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Interview with Oz Author ERIC SHANOWER

The original interview was conducted in September 2003. It was updated and expanded in March 2006. Thanks, Mr. Shanower, for being so nice!

1. What's your basic life's story?
I was born in October 1963 in Key West, Florida. My father was in the US Coast Guard, so my family--father, mother, younger sister--moved every few years while I was growing up. I graduated from Novato (CA) High School in 1981. I graduated from The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (Dover, NJ) in 1984. I immediately began working freelance in the comics field. My first Oz graphic novel, the Enchanted Apples of Oz, was published in April 1986. I moved in with my boyfriend, David Maxine, in 1990, in New Haven, CT. My first prose book, The Giant Garden of Oz, was published June 1993. My current comic book series, Age of Bronze, began publication November 1998 and is still going. I currently (Sept 2003) live in San Diego, CA, with David and our Boston terrier, The Road to Oz.

2. How were you introduced to Oz? Was it the books or the MGM movie? Did someone read the books to you?
I saw the movie on television while I was a child. I liked it very much. Soon after, my parents took me to a bookstore and told me I could pick out one book. I found several of the Reilly & Lee white cover editions of the Baum books and chose The Road to Oz. My parents then read me a chapter a night before bedtime. I was hooked.

3. Did you have any siblings or friends who also liked Oz?
No. When I was in third grade a girl in my class also liked the Oz books. I was envious because she had some of the books I didn't. I also wanted Oz to be my own private enthusiasm.

4. Did you have any ideas for Oz stories that you never wrote?
Of course.

5. How did you become involved with comic books?
I've loved comics ever since I was a child. I drew my own comics pretty steadily from about fifth grade on. In high school I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist and draw comic books for a living. I attended a trade school geared primarily toward drawing comics art. While there, I interviewed at comic book publishers in New York City and sent my portfolio to publishers farther away. I got my first professional comic book job the day before graduation from art school, and I've been working professionally ever since.

6. Besides your Oz work, what other work is most notable?
My current comic book series, Age of Bronze, is probably my most widely known work. It's a retelling of the Trojan War in all its dramatic detail.

7. What comics have you worked on?
Many. Go to my website http://www.ericshanower.com/ for a full bibliography, but here's a few: Nexus, Justice League of America, Prez, The Elsewhere Prince, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Batman, An Accidental Death, Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Star Wars, Badger.

8. How did you meet David Maxine and start Hungry Tiger Press?
Those are two separate questions. I met David at the International Wizard of Oz Club's 1983 Winkie Convention in Yosemite, CA. He was sitting behind the registration table, and I wondered who he was to be given such responsibility since I'd been attending the convention for years and had never seen him before. When I was introduced I recognized his name since he'd written for the Oz Club's magazine, The Baum Bugle.
David and I started Hungry Tiger Press in 1994 because he wanted to publish an anthology of new and old Oz fiction and I wanted to publish a comic book retelling of the Trojan War. Hungry Tiger Press ended up publishing Oz-story (an annual anthology of Oz and Oz-related stories, poems, comics, etc. that ran only for six issues), but Age of Bronze is published by Image Comics because the comic book business is too weak for me to risk self-publishing a comic book series about the Trojan War.

9. How did you and David meet James Patrick Doyle?
I met him through David who met him through an online Oz e-mail list. I really didn't know him very well. I only met him in person once. David knew him much better than I did.

10. How do you feel about your Oz artwork being as highly praised as that of John R. Neill's?
That's a very flattering statement, but I'm not sure it's actually the case. Neill, of course, is the man. He had a much better facility for illustration than I do. He ignored the rules of perspective quite often, and it's pretty obvious he got somewhat bored with Oz after a few books, but when he was doing his best work, Oz or otherwise, he was glorious. So being compared with Neill is very nice and a little uncomfortable for me.

11. So, you've been involved with many Oz projects since you published The Enchanted Apples of Oz. Is there anything you're especially proud of or think is some of your best work?
Im very proud of my illustrations for The Wicked Witch of Oz by Rachel Cosgrove Payes. My intention was to make an attractive book all the way around, and I think I succeeded to a large extent. Im proud of a lot of the work Ive done for Hungry Tiger Press, in particular the six volumes of Oz-story and the illustrations for Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn. One of the projects Im most proud of, not necessarily from an Oz perspective, but from the perspective of reaching at least some depth of emotion and intelligence, is the short story Abby (printed in Oz-Story #2), which is a sort of sequel to Jack Snows The Shaggy Man of Oz.

12. If you were asked to do conceptual art on a new film version of an Oz story, would you be interested?
Probably not. But if I were offered scads of money and I could fit the work into my schedule, Id consider it.

13. In addition to Age of Bronze, and your Oz work, you've also done some freelancing for DC and Marvel Comics. Any favorites among your work for them?
Im very fond of the two Promethea spin-off Little Margie in Misty Magic Land stories I drew for DC/ABC. I drew a short story about Stanford White for DC/Paradoxs The Big Book of Scandal that Im proud of. The Wonder Woman story in Christmas with the Superheroes #2 for DC was enjoyable. I also had to mimic Jack Kirbys art in an issue of Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine from Marvel and that was fun. I drew a short Wasp story for Marvel Comics Presents #49 that I was initially resistant to working on, but then found myself really enjoying.

14. Are there any projects you'd like to do in the future?

Yes. I have ideas for prose books, a book of short stories Id like to illustrate, one comics art miniseries or graphic novel that Id like to write and find someone else to draw, and other things. Theres never enough time to get everything done.

15. Are you excited that your original graphic novels and the additional material are now in Adventures In Oz and are available to Oz fans and the public in general?

Yes, of course. Ive been trying to get the Oz graphic novels collected into one volume and published since the late 1990s. Im really glad its finally happening and that IDW Publishing is really paying attention to details and producing a quality book.

16. Do you have a favorite Oz movie?
No.

17. Do you have any words to Oz fans or Dorothy & Ozma Productions you'd like to share here?
When I was a child I wanted to grow up to write and illustrate my own Oz books. Well, I've done that and I'm glad I was able to share my Oz books--in whatever form they took--with the world. So if you want to do something, work toward that goal with commitment and forethought, and one day you'll likely find yourself doing what you dreamed of.

Thanks, Eric. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

Note: Most work mentioned is still available. Later editions of Oz-Story (and subscriptions and collected volumes of Age of Bronze, as well as other works by Eric) are still available from Hungry Tiger Press, while earlier editions, and Eric's other comics, as well as many other Oz-and non-Oz titles are available from many retailers, such as Mile High Comics. Eric's first four graphic novels are available seperately from The International Wizard of Oz Club, but all five are available in Adventures in Oz, an revised and restored omnibus edition published by IDW Publishing. The Giant Garden of Oz is still available from Books of Wonder.