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William Shatner, A to Z

September 16, 2008 |  8:25 am

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At Book Expo this spring, I was standing at the Quirk Books booth when one of their staffers asked me, "Christopher Walken or William Shatner?" When I responded the latter, with great enthusiasm, they gave me a button. A button? It took a bit of cajoling/begging to get the book it was promoting, "The Encyclopedia Shatnerica: Millennium Edition." (Author Robert Shnakenberg has written a similar Walken book).

"The Encyclopedia Shatnerica," updated from its original 1998 edition, is an admiring, amusing, perhaps disturbingly well-researched catalog of all things Shatner, illustrated and organized alphabetically from "Acting" to "Zmed, Adrian." Captain James T. Kirk, the character Shatner played on "Star Trek," looms, in his yellow velour-shirted glory, over the book. Shatner's other roles, other careers (singing, writing, raising horses) get some attention. But it's unquestionable that Shatner's Shatnerian persona came into focus around Kirk, and that those few years playing James Tiberius in the late 1960s are at the core of his enduring legacy.

Shatner has continued to embrace "Star Trek" -- today, on his website, you can buy action figures of him and the other "Star Trek" crew, or preorder a phaser-and-communicator two-pack (with working lights and sounds from the original series!). For Shatner, Kirk works. Shatner even co-wrote 10 "Star Trek" books.

He's a prolific author, writing (or co-writing) more than 30 books, including an autobiography, "Up Till Now," published in May. But that's not his latest: Some of his science fiction books are being turned into comic book series, due to hit stores in March 2009. "This is not a licensing arrangement, this will be me involved very directly throughout the process," he told Hero Complex, our comics blog. "I loved comics as a kid. I used to sit under the sheets with a flashlight and read Superman when I was 6 in Montreal, and now, with the comics as they are today, it’s thrilling, really.”

When he's not reading comics, the 77-year old actor can be seen on "Boston Legal;" he's been nominated for a fourth Emmy for the role (he's won once). Whether or not he gets a statuette at the ceremony next week will be among the updates in the next edition of "The Encyclopedia Shatnerica."

--Carolyn Kellogg

2007 photograph of William Shatner by David Sprague for the Los Angeles Times.

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