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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Morton Report recently featured Bill Baker’s online conversation with artist Tommy Castillo about a book called The Art of The Darkside of Oz. The second capitalized T in that title is the tip-off that this book is a teaser for Castillo’s comics series called The Darkside of Oz.

Most of the drawings shown with the interview have appeared on Castillo’s earlier collections and website, so I’m not completely sure how they represent the ultimate product. Baker writes of Castillo’s plans:
…if the images and ideas he’s slowly begun to reveal are any indication, we’re about to see Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the cowardly Lion and the Tin Man in a whole new twilight.
And Castillo says, among other things:
How do you tell an epic tale of woe and love, desire and greed, wars and betrayals? How do you tell of revenge and have all of it wrapped up in the idea of redemption? And how can you do this all with the highest amount of respect for the creator of Oz, Frank Baum?
To be frank, I’m not impressed with the respect for Baum displayed so far. It’s details like:
  • Misspelling Glinda’s name as “Glenda.”
  • Using the MGM movie (still protected by copyright and trademark) as the basis of plot comments instead of Baum’s books (in the public domain).
  • Promising not to render Dorothy as “some scantily clad teen with giant boobs,” but dressing her in a very short skirt.
Furthermore, the notion that “everything we knew about our beloved Oz was a lie” isn’t that new, especially in comics form. After The Oz Squad, Dark Oz, Woe Is Oz, and so on, it’s no surprise to see Dorothy and her companions panelized in grim and gritty ways. It looks like Castillo will show us another Tin Woodman as a robot with a giant axe, another Scarecrow with a sinister slant to his eyes, another Lion as an anthropomorphic warrior, and so on.

Of course, Castillo could still create a compelling, eye-opening story out of those elements. Gregory Maguire certainly did with Wicked. But it would require knowing Baum’s work deeply, and intervening reinventions as well. Deciding to take a myth in the exact opposite direction may seem revolutionary, but it doesn’t really take as much imagination as digging deeper, or going off at an angle.

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