Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Final Card

This did not turn out quite the way I expected or wanted. I spent a lot of time coloring every part of the John R. Neill drawing -- I wanted it to look really lovely. But when it was all done, it looked Distinctly Unlovely. In fact, it looked like something the cat hocked up. The north and eastern quadrants weren't so bad, but the west and south were hideous, and nothing that I tried made it any better. Neill never intended this drawing to be colored -- and so he stuck a lot of characters in whose colors frankly clash. He also stuck a few generic characters in, and filled in the holes with loosely-imagined faces. The pointy-beaked gargoyle on the left was a particular pain in my ass. A better colorist than I am could have made it work, I'm sure. 

I kept what I'd done in the middle, threw everything else out, and colored it Emerald for the city.

Tomorrow I hope to finish up the little four-page booklet to go with the deck. It may be that I need more than four pages. We'll see... once that's done, it's All Systems Go. I'll order up the proof deck, and you'll see photos of that here as soon as it arrives. Barring delay on The Game Crafter's part, the deck ought to be on sale quite early in February.

Thank you all for watching the evolution of the deck. It's about to become real.

-- Frede.

The Party's Almost Over...

Who's lucky enough to have Santa Claus come to their birthday party? Ozma, of course! -- And not just any old department store Santa, either, but the REAL Santa from the North Pole.

EVERYONE came to Ozma's birthday party, including a good percentage of characters from L. Frank Baum's other books. Besides Santa, they were joined by John Dough and The Cherub, among many others. When the time came for them all to go home, The Wizard introduced his fabulous giant bubble machine. A quick pull of the level, and a protective bubble enclosed you and carried you safely away across the Deadly Desert and on to home. Most likely, this is where MGM got the idea to have Glinda travel around in a green bubble. She didn't do that in the books. 

The deck needed One Personal Thing from me to make it truly complete. I settled on a Tom Mix Straight Shooter badge, originally from my mother's vast collection of Americana, now mine. What could make you feel safer and better protected than a genuine Tom Mix Straight Shooter Badge? 

One card to go. Card #70. Coming Soon.

-- Frede.

The 400 Blows

Jack Pumpkinhead occasionally takes alarming blows in his life... but he has a remarkable resiliency about him, in that he cultivates a garden full of replacement heads for just such emergencies as this. 

Ruptures can happen in every part of our lives, but the human ability to recover and even bounce back from any situation is something we should always keep in mind during Trying Times. As such, I don't see this as an entirely negative card... although I hope I don't draw it too often once I get this deck up and running and get a copy of it in my hot little hands....

Just two more cards to go, boys and girls, and one of them is 90 percent done. Just have to apply finishing touches. I have been saving card #70 for last. You'll see why. That one is only just begun and I may not be able to finish it today ...

-- Frede.

Getting Ahead in The Game...

They say a lady is entitled to change her mind, but Princess Langwedere of the kingdom of Ev (neighboring fairyland to Oz) takes this privilege entirely too far. As dramatized so memorably in Return to Oz, she has stolen the heads of her more attractive female subjects. She keeps them in a long row of locked cabinets, and changes her own head as the mood suits her. 

She would like to add Dorothy's head to the collection.

The original illustration as scanned directly from an old edition of the book was a monotone in black, white and blue, so I colored it myself, using real textures for the background and Langwedere's dress. Having gone to that trouble, I didn't feel like covering it all up with a bunch of stuff... so I added Little Orphan Annie's head to the collection via a vintage pinback button, along with a cut from an old milliner's ad in the lower left.

More to come!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Around the Turn, Heading for Home...

One of the many great sequences in Book Three, Ozma of Oz, involves The Giant with The Hammer. It's certainly one of the more dramatic bits, and yet the only really interesting illustration that John R. Neill did for the sequence is the one that appears on the chapter page... and that's quite small. 

Simply put, Ozma's army of rescue must get from point A to point B, and to do this they need to pass under a giant metal man pounding the ground with a giant metal hammer. Time your passage right, and you'll get through safely... but if you DON'T get the timing right, you end up as a giant pancake on the ground. 

I toyed with how to use this veritable Sword of Damocles -- quoth Wikipedia, "an allusion to imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power." There were a number of ways that I could have gone, but in the end it seemed right to me that in this instance, timing is everything. In red, I included two alchemical symbols for "pulverizing."

It's been a big, productive day here at the DuckHaus -- I'm so close to finishing this deck now, that I set aside work on my latest novel to move this along. I not only designed two cards, but I finalized the concepts for the remaining ones, selected the art, blocked them out ... oh, and, as threatened, I did indeed remove card #20. It will now be "Indecision," featuring Princess Languedere, and it has swapped places with card #54, "Apprehension." Sounds more complicated than it is. The deck has a satisfying shape, the light is showing at the end of the tunnel, and I expect to be ordering up a proof copy of the deck no later than Tuesday!

Oh, and, earlier in the day, this happened:

-- Freder.

What is Reality?

This isn't the first black-and-white image from the books that I've colored myself, but it may be the first that I end up keeping. Followers of the deck will recall what is currently card #20, "Liberation" and the hard time that I had with it. I still can't stand it. All I need to do is come up with one extra card, and I'll take that one out in a heartbeat.

The Wogglebug (known as he prefers by his full name and title, Prof. H.M. Wogglebug, T.E.) is not one of my favorite Oz characters, but you have to admit that he has a compelling story. Once a normal-sized bug crawling across a textbook page, he found himself projected onto a screen in Highly Magnified form by a projector. In Oz, it seems, even images have life and consciousness: and this one escaped from the screen into real life -- much like Buster Keaton's alter-ego in his classic film Sherlock, Jr.

Although his accreditation is purely honorary, he ultimately founded Oz's one institute for Higher Learning, where he is headmaster to this day. Students don't stay long at his school: all education is imparted by means of pills. I'm sure that Timothy Leary would have something to say about that.

Look closely at the "Reward of Merit" for an extra surprise.

-- Frede.

Friday, January 16, 2015

All Good Gifts

Money may not grow on trees, but in the Land of Oz lunch-pails do -- which proves to be quite a boon to Dorothy on only her second visit to the enchanted land and its surrounding Fairy Countries. This scene -- although transposed from the context in which it originally appears in the novel -- was recreated exactly for Walter Murch's Return to Oz.

The lunch-pail tree may not be an official Kaballah Tree of of Life -- but like many trees, it is certainly life-giving. As Stan Lee used to say, "'Nuff said!"

-- Frede.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Step By Step

In Ozma of Oz, the titular Empress of the Emerald City manages to cross the Deadly Desert with her entire army (headed up in this John R. Neill drawing by The Cowardly Lion, The Hungry Tiger, Ozma herself, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man) by means of a magic carpet -- not the flying kind, but one that unrolls endlessly ahead of them, allowing them to cross in safety without touching the lethal sands. For my part, I thought "What's a desert without a sphinx or a scarab?" So I ripped one of the former from Pamela Colman Smith's CHARIOT card, and found a long-dead example of the latter prick the fingers of anyone drawing this card.

I personally regard scarabs as Bad Luck, although I know that's not common to their symbology. I once had an antique scarab ring given to me by my father. He never told me how he got it -- but every time I wore it, the worst things happened. It was finally stolen in a house break-in that I now Deeply Suspect was organized by my own sister, during her junkie years. I can only hope that it gave the criminal the same bad luck it had given me.

Step by step Ozma advances across the desert, and step by step I am closer to finishing the deck. Six cards to go, chaps.

-- Frede.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Which End Is Up?

Here is a card for all of those moments where life is confusing, confounding, frustrating and just plain getting your head in a twist. Honestly, I've never seen Tik-Tok in a worse predicament than this, and I would not want to be in the shoes of the None King's servant who has to put him back together again... much worse than Humpty Dumpty would be!

The base image is from Little Wizard Stories of Oz. The largest disk is a Zoetrope animated disk: spin the zoetrope and watch it come alive. I'm particularly curious about the living pentacle in the center!

Onward -- seven more cards!

-- Freder.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Land of The Mangaboos

In the fourth book of the series, Dorothy and The Wizard in Oz, Dorothy and The Wizard don't actually spend all that much time in the land of Oz, but rather spend an awful lot of time getting there. Baum's interest in the people and places of Oz was by then flagging more than a little bit, and he seems not to have understood that many of the other fantasy stories that he wanted to tell could have been placed just as well in Oz and featured familiar characters. But no -- Baum persisted in creating new fantasy lands, all with two-letter names, Ev and Ix and Mo, and pursued the Oz books only from a sense of obligation. From time to time he was genuinely inspired by Oz, however, which is why the later Patchwork Girl of Oz is such a shining light in the series. By the time he started up his movie studio, The Oz Film Mfg. Co., he had "wised up" to a certain extent, and one of his first features, The Magic Cloak of Oz, was actually an adaptation of his non-Oz fantasy novel Queen Xixi of Ix.

However, in volume four of the Oz books, Dorothy and the Wizard did get to visit the land of the Mangaboos: human-looking creatures who were actually plants -- flowers, if you will. The Mangaboos did have a dark aside but we won't get into that here: this card is only concerned with their budding, germinating, growing aspect.

-- Frede.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Any Port in a Storm

I'm not sure about this, but I believe it was at the end of The Emerald City of Oz that Dorothy moved to Oz full-time, bringing with her, of course, her Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, Toto and Billina the chicken. Uncle Henry was ailing by then, and it was basically the only way to save his life. A lot more convenient for Dorothy, too, whose back-and-forth travels usually involved a natural disaster of some kind: Cyclone, storm at sea, earthquake, what have you. Apparently the only way over (or under) the Deadly Desert and into Oz is if you're blown there by a typhoon. 

And thereby hangs a nice metaphor, I think: life is frequently tempestuous, but sometimes a storm can push you in the right direction, so that when the weather clears up and you can see the world around you again, you find that you've arrived in a Better Place, charged with energy. So -- although it's dramatic, this isn't necessarily a purely negative card, by any means.

I think this may be one of my favorite-ish cards. I like the way the wind blows through it and swirls up those circular objects. At the top left we have a barometer (pointing to "stormy" no less!); below that we have a swirly, globey vintage marble, a travel sticker, and in the lower left a vintage astrolabe, "an instrument ... used to make astronomical measurements, typically of the altitudes of celestial bodiesand in navigation for calculating latitude." Astrolabes, orrerys... I like all that kind of old gimcrackery....

-- Freder.

The 60th Card

... just ten more to go! I've scanned more than enough illustrations to use as base cards; even so, I'm still looking for images that speak to me. It's going to get interesting from here on in. As I near the end of this project, my numbering system is kind of going all to hell... but hopefully the correspondences won't get too badly mauled. I basically decided that I want the cards to be numbered continuously 1 to 70 with no gaps, so that it will feel "complete."

Then the real work starts... I'll need to go over all the designs, make any changes that I feel they need (which shouldn't be too  bad as I've been doing this gradually all along), make sure everything is order, finish the little pamphlet (just four pages, like the one that comes with my Golliwogg Oracle... it's mostly done). Then I'll need to make the final .png files at the size and resolution that The Game Crafter requires, and begin the process of uploading everything to their system. That could take a couple of days all by itself. I really should start doing it now. When everything is ready to go, I'll need to order up a printed proof for that final check. That can take as much as three weeks to arrive. 

During that waiting time, that's when you can expect to see a new site go up for my next deck project. This will be a full Tarot Deck in the Marseilles style, unlike anything anyone else is doing. I don't expect it to have the same appeal as the Oz deck, but who knows? There may be a few Anglophiles out there who'll "get" it.

Many thanks for your enthusiasm and support!!

-- Freder.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mister Meanie

The Nome King lends his villainy to many an Oz book -- that's NOME as in No-Men, not GNOME as in Little People. He's a Bad Dude: short-tempered, egotistical, and with a sense of entitlement that frequently puts him at odds with Ozma, Glinda and the Good People of Oz. Here we catch him in one of his worst moods. Expressing her disapproval in the lower left corner is the great silent comedienne Bebe Daniels -- one of the first Dorothy Gales to grace the silver screen.

The Nome King always got what was coming to him, but one of my favorite resolutions happens in the book The Emerald City of Oz. All through the whole book the Nome King and his Nomes dig their way under the Deadly Desert to launch their invasion of The Emerald City... but when they finally reach their goal, all of the Nomes are so thirsty that they immediately rush to and drink from The Forbidden Fountain -- and promptly forget the reason for their invasion and what they're doing so far from home! There's a reason the Fountain is Forbidden after all: drink from it and you'll get the worst case of amnesia this side of Winkie Land. What an elegant solution to the problem! There are a few politicians I'd like to ladle some of that stuff into.

-- Freder.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Game of Life

I think that if you're a fan of Oz, as I obviously am, and a lover of board games, as I am, the item pictured on this card must be the Holy Grail. I love the beautiful lithographed box art, always have. The board itself is a lovely map of Oz, but I don't know what the playing pieces consist of; I just made up some fake dice and cardboard playing pieces and stuck a few of the cards from this very oracle deck in for fun. Games can be a great metaphor for life. They can also be extremely frustrating if you always lose at them. I always lost when my family played, and years later when I played Risk with my late friend Howard, I always lost then, too: that guy was hoodoo with a pair of dice. I'm tellin' ya. The rolls he got were freakin' supernatural. Wherever he is now, maybe he'll roll some fateful dice for me to help make this deck a success!

-- Freder.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Beware the Yoop

It's been so very long since I read The Patchwork Girl of Oz that I misremember (or have completely forgotten) many of the details, and am left only with the impression that it was one of the better books in the series. For instance, I have no memory of why The Scarecrow and The Patchwork Girl and Ojo the munchkin boy were traveling through some of the less-explored areas of the country, I only remember that they were... and along the way they encountered Mister Yoop -- a Fierce Bad giant man who had been caged up in a mountainside cave.

I don't even remember if they set him free. It would seem ill-advised if they did. Mister Yoop was, if my memory serves, emphatically NOT a Reformed Character. Seems to me there was a Mrs. Yoop, too...

-- Freder.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Leap of...

The only thing I really want to say about this design is, I could not include a faith symbol from every religion out there. If I tried, you wouldn't be able to see the base image. If your faith isn't included (and it probably isn't) -- DON'T GET MAD AT ME. If, for instance, you worship the Mexican wrestler Lucha Libre -- DON'T SEND ME HATE MAIL BECAUSE I DIDN'T INCLUDE HIS MASK. 

-- Freder.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Give Me Strength

If this was in any way a traditional tarot deck, I would be pretty danged confident slotting this card into the Major Arcana as "Strength." That's why it's card #11, plain and simple. 

By the way -- although Dorothy has been a brunette in pretty much every movie adaptation that I can think of, in the books W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill both drew her as a kind of strawberry blonde. When Walter Murch made Return to Oz, he honored movie tradition by keeping Dorothy a brunette... although for the purposes of contrast this necessitated changing Ozma -- who was always a brunette in the books -- into a blonde! Murch also bowed to public perception by keeping the magic slippers ruby-colored (they are silver in the books) -- even though by doing so, the Disney company had to pay a licensing fee to MGM. Just a little bit of trivia for you.

-- Freder.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


It was while making my Tarot of the Zirkus M├Ągi that I first equated the circus art of Juggling with Major Arcana #14, Temperance. Whether or not this was a good leap of logic is in the eye of the beholder, but the moment I saw this chapter 7 heading illustration for The Patchwork Girl of Oz I thought of my juggling Temperance card and wanted to include it in this deck. After all, isn't life, for all of us, one constant juggling act? I think this is a useful card to have in any oracle deck.

-- Freder.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Joy Ride

I have enough cards now that I am starting to run into a number problem, in the sense that when I'm trying to make a numerological correspondence to the card meaning, the number I want to use is pretty much already taken. Not only that, but there are gaps between numbers that I've used... for example, I have an eight and a ten, but no nine. I can either leave the gap and have a deck that's numbered non-sequentially, or I can just start randomly filling the gaps with card numbers that don't necessarily correspond to the meaning. This is a lot of babble to throw at you, I know. This card is the first of the latter option.

In a tarot deck, cart #9 is THE HERMIT -- and this design is anything but Hermit-ish. About the only correspondence I can make between this card and the number 9 is in John Lennon's morbid obsession with the number.

So -- I'm going to have to play fast and loose with the correspondences in order to have a deck with consecutively-numbered cards and no gaps between them.

The Scarecrow and Tin Man are normally as well-behaved as any of Oz's denizens. But when W.W. Denslow was essentially fired as the series' illustrator. he went on to write and draw his own, non-canon adventures of the two characters -- and in Denslow's universe they were immediately up to no good. In fact they might have taken a lesson from Mister Toad in the way they caused devastation with a motor vehicle and wound up afoul of the law.

-- Freder.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Luhhhve Is In The Air

OK, will somebody please tell the Scarecrow and the Patchwork Girl to just get a room already? You get five demerits and have to sit in the corner for an hour if you can't guess which card this corresponds to. I mean -- I even sampled the grass, sky and sun colors directly from the original card.

-- Freder.