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[personal profile] icon_uk posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Another comic unearthed from the depths of one of my longboxes is this, my only issue (as far as I recall) of Oz Squad, which came out back in 1991 from Brave New Words (No, I'd never heard of them either).

As you read this, remember that this predates "Wicked" by quite some time, and given how recently the Oz books had become public domain, it's actually a rather well thought out reimagning/updating.

I can guarantee that this won't be to all tastes, there are some VERY dodgy beats in this, and a couple of places where black humour becomes so pitch black it would cause most people (who would remember only the movie) some distinct squirming moments.

The first issue does a deal of scene-setting, and deals with Tik-Tok, who most folk probably only know through this.

After all, who couldn't trust a face like this?

Less that 10 pages from a 30 page issue.

The cover introduces us to the main cast... Dorothy, Lion, Nick Chopper (The Tin Woodman), Scarecrow and the Wizard.

At an airport in Kansas City, a new arrival is coming through Arrivals, chatting amiably with an air hostess who is a big fan. Lion is waiting for Tik-Tok (Lion has a human form, a very, VERY handsome human form with a natty line in designer suits. Not sure if that was ever in the books, but I'm sure someone can tell me)

But then...

Tik-Tok apologises, explaining that it's probably his Thinking Spring winding down (For those who don't know the character, Tik-Tok has three springs which require regular external winding; Thought, Action and Speech)

There then follows a fracas with a paper-vending machine, an obsecnity and a police giving Tik-Tok hassle for smashing the machine. Lion intervenes, flashing a CIA ID, explaining that his associate isn't used to Earth yet, and assuring them that the bill will be paid for damages, and removing Tik-Tok (swearing all the way) into a taxi.

They get in a taxi and head off to meet Dorothy, but Tik-Tok suddenly announces that he doesn't want to see Dorothy anymore, and doesn't want to see Lion either... Cue ultra-violence....

The cab hits a petrol tanker, and then smashes through the window of a nearby restaurant, the devastation is spectacular...

In the headquarters of the team known as Gale Force (I can appreciate why they called the comic "The Oz Squad", but "Gale Force" is a brilliant name for Dorothy's "Mission Impossible" type team), the Tin Woodman is in meditation in the garden when his internal radio picks up on the distress call, so he alerts Dorothy.

I have to say I like their take on Dorothy, not that she has much in common with the version we all know, but her appearance. (I'd say she was patterned after Linda Hamilton in Termiantor 2, but this came out at roughly the same time, so it seems unlikley). I'd say she's in her thirties, is no nymphet, and is beautiful rather than pretty (In my interpretation "pretty" fades with time, "beauty" lasts a whole lot longer).

She calls a mission team together

So Scarecrow is disaffected, listens to Nina Hagen (Think... Bjork meets Pizzazz of the Misfits, and a remarkable lady in her own right), and reads Aleister Crowley's "Snow Drops from a Curate's Garden" which he describes as "Edwardian occult porno trash".

Fitting Scarecrow into a suitcase (The most convenient means for him to travel, though he's not fond of it) the helicopter takes them towards the coty. But as Tik-Tok is involved, first Dorothy uses a magic belt (originally belonging to the Nome King, then Ozma, and now Dorothy) to open a gateway to Oz, so Nick and Scarecrow can stop off to get hold of Smith and Tinker's original blueprints for Tik-Tok in case they're of use. They immediately get in to see Ozma, who is not happy at the news.

Ozchwitz is where some of my gorge starts rising. Personally I believe that there are some things that should not be made light of, and this is one of them.

Meanwhile Dorothy has arrived on scene, and finds that Lion has regenerated himself following nearly being blown apart in the explosion. (This also means he's not wearing a shirt, I have no problem with that myself)

Tik-Tok has gone into the sewers, but luckily he's so cover in soot, Lion could probably track him down in human form so they set off, with the policeman, Officer Chrysler, insisting on coming, against Dorothy's better judgement she let's him.

Back in Oz...

And a cameo by, I believe, General Jinjur

Again, I can see why they used this imagery, it instantly tells you that something unspeakably dreadful has occurred in Oz, even if it's not overly clear what (The scrap of fabric on the barbed wire has a stylised M onit, which probably relates to Munchkins, but is it the equivalent of the Nazi swastika, or the Jewish Star of David? I imagine later issues made it clearer). However I'm not sure they should have used something which has such close, emotionally intense, real-world parallels.

In any event, they investigate the files...

Never did trust the little blue freaky thinkgs myself....

Back on earth Lion has assumed his Animal form as they close in on their quarry, and Tik-Tok has found a gun shop. This will not end well.

Chrysler is dead, but Dorothy manages to blow Tik-Tok's left arm off and he lurches off...

Dorothy continues to track him, but he manages to get the drop on her and loses her gun to him in the process, nevertheless she keeps going.

SWAT are called in but aren't sure they have anything capable to dealing with Tik-Tok, when another portal opens...

Scarecrow smoking? Not a good sign... and again we get more of a clue of the status of the Oz-ian operatives on Earth.

Be warned, that this next sequence is not going to be... nice.

It's the bow tie that sells he's serious there. (Though the "I thought you had it" moment I won't even comment on)

And now,as Tik-Tok's Action spring winds down, we discover the truth that Nick and Scarecrow found out by going to see Smith and Tinker themselves.

Promising that full reparations for all damage will be made from the Ozian Treasury, they return to Oz, open Tik-Tok up and rewind "The Internal Morality Spring (also the name of the story, but I didn't want to spoil the ending), then they wind the rest of his springs up.

"Didn't you?" asks Dorothy, not without a little understandable bitterness..

And so ends the first issue. I think the Ozchwtiz and dead baby jokes put my younger self off of buying any more issues.There are 13 issues in all, across three publishers, and a one-off Little Oz Squad special.

I don't think I regret not buying them, but looking back at it, I think I might like to know more about the world that it created. Hmm, I've also just discovered that the first four issues were collected and annotated in 2008 so maybe I should take a look at it.

Date: 2011-02-20 09:36 pm (UTC)
jaybee3: (shazam)
From: [personal profile] jaybee3
I really get tired of all the "Dark Oz" re-imaginings we get (be it in comics, stage, or even on TV like the Tin Man thing). I think an ongoing comic that would pick up where Baum left off (much like the Eric Shanower graphic novels he put out years ago) with all the weirdness and strange characters that Oz produces but with the original characters personalities and motivations left intact would be a big hit as an all-ages comic or GN.

I give credit to Marvel for what they're doing with Scottie Young and Shanower and putting out re-tellings of the old Baum tales but one of the things about Oz is it's always adapted to new stories (in Baum's vein) for a century without turning Ozma's quasi-Utopia into a Crapsack World.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:06 pm (UTC)
jaybee3: (shazam)
From: [personal profile] jaybee3
Yeah Oz Squad isn't as bad as some (and unlike some of the others actually seems to be written by someone who's read ALL their Baum and not just the 1st book).

The Oz books themselves are hit and miss. Some like The Patchwork Girl of Oz or even the first 3 books are really creative and have decent plots but others are basically travelogues so Baum has an excuse to introduce more and more characters. That's where I think Baum's greatest strength lay - even though he sometimes contradicted himself as he went along he was a great fantasy world builder before that was even thought of.

And characters like Ozma (as written in all her trangendered fairy regal self) and her "close" friendship with Dorothy, the Patchwork Girl, the Glass Cat, the Frog Man, Billina the Chicken, Trot and Cap'n Bill and even Betsey Bobbin and her mule have never been used to their full advantage. Because everyone who tries to "update Oz" wants to go down the mine of the 1939 movie for story ideas. The truth is the Cowardly Lion wasn't a huge player in the later Oz books and Nick Chopper was more interesting as the benevolent Emperor of the Winkies (which he became) than just the "Tin Man" of the movie. But we never see that.

Date: 2011-02-20 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] hyperactivator
The more I read the books the more I dislike the movie in all it's flash.

But thats what people want.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
Baum is not really a great writer by most criteria. I loved the books when I was nine or so, but reading them again as an adult I found the writing very flat.

Date: 2011-02-20 09:40 pm (UTC)
auggie18: (Default)
From: [personal profile] auggie18
...wow, that was dark. Although, in all fairness, even if someone did catch that baby, it would still be very, very dead.

This looks really interesting. Kinda uncomfortable, but still very interesting.

Also really digging the name Gale Force. I read only a few books and that was a while ago. The few references I caught were pretty cool.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] dreams_of_all
I've always felt that "dark" takes on Oz have always kind of missed the point of the books. As well as not taking full advantage of the source material.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:38 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
I don't know, I think Return to Oz kept to the spirit of the books as well as taking full, full advantage of the source material. Anyone else having childhood trauma flashbacks even from that, relatively innocuous, clip?

Date: 2011-02-20 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
Yes, thank you, that was the exact scene I had in mind. However did you guess?

I knew that fact about Michael Sundin! He was a bit before my time, but a friend of mine who's ten years older told me who he was while we were watching the film a while back. He never mentioned his death though - that's really sad.

Also this leads me to believe that you have a special file dedicated to attractive young men who are gymnastically gifted.

Date: 2011-02-22 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ebailey140
Agreed. It's possible to keep Oz Oz and tell creative, engaging, stories. Return to Oz did it. Tim Burton's used his Oz influences to create those sorts of whimsical, yet spooky, worlds frequently in his films. A little known fact is Tik-Tok was the first robot in fiction.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:19 pm (UTC)
fungo_squiggly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fungo_squiggly
Okay, so I laughed at the first baby's being tossed, given the rescue by Scarecrow. "Goo." "You nearly were." Har!

But then they had to go too far by having the next baby actually die, and even making that the punchline of a joke. There is a line between edgy and dark and just gratuitously horrible.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:45 pm (UTC)
aaron_bourque: default (Default)
From: [personal profile] aaron_bourque
The Scarecrow . . . smokes

. . .

I just . . . I'm sad now.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
Especially since his greatest fear is a lit match. Apparently.

Date: 2011-02-20 11:03 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
I suppose that's his equivalent of cutting, which would make sense with someone too intelligent but can't reconcile with reality.

Date: 2011-02-20 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
It's more like the equivalent of cutting if one were a haemophiliac.

Date: 2011-02-20 11:17 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
Still, risk-taking behaviour as an unhealthy method of coping. Keeping in mind, the concept of cutting wasn't really out there in the public consciousness in the late 80's/early 90's the way it is now.

Date: 2011-02-21 06:27 am (UTC)
aaron_bourque: default (Default)
From: [personal profile] aaron_bourque
I'd actually buy him cutting.

This is like randomly setting yourself on fire.

Date: 2011-02-20 10:53 pm (UTC)
silverzeo: Chaud thinking "No way!" (WTF?)
From: [personal profile] silverzeo
..... were they trying to make the middle babie's death... funny? .... even the Joker would try something like that....

Date: 2011-02-20 11:23 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
On a related topic, do you remember the Oz-Wonderland War series that Captain Carrot and crew were involved in? I think it was around this time period.

The cover to this reminds me a bit of the D&D-esque series Empire Lanes.

Date: 2011-02-22 05:44 am (UTC)
ladytimedramon: (Toymanator)
From: [personal profile] ladytimedramon
I remember the fun of walking into a comic shop or going to a convention table and asking if they had that book. Pre-internet, it took me about 8 years to find copies of all of them (when they came out, I wasn't in a situation where I could go to comic shops to buy them).

Date: 2011-02-21 02:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brandiweed.livejournal.com
This is the sort of stuff that just makes me say "Ah, the '90s!" with a tone somewhere between sarcasm and resignation.

Date: 2011-02-21 03:58 am (UTC)
arbre_rieur: (Default)
From: [personal profile] arbre_rieur
I read this series a while back. The thing I found interesting, which none of all the numerous other modern Oz stories has done as far as I know, is how it set the events of Baum's books as happening when they were published, so it can imagine Dorothy and crew as having experienced 70-80 years of adventures and change since then. Other modern Oz stories assume the world existed in a status quo since the end of the books, but here the characters kept on having further adventures and meeting new people, undergoing changes, in all those decades in-between.

Which ties into another thing I found interesting: This comic, better than than any other I've ever read, mimics what it must feel like for a new reader to dive into a series like JSA or X-Men that's mired in decades' worth of continuity. Like with lots of fantasy series, the author invented a huge load of backstory. Unlike other series, however, it references that backstory as if it's information most of the readers are already aware of.

For example, there's one issue where Scarecrow becomes stuck in Renaissance Italy. His solution is to find Leonardo da Vinci and announce to the inventor that he's going to help him find the secret of time travel so that they can use it to send him back home. Why in the world do you think I'm capable of that, asks da Vinci. Because, the Scarecrow explains, in the 1960s he met an immortal Leonardo da Vinci in Greenwich Village, one who had discovered, among things, time travel. The fact that the Scarecrow was ever in Greenwich Village, much less that he met an ageless, super-powerful Leonardo da Vinci there, was never mentioned or even hinted at up till that point where it becomes the solution to his current problem.

The series is filled with odd moments like that, where bizarre events previously never even hinted at suddenly intersect with Gale Force's current adventures.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:27 am (UTC)
arbre_rieur: (Default)
From: [personal profile] arbre_rieur

"However I'm not sure they should have used something which has such close, emotionally intense, real-world parallels."

I'm not sure if this will make it seem better or worse for you, but they're not so much using Nazi imagery as actual Nazis. Part of the backstory is that during WWII, the Nazis, experimenting with the occult, found a way to travel to Oz and turned it into an occupied country. (On an odd note, the German in charge of the invasion was an immortal Baron Munchausen, in a rare instance of the semi-historical figure being portrayed as a villain. The portrayal was based off his depiction in the '43 film M√ľnchhausen, which was made at the behest of Joseph Goebbels to compete with America's Technicolor productions, including... The Wizard of Oz.)

Date: 2011-02-21 07:40 am (UTC)
equinox216: (Default)
From: [personal profile] equinox216
That page with the 'palace files through N have been transferred' callback to how Oz got named was about the only really clever piece of this.

Though I can totally see this TikTok recapping Javier Bardem's role in 'No Country'. "How much is too much, friendo Lion?"

Date: 2011-02-21 05:48 pm (UTC)
kamino_neko: Tedd from El Goonish Shive. Drawn by Dan Shive, coloured by Kamino Neko. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kamino_neko
Tik-Tok's crazy face is...especially crazy.

(Granted, I've never seen a Tik-Tok that didn't disturb me to an extent (there's just something...very wrong about his design), but this one takes the cake...)

Date: 2011-02-22 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] redkingcrab
I can't be the only one who thought the dead baby joke was hilarious.

Complete Annotated Oz Squad

Date: 2011-02-22 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] davidleeingersoll
The entire series was collected, with annotations, by Steve Ahlquist. It can be purchased in a two volume set here -
Or as a single volume from Amazon -

Re: Complete Annotated Oz Squad

Date: 2011-02-23 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] davidleeingersoll
D'oh! I should have clicked on your link when I saw it. By the time I got to the bottom of all the comments I'd forgotten that it was there. The collection is actually of all ten (Brave New Words reprinted issues 1 and 2 with new covers so that accounts for the 5 issues listed. BNW published issues 1-3, Patchwork published 4-10) issues plus the Millenium and Lil' Oz Squad specials.


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