Yes, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been interpreted and reinterpreted over the decades, but you've never seen it quite like this. Rice Boy creator Evan Dahm has gone back to the book's text and is illustrating a new edition of L. Frank Baum's classic novel.
Dahm recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his new illustrated edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The edition will include 100 of Dahm's illustrations—24 full-page illustrations, one for the start of each chapter, and dozens of spot illustrations. If you want a copy of the hardcover book, head over to Kickstarter and back his project. I also highly recommend checking out Dahm's webcomics, including Rice Boy, Order of Tales, and Vattu. You can also see more of Dahm's Wizard of Oz work, including his sketches, at the Baum by Dahm blog.
We also spoke with Dahm a bit over email about the project:
So why did you start this project in the first place?
I'd been thinking about doing illustrations for some public-domain book for a while because it seemed fun: I liked the idea of doing art that's narrative like comics, but supports the text instead of being the main thing. Oz was the first book that came up that I really felt I jived with. I like otherworldly places and creatures and bright colors. Also it's a book that I really love and I think it's very important to the history of fantasy writing!
Has the book informed your work in the past? Your comics, especially Rice Boy, have been tours through strange lands, much like The Wizard of Oz.
I didn't read it in full until a year or two ago, probably? But it was definitely important in popularizing that kind of "group of friends adventuring in a direction" type of fantasy story that I've leaned on a lot. So in a second-hand way yes.
Was there anything that surprised you in your reading of the book? It's a story we feel like we "know" from the movie and other media, but it's a book a lot of us don't read.
Yeah the movie is way different! It neatens up a lot and tells a very pared-down story. The book wanders around a lot, and feels kind of poorly-organized at points, which is something I like a lot about it. It ends up feeling really dreamy. Also it's way more overtly violent and morbid than kid's media is now! I tried to not gloss over that aspect in the illustrations, but it's a tricky line to walk.
What aspect of the story were you most excited to design and draw?
Setting is normally the most exciting part of a story for me. The places in Wizard of Oz aren't ever described in great depth, but there's always a clear atmosphere for them. So it was a fun challenge to kind of riff on that and develop scenery that's dense and atmospheric but doesn't contradict what the text was going for. The sensation of being lost in a weird place and having to find your way is absolutely my favorite thing about this book, and a lot of fiction.
How did you approach designing the characters, especially those familiar main characters?
I decided early on that the characters would always show up at the same small size, so they feel kind of swallowed-up by their surroundings. Dorothy is about an inch tall at print size. So I spent a while developing shapes for them that would be distinct at that size, and that emphasize what I felt was important about the characters: the Scarecrow is thin and wobbly, the Woodman is sturdy and tough, the Lion is hunched-over, and Dorothy and Toto are both tiny and in constant motion. I consciously avoided any reference to any other interpretations of the characters.