Long-time Watusi readers will recall that my characters and I spent a great deal of time in the Land of Oz for an extended comic adventure. While I haven’t completed making the revisions to that online comic for its print edition, I do have an opportunity to showcase some of the work from that epic alongside other Oz-inspired artwork this fall at Playhouse on the Square!
Made up of a selection of comic pages from my story, along with other Oz-inspired artwork, my “Beyond the Emerald City” show will be on display from October 14-December 28, 2022, in conjunction with Playhouse’s staging of “The Wizard of Oz”. That fortuitous timing (pointed out to me by someone else, since I had totally missed the opportunity it presented) was just too good to pass up, even if it meant completing work for the show on a tighter schedule than I’d have liked. Pushing deadlines can work when it comes to publishing comics online, but my paintings need time to cure before varnishing! Still, it all came together, and has made for what I think is a really satisfying show.
When I decided to make a comic set in the Land of Oz all those years ago by bringing my talking dog Watusi & his friends into interaction with Oz characters & settings in the public domain, I didn’t realize just how much fun I’d have playing in that sandbox! While I was familiar with the movie, once I read the later books in the series I came to have a real fondness for its wide cast of characters and an appreciation of L. Frank Baum’s world-building skill. Plus, those books are darn fun to read, chock full of wordplay & puns, much of which is still clever and humorous over a century after they were first written! Rereading illustrated editions whenever possible, I especially appreciated the design sensibilities of original Oz artist W.W. Denslow, and found his work to be an inspiration for my own treatment of the characters. Much like Baum’s written descriptions of the cast, they were so well designed visually that there was no need to “update” them! If you ever get a chance to read a color reprint of the original Denslow-illustrated edition, with its whimsical character designs and luscious two-color spot illustrations and full-page plates, you’re in for a treat! The second Oz artist, John R. Neill, had a more refined illustration style that I didn’t connect with as easily as with Denslow’s cartoonier art, but his lanky characters certainly influenced my take on Jack Pumpkinhead…
Admittedly, this show– a fan art love letter to the novels– is more comfort food than a palate-expanding meal … but sometimes mac & cheese is just what one needs, isn’t it? My hope is that viewers will find the work in this show an intriguing first step into (or a happy reminder of) the wide, wondrous world of Oz beyond the Emerald City! Like in my treatment of familiar Oz characters and settings in my own story, I hope this show has enough “Ozzy” touches to bring joy to those already familiar with Baum’s novels and piques the curiosity of those who aren’t … yet!
If you’re in the area, you are invited to join me for an artist reception from 5-7 p.m. on the play’s opening night, November 11th, 2022.