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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The detail above comes from one of the panels of the Marvel Comics adaptation of Ozma of Oz, drawn by Skottie Young. It shows the royal family of Ev soon after they’ve been disenchanted.

The big lunk in the lower left, with the single curly hair atop his dome, appears to be future king Evardo. At least that’s who is looking for cake in the royal pantry several pages later, as L. Frank Baum described.

However, an earlier page had the label “Evardo” on the smaller adolescent with the purple mantle and the even worse haircut. Either way, it’s quite a shift from John R. Neill’s portrait of a conventional young adolescent.

As in Baum’s novel, the prince we see most in this comic is Evring, the little prince whom Dorothy rescues. He’s also the most normal-looking of the boys that Young draws. Evring wears gloves on his spindly arms; since he’s not trained for manual labor like Tip in Young’s Marvelous Land of Oz art, the effect is to make him look more like a—gasp!—character in a cartoon.

Baum wrote that Evring is the baby of the family. I’m guessing that detail didn’t make it into Eric Shanower’s script because Young drew three other siblings as infants.

I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time thinking about the royal family of Ev because a few years back I wrote a story called “Evrob & the Nomes,” about one little prince’s second visit underground. It was published by the International Wizard of Oz Club in Oziana 2004; Sam A. Milazzo reviewed the story here.

That story required filling in more details about the royal family of Ev while staying close (in my mind) to those left by Baum and Neill. I liked the idea of the family as somewhat impoverished royals from the Edwardian period, wearing the medieval-style dress on the most formal occasions but early-twentieth-century military uniforms at other public events and early-twentieth-century bathing suits at the beach.

I kept Evring as the baby, but tried to show him through the next oldest boy’s eyes: as a mewling focus of resentment. I tried to paint King Evardo as an uptight adolescent stumbling his way through family responsibilities. The rest of the siblings were blank enough that I didn’t worry so much about being true to Baum.

One common element of the upper-class lifestyle of that time was domestic servants from colonized people: Indian and Chinese amahs, Southern mammies. So I gave the royal family of Ev an aged nanny from their country’s ethnic minority, the Wheelers.

In some ways I meant that story to upend readers’ assumptions about adventures in the Oz world, particularly Dorothy’s role in putting everything right. Like Young’s cartoons of the royal family of Ev, it’s an aggressively new look at an old tradition.

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