Monday, 6 January 2014

In at 7! Rachel Cosgrove Payes - The Wicked Witch of Oz.

My top favourites are back!

It's a somewhat challenging to stick firmly to a definitive top 10 Oz books in this instance I struggled to commit to my favourite number 7, between both of Rachel Cosgrove Payes Oz books after much internal debate The Wicked Witch of Oz (WWOO) wins out. I read this before reading The Hidden Valley of Oz although I do like both of Rachel's entries into the Oz series.
The reason I bought this book first before Hidden Valley was because of Eric Shanower's illustration's like when I first saw Neill's illustrations I knew I needed to collect only Neill! When I first saw Eric's art in The Paradox of Oz, I again had to have more Shanower!
Another reason I chose WWOO is it feels more like an original story than Hidden Valley although I like both books, Singra with Witch is a great stand out villainess, secondly the illustration in this Oz book far exceed those of Dirk Gringus.

Rachel Cosgrove Payes wrote two Oz books one the Hidden Valley in Oz 1951 published as an official Famous forty Oz book and the sequel written and submitted but not accepted by Reilly and Lee was published by the International Wizard of Oz (IWOC) in 1993. Rachel interestingly also authored several erotic books as well two Oz books which I find delightfully amusingly, fortunately Oz is a clean fairyland book.

The Story in a nut shell, Singra Wicked Witch of the South awakes from a 100 year old sleep and is hell bent on revenge, in particular against Dorothy Gale for destroying her Cousin the Wicked Witch of the West
Plotting her revenge she turns Trot, believing this to be Dorothy into a piece of cheese, Dorothy in toe with Percy and Leon the Neon to rescue trot. Leon doesnt really impact me as memorable character, Percy whilst other Oz fans may not like Percy and his characterisation I enjoy him even the slang talk.

Eventually Singra is caught and drinks from water of oblivion, which turn hers good for now I suppose like the Ruggedo the Nome king she will undoubtedly become wicked again over time.

For Rachel Cosgrove Payes the land of Oz and her Oz characterisation's fit in with Baums Oz more than Thompson's. This is always a winner for me although I do love how Eloise McGraw used both authors visions of Oz.

The Book design at least compared to the previous disappointing white oversized paper backs Oz books from IWOC, WWOZ is a nice hardback that fits in with my Oz collection, hooray!
It also fit in nicely with my Hungry Tiger Oz books as well.

The Illustration's

After previously owning one other Oz book with Eric Shanower's  Oz illustrations I was excited when I ordered this book from the International Wizard of Oz club.
Fortunately Eric did not disappoint his work and line art in this book is lavishly detailed something that was missing from Oz illustrations since Jon R. Neill died in the 1940s.
Eric stamps his own style into Oz whist paying a loving tribute to John R. Neill's Oz character illustrations, Shanower's character design are more 3 dimensional than Neill's.

Its Eric attention to detail for example his Percy, a criticism of many an Oz fans from Gringus's take on Percy was unattractive and drawn in different sizes and odd perspective by Gringus.
Eric has told me in Conversation that he kept a live rat as pet to study and draw Percy, the results are superb and Percy looks adorable.
This detailing of Percy is beautiful and naturally drawn and at his most adorable on this two page insert which happens to be my favourite illustration in the whole book!

If my memory is correct Eric stated that he put a little ink on the real life Percys feet to help in the design of this beautiful illustration.

I found Dorothy drawn with modern shorts a little jarring at first until Eric explained this to me. That Neill drew Dorothy and others in modern dress at this point in time, I never knew that about Neill but then looking back Neills illustrations all look old fashioned to me. Not being a follower of vintage fashion it is not something that ever occurred to me. With this in mind and re-examining Neil illustrations I see Eric's point. On a personal note I do prefer to see Dorothy in a summer dress of sorts but it doesn't jar with me the same since being made aware of this. Although thinking about it I would much rather see Dorothy in a T-shirt and shorts than a boob tube and mini skirt!

I think this was Erics first official released book of an author who is one the official Famous Forty authors, you can see that Erics passion for conducting an exemplary piece of work, the detailing is wonderful. The illustration fit with my vision of Oz, the only colour plates but that is more to do printing cost limitation of our time. I'd love to see Eric illustrated Oz with 12 colour plates like the earlier Oz work at the moment Erics Adventures in Oz is the closest I will get to this.

Rachel Cosgrove Payes is most definitely a worthy Royal Historian of Oz. 
Eric Shanower for me is the current Illustrious Illustrator of Oz and the best thing about this is he is very much alive and will happily sign your books and chat about Oz.


  1. Colin: Pleased to read of your admiration of Cosgrove-Payes, particularly since her Oz work has traditionally been maligned. I love THE WICKED WITCH OF OZ as a first-rate Oz book and of course Eric Shanower and David Maxine made it one of the most beautifully illustrated and designed Oz volumes of all.

    I shared Oz with a pair of cousins as a tween and they turned me on to THE HIDDEN VALLEY OF OZ as a special favorites. It still has a distinctive "something" that makes it a welcome part of the Famous Forty. I recognize the excess of derivation from WIZARD but think that this reminder turned out to be a good thing for the penultimate FF book. I only wish that Spots had been kept on for the remainder of the adventure instead of being dispatched to the Emerald City so early. Also missed Pinny and Gig when they were "dumped off" (in Cosgrove's own words) -- although she might have put muzzles on them, so to speak. I didn't mind Dirk's pictures then, but eventually came to see how clumsy they are and believe that this has held back the book's reputation. I suppose you are aware that Eric Shanower offered to provide new illustrations when the Int'l Wiz of Oz Club published their edition -- and they turned him down! Still hoping that Hungry Tiger Press will publish such a volume when economically feasible. -- Terence Martell, Seattle Washington USA.

  2. Thanks Terence.

    I never really understood why RGP's Oz work has been so underrated I still find it a much more pleasing read and more Baumian Oz than anything from RPT.

    I only ever came to see Dirk's pictures as an adult and certainly didn't rate his illustration's but then I am not so keen on Frank Kramer's work either.

    I do recall something about Eric offering and it is a great shame the club never did this. I agree, I wish Hungry Tiger Press would obtain the rights and get Eric to illustrate the book. Eric and David combined work is alway of very high quality and I would love to see Eric illustrate The Hidden Valley of Oz. although I think don't it is so easy to get the rights to do this which is a shame.