New York, 1951. Le Monde is on the cusp of television greatness. They have the best cameras in the business and the best show on the air in Satellite Sam. Now all they need is for more channels to be unfrozen and they will take over. But first they have address a more pressing matter. Their live broadcast of Satellite Sam is on and the star of the show, Carlyle White, is nowhere to be found. It will take some serious quick thinking in little time with zero room for error, along with his son Michael having to do something he wants no part of, but they’re going to make. Only the same can’t be said about Carlyle when a network executive manages to finally discover what has become of him.
Satellite Sam opens with a look at how a television show is run in the early 1950s, when the vast majority of programs are aired live, leaving everyone involved to scramble in an effort to not screw up. Matt Fraction captures a lot of the pressure and chaos that exist in the booth and behind-the-scenes before entering what will likely be the main focal plot of the series. Scandals were a much bigger deal then than they are now simply because the public did not have as much access to information as they do now. Fraction sets up an intriguing start of how disastrous the death of a major television star is and the ramifications that will result from it. How everything is played out is fast and furious, and yet he still manages to identify a lot of personality in some of the characters who will likely play key roles in the issues to come.
Illustrating the book is Howard Chaykin, who applies the standard look of the world as seen through the 1950s. Not how they are seen through comic books, mind you, but life. Everyone is as uptight as ever to maintain some sense of professionalism, particularly in their appearance. There’s some clever panels that show how a character can be sweating without actually drawing the sweat lines. The panic and mayhem of all that is going on is well represented while managing to look rather clean. Leaving the book without color is a wise move as it adds to the nostalgia and the atmosphere of the story. Since color had yet to be introduced to television, the world was still seen in black and white. Even when dark secrets are brought to light.
Satellite Sam is an interesting, and rather thrilling, look at the mayhem of producing a television show in the 1950s. Matt Fraction nails the frantic pace and pressure show makers face as they try to get a popular show to broadcast live without a hitch before a scandalous event happens. Howard Chaykin brings some wonderful illustrations to the book that respects the look of the world in the 1950s and the the chaos of making television while keeping the lines clean. Satellite Sam comes recommended.
What do you recall about the world in the 1950s? Comment below and follow me on Twitter @LordAkiyama.