I recently read Eric Shadower and Skottie Young’s adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s Wonderful World of Oz. My kids are pretty big fans of all things Oz, so it got me thinking about the various incarnations of the Oz story throughout Four Color History. To head off any comments regarding Shadower’s other Oz books and the whole Oz-Wonderland War story, let me state that I’m not covering everything and I’ve picked 1980 as a cut-off point.
Waaaay back in the 1930s, Dell published The Funnies, an anthology of newspaper reprints featuring strips such as John Carter of Mars and Alley Oop. At least one issue featured the strip Wonderland of Oz, a reformatted reprint of a newspaper strip that ran earlier in the decade.
In 1956, Dell published an adaptation of Baum’s work in Dell Junior Treasury #5 (July, 1956). I am not sure why these books were priced at 15 cents, as I believe the page counts were the same as 10 cent books of the same era.
Less than a year later, Gilberton published its Wizard of Oz adaptation in Classics Illustrated Junior #535. Like the Dell adaptation, there was a premium to be paid for this book. Granted, there are no ads, but I would think that your average child would rather pick up a copy of Showcase back then (better investment, too!). I’m not 100% sure who drew this particular story, but those human faces sure look like they were drawn by Mike Sekowsky. Anyone know for sure? We've got a copy at home, and it really is quite good.
When I was a child, the Tales of the Wizard of Oz was in heavy rerun rotation on CFTO here in Toronto. I only recently learned that Dell included an adaptation of the show as part of its Four Color series in the early 60s. I’ve never actually seen a copy of Four Color #1308 (1962), so I am not sure how they translated the proto-Rankin/Bass animation to the comic book format. If I saw a cheap copy, I’d certainly pick it up.
Next up are some unique promotional comics and coloring books that served as a tie-in to Off To See The Wizard, a rather obscure show that ran on ABC during the 1967-68 season. As I understand, the show included Oz-related framing sequences and the character designs on these giveaways come from that show.
Every now and then, you’ll see an Oz inspired story pop up in a funnybook. One such tale can be found in The Adventures of Jerry Lewis #89 (July-August, 1965). The Wizard of Ooze is a typically insane story created with love and talent by the team of Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner.
I’ll leave off with one last notable Oz adaptation. I won’t discuss the DC/Marvel co-production of the MGM movie, as I’ve discussed it elsewhere on here. I’d like to mention the treasury-sized Marvel Treasury of Oz #1 ( aka Marvelous Land of Oz). This is a rather unique adaptation, as Baum’s work was in the public domain, but Marvel chose to continue with certain likenesses from the MGM film. This will leave it in reprint limbo for the foreseeable future. Roy Thomas’s script is quite strong, and I think that Alfredo Alcala’s artwork is right up there with the tremendous work done by Big John Buscema on the initial treasury.
There are quite a few more, including at least one Mad parody, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. For more classic comic talk, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent