Star Trek's original commanding officer, Captain James T. Kirk, is known for a lot of things. He's an adventurer, a leader, and a lady's man. He confident and has a magnetic personality. Also, he knows how to fight like no one else. That fighting style is captured in the upcoming book Star Trek: Kirk Fu Manual: A Guide to Starfleet's Most Feared Martial Art, written by Dayton Ward. Ward is a veteran of the Star Trek universe, with 20 Star Trek novels under his belt plus several novellas and short stories. But the Kirk Fu manual is a different kind of Star Trek book.
"I'm kind of a smart aleck on social media," Ward tells ComicBook.com. "I'm always making some kind of Trek-related joke. My masters tolerate me for the most part, my corporate masters at CBS and Simon and Schuster give me a little bit of leash to play with. Not too much, but they tolerate my shenanigans. I've been a fan of the show since I was a kid. I grew up watching the original show, so we all make jokes about the Kirk fighting. I wrote an article for StarTrek.com years ago about my 10 favorite Kirk fight scenes and it kind of laid in the back of my brain for a while."
It was when he was working on another unconventional Star Trek book, Insight Editions' travel guide to the planet Vulcan (also available on Amazon), that Ward's Kirk Fu knowledge came back to the fore. "I kind of pitched this idea, I want to say half-jokingly, but it probably wasn't even that much. It was just like, 'Hey, I've got this idea for a funny gift book if you ever are looking for something like that.' I pitched it as a hand to hand guide, like a spoof on hand to hand combat manuals. And then as we started talking about it, I realized there's more humor to be mined here from this. I wrote up a formal pitch and sent it in and they loved it.
"If your grandmother's shopping for you for your birthday or Christmas and she knows your a Star Trek fan, this is the thing she'd buy, because it's easy. It's obviously meant to be good-humored and not snarky. We're laughing with, not laughing at, that kind of thing."
Even so, Ward admits there's something over the top about Kirk's fighting style. "It's just a manifestation of absurdity and chaos. There's elements of TV stunt fighting in the '60s all over the place anyway. There was a fistfight in every show, even some of the sitcoms I think. And I think it's just an outgrowth of, Star Trek is kind of a space Western and if you think about the westerns of the day, everybody, all the heroes were getting in fistfights. I think it started from there and then they tried to embellish a little bit. In the future we fight cooler, we have cooler moves in the future. But you get a sense that a couple of the moves have at least some root in actual unarmed combat whereas other ones are just ludicrous, like jumping off the wall and that kind of thing. Or maybe he was an early student of parkour, I don't know.
"There's a couple of them and a couple didn't even make the book because I had to keep it down to about a dozen for the page count. The one where he is in the mirror universe, I call it 'the slippery eel,' where he basically just wiggles his arm back and forth and breaks the hold, just shakes his arm back and forth, like you're shaking a bottle of Yoohoo or something, and he breaks the hold. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, until the one where he's in a fight with a guy and he literally throws a pillow at the other guy's face. And that's enough. That's enough to give him the edge in that fight."
The book fully came together with the addition of artist Christian Cornia. While they could have used photos from the episodes and planned to at first, Cornia's cartooning adds a new dimension to the book.
"When I pitched it, I did use screencaps from the episodes to illustrate which move I was demonstrating," Ward says. "When they first start talking about it, they thought photos might be the way to go. But my editor was lobbying for art. To illustrate my point, I took one of the screencaps and I washed it through a photo filter app that I have on my phone just to give it some kind of different property and just to make it look like art versus a photograph. And I said, 'If I can do this on my phone, surely an actual artist who knows what they're doing can do something better.' And then they decided to just go ahead and wholesale have somebody come in and render all-new art. And that's when Christian came in. Thank goodness, because I think his art really makes the book. I tried to play the manuscript largely straight hoping that the humor gets carried more by the illustrations. And I think Christian did a fantastic job with what I had in mind."
You can take a look at some of Cornia's work in the preview pages provided here. Star Trek: Kirk Fu Manual: A Guide to Starfleet's Most Feared Martial Art goes on sale on March 3rd. Pre-orders are live on Amazon now.
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