A Visual Wizard of Oz

A review of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz graphic novel adapted by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young (Marvel Comics, 2011)

By Derek Newman-Stille

L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an intensely visual tale, evoking the wonders of sights unseen except in the strangest imaginings of the oddest dreams. It makes sense to adapt the tale into a visual medium, and the comic has a history of pushing the boundaries of expected sights. Skottie Young and Eric Shanower were able to construct an adaptation that brings through all of Baum’s wonder, and, yes, all of his terror as well. 

Skottie Young illustrates the comics with a sense of whimsy, creating a Dorothy who wears a dress like a bell, evoking the girl’s role as a person who gets swept up by the winds and dropped off into a strange world. Her dress is mirrored in the clothing of the Witch of the North who similarly resembles a bell flower tossed on the breeze, creating a parallel between these two figures of transformation. 

Young’s Scarecrow evokes a Tim Burton-esque style with deep circles around his eyes and a twisted, turning mouth. He is a figure that is awkward in movement and his body reflects this with a bulbous middle and twiggish arms and legs. His Tin Woodsman resembles a dwarf given metallic form, strong, stout, and possessing an antiquity in his gaze. His Cowardly Lion is a figure who is completely made up of balls of fur, with small, unthreatening, worried eyes, a completely round face, and sheathed claws.

Young’s wicked witches are figures out of horror, contrasting with the bell-shaped figures of the protagonists by being figures of distortion, scribbled together with awkward joints, features hidden by twisted rags, and generally evoking an uncertainty of movement. Their panels tend toward Sepia tones, lending them an antiquity. 

The magic of Young’s illustrations are the ability to make Dorothy appear to be constantly both part of the imagery of the page and somehow distant from it, evoking her role as an outsider who has come to a new place and yet is able to change it. She is both of the world of the comic and outside of it. 
To discover more about the graphic novel version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, visit Marvel Comics at http://marvel.com/comics/series/6314/the_wonderful_wizard_of_oz_2008_-_2009 

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