Pick of the Week

July 3, 2013 – Satellite Sam #1

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 3.7
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 3.3%
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Matt Fraction
Art by Howard Chaykin

Size: 0 pages
Price: 3.50

On break from college, we got drunk in the nautical themed basement bar of a friend’s childhood home. We were playing Kings incorrectly, and when this tall old friend laughed, he teetered on his heels and brushed the drop ceiling with the crown of his head. The panel went crooked and in the space above we spied an old shoebox filled with his dad’s porn collection. The old man wasn’t quite Bob Crane, but he’d amassed quite an unusual catalog of reading and viewing material. My friend took it all in stride and guffawed along with us as we added live readings from the laser-printed document of erotic prose to our game of what we thought was Kings. Still, I’ve since wondered how that incident altered or reinforced my friend’s perception of his father. Or if the old man noticed his cache had been compromised.

We open on a pile of smut.

Hot off his Black Kiss II tour, Howard Chaykin plays 52-Pick-Up with an array of wallet-sized boudoir portraits in stark black and white. All garters and corsets and secrets. This two page spread, a bookend repeated at the close of the issue, represents the private collection of Carlyle White, actor and man about town in 1951. Only now they belong to his booze hound son Michael, a technician on his Flash Gordon-esque live television program ‘Satellite Sam’ (3:45 on LeMonde!). Carlyle isn’t offering up a creepy gift to his son, of course. He probably never intended for Mikey to find those boxes under the bed. Problem is, Carlyle White is dead, so he has very little say in anything anymore.

And we’re ninety seconds to air.

What got me about Fraction and Chaykin’s Satellite Sam was the relentless rhythm of show business and the four-Xerox-generations-from-the-source aesthetic.

The tension of live television production lends immediacy. Already adept at producing complex and lyrically compelling patter in books like Hawkeye, Fraction steps it up with overlapping dialogue and frantic communication between the booth and set. It’s a far more cynical depiction of live television than the swashbuckling and romantic Studio 60 or The Newsroom, but it’s that stale coffee breath that lends the issue all the authenticity of a spent Lucky Strike afloat in an abandoned tumbler. Were it a feature film, it’d involve Clooney and Affleck and Sorkin. They’d mention Lumet in the bonus features and the Vanity Faire pictorial.

I couldn’t help but think back on the Studio One live television staging of 12 Angry Men, a 1954 production that predates Lumet’s feature film version (you can find it on Criterion’s recent release of the latter). They shot those things live with breaks for commercials. The actors were all shaking like chihuahuas, each hoping they wouldn’t be the one to louse it up.

This is old hat for the jaded crew of Satellite Sam, but on this particular afternoon they have to deal with the wrinkle of an absent leading man. Covering for the mysteriously missing Carlyle — in parallel with tracking him down — adds more suspense. I don’t know if it’s because I always like to be 45 minutes early for appointments or I sweated through a TV production class and still have night terrors over it, but this book activated all of my nervous tics. We don’t know a lot of these people yet and they’re mostly a smoke filled room full of Ikes and Docs, but the energy of that studio was palpable.

This isn’t just good Chaykin; it’s great Chaykin. These are the faces of another generation who wear their slacks differently and call them slacks in the first place. They’re not exactly likable, of course, representative of the grouchy old white guys who tend to fuck everything up for humanity’s report card. It’s a warts on top of warts depiction of show business, and it’s bound to get even sleazier. These kinds of characters and behaviors have deterred many viewers from embracing Mad Men, though, if you’re anything like me, you remain entranced, unable to turn away from those cads and their hustle to self-destruction. There’s a bit of that here. It’s not pretty, but the egos generate their own gravitational pull.

Then there’s the mystery. Who killed Carlyle White and why? Who are all these women? And can Mikey, inheritor of his father’s photos and sci-fi adventurer role both, wash his hands of any of it?

Can’t wait to see him try.

Paul Montgomery
…really liked that one where Timothy Busfield couldn’t get the snakes out of the floor.


  1. Great choice Paul. I picked this up because my stack was so light this week and I’m really glad I did.

  2. Since it isn’t a light week for me, I was going to pass on this, but, now maybe I’ll squeeze it in.

  3. This was going to be the first week in years that I wasn’t pulling anything, but this review was enough to convince me to give it a shot. Chaykin can be hit or miss for me, so I’m glad to hear this is “great Chaykin.”

  4. Yesss.

    I was so surprised by just how frenetic the panels were without losing the art in the process. Those little snatches of dialogue just added to much to the story, which would be a platitude, except their excessive use transmuted them into a sort of piece of the setting.

    Fantastic choice.

  5. You’re 100% right on in your review Paul, what makes this issue successful is the marriage of great Chaykin with a wonderfully paced script. I don’t know enough about any of the characters yet to be attached to them but I think that’s both by design and not a problem for me as this first issue was basically a cold open for the series.

  6. I spent so much time trying to get used to characters and differentiate between them that the frantic pace was totally missed and I finished this issue not caring about any character or who killed Carlyle White. I won’t be back.

    Will probably be going with Superior Foes of Spider Man, that was a blast to read.

    To each their own, not my cup of tea.

  7. is this a mini or ongoing?

  8. Is this a sex thing?

  9. Worth a look.

    Great Chaykin can be awesome.

  10. This was really great. I love things set in old TV and Radio days, there’s so much great drama to play with in live broadcast. The pacing in this issue was stellar. The art and story worked very well together, this comic is two people who are showing us how very capable they are. I am really glad I picked this up. Oh, nice review as well, I am looking forward to the podcast!

  11. What a verbose comic. Matt Fraction is, for me, probably the biggest hit or miss writer in comics. Compare this book with just about any issue of Hawkeye. Hawkeye uses an economy of dialogue that allows Aja’s artwork to draw the reader in, this issue is guilty of garrulousness of the highest order. I got about halfway through and stopped caring, just continued leafing through and enjoying the art. I loved the Chaykin art, so intricate, and I really love the black and white aesthetic.

  12. The fellow at my LCS flat out stated his disapproval for this as he rang up my picks for the week. “Too many words,” was his only critique. No one ever says, “too many pictures” when they complain about a comic.

    The brilliance of all of Fraction’s words was in the repetition that allowed you to get the overlap in events that would have been missed otherwise. It set a frenetic pace that I found exhilarating.

    Chaykin’s black and white art, however, left me with a sense that every character was just an old white guy. Perhaps that’s a commentary on the period they’re working to depict but largely I found it sleepy.