In L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wizard of Oz,” the displaced Dorothy clicks her red ruby slippers three times and gets transported back to her home, surrounded by loved ones and people who care about her.
Dee, the star of Angelo Tirotto’s “No Place Like Home,” isn’t quite so lucky. Instead of finding herself in a magical land of munchkins, witches and jitterbugs, Dee struggles to make ends meet while living in Los Angeles. She does, however, return home, but it’s not thanks to magical footwear. Her parents’ death in a tornado takes Dee back to Emeraldsville where natural disasters aren’t the only things causing the townspeople to expire. As people begin to die mysteriously, the events of a night in 1959 lead to some truly horrific events.
Coming out from Image Comics in late February, “No Place Like Home,” by Tirotto and artist Richard Jordan, is built around the world of Baum’s story, but with a more horrific angle. CBR News spoke with Tirotto about his comic’s connection to the land of Oz, how he began working with Jordan and where the story finds Dee as it picks up.
CBR News: Your story revolves around a young woman named Dee — where does the story find her as it kicks off and what brings her back home?
Angelo Tirotto: “No Place Like Home” introduces Dee five years after leaving Kansas for Los Angeles. She’s been hanging out with her skateboard and art buddies, desperately trying to become a novelist, but writers block and a lack of inspiration has her working in a book shop, bored out of her mind, wishing something exciting would happen. When her parents die in a freak tornado, she is called home to Emeraldsville to bury them and realizes it’s time for a change.
What is the change Dee needs to make?
She’s been moping around LA waiting for something to happen rather than making it happen. She’s talented, ambitious and pretty, but lacks direction, and people usually take advantage of her good nature. Dee needs to grow up, take control of her life and learn to fight her own battles. Coming home is the wake up call she’s needed all along.
â€¨What kind of troubles does Dee find after returning home?
Her childhood home has been ravaged by a tornado and her mother and father are dead. The realization her life has so suddenly and dramatically changed leaves her emotional and overwhelmed. She’s barely holding it together. Luckily, Dee’s Uncle, Aunt and best friend Liz are on hand to help her through these tragic times — even her father’s closest friend, the town Sheriff, is watching over her. But, in “No Place Like Home,” troubles don’t melt like lemondrops and none of them protect her from what’s coming.
â€¨What can you tell us about the killer terrorizing the people of Emeraldsville and the event from 1959 that seems to be related to his rampage?
No good deed goes unpunished. The actions of Dee’s parents and their friends in the 50s has come back to literally bite her on the ass. However, this is only the catalyst for where the real story of “No Place Like Home” leads. As for the killer, let’s just say it’s not cute or cuddly and he/she/it is just the tip of the tornado, as it were.
â€¨There are obviously plenty of allusions to Wizard of Oz in your story — what is it about the themes of that work that made you want to build your tale around it?
I’m a die hard fan of “Fables.” It’s brilliant, beautiful and perfectly crafted. In fact the only thing I don’t like about it is that I didn’t come up with the idea myself, damn you Mr. Willingham! Joking aside, “Fables” was a huge inspiration when creating “No Place Like Home” and I’ve always been fascinated with taking something so familiar and turning it on its head, especially something so innocent from childhood. I love the feeling you get when discovering a foe is now a friend or a hero is the villain, and thats exactly what happens to Dorothy in Oz; everything and everyone she knows is there, just different.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and lets not forget the classic Judy Garland movie, is probably one of the most memorable stories from anyone’s childhood. Baum created such a rich, magical and sometimes dark universe in Oz that looking at it with adult eyes all these years later, I saw the perfect opportunity to completely destroy it.
As for themes, there are many. “The Wizard of Oz” and its archetypes have been discussed, dissected, revisited, retold and debated so many times, it’s hard to keep up. It has different meanings to everyone, and it changes as you get older. I could talk for hours about those themes, about what Oz means to me, but in all honesty, if I put all the philosophical, psychological and clever observational dissection aside, it’s just an awesome place to tell a horror story. It’s full of great monsters and creatures — who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
There are, of course, many parallels between Baum’s Oz and “No Place Like Home,” but it really isn’t what you think it’s going to be. You certainly wouldn’t be reading this book to send your children off to sleep. I’m not sure the moral messages and lessons would be visible through all the blood — did I mention all the blood?
â€¨How did you start working with Richard Jordan?
I’d been searching for an artist for an entirely different book called “The Spear” via PencilJack, DigitalWebbing and pretty much any place I could find. Each time, after the initial excitement died down and the realization of the amount of work that actually goes into creating comics dawned, the artist would vanish. It’s amazing how many people think it’s an easy life as a comic creator, but that’s another story altogether. So, after those numerous disappointments I decided to take one last look. If I couldn’t find someone to draw the book this time, I’d forget about the whole crazy idea of making comics.
Fate intervened. Earlier that day, Richard had posted some Catwoman sequential pages on Penciljack, and the second I saw them, I knew that he had to draw my book. A few emails later, we were a team and it’s been an absolute blast ever since. He’s a very talented, humble, patient guy, even after he’s penciled and inked 23 pages of art and you ask him to change the main character’s clothing and shoes, who just happens to be in multiple panels on nearly every page. I’m sure he will have a long and rewarding career ahead of him if “No Place Like Home” doesn’t kill him first
â€¨How did you wind up landing the project at Image? Did you shop around to various publishers?
I owe it all to my good friend Ian Churchill, creator of “Marineman,” Karaoke King and all ’round great bloke. I’d been trying to break into comics for some time, and he would always give me advice and feedback on whatever I was working on. He believed in the work Richard and I had created and passed it directly to Eric Stephenson at Image. Eric liked what he saw and offered to publish “No Place Like Home,” which was awesome, as we had both always dreamt of flying under the Image banner. Without Ian’s efforts, faith and belief in our story, Richard and I would still be dreaming about “No Place Like Home” rather than actually doing it so, from the bottom of both our hearts, thank you so much Ian. You’ll always have a pint and seat reserved in the Emerald Palace.
Did you and Richard have “No Place Like Home” pretty well put together before pitching it to Image?
It could not have been any further from ready. In fact, when Richard and I started working together, it was to pitch the other book I mentioned, called “The Spear.” “No Place Like Home” wasn’t even on the table. Ian had generously offered to hand “The Spear’s” pitch work to Eric at the Kapow! comic convention, but only if we could get it ready in time. We had a couple of months to do it, so we worked night and day. Five days before Kapow!, we finished it.
Now, I’d been working on another story called “No Place Like Home” that I had absolutely fallen in love with and planned to develop further. Since we had some down time, I thought I’d bounce it off Rich, just to see what he thought of it, nothing more. And, well, he loved it. I called Ian up and asked how he felt about handing two pitches to Image, and he said, “Go for it.”
At this point, I had only written one full issue and plotted the first arc, so we went into overdrive, working 24/7 to get the “No Place Like Home” pitch ready. Rich took time off work, and when he was at work, drew during lunchtime and every other spare second he could find. It was a crazy five days which ended at 3 AM the night before Kapow! with Ian Churchill printing out the pitch after final changes had be done and dusted. A few hours later, a sleep deprived Ian Churchill made the journey up to London to Kapow!
Rich and I spent the whole weekend praying and hoping for news, but all was silent. A few days passed and Ian contacted me with the bad news. He and Eric had been so busy, they hadn’t even crossed paths, so the pitch went unseen. We were a little devastated, but Ian went out of his way to make sure Eric and Image did get to see it — and here we are, discussing the first issue.
I keep having to pinch myself to make sure it’s all really happening! Next thing you know, I’ll be clicking my heels together and — well, you know how that story goes.
“No Place Like Home” lands in comic shops on February 22.