Editor’s Note: Longtime FOG! Columnist Steve Ahlquist is the creator/writer of the cult classic comic book series, OZ Squad, a reimagining of the Baum mythos that was far ahead of it’s time (OZ Squad premiered in 1991).
After having his comic published by two small independent companies, I’ve Got Art columnist Adam Miner took over, releasing several issues under his Patchwork Press banner. Steve has the complete series available in two paperbacks (available HERE) and Adam was gracious enough to provide the previously unseen art from the never published zero issue that you will see today and in the previous I’ve Got Art column).
First, we’ll present the artwork and then OZ Squad creator Steve Ahlquist has graciously provided some insight regarding how the tale was to conclude.
|Never taunt, then turn your back on, a pissed off mom|
|The King is dead! Ozlem’s son is about to strike the ground….but|
|Ozlem has gained all the powers of the phanfasm’s king and saved her people|
|Ozlem kills or banishes the remaining phanfasms|
|Ozlem uses her new powers to create a world of beauty for her son to grow up in|
|Years later Ozlem nears death and the phanfasms wait for revenge|
|The heroes of OZ prepare for war|
|Ozlem dies, and with nothing to hold them back, the phanfasms attack|
Steve Ahlquist Tells The Tale of OZ Squad Zero
The idea behind Oz Squad Zero was to do an origin story that would set the stage not only for Oz Squad, the series I created and wrote that continued the adventures of Dorothy, the Tinman, the Scarecrow and Lion from the original 14 books (plus a few short stories, newspaper strips and related novels) by L. Frank Baum.
The story, in the form of a fairy tale told by Queen Ozma to Jack Pumpkinhead as a bed-time story, would explain how Oz came into existence, and tells of the origin of the first queen of Oz, Ozlem.
Oz was originally conceived by Baum as an undiscovered county somewhere in the western United States, but eventually became an island located between California and Australia, and ultimately became a “fairy land” in some sort of alternate dimension, though Baum never used the term alternate dimension. I took the position that Oz was located in a parallel universe of sorts, and that the two universes, Oz and Earth, were sometimes linked by portals or doorways through which beings sometimes passed.
The Land of Oz is surrounded by deadly deserts on all sides, and touching the sand turns one into sand, so it is impossible to survive there. As portals opened between universes, creatures that arrived in Oz were almost instantly destroyed. However, about 2000 years ago a small village of Celt, engaged in war against Roman oppressors, found their entire village swept to Oz via an earthquake. (Earthquakes were revealed to be a means by which travel to Oz was possible in Baum’s fourth book in the series.) The Deadly Desert slowly ate away at the edges of the village, and the people there struggled to survive.
They may have survived, they might not have, but dangers greater than the Deadly Desert were also present in the universe of Oz. They were the Phanfasms, creatures of pure wish, who lived atop the Mountain of Phantastico. Being immaterial, they were unaffected by the desert. Finding the humans in their midst, they proceeded to toy with them, subjecting the new arrivals with all manner of hellish torment.
Ozlem was a young woman who watched helplessly as her little brother was snatched up by the Phanfasms and dashed upon the rocks for sport. Vowing revenge, she grabbed a sword, shod her feet in metal, crossed the Deadly Desert, climbed the Mountain of Phantastico, and challenged the First and Foremost of the Phanfasms to mortal combat.
Easily bored, the First and Foremost decided to grant the challenge, and even deigned to wish into existence the vaguest possibility that Ozlem might win the combat, never for a minute considering that Ozlem would immediately seize such an opportunity. Among Phanfasms, when one kills another, the victor gains all the power of the vanquished. The First and Foremost was the most powerful of the Phanfasms, and so Ozlem inherited all his considerable power.
Immediately, hundreds of Phanfasms sought to murder Ozlem, but she repelled them all, taking into herself a power of Wish several orders of magnitude greater than the Phanfasms could muster. She showed them mercy, did not kill them all, and banished them forever to the mountain of Phantastico. Then she used her new found power of wish to transform Oz into a Paradise, pushing back the desert, almost to the oceans.
One thousand years of virtual Utopia passed, with Ozlem in charge of the world. Her doting son, Prince Evrette, was born, and was revered for his gentle nature. But eventually, Ozlem grew very old, and as she approached the end of her 1000th year, she laid down to die. Upon her death the Phanfasms decided to take back their world against the once more powerless humans. The battle was joined by heroes throughout time and space, including the time traveling members of Oz Squad. In seconds they were crushed.
But Ozlem was wise. As she died she filled all the objects in her tent with pieces of her power. Her silver slippers, her belt, her gowns, her carpet, her mirror, her sword and countless other items that surrounded her were imbued with magic power. Evrette emerged from his mothers room wearing her clothes and holding her sword, and beat back the Phanfasms once more.
Evrette, the Transvestite King, set the stage for a steady stream of sexually ambiguous rulers of Oz. The trend continued for many generations, culminating in Ozma, who was born a girl, grew up as a boy, and upon puberty became a beautiful woman.
The story ends with Ozma finishing her story and telling Jack to go back to sleep. Jack Pumpkinhead, of course, being a sort of golem-thing, can’t sleep, but he can pretend to, poorly.
And that’s the early, prehistory of Oz. In the regular Oz squad series, we are treated to flashbacks of Evrette, who leads the tin soldiers to conquer Oz, only to face defeat at the hands of Queen Zixi of Ix. There are eight more kings and queens of Oz following Evrette, ending with Pastoria, Ozma’s father. Ozma is the eleventh in the line, and the fourth Queen with the name Ozma, making her technically Queen Ozma IV.
Dorothy and Ozma named their son Ozzy, and one day perhaps he will become King Ozzy I.
For more details about early OZ history and events of OZ Squad Zero, check out the OZ Squad TPB Volume 2.