Saturday, January 06, 2007

Oz: The Manga #7

Oz: The Manga #7, December 2005, Antarctic Press
adapted and illustrated by David Hutchison

I posted a hasty review of today’s issue a few hours ago in case my girlfriend and I didn’t get back from the Orange County Performing Arts presentation of Pippin before midnight, and with just a half hour to go before tomorrow, I’m going to attempt a more comprehensive entry just under the buzzer. Tickets to Pippin were one of my Christmas gifts, because one of my heroes, Micky Dolenz, starred in the performance, quite impressively, I might add. However, more so than any of the actors, what stole the show was the play’s spiritual elements about life’s seemingly never-ending pursuit for satisfaction, embodied by young Prince Pippin and his consistently fruitless exploits for existential excellence. Interestingly, Pippin’s despair reminded me of a certain little girl from Kansas, ironically the star of today’s issue. Funny how those things work out.

In my brief original review of Oz: The Manga #7, I dubbed Dorothy “one of the most unsatisfied (and whiny) characters in modern literature.” I stand by that statement, based on the classic film incarnation of L. Frank Baum’s tale, and further embellished by contemporary interpretations like The Oz Squad, a comic book I reviewed here a few months ago. See, when Dorothy was in Kansas, she longed for a better life, wondering what things might be like “somewhere over the rainbow.” Then, when she actually gets there, she experiences one fantastic adventure after another just to get home. Then, in one of my most favorite moments in the classic movie, Dorothy actually misses her proverbial flight, yes because Toto spots a cat in the crowd, but also because she spends quite a few heartwarming moments wishing her new friends so long. Again, she’s torn between two worlds. I’ve been critical of Dorothy’s domestic schizophrenia, but analyzing it now, I wonder if Baum unwittingly managed to capture the female adolescent mind perfectly. One word: indecisive!

I mention those climatic moments of Dorothy’s epic adventure because Oz: The Manga #7 recreates those moments through another lens, sans the heartfelt good-byes that made those moments in classic cinema so memorable. Instead, Hutchison spends most of the issue focusing on each of the characters’ respective wishes. I don’t remember Baum’s original text, thanks in part to some distraction from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, but Hutchison’s recreations here, albeit masterfully illustrated, seemed to lack the soul those moments deserved. Rather than rattle a slew of scientific facts that he may in fact have already known, the Scarecrow simply thanks the Wizard for his new brains, which were in fact a combination of bran and needles poured into his potato sack skull. It’s an odd an awkward scene that does little more than advance the story. I guess the idea of Oz has been so embellished over the last century, so infused with our own thoughts of what these characters should be, that I expected more than was really necessary for the plot. These characters are icons now. They deserve all the thought, heart, and boldness that they sought in the first place!

Interestingly, at the end of this issue when Dorothy misses her flight, the Scarecrow elicits a local to reveal that Glinda could help her, implying that until that moment they had yet to meet the good witch to the south. I wonder if that element was in Baum’s original script, as well, or if Hutchison simply sought to extend his adaptation with more adventure, as Dorothy now faces yet another leg to her unexpected trek. Whatever the case, the “to be continued” nature of this issue represents my intial thoughts about Dorothy’s plight, not to mention Pippin’s. The quest for contention isn’t as easy as a three-act play, or an hour and a half movie . . . but that’s why characters like Dorothy and her crew are so endearing. They find what they’re looking for. And we love them for it.

And I get a longer review in under the wire. Sometimes the satisfaction comes in the little victories, eh?

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