Baum's story of Dorothy, carried by a cyclone from a Kansas farm to the land of the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, was published in May 1900. By the following January, 100,000 copies had been sold, and the book has ever since been an undisputed favorite. The original illustrations by Denslow, which are reflected in the film and stage versions, have often been imitated but never surpassed.
Caldwell's angular, dynamic artwork leans more toward Saturday-morning cartoons than romantic fantasy in the fourth comics adaptation in his All-Action Classics series. His Dorothy is gap-toothed and freckled; the black-eyed and troll-like Munchkins are truly alien; and the witches recall Disney villainesses like Snow White's Queen or The Little Mermaid's Ursula. (Caldwell's Wicked Witch of the West even speaks with a Western twang: "You and yer little furry thing have back-breaking, bone-crunching work to do!") Caldwell follows Baum's original novel rather than the iconic film. The heroes are pursued by the Kalidah, "horrific beasts, with heads like tigers and bodies like bears," and the famous path the four friends follow, as in the original, is called the "road of golden bricks." The humor, though, is his own. "She enslaved and tormented us!" says one Munchkin about the Wicked Witch of the East. "She despoiled our lands!" says a second. "And cut library funding!" adds a third. Caldwell's Wizard of Oz slots conveniently between Spongebob Squarepants and Adventure Time, and readers will fly through this story with the speed of winged monkeys. Ages 10 14.