Wow, it's been a year already? Well, here's this holiday season's gift card drawings. This year, the theme was "characters from the Oz books." Once more, you won't find the iconic four main characters here... there are so many Oz characters that never made it to the movie, after all. I've mentioned that before, I think.
Some of these characters I've drawn before but decided to try a new interpretation of them here... others I'm actually drawing for the first time.I'll add a bit of my thoughts on them here, if you're curious.
Anyway, here we go!
Let's start with one of the more iconic characters -- Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, here seen with the Great Book of Records. In the books, Glinda doesn't have a crystal ball, but she does have a magical book; a book in which she can read about anything that happens in Oz, as it happens. It's a little inconsistent whether or not the book also records the actions of people outside Oz, but at least one story has it as a plot point that is doesn't -- and also that it only records the actions of people, not animals.
Glinda is the most powerful, certainly the most prominent of the Oz witches; she makes at least a token appearance in most of the stories and usually provides magical solutions to problems. She rules the South of Oz, and lives in a palace with a hundred handmaidens, and an army of female guards; girls who come from all over Oz and have been chosen especially for their wits and beauty. (A lot of modern fans have speculated whether Glinda might be a lesbian -- while it's doubtful that her creator L- Frank Baum ever thought of this, he certainly makes it clear in the books that Glinda appreciates feminine beauty. So all those Wicked femslash fics that pair up Glinda and Elphaba might have been onto something!)
I still hate how the famous MGM movie botched her character so I didn't so much as look at the movie for inspiration when drawing her -- instead going back to the original books and seeing how she was drawn by illustrator John R. Neill... but perhaps even more how Eric Shanower drew her in the Adventures in Oz comics.I did make sure to dress her mostly in white, because it's distinctly stated in the books that in Oz wearing white is a signal that you're a magic-user. But there had to be some red on her as well, since red is the colour of the South. It never says in the books that Glinda has red hair, but it suits her to have red hair.
Even more iconic: Here's the Wicked Witch of the West, requested by Sarah. She's one of the most famous characters from Oz, which is really all down to the MGM movie. In the book, the Wicked Witch isn't a very memorable character; a lot of people who are used to the movie version of the character may be surprised to learn that in a series of forty books, the Wicked Witch of the West only shows up in one of them... in fact, even though she is a very important one to the plot and her defeat is one of the story climaxes, she only actually appears in one single chapter. (Chapter Twelve of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, "The Search For the Wicked Witch.")
For "the most wicked witch in Oz" she doesn't really do much.-- in fact, while that chapter does potray her as a bit of a schemer and quite willing to get ruthless, it also rather hilariously reveals that she's afraid of the dark.
It was the MGM movie, and Margaret Hamitlon's gloriously hammy portrayal of the character (which has frightened children for decades) that turned the Wicked Witch of the West from a minor villain into one the most iconic bad guy of the series, and indeed one of the most-recognised villains of the time -- if the movie ruined Glinda's character, it certainly salvaged the Wicked Witch's.
And so, uniquely for me, my version of the character based on the movie version more than the book version -- with quite a bit of Idina Menzel's portrayal from the Wicked musical thrown in. Because while that version of the Wicked Witch has absolutely nothing to do with the book character, it has helped cement her in the public eye. And so, my Wicked Witch is not the short, squat old crone with silly clothes from W, W, Denslow's illustration, but far younger, slimmer, prettier... and greener. Yeah, the green skin was never in the book either, but by now the green-skinned witch is so iconic that it feels wrong not to draw her with green skin. I did, however, include two important things from the book portrayal: The umbrella and the eyepatch. In the book, the Witch carries an umbrella rather than a broomstick -- sensible enough, when you think of her aversion to water -- and, more importantly, she only has one eye -- but this eye is sharper than a telescope, and with it she can see everything that goes on in her domain. W.W. Denslow drew her as wearing an eyepatch, which I found quite fitting.
One last iconic movie character: One of the Winged Monkeys that serve the Wicked Witch of the West. Like the Witch herself, the Winged Monkeys only appear in the first book in the series, though they are in fact a larger presence than she is. In fact, while the movie made them into an iconically menacing figure, the book makes it clear that they're the unwilling slaves of the Witch like everyone else -- even if they are her most efficient and menacing servants. (She also commands black crows, savage wolves and killer bees, but they prove ineffectual.) The monkeys are in fact compelled to obey whoever wears a golden magical cap, but can only be summoned three times. After the Witch is defeated, Dorothy gets the cap, before it finally goes to Glinda, who gives the cap to the monkeys themselves so they won't ever have to be anyone's slaves again. It seems to work, because that's the last we hear of them in the Oz series.
This particular winged monkey is in fact mostly inspired by the character Bufkin from the Fables comic book; that's where the blue fur and the general shape comes from. I always did like that Fables, where the "adult" interpretations of fairytales sometimes got a little too on-the-hand, was actually fairly true to the Oz of L. Frank Baum's books, to the point of having Ozma as a regular character.
Speaking of which:
Queen Ozma of Oz is the land's true regent and has been called "the first transgender person in literature." Well... technically that's probably true, but when she first made the scene in 1904, U.S. society had a while to go before accepting that transgenderism was even a thing.
Really, Ozma was more a surprising plot twist than anything else -- in the book The Marvelous Land of Oz, we're introduced to a young boy named Tip, who's the slave/servant of a witch named Mombi, and who after running away, having a number of adventures and getting caught up into Oz's first revolution, goes on a quest with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and a few others to find the lost Princess Ozma, the true heir to the throne of the Emerald City. Towards the end of the book it's revealed that Tip actually is Ozma, who was kidnapped as a baby and turned into a boy by Mombi so that nobody would recognise her. Tip is at first not very happy to find out that he's really a girl, but he comes around to the idea and allows himself to be transformed back to Ozma. For the rest of the series, Ozma remains the young Queen of the land, and a very sweet and feminine Queen at that, so it's safe to assume she grew comfortable in her original sex.
For Ozma I took a great deal of inspiration from the original illustrator of the books, John R. Neill, as well as the brilliant Eric Shanower's depiction. (I pretty much swiped the design of the throne she's sitting on from Shanower!) That's why she has dark hair instead of the golden-blonde she was originally described with; Neill and Shanower depicted her as a brunette and I think it suits her better. In this picture she's wearing a white dress because she's usually described as wearing white... and of course she's also wearing the famous magic belt that originally belonged to the Nome King.
Tik-Tok is one of literature's first robots; in fact, he's older than the term "robot" itself. Unlike most modern robots, he's a wind-up clockwork man who needs to be wound up occasionally so as not to run down, but other than that, many of the classic fictional robot tropes originated with Tik-Tok -- including subservience to humans, stilted and monotone speech, a tendency to take things too literally, and a tendency to malfunction when he really shouldn't. Granted, in Tik-Tok's case, the malfunctions are usually limited to winding down when he really shouldn't, but still.
He's depicted here with Billina the Yellow Hen, a chicken who joined Dorothy on her second trip to Oz and decided to stay behind -- because in Oz she could actually talk and be treated as a person. Billina is one of literature's most heroic chickens; she's certainly the big hero of the third Oz book, and is an invaluable ally to the Ozzians in the war against the Nomes... because to the Nomes, eggs are toxic.
Tik-Tok and Billina are a little more well-known than many other Oz characters from later books, largely because they were major characters in the Disney movie Return to Oz from 1985. I did take a lot of inspiration from the movie for Tik-Tok's look here, most notably is legs and his mustache, which are directly from the movie. Billina was easy enough; she's a yellow-orange chicken.
The Hungry Tiger! I've already mentioned before how much I love this guy. He's an old friend of the Cowardly Lion, and his problem is that he's always hungry... that is, probably his biggest problem is that he can't ever shut up about how hungry he is. He's absolutely certain that human beings, and particularly human babies, are the tastiests things ever, but though he never gets tired of mentioning how much he wants to eat someone, he never does it. Because that would just be mean.
The Hungry Tiger is one of the easiest characters to draw. Just draw a tiger, make it look big, make sure it has a hungry expression, and of course take care to give him that characteristic bow on his tail... and you have the Hungry Tiger. I really like that bow; just like the Cowardly Lion is usually depicted in the books with a bow in his mane, the Hungry Tiger has one on his tail. These are civilised animals, but clothes are too much of a hassle, so they dress up using bows instead!
This grouchy fellow is Ruggedo of the Rocks, previously known as Roquat the Red, and he's the King of the Nomes. Or Gnomes, if you want to spell it like Ruth Plumly Thompson did. And forget the Wicked Witch of the West -- this guy is the main villain of the Oz series. He's essentially the only bad guy who appears in more than one book; he first appears in the third book and then develops a grudge towards Oz and its citizens and is constantly sceming to take them down. Like any good villain he's determined and resourceful, and he can actually be quite polite and charming when it suits him... long as his temper doesn't get the better of him.
His favored tactic is to transform his enemies into inanimate objects, but he has a lot of other tactics, plans and schemes up his sleeve. Over the course of the books, he's been defeated, humiliated, dethroned, given amnesisia twice, trapped inside magic bags and suffered other defeats, and yet he keeps returning for more. Even though he was forced to step down as the Nome King in favour of his far more peaceful Chief Steward Kaliko, and never really regained the power he once had, he has this uncanny knack for rallying up forces of unpleasant people and somehow always managing to end up either in charge of them or at least acting as a high advisor. While he can be a comical character whose comeuppance is usually at least a little bit humorous, he's not one to be underestimated.
The most fun part about drawing Ruggedo is his incredibly tall hair, long beard, and impossible eyebrows. It's really fun to just go wild with his hair and beard. I dressed him up in red since he was originally known as Roquat the Red... any similarities to Santa Claus this might give him is purely coincidental. I also tried to make him a little more nonhuman-looking by giving him a very round body and very skinny arms and legs... plus, only four fingers on each hand like a Looney Toons character. Far as I know there's nothing in the books about Nomes having fewer or more fingers than humans, but in Ruggedo's case it just fit.
Polychrome, the Rainbow's Daughter, is still my all-time favourite Oz character. There's just something so incredibly charning about her, and I still think she should be used a lot more in Oz books. As a sky fairy, Polychrome is a colourful and upbeat persona, and quite possibly the one character to develop the most over the course of L. Frank Baum's books, on a personal level. She appears in four books by Baum, and in each appearance she's grown smarter, more competent and more a force to be reckoned with.. but without losing her initial sweetness and cheer.
Of course, Polychrome was the visual inspiration for my own character Ayaka -- even though Ayaka is nowhere near as smart or competent as Polychrome, I designed her to look a lot like Polychrome, which makes it a little harder when I'm actually drawing Polychrome. The last time I drew her, I gave her rainbow-coloured hair, and that does make a certain sence for her... but in my mind, Polychrome is always blonde. I tried to make her a little more willowy, and give her rainbow dress a slightly different look, plus I fitted her wirh a cap like the one she wears in John R Neill's illustrations... not that the cap is too easy to see in this picture, but she is wearing it.
Bungle the Glass Cat was the first of two failed attempts by the crooked magician Dr Pipt to make a magical servant. Made out of see-through glass, given emeralds for eyes, a ruby for a heart and pink gems for brains, and then brought to life by the Powder of Life, Bungle was supposed to act like a real cat and keep the house free of mice. Unfortunately, since she was solid glass and didn't need to eat, she never bothered to chase mice or do anything useful, just sitting and admiring herself in the mirror all day.
In the original illustrations, Bungle is drawn as a long-haired cat, but I wanted to emphasise her glass body, and so I drew her very smooth, qith rounded edges. Her tail was the one thing I drew to hint of thick fur, but stylised and abstract, like then glassblower who made her was trying to be a little artistic.
Scraps the Patchwork Girl was the second and final failed attempt by Dr Pipt to create a magical servant. Made out of a patcwork quilt, she was supposed to have been a demure and obedient sort, but thanks to the visiting Munchkin boy Ojo the Unlucky interferring in her creation process she was given "too many marbles," making her highly intelligent and lively, but also incredibly scatterbrained and eccentric, and not the least bit inclined to take orders from anyone. She jokes, she dances, she sings, she often talks in verse for no reason, and she's utterly useless as a servantgirl but quite good at adding colour and energy to any book she's in. She's essentially a patchwork-doll version of My Little Pony's Pinkie Pie, just slightly less party-obsessed and with fewer fourth-wall breaks.
Scraps is another character I've drawn before and essentially decided to redo from scratch because I wasn't really satisfied with how she came out before.With her colourful patches, Scraps is incredibly time-consuming to draw, but you can't skimp on the patches -- they're what make her a Patchwork Girl. It's very easy to make her look grotesque (John R. Neill certainly made her look rather freakish), but I wanted to give her a cuter, more gentle appearance, especially one that made it clear that she is soft and stuffed with cotton, and doesn't have any joints (hence the cartoony rubber-hose arms). I took some inspiration from her look in the Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz cartoon, but overall this is my Scraps. To give the eye something to rest on I also gave her a plain, light yellow apron... which isn't mentioned at all in the books and certainly doesn't show up on most renditions of her -- but since she was created to be a household servant it seemed fitting. Besides, this way she gets some pockets!