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?
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.
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,
8. How did you meet David Maxine and start Hungry Tiger
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
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
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.
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?
I’m 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. I’m proud of a
lot of the work I’ve 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 I’m 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 Snow’s 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, I’d 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?
I’m 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/Paradox’s The Big Book of Scandal that I’m proud
of. The Wonder Woman story in Christmas with the
Superheroes #2 for DC was enjoyable. I also had to
mimic Jack Kirby’s 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 I’d like to illustrate, one comics art
miniseries or graphic novel that I’d like to write and
find someone else to draw, and other things. There’s
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. I’ve been trying to get the Oz graphic
novels collected into one volume and published since
the late 1990s. I’m really glad it’s finally happening
and that IDW Publishing is really paying attention to
details and producing a quality book.
16. Do you have a favorite Oz
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.