- matt fraction -
The last Letterman airs Wednesday; I’ll arrive in New York just before its broadcast for my own appearance on the show he started, Late Night, on NBC, now hosted by Seth Meyers. And I’m putting together a thank-you gift for Team: SATELLITE SAM
as we cross our finish line and writing a short story that appears in the giant SAM omnibus later this summer. In short: I got a lot of television — New York television — on my mind right now.
(HOLY SHIT I AM GOING TO BE A GUEST ON ‘LATE NIGHT’)
The most shopworn tool in my toolbox reduces stories down to two things: what happens, and what’s it about. Story and plot. Call it whatever you prefer; far from an original thought, asking myself what happens (“Batman fights Riddler”) and what’s it about (“Mental illness effects all socio-economic strata”) serve as my dumb little compass when I can’t figure out where the fuck to go or what the fuck to do. Re-centering and re-focusing. Wait, what happens? Wait, what’s it about? Oh, right. Punching the Riddler.
The SATELLITE SAM short, a coda, follows one of the minor characters (Ike, the old man in the control booth) after the events of the story (by about a decade) and set in a place that, until I started researching SAM, I didn’t know existed. I wanted it to be in the final issue but cut it for space, but the nature of an oversized hardcover means we have a little space for a valedictory. So.
The nature of a coda maybe answers “what’s it about?” all by its own; an echo of the main piece, a small refrain, one last chance to dot thematic I’s and cross subtextual T’s. The place I found out about (in, I think, Kisseloff’s THE BOX
, then, elsewhere) existed before the Port Authority leveled 13 blocks to make way for the World Trade Center. They called it “Radio Row
” and merchant after merchant worked forty-some years there selling systems and parts and tubes and gear for any kind of equipment that could broadcast. Radio first, then of course, television, then in the early sixties, nothing. PATH (and the Rockefellers, and Robert Moses, and all those other construction-mad human steamrollers that demolished then for now back then) shut ‘em down, bought ‘em out for $3000 a pop or used eminent domain to level ‘em all. Goliath to David: Drop Dead. Here comes tomorrow.
When I work-lived in New York, that neighborhood, way-down-south, dead-after-six lower-ass-Manhattan, was where I lived. I spent months of my life there and had no idea what it had been once upon a time.
Here’s how weird things are sometimes: when I work-worked in New York, the view from my office always reminded me of how Frank Miller drew Hell’s Kitchen in DAREDEVIL. They call it CLINTON now, Hell’s Kitchen. And it doesn’t look anything like what Miller drew, not really. (Kingpin should've constantly corrected people calling it "Hell's Kitchen" to 'Clinton' in the Netflix DAREDEVIL show.)
When Chaykin told me about UPSTART STUDIOS — the shop he, Miller, Simonson, Starlin, Weiss, and others worked out of in the eighties (DAREDEVIL, RONIN, THOR, AMERICAN FLAGG! — all done in the same fucking SPACE) — I mentioned how where I worked (227 W. 29th) always reminded me of Marvel’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Chaykin looked at me like I’d just spat up a live goldfish. He pulled out his phone and called Simonson (this was just some random Sunday, mind, and just, like, as a fan of both these guys I was DYING). He badgered Walter about remembering the Upstart address.
231 W. 29th
Literally right next door.
It looked like Miller's Hell's Kitchen because it WAS Miller’s Hell’s Kitchen.
I loved putting together the thank you gifts. I trawled eBay for actual nudie snaps, old instamatic shots. I tried not to find, y’know, your Irving Klaw-like Camera Club shots with serial numbers in the lower corner but actual, like, real things, real shots, one-of-a-kind pictures of everybody’s grandma’s getting freaky, just like Carlyle White so studiously assembled in SAM. I got boxes of matches made up with the LE MONDE logo on it (and a message that places them as artifacts from a Christmas party that appeared in the book) and ordered cans of 16mm film.
NEXT WEEK sees SATELLITE SAM #14 on the stands, looking something like this. It’s the penultimate chapter so I dunno that anyone’s jumping ON, necessarily, but shit’s about to go OFF, story-wise, so I hope you dig it. Black as it got I loved writing every word.
I’m on LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS this THURSDAY, MAY 21st at 11:35 edt/pdt.
I’ll be the one looking like me only awash in vague terror.
Special treats in store for the audience. Check it out.