Interview with Ethan Tarshish:Creator of “Woe is Oz”

coverI had the pleasure to sit down and talk with up-and-coming comic sensation,Ethan Tarshish,about a new project of his that has been gaining notoriety:a new comic book series called Woe is Oz.  Ethan is the writer and a major part of the brainchild behind the new comic.

Benjie: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me to discuss your new comic,Ethan.

Ethan:For sure,glad to be here.

Benjie:Interesting thought. So you’ve got a new series called “Woe is Oz,”the name would imply that something crazy is about to happen in Oz,is that a pretty safe bet?

Ethan: Haha,yeah,you could say that,but crazy only begins to describe the journey these characters are going to be put through.

Benjie:Now when you say characters,are you talking the ones that people are most familiar with? Lion,Tin man,Scarecrow,Dorothy? Am I forgetting anyone?

Ethan:Yeah,well,we’ll see the core characters that you mentioned,and they will play a huuuge role,for sure,but a large part of what made the Baum books interesting to me was the supporting cast,and what I’m trying to do is bring more of a voice to those characters,give them their own journeys,why should Dorothy hog all the fun,right?

Benjie:You mean like killing the Witch,watching her melt some more sounds like fun. Are we going to be seeing more of her?

Ethan: The Witch? We will,but probably not in the roles you expect,at least not at first. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the world of Oz is rife with fun villains,we don’t need to fixate on the Witch of the West,plus,y’know,I heard she died…I was going to dedicate a whole issue to the minutes that followed Dorothy’s annihilation of her with the water,from the point of view of the Witch—it was going to be 22 pages of the Witch through panels of nonsense because she was just a pile of goo,but then I decided against it.

Benjie:Did you get your inspiration of this from the “Wicked”series of books? Do you try empathizing the Witch at all?

Ethan:You know,I bought the first book,but haven’t brought myself to read it yet,I’m worried it will taint what I’m writing,and I want this to be a pure unfiltered deranged vision. I’ve heard really good things about the “Wicked”stories,but I actually started writing this years before I ever heard about wicked. I understand that in the “Wicked”books they try and make you sympathetic to the Witch,I’m not really out to do that,I think that there are many life decisions that may bring people to the point of them being a villain,and that’s much more exciting to me then trying to make you see them as a good guy. I think characters are more interesting when you can relate on many levels to their decisions,but it’s not so black and white,I’m trying to show a lot of levels of grey. Every character has their moment of shame,or their defining heroic moment,at any given time a hero can also be seen as a villain and vice versa,I’m hoping to mess with that a bit.

Benjie: So it sounds like this is going to be pretty adult in comparison to a lot of the other Oz books and comics that have come out in the past.

Ethan:I don’t know about more adult. It certainly deals with a lot of adult themes and is pretty violent,but there are some pretty amazing Oz stories that have come out that are pretty head-y. There are different themes I am trying to pursue here,what you see is definitely not always what you get. It’s definitely more bizarre than a lot of the stuff I’ve seen so far. I don’t want to give anything away,but I’m fairly certain nowhere else are you going to see a full frontal of Aunt Em.

Benjie:Go on…

Ethan: Trust me,my illustrator,Kelly Brown,will make you wish you knew this 1950′s cougar. He is able to make the most warped thing I could ever conceive of look like a masterpiece.

Benjie: That’s what I wanted to talk about next actually,Kelly,the illustrator. I was blown away when I saw his work. He has a very interesting style. Where did you find this guy?

Ethan: It’s actually a weird story. I like to camp and I was at Yellowstone National Park a little over a year ago.  One night I heard some things being knocked over outside our tent,and I opened the tent only to be face to face with a snarling bear. Kelly is an avid adventurer and was close enough to hear my high pitched shrieks of terror. He ran to my safety and wrestled the bear off of me and scared it off with his flare pistol. It was only afterward that I found out about his artistic talent.

Benjie: That’s a crazy story! He saves your life,then illustrates a comic with you!

Ethan: Yeah,it either happened that way,or I found him as a highlighted artist off an art school website,but you don’t want to hear THAT story.

Benjie: I didn’t think that story happened,you would have told me about it before tonight.

Ethan: Oh,it ABSOLUTELY happened…to someone,somewhere.

Benjie: Well you seem to have a really great chemistry going on with the art and dialogue.  I love that scene with Ozma finding out about the Winkie attack,it’s simplistic,but you can see the horror and pain in her eyes.

Ethan:Yeah,that scene is actually exactly what I had in mind when I wrote it,I mean EXACTLY,he nailed that,absolutely nailed it. I’m just constantly amazed at how in sync we are with everything.

Benjie: So tell me what we have in store for future issues of “Woe is Oz.”

Ethan:Well,I wouldn’t get too attached to any of the characters introduced in the first issue. There’s a lot of changes and a lot death in the upcoming issues. We’ll meet a lot more characters,and Dorothy will finally make her introduction,but it won’t be in a way you’d think. A huge battle ensues,and there’s an outcome you may not expect…and that’s all just in the first story arc.

Benjie: Do you have twists in the story you are excited for?

Ethan:There are definitely some things I’m very excited for. Some of it coming up fairly quickly,other stuff we won’t get to see until about 15 to 20 issues from now. I’m actually very excited for issue 2. It’s a change of pace from how quickly issue one went,there is a lot more introspection and it was a lot of fun to write,plus it’s primarily a Dorothy solo story,and I didn’t think I could have so much fun writing a Dorothy story.

Benjie: You said some of the stuff that you are excited about doesn’t happen until a ways out,can you talk about any of that?

Ethan:Not a whole lot,I don’t want to ruin any major plot points,but I’ll just say two names “Jack Pumpkinhead.”This character was interesting and fun to write for and there is some huge stuff that happens when he is around,but I’m not saying more than that,I’ll leave that up to the readers to guess.

Benjie:Do you have an end to this series,or are you just making it up as you go along?

Ethan: Oh yeah,there’s a definite ending. The series was originally written as screenplays,it was going to be an epic Oz trilogy. As I thought more about it,I realized it would also be a lot of fun to do as a comic,so I started adapting the films and realized how much more I can go into these characters than I ever could in film. What I thought would be a 20 issue series,is more likely going to be around 60 or 70 if the beats hit up right. But I keep finding other stories I want to tell as I go along,so who knows. There is a definite end to the series though.

Benjie:Thanks for this Ethan,I’m very excited to see what comes next.

A reminder that Woe is Oz is currently an online only comic (can be found at Woeisoz.com). Ethan did admit to me that he does intend to produce hard copies somewhere soon down the road,but is working on making sure he can price them at the lowest price with the most amount of quality for the readers. He also told me that the comic is now available as an iPhone Application for $.99,you can buy it through iTunes here:   Woe is Oz (link opens iTunes and brings you to the app)

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