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Oz: Road to Oz: 05/29/16

Oz: Road to Oz by George S. May

Oz: Road to Oz by Eric Shanower is the fifth of the Marvel graphic novel adaptations of L. Frank Baum's books. When the Wizard of Oz was written no cross country trip by automobile had been accomplished. Oz had a yellow brick road suitable for walking on to go from the hinterland to the Emerald City.

By Road to Oz, that all had changed thanks to Roy Dikeman Chapman in 1901. The release of the Model T Ford in 1908 had opened the floodgates on automobile consumption especially in the middle of the nation, meaning there was a newfound demand for well built roadways in extremely rural areas.

Perhaps as a prediction of the massive remapping of the United States that would come in the form of the interstate highways, starting with the Lincoln Highway Association in 1913, Road to Oz shows that like Rome of old, all roads now lead to the Emerald City, even across the dimensional divide that separate Oz from Earth.

All roads lead to the Emerald City

More importantly, though, Road to Oz is a transcendental exploration of the road and the road trip. That it should come before the modern highways were there and waiting for such ventures speaks to how attune Baum was to the burgeoning 20th century American culture.

Using the Raggedy Man as an authorial insert, Baum takes himself, along with Dorothy's guidance to Oz via a mysterious crossroads that appears near the Gale farm. As Dorothy becomes distressed over getting lost in an area she's lived her entire life, the Raggedy Man waxes poetic about the nature of the road and why getting lost might be a good thing.

Is the Raggedy Mann an authorial insert?
L. Frank Baum (NNDB)

In Dorothy's first trip to Oz the point was to find a way home. The Yellow Brick Road was a means to end. Here, the road is the point. Dorothy and the Raggedy Man have been thrust together on a road trip to who knows where or for who knows how long. Just as in the first book, Dorothy picks up other traveling companions but the trip is still at the whim of the road and not by a set itinerary (find wizard, get witch's broom, etc.)

It's dangerous to leave the road

Although the Road to Oz is a glimmer of modernity — a road that can take one to anywhere through any number of environments and adventures — there's still a nod to older stories. Like the old faerie stories, it's dangerous to leave the road. Bad things lurk off the beaten path. There's imprisonment or worse. So when on a mysterious road, stay on it until you know where it's taking you.

Five stars

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