CHRISTMAS: MARTIN & THOMPSON (& BAUM – OF COURSE)!
By John Fricke
As they sing in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 film of THE WIZARD OF OZ: “Ha Ha Ha! Ho Ho Ho! And a couple of Tra-la-lahs!” We’re actually trimming down the phrase – just for the moment – to concentrate on the “Ho Ho Ho!” aspect of E. Y. (Yip) Harburg’s lyric; it’s a ho-ho-hopeful and happy means of celebrating the holidays here with you. Oz and December have been associated in a number of ways over the years: a new Oz book was a highly anticipated annual gift for several decades, and from 1959-1962 (and, again, later on), a nationwide telecast of MGM’s musical motion picture was a sure and gleeful bet that it was The Most Ozziest Time of the Year! (Okay, that’s not the way the song goes, and the new phrase isn’t even grammatically correct. But remember: This is Oz – and if it’s not fun, we’re doing it wrong. 😊 )
THE BAUM BUGLE cover art shown above harks back to the early days of The International Wizard of Oz Club. In that era, the three magazines per year were categorized by the publication dates April, August, and Christmas. (After a decade or so, the more general — and generally realized — nomenclature became Spring, Autumn, and Winter.) The first issues of Justin G. Schiller’s fanzine, published in 1957 and 1958 when he was in his early teens, were primarily amateurly-typed mimeographed pages. When commercial artist Dick Martin began to draw and design cover art for the BUGLE in 1959, the publication took on a more Ozzy sheen. Then, in summer 1961 as Justin prepared to head off to college, Dick and Fred Meyer took over most editorial and design duties for the magazine; this was in many ways a natural extension of Dick’s professional work at that time. A rabid collector and historian, he was ever more immersed in Oz illustrative endeavors and research, and often specifically employed by Oz book publishers, Reilly & Lee. As can be seen above (and below), the Oz Club was beyond fortunate to have him, too! [Note: In case there are any bibliographers or fledgling Baumians in the crowd, the books being holiday-hoisted in the picture “up top” include – working south — THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ (1904), THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS (1902), TIK-TOK OF OZ (1914), THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO (1903), SKY ISLAND (1912), A NEW WONDERLAND (1900), PHOEBE DARING (1912), THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900), DOT AND TOT OF MERRYLAND (1901), OZMA OF OZ (1907), BABES IN BIRDLAND (1917), AMERICAN FAIRY TALES (1901), GLINDA OF OZ (1920), and LITTLE WIZARD STORIES OF OZ (1914).]
For the Christmas 1964 BUGLE, Dick compiled a wrap-around cover (just above), using several of the Walt McDougall drawings from the December 18, 1904, installment of QUEER VISITORS FROM THE LAND OF OZ. This was a twenty-seven week, full-page, “Sunday funnies” newspaper series of Baum short stories, in which he recounted the adventures of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Woggle-Bug, Sawhorse, and Jack Pumpkinhead, as they and the flying Gump visited the United States. Not at all coincidentally, those six characters were among the principal protagonists of Baum’s second Oz title, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, which had come off the press that autumn. The weekly comic feature was of immense help in heralding the book.
Along their Ozzy way, the voyagers naturally visited Dorothy on the Gale farm in Kansas (near Topeka). They also made a holiday side-excursion to the Laughing Valley to see Santa Claus, taking along scores of tiny toy images of themselves for him to distribute to boys and girls on his Christmas Eve travels. Dick’s selections from McDougall’s illustrations bedecked that BUGLE’s frontage, depicting the visitors from Oz as they created each “mini-me”; carried their armloads of gifts to Santa; and arrived “just in time” to catch him in a moment of leisure before he began his annual trek.
No need to squint! For easier reading, the content of the poem shown above is reprinted below. 😊 It’s one of several written especially for THE BAUM BUGLE by Ruth Plumly Thompson, Baum’s successor as “Royal Historian of Oz.” Ms. Thompson’s contributions to the Oz series are extraordinary; she wrote a book a year from 1921 through 1939, plus two additional titles published by the Oz Club itself in the 1970s. “RPT” was an indefatigable champion of children, their reading, and their love of Oz. As a result, she was an early member of the Oz Club and occasionally contributed new verse or nonfiction articles to its publication. This was the second of her December holiday-related submissions, and in addition to the reprint here, it’s also shown above as it appeared in the Christmas 1961 BUGLE – simply so as to share another Dick Martin original drawing!
A CHRISTMAS WISH
from Ruth Plumly Thompson
At Christmas time, I’d love to be
The Wiz of Oz, instead of me.
His Christmas shopping is no chore.
No hurrying from store to store.
He fills his pipe with magic snuff,
Wishing powder – plus other stuff?
Then he lights her up and take a puff –
Not long, not short, but short enough.
And when the piney smoke subsides,
Boxes and boxes with gifts inside
Come tumbling down, a monster pile,
All tied & tagged in grandest style
Presents for everyone – think of that!
From Ozma down to her proud glass cat.
I do know a magic word or two,
More magic still when I say them to YOU:
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to you all!
Finally, to tie it all together, here’s one more illustration. As represented in the sketch at the top of the blog, Frank Baum wrote a full-length book about [THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF] SANTA CLAUS. It’s one of his most charming and incandescent fantasies, and his ever-active mind managed to create an entirely original back-story for the merry old soul. It can’t be done justice in a summary, but the saga begins when Claus is a wee babe and traces his progress through the invention of toys, the establishment of the Christmas tree, and his magical, once-a-year-day waft around the world. Naturally, Baum then had a certain claim on the spry old legend and, seven years later, included him as The MOST Special Guest at Princess Ozma’s birthday party in THE ROAD TO OZ (1909). That celebration was pictured in detail by the Imperial Illustrator of Oz, John R. Neill, who provided art for more official Oz books than one else. THE ROAD TO OZ, however, was the only book of the first twenty-eight in the series that didn’t include some color textual illustrations. Compensation would arrive in 1939, however, when Rand McNally published a much-abridged version of the story to coincide with the launch of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ film. One of their staff artists colored a number of Neill’s black-and-white THE ROAD TO OZ drawings, and above you’ll see Santa – that jolly old soul – as he leads a toast to Ozma for her natal day. (Dedicated Ozophiles may wish to closely examine the attendant coterie and try to spot the Shaggy Man, the Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, John Dough the Gingerbread Man, the Tin Woodman, and Jack Pumpkinhead among those at the table.)
At this time, a toast from Santa seems as fitting a finale to the 2020 blogs as anything might be. May I please also offer the same sort of very good and sincere cheer to all of you reading here? It continues to be a privilege for me to celebrate the magic of Baum’s incomparable creation and characters with those who drop by each month — perhaps especially when this year’s months have brought so many challenges to virtually everyone. Certainly, there’s never been a better time to try once again to share in some of the written and illustrative joys that have sprung from the imaginative genius of L. Frank Baum, “RPT,” W. W. Denslow, John R. Neill, Dick Martin . . . .
And so many others.
May your holidays and new year be permeated with the love that is embodied in every Oz book – and in the very best part of all of us.
[Note: In 2009, ALL the color Oz comic pages by Baum and McDougall – plus those by Denslow — were reprinted in full color for the first time since 1904-05 in a deluxe, hardcover, oversize (16×18 inches) volume, QUEER VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. This extraordinary assemblage from Sunday Press also includes brief biographies of the authors/illustrators, a concise history of amazing Oz comic books, appreciations by noted Oz scholars — and more. Visit www.sundaypress.com for information; it’s a collectible no Oz fan should be without.]