Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Royal Historian of Oz #1

Royal Historian of Oz #1
Tommy Kovac and Andy Hirsch
Diamond Comics Order Code 978-1-59362-194-9
Slave Labor Graphics

It is very unusual for me to read a monthly comic.  I am totally a wait-for-the-trades type of girl.  However, when the editor-in-chief puts a comic in your hand, and tells you he thinks you’ll like it, a lady feels an obligation, you know?

In the near future, teen Frank Frizzle has had it with his dad.  Dad’s a writer who is obsessed with becoming the “Royal Historian of Oz” -- the author who continues the legacy of Frank L. Baum by writing new stories.  However, Jasper Frizzle’s Oz stories are terrible, and Frizzle family is in a constant state of near poverty.   However, when Jasper Frizzle discovers a way to travel to Oz, he sees it as his ticket to legitimacy.  So he starts borrowing (a.k.a stealing) people and things from Oz, and brings them to this world for “research”.  This of course attracts attention in Oz, and the powers that be decide to do a little “borrowing” of their own...

It’s a killer concept, no?  Oz, like Wonderland, is something I’ve always enjoyed the idea of, even if I’m not a big fan of the original works.  I also love the idea of an obsessive fan, churning out awful books, and turning to theft, in the hope of being made custodian of the thing he loves best.   A lifetime in fandom tells me that a little larceny would be nothing to the hardcore devotee, if it meant being able to take the helm of a beloved franchise.   

Although the concept is what sells the book, it’s the characterizations that made me keep reading.  Writer Kovac does a great job of making Jasper not only believable but a tiny bit sympathetic too. Frank sounds like a typical  teen, but one who has a lot of affection for his bumbling dad.  Even though Frank wants nothing more than his father to get his head out of Oz, he lacks the heart to tell Dad that his books are horrible, and lies to those who would stop his father from working.  The cliffhanger at the end of this first issue left me wanting to know more, but not frustrated or upset.  This is an especially neat trick, considering I usually get my comics fix in trade paperback form.  

The artwork for this title, by artist Hirsch, is realistically yet cartoony, and suits the material perfectly.   Also, the character designs are spot on.   As somebody who works with teens, I appreciated Frank’s perma-slouch and discontented expressions -- he looks just like the kids who come into my library every day.  I don’t know many failed Oz aficionados, but Jasper looks exactly like I would imagine one to look, and the more fantastic creatures -- flying monkeys, donut people -- are equally well realized.  We only get a glimpse of some familiar Oz residents in this first volume, but Kovac and Hirsch have created fresh, but recognizable, interpretations of these icons.

As I said above, I don’t read monthly comics as a rule, but The Royal Historian of Oz,  with its clever concept, sharp writing and dead-on illustrations, might lure me back to my local store.

No comments:

Post a Comment