has 70 pages of ďextras.Ē The whole package is really beautiful, and Iím so thankful to IDW for spearheading the project. Itís 95% perfect, which is a really high percentageóas anyone involved in the publishing world knows.

THE PULSE: Since you had a chance to play Monday Morning Quarterback with those volumes, what were some of the important tweaks and edits you made?

SHANOWER:
IDW hired an amazing man named John Uhrich to go over every single panel and restore them all. I had final approval of everything, but John was so close to my wavelength, that I rarely needed give instructions to redo anything. He is truly amazing.

I still had all the original art, so getting good scans wasnít a problem. There was a lot of color change between what I painted and what was originally printed. But the process of scanning back in the 1980s and early 1990s when the Oz graphic novels were originally published was different than it is now. What you see in Adventures in Oz is far closer to what I wanted the first time around. This time I got it, Iím pleased to say.

I tried to keep my hands off the art and text, just left what I wrote and drew back then as it wasófor the most part. There were a few Dorothy faces that were so ugly I just couldnít bear to leave them untouched, so I did a little bit of redrawing. Actually it was mostly just directing John Uhrich to get rid of lines rather than redrawing. I corrected a couple lapses, such as putting green glasses on the characters in a flashback to The Wizard of Ozóit was my mistake forgetting the green glasses the first time around. I made maybe half a dozen textual changes, but for the most part I think the Oz graphic novel series held up pretty well without much tinkering.

I enjoyed being able to put together the 70 pages of extras, most of which had never been published before. I was able to present alternate endings of some of the stories, earlier versions in different guises, character and costume designs, samples of a lot of my Oz work outside of comics, etc.

THE PULSE: How did it feel twenty years later to have the chance to use some of the technology available now to help make your works even better than you might have originally envisioned?

SHANOWER:
It felt really nice. The Oz graphic novel series really didnít become better than I originally envisioned. But the new collected edition is much, much closeróvirtually exactly what I wanted.

The color is what Iím most happy about, especially in the first Oz graphic novel, The Enchanted Apples of Oz. Back in 1986, that was the first time Iíd painted a whole graphic novel. I had no idea what the reproduction would do to what I painted, but I sure found out! By the time I got to the fifth Oz graphic novel, The Blue Witch of Oz,<.i> Iíd learned how to compensate for a lot of the reproduction quirks. But the one thing I could never solve was keeping the dark colors dark enough. They separation technique the original publisher used wouldnít reproduce darks.

That was definitely not a problem with the new edition, Adventures in Oz.
I have much gratitude to IDW, and I wish them the best. Theyíre publishing a lot of great projects. I hope thereís an opportunity for me to publish with them again.

THE PULSE: I know you've done extensive research into the world of Oz and things that L. Frank Baum created. What are some of the things you've discovered in your research that, as an adult, you were surprised to learn?

SHANOWER:
I was surprised to learn how great the influence of the 1903 Broadway version of The Wizard of Oz was on the rest of the Oz series and on author L. Frank Baumís life. The stage show was a major hit back then, but itís been forgotten and eclipsed by the 1939 Judy Garland movie, which actually owes some of its sensibility to the Broadway show. The Broadway show was actually responsible for the rest of the Oz series existing.

THE PULSE: Since you've crafted quite a few Oz tales, what interested you in returning to that world with Marvel Illustrated's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

SHANOWER:
Marvel asked. Iíd thought over the years about doing a comics adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, but never really had an opportunity. The only other time Iíd been seriously approached about it was in 2004 when Byron Priess asked me if I were interested in drawing an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, I donít have time in my scheduleóAge of Bronze takes up most of the hours Iím not asleep. But when Marvel asked me if I were interested in writing the script, but not drawing it, I knew I could fit the project in.

I really donít feel as though Iím returning to Oz. The fact is that Iíve never left. After I finished the final Oz graphic novel back in 1991, I thought I would leave the Land of Oz behind. But that didnít work. Iíve since become reconciled to the idea that Iíll always have an Oz project in my life. This Marvel series is just the latest one.

THE PULSE: How is what you're doing in this series different from what you've done with your own Oz saga?

SHANOWER:
Itís different, because the story isnít mine, itís L. Frank Baumís. Itís an adaptation of a work that already exists, not a new story of my own that only uses Baumís characters and concepts.

In writing the scripts I had to go back to the characters as they were first conceived. Thereís not a huge amount of obvious character development over the Oz series, but there is some. So while writing the scripts, I needed to keep in mind that the characters, and in fact the entire Land of Oz, were in ďinfancy.Ē But I was also able do something L. Frank Baum couldnít, since he didnít know heíd be writing any sequelsóI could look forward to where I knew the characters would eventually end up and leave that potential in my scriptsóalthough I doubt that aspect will be obvious to any reader.


THE PULSE: Several other people have adapted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ... how do you make this stand out from what has come before? How do you make it appear to be what one would expect from the property, but also a little bit different?

SHANOWER:
ďSeveral other people have adapted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,Ē you say? What an understatement! There have been countless adaptations of this story, not only in comics, but in pretty much any medium you can think of.

My technique in approaching an adaptation of this book was not to worry about making it different from anyone elseís adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, but simply to take the original text and do my best to translate it to the comics medium. My task was to remain faithful to the book, yet to make sure it worked flawlessly as a comicóor at least a comic script, since Iím not handling the art.

I certainly tried to use all my years of gathering knowledge about Baum and Oz and all its permutations, as well as my years of experience creating new Oz works, as a background for the script.

One thing I did that I doubt that any other adapter of The Wizard of Oz in any medium has done before was to look at the instances where L. Frank Baum rewrote or retold portions of the story. Several of these instances provided better material for a comic book adaptation than the original book, so I used bits of them. But unless readers know the text of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz really well, this wonít be obvious to any of them.

THE PULSE: Why didn't you want to illustrate this yourself? I know time was probably an issue ....

SHANOWER:
I wouldnít have been able to fit illustrating this comic book into my schedule. Age of Bronze readers have to wait long enough between issues. Fortunately I didnít have the choice of illustrating itóMarvel had already picked Skottie Young for that job.

THE PULSE: How do you work on a project like this without kind of repeating yourself or mimicking some of what you've done with your prior Oz work?

SHANOWER:
The story is different than any Iíve worked on before. The characters and concepts are the same, but anyone who reads comic book or any sort of serial fiction knows that the possibilities in these sorts of situations are endless. The thought of repeating myself never crossed my mind while working on this project. It wasnít a problem.

THE PULSE: Great! What are the biggest challenges of adapting a story that everyone feels he or she knows so well?

SHANOWER:
I hope that this adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz undercuts expectations on the part of readers who think they know the story. Yes, the basic outlines are the same. But most adaptations cut out a lot of things, such as the Good Witch of the Northís kiss on Dorothyís forehead, the origin of the Winged Monkeys, the China CountryóI even retained the scene where the Soldier with the Green Whiskers has Dorothy and her friends wipe their feet before they walk into the Wizardís palace. Iíd never consciously noticed that detail before, although Iíve read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz many times. I thought it was charming and so typical of Baum, so itís included in this Marvel version. But before anyone starts to think this is going to be laborious to read because every single detail is retained ad nauseam, rest assured that I was completely conscious of the need to make this adaptation into a rewarding experience, not a dry study. I point to my past comics work as evidence that I can write enjoyable comics.

THE PULSE: Since this was broken down into eight issues, how did you decide where the natural stopping points were?

SHANOWER:
I looked at the table of contents in the book and saw that there were 24 chapters. I divided them by eight, then shuffled around a few of the chapters that were significantly shorter or longer than the average-length ones. And those divisions determined what I put into each issue, more or less. Of course, I wrote all eight scripts with the understanding that theyíll be collected into graphic novel form after the serial publication. Isnít that standard these days?

THE PULSE: What's it like having Skottie Young bringing your ideas to life here?

SHANOWER:
Skottie is doing a terrific job on Oz.

I had no idea what Skottieís Oz would look like when I first accepted the job. I didnít know whether Iíd like it or hate it. I usually draw all my own scripts. Iíve written very little for other artistsóalthough as it happens, the comics I have written for others to draw have turned out to mostly be Oz comics.

My vision of Oz is concrete and itís rooted in the original Oz book illustrations by John R. Neillóas anyone who looks at my Oz comics can easily see. I knew when taking this job that Iíd have to set aside all my expectations. Of course, when Iím writing a script, I visualize the characters and situations according to my own conceptions, and I think thatís a large part of writing a successful script. But I knew all along there was basically no chance that Skottie would present me with art the way Iíd conceived it.

I made a lot of suggestions to Skottie in my scripts, but when it came to details, they were just suggestions. I certainly wanted him to bring his strengths to the project, didnít want him crippled by a vision not his own. And really, thatís any comic book scripterís job, to give the artist useful building blocks and let him or her come back with the best result possible.

I might have hated what Skottie did with the art. I might have been lukewarm about it. Fortunately, I think itís wonderful, beautiful, funny, gorgeous. Itís not what Iíd have done. Itís Skottieís unique vision on his own termsótrue to the original book, but unlike any version of Oz anyone has seen before. And believe me, Iíve seen PLENTY of them. And his work just keeps getting better. I think that even if a reader doesnít care for the story, the art is so gorgeous, itís worth buying this project just for that.

THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on? What's coming up in your Age of Bronze?

SHANOWER:
Age of Bronze, of course, my version of the Trojan War, published by Image. Iím currently drawing issue #28, the close of the first battle between the Achaeans and the Trojans. Lots of blood and dust.

Iíve drawn an Uncle Scrooge story for Gemstone thatís still waiting in the second stage of approvalóI made the first raft of revisions and am waiting to see whether I can go ahead and letter and ink it now.

I recently finished a 12-page comics story about creating, researching, and working on Age of Bronze. Itís for a volume about the use of Greek and Roman classical literature in comics. I believe mine is the only chapter in the book in comics form. All the rest are prose essays by scholars. I think the title will be Classics and Comics, but I donít think the book has a publisher yet, and thus no pub date, but itíll probably be published by a university press.

I wrote and drew an 11-page comics story about two boys who find a genie in a bottle. Itís for a young adult GLBT anthology of fiction edited by Michael Cart and titled How Beautiful the Ordinary: Stories of Identity. It'll be published in September 2009 by Bowen Press, an imprint of HarperCollins.

I also just appeared in the music video ďWorst Presnadent EverĒ by Charlie Imes. I play a White House Press Corps member and have one line in the 13-minute ďMovieĒ version of the video, the one at the bottom of the Web site. The link is: http://worstprez.com/

Iíll also be appearing onstage at the Peopleís Improv Theater in New York City on Comic Book Club Live at 8pm on Oct. 14. And Iíll be doing my hour-long presentation on Age of Bronze at the San Bernardino (California) Public Library at 6:30 pm on October 29.

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#372466 - 10/11/08 05:33 AM Re: SHANOWER'S WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Bring Back Zot Offline
Member

Registered: 06/05/05
Posts: 2438
I amd just thrilled. Shanower is a terrific artist, and The Age of Bronze has been one of the best comics published in the last decade. I have not read Eric's old Oz graphic novels in years, but I now want to pull them out.

I'll definitiely be picking up the new Oz adaptation (comic or trade - that's the question). I'm also incredibly curious about Shanower's Uncle Scrooge.

Eric Shanower continues to prove he's one of the top creators in comics. I seriously think people will be reading Age of Bronze 50 years from now.

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#528065 - 10/30/08 11:47 AM Re: SHANOWER'S WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ [Re: Bring Back Zot]
Jennifer M. Contino Offline
Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA
There's a sketchbook coming out. I can't wait to see it.

Jen

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