Saturday, 12 July 2014

Comic Review - Satellite Sam

I like comics. I like writing. So here I am writing about comics. Which is easier than writing them. This is also a test of my ability to be brief and concise, traits for which I am not known. As this introductory paragraph, despite its short, punchy opening sentences, makes only too clear.

Satellite Sam
Publisher: Image Comics
By: Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin

What’s It About

The tribulations of the cast and crew of Satellite Sam, a low-budget sci-fi TV show produced in 1950s New York, along the lines of Captain Video. While the unexpected death of its star and the seedy revelations of his private life continue to rock the show in front of and behind the cameras, backbiting and manoeuvring among actors and creators threaten the smooth running of the LeMonde Televison Network. It’s a bit like a James Ellroy story in comic form, with less bent coppers and more tinfoil spacesuits.

What's Good About It

Hmm, hard one. The subject matter’s certainly non-standard comic fare, with plenty of detail about how shows got made back at the Dawn of Television. There are revelations and mysteries to be uncovered about the deceased star Carlyle White, and low-level political wrangles about screen-time and creative control. There’s also some crime and plenty of sex and naughty words, if that’s your thing.

What's Not So Good About It
Believe it or not, this is the least exploitative and sexist of all the series' covers...

Howard Chaykin’s art in this black and white series is pretty much what you’d expect from the man who brought us American Flagg! over 30 years ago. Big strapping dark-haired boychik who looks like every leading man Chaykin’s ever drawn from Reuben Flagg to Dominic Fortune to Blackhawk? Check. Somewhat unnecessary saucy shots of ladies in various stages of undress? Check. In his defence though, the rest of the characters are rendered clearly and distinctly, and he draws a mean pipe.

Matt Fraction’s writing is perfectly acceptable and meshes so well with Chaykin’s usual writer/artist output that I was surprised that Chaykin hadn't written Satellite Sam as well. But I do wonder who on earth this series is aimed at. Comic readers who are fans of the slightly-seedy-1950s-behind-the-scenes-TV-drama genre don’t strike me as an obviously lucrative demographic.

But what do I know? I had to look up Captain Video on Wikipedia before writing this.

Why You Should Read It

Like stories about making early TV shows? Liked the movie Good Night and Good Luck but could have done with more spaceships on wires? Like the old Fireball XL5 show but could have done with more seedy sex scenes and pages of men smoking at typewriters? Can’t get enough of women in their underwear and guys who look like Reuben Flagg? Then you’ll love Satellite Sam.

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