Welcome to the three hundredth and eighty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eighty.
COMIC LEGEND: During 1904, there were dueling Wizard of Oz-based comic strips.
While everyone is familiar with L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful World of Oz (which was published in 1900), less famous is the illustrator of the book, W.W. Denslow.
Here is one of Denslow’s pages from the book, where he defined the look for the various Oz characters…
Interestingly enough, Denslow owned the copyright to the first book with Baum 50/50.
While the book was popular upon its release, it was not until the book was adapted into a play in 1902 that it became a sensation.
It was also at this time that Denslow and Baum had a falling out. Denslow felt that he was being squeezed out of profits from the play.
Well, with the play now being such a success, Baum was “forced” to do a sequel to the first book. The Marvelous World of Oz debuted in 1905 and was illustrated by John R. Neill, who drew most of the future Oz works from that point on.
As a promotion for the new book, Baum did a comic strip with artist Walt McDougall called Queer Visitors from Oz beginning in 1904. Here is a sample…
Denslow was pissed at being cut off, so he actually did his OWN competing comic strip, The Adventures of Scarecrow and Tinman. Here is a sample…
As you can see, these early comic strips were more like illustrated stories, and Denslow’s stories were later collected into a children’s book.
Here are pages from the collected book…
Sadly (for Denslow), even then, Baum was accepted as the “real” author of the Oz characters and while Queer Visitors was a hit (as was the new novels, which Baum would continue putting out until his death in 1919), Denslow’s strip faded into obscurity very quickly.
Still, it’s amazing to know that we used to have not one, but TWO comic strips based on the Wizard of Oz…AS THE BOOKS WERE COMING OUT!
Thanks to Sunday Press Books for the sample pages of the strips and thanks to James Wallace for the scans of the Denslow book. If you’re interested, Sunday Press Books has collected all of the strips (the Baum/McDougall as well as the Denslow) into a book. Read more about it here.
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