Eric Shanower has loved L. Frank Baum's classic series of "Oz" books since he was six years old. The Eisner-winning writer and artist of "Age of Bronze" parlayed that passion into a similarly award-winning body of work featuring the magical world of Dorothy and all of her fantastic friends, writing and illustrating multiple Oz books and graphic novels throughout the 1980s and early '90s, as well as scripting audio tales released on compact disk.
The acclaimed creator is set to return to Oz in December, when Marvel Illustrated will release an eight-issue adaptation of "The Wonderful World of Oz," penned by Shanower with art by fan-favorite "New X-Men" artist Skottie Young.
Shanower told CBR News that it's difficult to explain what it is exactly he loves about the "Oz" books, but he did share countless possibilities. "Part of it is that they're full of adventure and humor. Part of it is that there's always a child who's in charge of running things. Part of it is the illustrations by John R. Neill who illustrated most of the 'Oz' series, although not the first book. Part of it is the idea that being unusual is a fine thing to be and often more interesting than being average. Part of it is the view that there's always a way to solve problems, to reach a goal, as long as one is willing to seek the answer and not give up," said Shanower, who added the upcoming miniseries will be a faithful adaptation of the entire book.
"We're keeping everything in, even the parts that are most often dropped from adaptations, like the China Country and the origin of the Winged Monkeys," revealed Shanower. "You're going to be seeing the Good Witch of the North's kiss on Dorothy's forehead, the river-crossing on the raft, the Field Mice, the monster who eats the forest creatures like a spider eats flies, the Kalidahs, and all the creatures the Wicked Witch of the West sends to battle Dorothy and her friends."
The original "Oz" story has been told countless times in print, film and animation. Shanower said he and Young will keep the Marvel Illustrated version fresh by ignoring all the other adaptations of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." "We are going back to the book by L. Frank Baum. I'm particularly glad that Skottie's interpretations of the characters aren't derivative of any previous vision, including the original book illustrations," offered Shanower, who attended Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art after graduating from high school.
Being such a big fan of the source material himself, Shanower said it's hard to pick a favorite character. "Choosing favorites is difficult. I like so many different things for so many different reasons," he said. "But in this project, my favorite character is probably Dorothy, because she is the character the reader identifies with, the character the reader goes on the journey with. When we're reading this story, our sympathies lie with her."
Asked if he would love to follow this project with adaptations of other "Oz" books for Marvel Illustrated, Shanower responded with an emphatic "Yes!"
Shanower's first major published works were the "Oz" graphic novels, which are "The Enchanted Apples of Oz," "The Secret Island of Oz," "The Ice King of Oz," "The Forgotten Forest of Oz," and "The Blue Witch of Oz," all of which were released by First Comics and Dark Horse Comics between 1986 and 1992 and available now in a collected edition from IDW Publishing. He has also written and illustrated a full-length "Oz" novel, "The Giant Garden of Oz," and a collection of short "Oz" stories, "The Salt Sorcerer of Oz."
As an illustrator, Shanower has also worked on several books by Oz historians, including "The Wicked Witch of Oz" by Rachel Cosgrove Payes, "The Rundelstone of Oz" by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, "The Runaway in Oz" by John R. Neill, and "The Third Book" of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
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