Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Card Back Design, MK 1

My first crack at the card back design. It doesn't quite line up as well as I would like, but I think it's in the Ball Park of heading in the right direction. The devious aspect of my nature would like to include something secret in this back design -- something hidden. It does NOT contain anything like that at the present moment, and really I would need to do some research into card design in order to figure out what to conceal there and how to conceal it... any requests?

-- Freder.

The Alchemy of Oz

Occasionally I come close to hitting the target of what I intended. Sometimes I have to go the long way around. This was one of those times.

One of the Oz books most coveted by collectors is The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book. I'm not sure that it draws quite the astonishing sale prices of its insanely valuable cousin, The Mickey Mouse Waddle Book, but these things are rare. If you do find one, chances are it doesn't have its waddles. If it does have its waddles, most likely they have been punched out and used. If you're lucky enough to own an unused Wizard of Oz Waddle Book, then hold out for your price -- you can get it.

The Waddle Book was an otherwise very ordinary edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that came with color inserts, printed on cardboard, which could be punched out and assembled into paper toys that would march down a tilted incline (or the Yellow Brick Road ramp  also included) -- with a little coaxing. It was a Great Thing. Books of Wonder (I believe) reprinted it a while back, and I dare say that edition could be worth something someday, too. I have two Waddle Books: The original, sans waddles of any kind, and the reprint with waddles intact.

As shown on the book's wraparound paper cover, the Scarecrow and Tin Man have gotten their hands on a copy and are obviously enjoying it thoroughly. How cool must it be, to have a moving paper toy of yourself?

I've cast the whole thing in a metaphysical context. Hope you like it.

-- Freder

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Into even Fantasy Character's Lives a Little Rain...

This card corresponds to the Three of Swords. Unless I have mis-counted it is the fiftieth card that I've designed for this deck. I'd like to push that number up closer to seventy. We'll see how that goes. If I get higher than fifty-two, but not close enough to seventy, I might be forced to cut the number of cards back to fifty-two, which might not be a bad thing in the sense that it would allow me to weed out some of the cards I don't care so much for. But officially now I am aiming for a 70 to 72-card deck, like my Golliwogg Oracle. More cards simply makes for a better tool: the more words you have in your vocabulary, the more things you can say, yes?

Woot! I have to start thinking about a back design for the cards. One good thing: the standard "OZ" logo with the Z fitted inside the O is completely reversible. I guess I know where to start.

Thanks everyone for your growing enthusiasm for the deck. It helps a lot!!!

-- Freder.

The Trojan Scarecrow

L. Frank Baum seems to have been as ardent a feminist as was possible for a man to be at the turn of the century. His mother-in-law was a prominent cohort of Susan B. Anthony's, and he created some of the strongest female characters of so-called Children's Literature. His gender-bending resolution to The Marvelous Land of Oz is still surprising today. So it's kind of mystifying that the same book features his most backward female character, the villain, General Jinjur -- whose army of girls (with knitting needles for weapons) takes over the Emerald City, only to be chased out of it again when the Scarecrow loads his straw full of mice and smuggles them into the city. Yes, all the girl soldiers in Jinjur's army, and especially Jinjur herself, are afraid of mice. *Sigh* It just goes to show that you can't win 'em all -- and that the old military strategies are still the best.

-- Freder.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Learnin.'

This is one that required me to do all the coloring myself, and I had a little fun with it. The book is not just the color of leather, it is an actual old letter book cover that I layered in. Likewise, TikTok (whom we have caught in a studious mood) is not just copper colored, he's been filled with an actual copper plate. This number 55 replaces a previous #55 -- "Transparancy" -- the latter of which now needs a new number assigned to it. As I enter into the final third of the deck I'm running into lots of cases where the numbers I want to use have already been taken. This is forcing me to rethink both some earlier cards and the new ones -- because the numbers are not just randomly assigned. I'm not in any way a numerologist (math was my worst subject), but I am attempting to make the numerological correspondences accurate to the meaning of the cards.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Box Design MK1

This is a little bit premature, since I don't even know yet how many cards are going to be in the final deck, among other things... on the other hand, there's nothing like having a box design (even if you change it later) to make something feel Real, to make it feel like it's Really Going to Happen. This is my first shot and it's far enough ahead of time so that I can afford to back-brain it while I finish the deck. What do you think?

Keep in mind that the text is not final, the number of cards or the booklet and how many pages that might have are not final -- NOTHING ABOUT this design is final. But I think it's a good starting point. Oh, and -- I left the fold lines turned on when I made the png for the site, so that you could see how it's all going to fold up... those fold lines -- the little thin green-gold lines around each panel -- will be going away in the final package.

Happy Yule, y'all!

-- Freder

Monday, December 22, 2014

Meet The Fuddles

Among the many New Peoples that Dorothy and the Wizard encounter in their tour of the Land of Oz (in Baum's The Emerald City of Oz) are The Fuddles: who are living Jigsaw Puzzles.

I love The Fuddles because I understand them. Every time something upsetting or startling happens in the village of the Fuddles, all of the people literally fly to pieces -- and there they lie until someone who is Less Easily Rattled comes along to piece them together again. Here, as the caption indicates, Dorothy and the Wizard have just managed to get one person's head together -- so at least they can get the story of what happened and some intelligent responses to their queries. Oftentimes in our daily lives we feel that we are assembling other people's jigsaw puzzles. Once in a while we succeed is making the right connections.

I am definitely a Fuddle. 

-- Freder.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pardon My French

Some designs go like a wonderful dream; others are the Pure Stuff of Nightmares. This particular son of a bitch would fall into the latter category. You've seen it once before -- in fact you've seen two versions of it before, both of which sucked bilge water. I think it sucks slightly less now. 

W.W. Denslow was normally as great a designer as he was an illustrator, but this is probably one of his worst laid-out illustrations -- with a huge blank space bang in the middle, a girl attendant who has no business being in the bloody picture at all... and the Scarecrow just stuck on there all anyhow, sitting on the floor for no reason other than to balance out the girl attendant who shouldn't even be there! After having worked with this illustration for a while, and even having tried to alter the layout digitally, I can now say with some feeling that I hate this illustration with a purple passion.

You wouldn't believe what this stupid card has put me through. It's been such a pain in my ass that I just want to throw at someone and say, "Here's your damn card, take it or leave it!!" It now corresponds to the "Judgement" card in a normal tarot deck, and good riddance to the bloody thing. I'm not going to dick around with it any more.

-- Freder.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Soft Sculpture

Yes, this uses the same number as the card I posted a few days ago, called "Deliverance." Well -- I still don't like anything about that other goddamn card, so I've pulled it out of the deck, and re-assigned the number to this one.

L. Frank Baum's books operate specifically on the level with a child's understanding of the world: absolutely everything in the Land of Oz is alive and has a soul -- all that's needed is something like Doctor Nikidik's magical Powder of Life to give the thing animation and allow it to speak its mind. Here we see Scraps the Patchwork Girl in her nascent state, before the Powder has worked its wonders on her. She was created to be an indentured servant: but she was born with a free spirit, and wasn't going to have any of that "slave" stuff, no matter what. Oz is full of once-inanimate objects that have a mind of their own... in this way, is it really so very different from the world that we live in?

-- Freder.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life As We Know It

At the very beginning of The Marvelous Land of Oz is found one of the most magical moments in the entire series. In a fit of rebelliousness, the enslaved servant boy Tip (who, although we don't know it yet, is really Ozma, rightful ruler of Oz, under an enchantment that has stolen her memory and changed her sex) decides to throw a "jump scare" into his captor, the witch Mombi. He builds a pumpkin-headed man to frighten her upon her return. Alas, his trick scarcely works -- and Mombi decides to test her new Powder of Life on the stick figure. Not one of her better decisions, it must be said. Jack Pumpkinhead is indeed brought to life -- he becomes a fast friend of Tip's, and helps the boy to escape Mombi's clutches.

This is the most overtly occult card I've designed for the deck so far, I think maybe. It corresponds -- quite nicely -- with the Ace of Wands in a regular tarot deck.

-- Freder.

Moving Right Along...

This card has a nifty dual meaning that I didn't (at first) intend. It's both EXPEDITE and EXPEDITION, in the sense that Ojo and the others are expediting The Scarecrow's ascent (or decent) up (or down) the ladder -- but they are also all together on an expedition through the mysterious unexplored areas of the Land of Oz

Well... when you go on an expedition, it is a good thing, is it not, to have others along to help and aid, and whom you can help and aid, when things go wrong -- as they inevitably do!

Although not the most detailed map of Oz available, the little one that I've included here at least has the benefit of placing the Munchkin country in its correct location -- in the Eastern parts of Oz. Some maps reverse its position with the Winkie country. L. Frank Baum himself got their locations confused, much as Stan Lee couldn't remember the names or other vital details of his own characters. These things happen to Creative Folk. 

-- Freder.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


When a design is as much a pain in the ass as was the last card I posted here, you're grateful when the next one cooperates at least a little bit. This one took some time, but at least it didn't fight me tooth and nail. About the only thing I think that I'm going to change is the title: it should be NOSTALGIA, I think, as this card corresponds to the six of cups in a normal tarot deck.

When I first read The Marvelous Land of Oz, all those years ago, a lifetime ago, the scene that really choked me up was this one: the reunion of The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman (they went their separate ways after the first book, with the Scarecrow ruling the Emerald City and the Tin Woodman becoming the King of the Winkie Country, living in the Tin Castle that they built especially for him). 

If Walter Murch's Return to Oz got anything wrong, it is simply this: it failed to reunite these two in any meaningful way. The Tin Woodman did have a much larger part in the original script, but he proved too expensive and was one of the characters whose part was cut to the bare minimum in the finished film. When we do see him, however, he looks SPECTACULAR: just the way that John R. Neill drew him, and just the way that he lives in our imaginations. 

-- Freder.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

When Art Fights Back

Holy Mother of Cheezits, but I had a hard time with this god-damn card. I still don't like it. I don't like the black background, but trust me, without it the image looks like shit on toast. Nothing else works. At one point, just before I broke for dinner, I threw the bloody thing in the trash. Maybe it should have stayed there. Maybe it should go back. This is what happens when art goes bad: you bang your head on it until the blood runs into your eyes and still can't make it hang together the way that it should. You just reach a point where it looks somewhat less like something that your cat coughed up, and you're too tired to wrestle any more with the son of a bitch. Any suggestions? I'd welcome anything that would break the ice on this miserable mess.

EDIT: I can't stop farting around with the thing. It's driving me nuts. I think maybe I like the version below just a little bit better. Any votes?

-- Freder.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Post Haste

Forgive me for patting myself on the back, but I like this one Really Quite A Lot. It corresponds to the Eight of Wands in a tarot deck, and does it rather well IMHO. Beyond that, I'm happier with the layout and collage effect than I am with some other cards so far. 

This card marks the first appearance of The Saw Horse in the deck -- although he's one of the series' longest-running characters, having been brought to life by Tip/Ozma quite shortly after Jack Pumpkinhead, and by the same means. This was in the second book in the series, The Marvelous Land of Oz... probably my favorite of all of them. The base image is from John R. Neill's dust-jacket for The Emerald City of Oz

-- Freder.

With a Little Help from Friends

The most exotic people in Oz share one thing in common with the rest of us "meat people" -- as L. Frank Baum referred to "normal" humans: in their adventures across the Land of Oz they encounter dangerous situations, and just like us they can be damaged, wounded, hurt, sometimes torn apart. But for people like the Scarecrow, getting back to a state of equanimity is relatively easy, and this is true of all the fantastical people in Oz. Put their stuffing back in, oil their joints, carve them a new head, touch up their paint, and they are Like New, ready to face the world again.

Meat People are not so easily repaired, whether their wounds are physical or emotional. The process of getting repaired is just as necessary, but can take much longer -- and it involves much more complicated therapies than just a quick Polish and Buff. Nonetheless, one must ALWAYS keep oneself in Good Repair, for we never know what lies in wait for us around the next bend of the Yellow Brick Road.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Unsure Steps...

The number of Baum's Oz books that I haven't read is in the minority -- but the base image from this card is from one of them. The caption makes it clear that the A-B-Sea Monster is benevolent, and that the Scarecrow crossed this river easily with its aid -- but the illustration belies the "easy" part as it's obvious that the Scarecrow is filled with trepidation both about his journey, and about the creature who seems to be aiding him. Perhaps he fears reaching the other side only to be gobbled up? It seems that similar fears are on the mind of the young bride in the vintage photo pinned to the card.

This card roughly corresponds with the six of cups in a tarot deck... emphasis on the "roughly."

-- Freder.

A Light in the Dark

Quoth Jack Pumpkinhead, shortly after his birth, "It will take me a little time to discover whether I am very wise or very foolish." And really, isn't that the line of questioning that we all should tale with ourselves? Although he may not, in most things, be experienced (as opposed to wise), Jack is always an admirable companion to have at one's side, and here we see his ability to shine a little light in the dark of the night.

This card corresponds to #18, The Moon, in a normal tarot deck.

-- Freder.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It Takes Two to Tango...

The Oz Books, it must be said, got goofier and wonkier as they went on. In The Tin Woodman of Oz, Baum introduced Nick Chopper's counterpart: Captain Fyter, the Tin Soldier of Oz. I believe (although I could be wrong) that this was the Tin Soldier's first and last appearance in the Baum books. It's not one of L. Frank's better ideas, frankly, although I did once toy with the notion of writing my own Oz book starring the stalwart Fyter. 

This is the 37th card I've made. Earlier today I went through the whole deck (so far) and made a few changes of suit and numerology, because I did have several duplicate numbers. This was a good step towards bringing the whole into alignment as an occult deck, and there may be more changes like that as I get closer to finishing the project. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm at the point where I have to start thinking about the deck as a whole, not as just a random bunch of cards. These kinds of revisions are technical, though, so I won't be posting updated versions here at the site. 

I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but this is part of my methodology: Red cards from the Quadling Country represent the Earth element, Yellow cards from the Winkie country represent the Air element, Purple cards from the Gillikin country represent Fire and Blue cards from the Munchkin country represent water. If the colors seem off, that's because these are the colors of the country of origin, not the element.

There is some argument as to whether the Munchkin country lies to the East or the West of Oz. Different Maps place it in different areas. I am a purist, and insist that Munchkin and lies in the East, while the land of the Winkies lies to the West. Gillikins live in the North and Quadlings in the south.

"And that'thhhh," as Lily Tomlin used to say, "the Trutttttthhhhh...."

-- Freder.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

With a Little Help from My Friends...

This card corresponds to the Four of Wands in a Tarot deck. 

The base image is from a piece of original John R. Neill artwork, which accounts for the richness and detail. And Tik-Tok is correctly colored for a change! It depicts a scene from Ozma of Oz in which Dorothy and Billina, the talking hen, encounter a frozen Tik-Tok for the first time. 

It's one of the many scenes straight out of the books that was beautifully realized by Walter Murch in his movie Return to Oz. If you haven't seen it, I heartily recommend it. It is disliked only by those people who don't understand it or its origins, or by people whose only experience with Oz is in the MGM musical of 1939. It's been accused of being "too scary for kids," but this is unfair to both the film and to children, who are more resilient than grown-ups give them credit for. In its early scenes it is indeed scary to grown-ups -- because we understand what's going on and what's about to happen to Dorothy just before Ozma intervenes. Children don't know the details: they just know that Dorothy is in a Bad Situation and may be a little anxious for her to get out of it.

As Harlan Ellison once pointed out, this also underestimates the powerfully scary content of the MGM musical: tell me you weren't frightened the first time you saw Margaret Hamilton summon up those goddamn Flying Monkeys. 

So Nervous Nellies can stay at home. For the rest of us, Return to Oz is a wonderful representation of Oz as L. Frank Baum envisioned it.

-- Freder.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Got a Grip on You...

With work on the companion book for my Tarot of the Zirkus M├Ągi all but done, it's my hope that I can now turn back to Oz and start pushing this project through to completion. I haven't made an up-to-date count on how many cards I've done for this deck, but I'm certain that I must be more than halfway there. The book was a big part of what was standing in my way, and the reason why there haven't been any updates lately. You might say that the book was an Entanglement, and now that I'm free of the thing I'm ready to turn back to projects that actually interest me. 

The base card of course is by Denslow, while the Nome King is an actual paper doll drawn by John R. Neill for The Oz Toy Book. When you add in The Devil card from my own deck (see above) ... well, such a collection of Evil is Seldom Seen outside of the U.S. Congress!

-- Freder