Friday, July 19, 2013

"There's room enough for a million different stories in the land of Oz." Thoughts on the Royal Historian of Oz

For all that I've enjoyed reading comics from Slave Labor Graphics over the years, their recent publications are maddening to the collector. Despite being on their newsletters, I'm frequently at a loss as to what's become of books I was trying to follow... and so, my interest wanes and I forget about the series. It's a shame, because SLG titles surely need every fan they can get.

It was clear the wheels were falling off back in 2009 when James Turner's new series Warlord of Io was refused by Diamond so only the first issue was printed; SLG continued it as a digital-only comic; then they abandoned the digital version and printed the story as a trade. Hooray, I finally had the whole story and boo, I had to buy it across three platforms and was constantly unaware as to when/if/where it was being continued.

In retrospect, the 2010 debut of Tommy Kovac & Andy Hirsch's Royal Historian of Oz may have been the last gasp of SLG as a publisher of single issues. Despite issue #1 bearing a $1 price tag and trading on the ever-interesting world of Oz as source material (plus some favourable internet reviews), the series faced the same ultimate fate of Warlord of Io; four issues were published with immense irregularity, a fifth issue was printed in digital format and the whole series was collected in a trade.

Despite having bought issues #1-4 in print, I didn't realize #5 existed in digital format until last week... somehow SLG never fails to spam me about Johnny the Homicidal Maniac but remains clueless about my actual interests. Why is it so hard for me to give you my money?

Royal Historian of Oz featured Jasper Fizzle, a hack Oz novelist who discovered the wonderful land of Oz truly existed and began pilfering doodads from Oz to Earth to help him write his stories. The point-of-view character was Jasper's son Frank, frequently embarrassed by his father, but forced to help sort out his father's problems when people from Oz came looking for an explanation.

The concept of the series was loose enough to fuel a long-running open-ended series, but the comic reading populace's lack of interest in the material seems to have doomed it to an early grave; issue #5 wraps up matters at a frantic pace; protagonist Frank is suddenly rendered irrelevant as the problem at hand (the Wicked Witch of the West has possessed Scraps, the Patchwork Girl) is resolved by Jasper who even invokes the deus ex machina in the climax (an admittedly novel deus ex machina). Fallout from the problem's resolution leads to Frank being given the chance to keep adventuring in Oz, but it may be a prologue to a story we'll never see. And if a sequel should come to pass... I can't imagine how I'll find out it exists.

Tomorrow: something more pleasant.

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