Satellite Sam #1: Sex and Death in the 1950s
Having been impressed with Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye book, I decided to pick up his new creator owned Image title, Satellite Sam. It’s an interesting roll of the dice for a few reasons. One, it’s in black and white. Two, it’s set in the fifties. Three, it’s an adult book centered on the chaos of live TV, the egos of TV personalities and, above all, sex. Image has always fared well with more adult-themed material, and Satellite Sam fits right in.
If you need capes to enjoy comics, this isn’t your bag. Issue #1 is entirely the set up to do a live TV show. Fraction weaves in multiple elements to keep the action hopping, but on a cerebral level: the angry director, pissed that his main star has yet to show up – yelling and cursing at his crew, he has no time for this shit; the attractive cast of fondling hands, sexual innuendo and entitled egos; the son of the star trying to move past his father’s shadow; a group of investors, and a plan to take over American television using the new technology of cable.
Fraction does some great writing here. Not only because the idea is off the beaten path, but also because he brings you into a situation most aren’t familiar with. TV these days is digital, easily fixed, and produced mostly after the fact. Live TV was exactly that – live TV. If you had a recalcitrant star, you were screwed. Fraction captures that energy perfectly. Chaos reigns behind the scenes of the "Satellite Sam" show. The investors, who are usually greeted with ass kissing, are told to leave, yelled at, and basically turned away by those panicking as the show ends and the star remains missing.
The writer, the man who views what he does on a Shakespearean level, pisses and moans as his brilliance is chopped up for better television. In the middle of this insanity, the truth behind the missing star is revealed. Death has come to the "Satellite Sam" show, and when the older star’s son does some digging, it appears his father has a checkered and secret life, nobody knows about. This is all in one issue, it’s breathtaking, fast paced and a little hard to follow who is who. Still, it’s interesting and exciting work.
Fraction nails the pacing and the dialogue. Stories like these depend on those two elements working in harmony and being razor sharp. Both hold true with Satellite Sam #1. Is this as good as Hawkeye? You can’t really compare the two. This world is darker, less fun and more rooted in real life. The fifties setting works wonders, as the kind of sex, cursing and raunch in Satellite Sam feels more jarring in that world.
Howard Chaykin, an artist who is no stranger to sex, drugs and controversy, holds down the art duties. I love his work, I always have, so to me, Satellite Sam is beautiful. Chaykin’s art is visceral and hyper-realistic. He gives us every line on a face, every scar and receding hair line. His expressions are always golden, sometimes laugh out loud funny. His art style isn’t for everyone. Heavily detailed black and white work can seem too complicated for some readers. For those who love the old seventies underground art style, the work that came from R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar, Spain Rodriguez and that ilk, Satellite Sam will have you jumping for joy.
Satellite Sam #1 is a killer opening. Sexy, vulgar and completely entertaining.
(4 Story, 4.5 Art)