Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spotlight on "Ghosts"


To me, one of those funny things about the publishing media is the "ghost writer." I understand the thinking behind it. Famous people (politicians, actors, nuts, etc.) can sell books simply by putting their names on it. So, the publishers toss money to the celebrity for their name, and then hire someone else to write the books. For whatever reason, everyone else thinks it's just a wink-wink-nod-nod type of thing that doesn't matter. However, I've actually been in the position of "ghost writer" on some things in the past, and while I knew what I was doing, it has always bothered me that someone else gets to claim credit for the work I did. I'm also just cynical enough at this point to never believe any politician or celebrity ever writes their own books. I am, however, willing to at least give due to the "autobiographical" books in that I honestly think those books are usually more of a collaboration between the celebrity and the author. Heh. Although even then, there are exceptions. When Hillary Clinton supposedly wrote her life story, I remember a TV interview where she couldn't "remember" things she had "said" in her own book. But can I just say that my road to cynicism began when I discovered that John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book PROFILES IN COURAGE had actually been written by Theodore Sorenson. To me, that's just outright lying to claim authorship of something you didn't write...and especially something as profoundly resonant as that book. Then, to discover over my life how many books I thought were authored by one person were actually written by someone else. For example, who wrote STAR WARS? George Lucas? Well, that's what it says on every edition I've ever seen of the novel STAR WARS (actually originally subtitled FROM THE ADVENTURES OF LUKE SKYWALKER). But no, it was written by Alan Dean Foster.

Anyway, over the years of my disgust, I've gotten to where I play a little game whenever I walk in a bookstore and see a new novel "written" by a celebrity. The game is: FIND THE REAL AUTHOR. In recent years, it has become a bit easier because the less egotistical of the celebrities will allow the ghost writer(s) to share credit on the cover (i.e., William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens). But it is still a rampant practice to hog all the credit for the celebrity when he (or she) probably never wrote one word. That's where the game comes in. Digging through the always lengthy acknowledgements requires some skill to sift and shake until the true author's name finally pops up.
This first installment is for Mr. Glenn Beck's new novel THE OVERTON WINDOW, a political thriller, from the massively popular but also incredibly irritating radio host. Well, let's see....digging through Beck's b.s. takes us to special thanks to first his Viewers, Listeners, and his "Insiders" (who I guess are people who actually pay money to the idiot to get even more garbage from him than his radio show, tv show, and free web presence). Then he declares that they are not racists. What? Then he thanks his poor, unfortunate wife, kids, and some other radio folk. Ah, now he gets to thanking his editor and staff at his publisher Simon and Shuster. That's good...but still no clue as to the actual writer. Did Beck actually write his own novel? No way. Let's turn the page on his incessant acknowledgements...
Page 2. Ugh. Now he's thanking the people that syndicate his radio show and then praising Fox News Network. Blah blah blah. Then a bunch more thanks listing people but not singling one out. What? This can't be right. Let me go back to page 1 and check again....ah. Hahaha. There it is. I actually missed it on first scan. Here it is. One sentence between his family and the editor, he writes: "JACK HENDERSON for pouring his heart and soul into this project. And to Jack's wife, LORI, for letting him."

The nebulous thanks is always the true author. Usually it says something more along the lines of "Without whom this project would never have happened..." or "I couldn't have done it without you..." That sort of thing.

So...hats off to ghost JACK HENDERSON, author of THE OVERTON WINDOW. Hope you get your due in attention and money for this sure to be an instant best-seller.


My new resume' for your perusal and consideration. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review of Superman #702


Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Eddy Barrows (pencils) & J.P. Mayer (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Professor Challenger

One of the accusations I hate seeing thrown around at people is the claim of "racism." So, since I am loathe to do it here, I am going to instead hurl a charge of "stupidity" at JMS for writing this comic book and to DC for publishing it. Were I not intent on reviewing this comic I would have tossed it after about 5 or 6 pages. For review purposes, I forced myself to finish it. This comic is so awful that I don't even think a review here can be long enough to truly get across all the problems with it.

The basic gist of the plot, so as it is, is that in this second part of the "Grounded" story arc, Superman continues walking across America to reconnect with the little people and today he strolls on into Detroit. Oddly enough, he is not being followed by our paparazzi. That right there puzzles me. Everyone seems to know that Superman is doing this but, yet, the media has enough self-control to just send Clark Kent along to write about Superman's journey. Really? Really? Also, oddly enough, the Detroit that Superman walks into has little to no street traffic, so he can walk down the middle of roads without having to avoid cars. It's almost like a bizarre dream. While in Detroit, the main plot involves Superman dealing with illegal immigration through the most subtly metaphorical episode since...oh....STAR TREK and the planet torn apart from racial strife over which side of the face was white and which was black. Or maybe I should mention the Sneetches? Either way...its a "club-the-reader-over-the-head" style story that irritates the hell out of me.

In this case, however, Superman encounters a SPACE-alien family living in Detroit disguised as humans. After they unsuccessfully attack him without justification with a huge giant robot (that somehow fits inside their modest little wood-frame 2-story in urban Detroit), Superman decides to preach to them about illegal immigration and then they argue back that he's just as much an alien as they are. What? Hem. Haw. Superman says it's not the same, but he's going to let them stay there at least until he figures out what to do with them. Because, you know, Superman is the American immigration czar and controls the lives of any alien immigrants he comes across.

He's not?

Well, then he must be a superior-minded pompous ass who's using his position and powers as a threat to this family. But surely Pa Kent taught Superman not to be like that. I must be reading this story wrong. But wait...

Superman later encounters an old, bald, toothless African-American man who lost his union job when the factories shut down. Argh. Then he kinda has a heart-attack and brilliant Superman avoids the hospital and flies the man to the alien immigrants from earlier in the story. See? Superman has figured out how to extort technology out of them. They have advanced technology there that can heal the old man. Of course, there's no reason for him to have assumed that their technology would work like that on a human, but let's not dwell on that. And let's not dwell on the implications of Superman arbitrarily deciding to save the life of one old man through extraordinary means while ignoring the many others. I guess that's one of the moral conundrums of "playing" God versus "being" God. But I mentioned that Superman extorted the technology out of the aliens. Basically, what Superman does here is demand that they use their technology to heal the old man and then require the aliens to use the billions of dollars worth of gold that they brought with them to Earth to reopen the factories and develop their advanced technology for use by us humans. So, everything is so syrupy sweetly wrapped in a bow. The aliens are after-the-fact "paying" for the right to immigrate here. The old man is healthy again and working at the new factory...as are his former co-workers. New technology is being developed and built to help further our society. And Superman can stand back and smile at another story of the great white savior who knows what is best for the lesser folk and he can start walking off into the sunset....while a menacing Batman looks on. Aren't we all happy now?

Oh...did I forget to mention what happened at the beginning of the issue that made me want to throw the comic away? Yeah, I did. That's the sequence whereby urban black youth (looking to be age-ranged from about 17 to 22) are shown playing basketball. Because, y'know, black kids like to play basketball. And there's one nerdy kid there with his nerd haircut, glasses, and a baggy basketball jersey hanging on his skinny body. Because, y'know, nerds are skinny and wear glasses. The other players, all teh kewl type buff, bald, tatted, etc., mock the nerd and won't let him play because obviously...well...obviously he sucks. Superman steps up in his increasingly un-heroic way and offers to play ball against all of them...including the nerd (who looks suspiciously just like Steve Urkel...because...y'know....all nerdy black kids look like Urkel). The ball players, though, surely aren't stupid. Right? That would be racist to portray them as STUPID street-talkin' basketball players in urban Detroit. So, they make sure and get a promise from Superman that he “ain't gonna fly”. Ah! Now they done gone and beat Superman in the game of street-smarts. Now it's all fair! Five or six street basketball players against Superman and his...super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability, heat vision, etc. Shoot yeah. That's fair. They look so smug because they know that since Superman “ain't gonna fly” then he'll be “E Z pickins”! So....Superman proceeds to use his powers (except for flyin') against these guys and easily defeats them and then, in that demeaning way that a parent might act with a child, he lets Urkel knock the ball out of his hand. And these adult men are so stupid that not a one of them challenges that. They just start treating Urkel like a basketball star because he knocked the ball out of Superman's hand. And Superman looks on in smug self-satisfaction.

The great white savior strikes again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Review of BATMAN: ODYSSEY #2

My resoundly negative review of BATMAN: ODYSSEY #2

Writer: Neal Adams
Art: Neal Adams
Publisher: DC Comics