Coinciding with recent announcements of talk show departures and subsequent revamps, Bluewater Productions’ has released a graphic novel, Air Wars: Behind the Mic: Howard Stern, David Letterman, Chelsea Handler, Conan O’Brien, and Jon Stewart. It chronicles these trailblazing hosts as they have parodied social issues and skewered politicians and celebrities.
“With the announcement that both Stewart and Letterman are stepping down, the landscape of talk shows and political parody is changing,” said Darren G. Davis, Bluewater’s publisher. “Clearly, the people featured in this creative nonfiction volume have influenced news broadcasting and pop culture. The stories about their success are as fascinating as any of the news they report and as funny as their jokes.”
Written by writers C.W. Cooke, Melissa Seymour, Patrick McCormack and Jerome Maida and illustrated by Noumier Tawilah, Jon Stanicek, Erick Adrian Marquez, Kent Hurlburt and Tsubasa Yozora, the collected edition of Air Wars: Behind the Mic features a cover by artist George Amaru. Like me, readers may be confused why the cover uses the word “Mike” instead of “Mic” in the title.
The illustrations are lifelike, vibrant and fun. Beginning with longtime late night host David Letterman, the graphic novel details his journey to fame, his bits that made him a comedic icon and how comedic influences like Johnny Carson shaped his career.
The graphic novel also details Letterman’s other business endeavors like his production company, and how he dealt with personal struggles like extortion and the attempted kidnapping of his son.
In Chelsea Handler’s excerpt, her pint-sized, funny assistant Chuy makes an appearance. Handler would not be pleased with all of the dark marks on her character’s face, which creates the illusion of wrinkles. However, Air Wars: Behind the Mic provides insight into Handler’s difficult times and her brash, no-holds-barred style of comedy that gained attention as she hit the stand-up comedy circuit in Los Angeles. As Handler prepares to move from E! to Netflix, her career will definitely continue to evolve.
It was a bit jarring to see a colorful depiction of Jon Stewart on the cover of his section and then a black and white story that also differed from Letterman and Handler’s excerpts. Stewart’s fans will learn a lot about his earlier career though, including his failed attempts at acting and MTV show success. The graphic novel also shows how Stewart addressed 9/11 with class and a bit of humor.
Conan O’ Brien’s story illustrations are as vibrant as his red hair. This section does a great job of recounting O’Brien’s path to fame and various career moves, detailing O’Brien’s rise as a comedy writer with “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons.” It was actually “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels who recommended O’Brien as the next host of “The Late Show.” The graphic novel also recounts O’Brien’s short-lived promotion to “The Tonight Show” and how he handled the disappointment gracefully.
The last host featured is Sirius XM’s often-controversial host Howard Stern. Air Wars: Behind the Mic does a good job of depicting Stern’s ups and downs as he looked to find the right platform for his comedic style.
Any fans of these hosts and their respective talk shows will definitely enjoy this book with its intriguing illustrations and details about their careers.