It starts with a television and it gets bigger. Foreign objects revolving around centralized signals expanding and forming new trajectories, stories spinning out of a singular location, but becoming something – something more.
Satellite Sam begins in a sequence, or rather extended sequence that reminds me, of one of my favourite sequences of any medium, the intro to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. The beginning of boogie nights is anything but conventional. Well it start’s conventional and it is for a bit , there’s the normal black screen, a slight orchestral swelling, the typical bullshit production credit , but then , then everything changes. There’s this big fucking bright pink sign that reads boogie nights, and the disco pops in and explodes, and we rush right into it. We move away from the sign in an almost ethereal sideways manner, and we follow a car, we follow this car as it pulls up to Hot Traxx, and our characters get out and enter the club. It’s all one shot don’t forget—and Anderson does this thing where we’re moving through the club, in this sequence, exploring the time and space of the moment, and meeting our characters, and interacting with them in the most honest and objective way we will at any point in the story, and eventually , finally we reach the protagonist of Boogie nights, Dirk Diggler. But we’re not introduced to him in a glamorous or sympathetic way, but rather in a sort of mundane manner, as he buses tables.
Satellite Sam , like “Boogie Nights” opens with an understated convergence of stories, with a sequence of shot’s orienting the process of the people in the environment that they have chosen to submerge themselves in , in this case it’s the production team and crew of Lamonde’s at best B grade science fiction program “Satellite Sam”.
Fraction and Chaykin, in a sequence that feels a lot like it could be one flowing cut, take us through the set and introduces us to the cast of Satellite Sam: The girl backstage with the cross tattoo, the pervert who’s helping her zip up (pervert is relative, I suppose), the writer tired of seeing his script his precious script bastardized live on television, the studio head facing crumbling pressure at the hands of the FCC.
The way we’re introduced to our protagonist is not altogether different from observing the Bus Boy Diggler busing tables miserably. There’s a light bulb here, and a fuckload more alcohol, but it’s that same sort of unglamorous pressure that we meet Mikey White under.
The Titular “Satellite Sam” is functionally a shadow that looms over the first issue, and once you’re finished reading it, you’ll recognize the entire series. It is a book characterized by the absence of the enigmatic Carlyle White. Carlyle is characterized by a general impression he seems to have left on the show, some sort of charcoal impression on the emotional well of those who work with him. Looking at Libby wander into Chaykin/Bruzenaks black and white and Helvetica 58th street seems to tell us more about Carlyle then any bit of dialogue could ever. Of course for those who demand more concrete bits of characterization , Fraction/Chaykin bring you what you demand, in the form of a box of telling polaroids.
Word’s cant do the beauty of Chaykin and Bruzenak’s New York beauty, but I’ll try. I fucking love Howard Chaykin art, in fact I can’t even understand not liking it , and surprise: I like it in black and white best of all . This feels like some of Chaykin’s best work in forever . Chaykin owns the studio, chaykin owns the streets, Chaykin owns the fabric of Woman’s clothes, he owns the tattoo on the back of one of the characters, he owns the 1950s sci fi B movie goodness, he owns it all. Bruzenak’s riding shot gun for all of this , making the particularly dense, yet immaculately paced script , sing and guide readers across panels and grids, making the period advertisements sing , and making you generally remember that design in comics is a thing .
I don’t bag and board comic books: they’re beautiful and disposable, and I want them to get fucked up, I and fall apart, and go to shit, but this I will be bagging and boarding, sending it forward into the future, like some sort of time capsule reminder of a truly beautifully crafted artifact that demands attention. Like some sort of Satellite orbiting the earth, waiting for just the right moment…
…to come crashing down.