Almost four years ago, writer Eric Shanower (“Age of Bronze”) and artist Skottie Young (“New Warriors,” “Cable & Deadpool”) began their own journey down a yellow-brick road when they adapted L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” into an Eisner-winning comic book for Marvel Comics.
Now, with the first four Oz books completed, Shanower and Young are focusing on bringing their fresh-but-faithful style to the fifth book in L. Frank Baum’s Oz series, “The Road to Oz,” which begins with Dorothy and Toto meeting a ragged-looking hobo called Shaggy Man. From there, they’re off on another imaginative adventure to Oz. This time, on their way to the Emerald City they meet an army of foxes, the daughter of a rainbow, as well as some old friends.
With the first issue on sale now, CBR News talked to Young about putting his own spin on Baum’s classic characters, as well as how long his visit to Oz could last.
CBR News: What was your first encounter with Oz? Was it the movie, the Baum books, or something else?
Skottie Young: I saw the movie first. Then I checked out the first few books from my school library. I enjoyed them a lot but they didn’t stick with me any more than anything else I read. I was unaware of how many Oz books there were until I was much older.
What’s influenced your take on Oz? Have there been other interpretations you’ve found hard to shake, or specific outside influences you’ve brought in to create your own take on this world?
It’s hard to say at this point. I guess the original illustrations are my first place I look, but they inform the character designs more than the style. But before I look to that, I always start with Baum’s text.Â
Enrique Fernandez is a brilliant artist that produced an adaptation of Oz in France, later published by Image here in the States. I had the French edition for years when I took this job, so I knew that was something I needed to put away and try to erase from my mind. He nailed it in my mind so it was going to be hard to shake it. But I did an OK job of taking my own path.
I basically just start drawing and try to push myself as far as possible while staying true to the Baum story.
How does the collaboration with writer Eric Shanower work? Do you work from full scripts, the Marvel method, or something else? And has the collaboration changed between you two now that this is the fifth book you’re working on together?
Eric gives me a full script for each issue and I work from that. He’s very detailed, and being a great artist himself, he really knows how to set up a page visually. He gives me a great foundation to build on. Once the script is in my hands, it’s mine to run wild with, though there rarely is a need for me to break outside what he’s given me. I add much more than I change. Going into our fifth year, we’re like a well-oiled comic book-making machine.
How much say do you get in the character and setting design?
I get all the say. I have complete freedom with the visuals and really steer that ship along with my right hand man, colorist Jean-Francois [Beaulieu]. That was one of the best things about getting offered this job, them saying, “You can do whatever you want with the art.” Marvel really stepped back and let me throw lines around until I found the look of the series. Again, I like to stick with the text of the books as much as possible, but I will push it whenever I see fit. Eric is always on board with new ideas and looks for this classic world. It’s really fun.
In the first issue of “Road To Oz” we’re introduced to The Shaggy Man and fox soldiers. With characters that aren’t as well known — compared to the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman — do feel less pressure in designing them?
I felt a bit of pressure on that initial lineup but never past that. Once I started to treat Oz like we’re creating it and not adapting it, I didn’t feel pressure about much anymore. It’s just about putting imagination on paper and telling a story.
What’s ahead in “Road To Oz” that you’re excited to show your spin on?
“Road to Oz” has a very diverse cast of guest stars. So far Shaggy Man and Polychrome, the daughter of a rainbow, are really fun to draw.
I was wondering if your convention experiences have changed since you’ve taken on the Oz books. Are you getting more children asking for sketches and autographs? Â Are there still fans hoping you’ll return to focus on more superhero-type work?
There’s a lot more kids and women who stop by the table. I’m not the favorite creator for a lot of husbands who thank me for getting their wives and girlfriends into comics with the art on Oz. [Laughs It’s cool to see a new crowd.
I have a few people from time to time ask when I’ll come back and draw “real” comics again. I hate to let them down, but I’ll be staying in Oz for a bit longer.
Speaking of, “Road to Oz” is the fifth Oz book by Baum, as well as the fifth one you’ve illustrated. Are you looking to do all 14? How far ahead are you looking into the future of the Marvel Oz books?
I’m in it for as long as Marvel wants to keep putting them out. I know Eric and Jean are down as well so as long as you all keep supporting it, we’ll keep making them.
Are there any of the specific Oz books to come — or scenes or characters that you’re chomping at the bit to get to?
Well, I’ll give this to the man that made it all happen, David Gabriel [Marvel’s SVP of Sales]. He’s dying to see me draw the Patchwork Girl [from the seventh book, “The Patchwork Girl of Oz”], so I’d like to make it that far so he can see that happen.
“Road To Oz” #1 by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young is on sale now.