By John Fricke

Above: This color plate was one of many drawings by Evelyn Copelman, who was hired by The Bobbs-Merrill Co. to illustrate a new edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1944. Although her work was described on the book’s title page as “Adapted from the Famous Pictures by W. W. Denslow,” many of Copelman’s characterizations and backgrounds were seemingly inspired by images recently familiar to the public from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Judy Garland OZ film, released five years earlier. This is worth noting, because — apart from a few separately licensed and minor retellings of the story — the 1944 Bobbs/Baum/Copelman edition marked the VERY first time since 1900 that the full-length WIZARD OF OZ novel appeared without its original, much-embraced Denslow pictures — once heralded as inseparable from the text. Additionally, that 1944 publication would informally mark the beginning of an endless onslaught of fascinating — it’s the safest word! — representations of Oz by an uncountable number of creative, imaginative, limitlessly gifted, and sometimes overwhelmingly innovative artisans.

Even occasional visitors to these blogs – or to Oz in general – will recognize the name William Wallace [W. W.] Denslow. It was his dazzling color pictures, artful book design, and character and setting concepts that helped make L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ the best-selling children’s book of 1900. For more than four decades, the vast majority of WIZARD OF OZ editions continued the Baum/Denslow amalgamation, although as twentieth century publishing grew more cost-effective across those years, much of Denslow’s work lost varying degrees of color. Additionally, many of the plates themselves were dropped, along with much of his interior art and motifs.

Yet the reading (and read-to) OZ audiences of all ages generally — and in many cases,

exclusively — knew Dorothy and her friends from Denslow’s visual interpretations. In the Denslow color plate below (from a reprint of the 1900 volume), the famous foursome – and Toto, too! — are hospitably hosted for dinner in a family’s home just outside the Emerald City:

Yet by the late 1930s, Denslow’s unique standing as the singular graphic adjunct to the pages of THE WIZARD OF OZ story was about to be challenged — and then eliminated. Today, we (gratefully) live at a time when facsimiles of the very first edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ (with Denslow in excelsis) are once again eminently available. Any artistic loss has thus been corrected. Conversely, there also has been an enormous benefit in the fact that Denslow WAS supplanted – for diverse reasons to be revealed. His displacement ultimately led to the innumerable, joyous, different (and apparently ceaseless) visualizations of Oz by others during the last eighty-plus years.

On behalf of the All Things Oz Museum, this brief new blog series will touch on some of the earliest “re-illustrations” of Baum’s masterwork. Yes, it’s history – but we thought it would be the perfect justification for mentioning the facts and then getting out of the way so as to share lovely and/or curious pictures!

Admittedly, there had been a few interpretations of THE WIZARD OF OZ adventures drawn by others even before Denslow’s art was completely dropped from the book. In 1939-40, separately licensed adaptations or abridgements of the story appeared in North America — and beyond — in conjunction with the debut of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Judy Garland musical movie. MGM’s copyright on their special treatments of the characters, storyline, and settings, however, meant that the new illustrators had to determine their own pictorial approach to the Girl from Kansas & Company. Grosset & Dunlap issued a brief, board-bound retelling of the Baum tale for which he received the author credit; no other writer is referenced. Oscar Lebeck, however, is cited for pictures, many of them in full color. Here is his cover design and a fanciful view of the Winkies at work to restore the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman after their devastation by the Winged Monkeys. The fact that there are seven little men here need not be interpreted as a private homage to Walt Disney’s 1937 success, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. (And yet . . . ! 😊 )

There was also a Whitman Publishing Company paint book, with H. E. Vallely’s cover definitely and only semi-discreetly inspired by MGM stills of Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow and Jack Haley

as the Tin Woodman. The interior captions and art, however, followed Baum’s text with more originality.

Bobbs-Merrill themselves issued this very brief, ten-page picture book, with art by Percy Leason and a linen-like finish:

Meanwhile, there were other storybooks and coloring books. Bobbs-Merrill adapted its regular edition of the full text by adding film stills to its endpapers; some of Denslow art appeared in the interior, as well. British versions took a similar approach, and there were also foreign language imprints, at least one of which told the movie story — Miss Gulch and all!

These were, of course, of their specific time, and once the MGM film had run its full course of theaters, Bobbs-Merrill went back to business as usual. Their standard edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ in the early 1940s continued to offer all of Baum’s words and increasingly minimized glimpses of Denslow — until 1944. As noted with the picture and caption at the top of this blog, that’s when the publishers brought in a new but accomplished talent in Evelyn Copelman to re-picture the full WIZARD OF OZ book, completely eliminating all of Denslow’s work. (His stunning designs wouldn’t be seen again in their entirety until a marvelous paperback effort by Dover Publications in 1960.)

Copelman proved masterful in updating and remodeling, both in her color and black-and-white art. Although she later denied that the MGM film had influenced her approach (and she may have been legally obligated to do so), there are obvious overtones, as can be seen here in two of her plates and one of her interior visuals. The multihued gathering of the gang just below and the portrait two pictures past that offer a Scarecrow easily perceived in characteristic Bolger-like poses or attitudes. Additionally, the Wizard here is diplomatically Frank Morgan in both stance and appearance, and Dorothy is a little-girl Garland. The middle of these three Copelman pieces is enhanced by a Margaret Hamilton-green, two-eyed Wicked Witch of the West (unlike the Baum-described, non-color specific, but one-eyed creature). Her castle staircase and chandelier are straight out of MGM’s scenic department in Culver City as well.

The 1949 theatrical reissue of the MGM film led to another spate of WIZARD OF OZ abridgements. Though far from the number of editions that appeared a decade prior, the new

crop included versions that remained “in print” well into the 1950s and even beyond.

In 1950, Random House brought in Allen Chaffee to abbreviate Baum’s story for an excellent picture book, illustrated by Anton Loeb in artwork that was detailed, accessible, and appealing to youngsters. As can be seen below, the cover was emblazoned “For Ages 5 to 9”; also shown is the artist’s atmospheric conception of the travelers as they “keep to the West, where the sun sets” in their attempt to find and destroy the Wicked Witch.

In addition to the Random House volume, Bobbs-Merrill also licensed an adaptation of THE WIZARD for the popular Wonder Books series in 1951. The perky, full-color art was drawn by Tom Sinnickson; here’s his cover design (with Dorothy ever more a little girl of the era) and a glowing view of the first part of “journey achieved” for our friends:

Then, in 1956, all Oz broke loose. So to speak.

Not only did the MGM film receive its first, sensationally received and top-rated, coast-to-coast CBS telecast, but the copyright expired on THE WIZARD OF OZ book. This meant that any publisher anywhere could bring out an edition of Baum’s story, whether word-for-word or condensed. No licensing needed to be done, and residuals were no longer payable to the Baum heirs. (An important note: The MGM film script, its new characters, and its revisions remained under copyright in 1956 and do so to this day. Thus, no one can release a book that retells the movie story; portrays Miss Gulch, Professor Marvel, or the farmhands; places Dorothy in ruby slippers – and etc.)

In 1956, however, THE WIZARD OF OZ became fair game at publishing houses throughout the land. Grosset & Dunlap rehired Evelyn Copelman to add extra images to those she’d done a dozen years earlier and produced three new editions of THE WIZARD in varying degrees of “luxe.” Whitman, whose (if memory serves!) fifty-nine cent editions of classics were then rampant in dime stores throughout the land, also put out the full Baum text in 1957, bound in glossy boards and with brand new art throughout by Russell H. Schulz. As the latter drew Dorothy for his color cover, she sported a sort of mouseketeer-styled Annette Funicello “do.” She returned to her braided self a moment later on the endpapers and in the rest of the Schulz pictures:

A year later, Scholastic Book Services jumped into the fray with a paperback version eventually uber-familiar to a couple of decades of children who eagerly anticipated their elementary school’s annual “book fair.” (Those were the days!) Scores of titles would be on display, whether “in person” or in a catalog; all were available to order from Scholastic at vastly reasonable prices. Paul Granger did their OZ cover (below), and his sketchy but evocative blank-and-white pictures dotted the text. In the art below the cover here, Dorothy’s friends are shown during the rare moment of their final farewell as she actually begins her flight home to Kansas:

One of the more sumptuous, “quick-to-take-advantage-of-its public domain status” editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ was published as IL MAGO DI OZ in Milan in 1957. Per the April 1962 issue of THE BAUM BUGLE – magazine of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org) – it was translated into Italian by Emma Saracchi “and beautifully illustrated in color by Maraja. The publishers were Fratelli Fabbri Editori . . .. The next year, this version was issued, with English text, simultaneously in England (W. H. Allen) and the United States (Grosset & Dunlap).” It also appeared in French in 1959 as LE MAGICIEN D’OZ.

Such world-wide appeal speaks not only of Baum’s timeless, ageless, boundary-less story but also of Maraja’s art: bright, gorgeously and richly rendered, yet delicate and singular. Below, you’ll see (from top): a) The 1958-59 cover picture. b) The fivesome as they listen to the confession of the Great & Powerful Humbug; Dorothy appears to be channeling the visage of a sort of blonde Pippi Longstocking. c) The age-appropriate Good Witch of the North as she balances her hat on her nose; it’s about to turn into a slate on which the directive is written, “LET DOROTHY GO TO THE CITY OF EMERALDS.” d) A blue-garbed Munchkin in front of his blue-garbed home, paying homage to the girl who has liberated his country from the Wicked Witch of the East.  e) That touching overnight moment en route to the Emerald City when the Scarecrow – after filling Dorothy’s basket with nuts from the nearby trees to help stave off her hunger – keeps “a good distance away from the flames, and only [comes] near to cover Dorothy with dry leaves [to] keep her snug and warm.” And f) What may well be the all-time amalgamation of Glinda as a slinky, sloe-eyed, seductive sophisticate: the Scarlett O’Hara of the Quadling Country!

By now, you’ve gotten the idea. Denslow started it all and reigned pictorially supreme in terms

of THE WIZARD OF OZ book – until fate stepped in, as these examples have shown. There were others in the late 1950s, of course, and as the annual film telecasts kicked off in 1959 and extended deep into the 1990s, incalculable different editions attempted to sate the public reading appetite. They, too, were often augmented by clever, beauteous, bizarre, funny, weird, superb pictures.

There’s one more point to be made and one more 1956 edition to be referenced. From 1903-1956, Bobbs-Merrill had held ONLY the copyright on THE WIZARD OF OZ book. There were, as of 1951, THIRTY-EIGHT OTHER FULL-LENGTH OZ BOOKS, published by Reilly & Britton (or, later, Reilly & Lee). In terms of variety, they basically defined the Oz marketplace and had done so since Baum began to continue the series in 1904. After he passed in 1919, the saga was continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson, John R. Neill, Jack Snow, and Rachel Cosgrove. Neill also illustrated all but three of those sequels; as a result, his work was even more deeply associated with Oz than that of Denslow.

Thus, it was a major event for Reilly & Lee and their audience: In 1956, they could finally top off AND head up their list of Oz titles with THE WIZARD OF OZ — champion of them all. Neill had died in 1943, however, so they had to ponder the question of an illustrator to take on such an important job as picturing their own “official” version of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Fortunately, they knew of someone both appropriate and already well-schooled. A year earlier, they’d hired Dale Ulrey to draw new pictures for Baum’s 1918 title, THE TIN WOODMAN OF OZ. This came about because Reilly & Lee wanted to “test the waters” in terms of updating the look of the Oz series; THE TIN WOODMAN was selected as the test case. Ulrey’s drawings thus went into a refashioned 1955 reprint, and Neill’s art was abandoned.

Ms. Ulrey did a sleek and vivid job with THE TIN WOODMAN OF OZ, and she quickly accepted the assignment to picture THE WIZARD. After all, she had just learned to align the famous Neill characters with a mid-1950s modernity. She had just depicted Dorothy as a blonde, in keeping with the girl’s hair color and style in every “official” Oz book in which she appeared post-Denslow – and Ulrey had also proved capable of contemporizing the little girl while maintaining her classic qualities. And as noted, the artist already proved that she knew how to draw many of the other legendary Ozians.

Here, as a teaser, is one of the first of her WIZARD OF OZ book drawings: the now baby-boomer Dot . . . and that wonderful (if somewhat portly) title character himself:

Thus, in 1956, Reilly & Lee finally published their own version of the first Oz book with pictures throughout by Dale Ulrey. Next month, we’ll pay tribute to those results . . . and reflect on what happened – and why. 😊

Thanks for being here – with all of these extraordinary artists!