Marvel Comics is returning to the land of Oz — but this time, Dorothy and Toto are nowhere to be seen.
Marvel published a comic book adaptation of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” that was recently collected in a hardcover collection. Now Marvel is adapting “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” L. Frank Baum’s first sequel to his “Wizard of Oz,” into an eight-issue comic book series; the first issue just arrived in comic book shops.
The creative team for the second adaptation is the same as the first, including writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young. It’s familiar territory for Shanower, an Oz devotee since age 6. Shanower has written and illustrated a series of Oz graphic novels — collected in IDW’s “Adventures in Oz” in 2006 — as well as a children’s novel, “The Giant Garden of Oz,” and a collection of short stories, “The Salt Sorcerer of Oz and Other Stories.”
As a writer-illustrator, Shanower says he was a bit unsure when Marvel approached him about handling just the writing of the comic book version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
“I didn’t know who was going to be drawing it, and I didn’t know what it would turn out to look like,” he says. But he figured the project wouldn’t attract much interest anyway, “and if it wasn’t very good, it would just sort of disappear.”
The series, though, was a hit for Marvel. “And the art by Skottie Young,” Shanower says, “turned out to be really full of life and very vibrant, a very valid new way of seeing the story.”
Shanower points to, for example, Young’s version of Dorothy in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
“She just is Dorothy,” he says. “She is not a Dorothy that we have seen before, but she is a Baum Dorothy.”
Dorothy, however, is not in “The Marvelous Land of Oz.” But there are some familiar characters, such as the Scarecrow and the Tin Man.
At the heart of the story is a boy named Tip. “He has a big, mysterious secret in his past that I can’t reveal because it is basically the boffo ending of the book,” Shanower says.
Tip is a prankster, and early in the story he plays a joke on his guardian, the witch Mombi, by building a man out of wood and a pumpkin to scare her. Mombi brings Jack Pumpkinhead to life, and Tip and Jack soon flee to begin a series of adventures.
“The Marvelous Land of Oz” is just one of 13 sequels written by Baum. Shanower says he has already gotten approval from Marvel to work on a third adaptation, this time of Baum’s “Ozma of Oz.”
When he’s not deep in Oz, you’ll likely find Shanower working on “The Age of Bronze,” his epic retelling of the complete story of the Trojan War in comic book form. The first issue was published by Image Comics in 1998, and Shanower figures he’s only about a third of the way through the project.
He will reach the end, he says, “but it’s off there in the distance.”
Find past Comics Fan columns at www.gazette.com/sections/the-comics-fan.