Comics #4: Saturday Night Live
Written by Chad Lambert
Art by Patricio Carbajal
Colors by Michael Langdale
Letters by Jaymes Reed
Cover by Rovel Yumul
Release date: April 11, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Paperback | Kindle
Right away, upon opening this Bluewater comic book presentation, which is dedicated to the history of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels asks himself to answer the question we start thinking as soon as we see the cover of this comic, and that question is, “How can I think about the entire history of the program in 4 minutes?”
Indeed, but somehow, writer Chad “Bud” Lambert and artist Patricio “Bud” Carbajal attempt to undertake this massively huge feat in Comics #4: Saturday Night Live and almost succeed.
SNL, which debuted as a comedy/variety show in 1975 on NBC and continues to this day as a pioneering force in American television, gets the complete breakdown in these pages and the full graphic treatment. (Incidentally, the usage of “Bud” for the creative team here who made this comic is a sly nod to the very first episode of SNL, in which the shows’ credits called everyone “Bud” in their middle name as well).
Starting with the show’s longtime producer Lorne Michaels getting ready for a show backstage, he starts to reflect on the entire history of the program. We start from its humble beginnings as a replacement for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show reruns, which used to run in its 11:30 time slot. Michaels’ recollections, which serve as a narration for the story throughout the comic, takes us to the genesis of the show. We see a very different, younger Michaels pitching the show to NBC and putting all the pieces in place, hiring the writers (most of them from National Lampoon) and the original cast, most of whom became legendary comic figures in their own right (Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner, and later Bill Murray among them). The pace is rapid, but fortunately, a little bit of time is taken in those early, formative years, ones which are still considered by many to be the best years of the show (1975-1980).
But, in doing so, so many details get crammed in. The comic has a “blink or you’ll miss it” kind of approach. Backgrounds and certain ways in which characters are drawn, try to squeeze in as much as possible within its heavy laden narrative framework. Once the story of the show goes from 1980 on, it becomes a flurry of faces, and quick explanations, all done cookie cutter and not interesting. There’s nothing here to make you understand why the show worked so well, or what made the comedy work. Understandably, there’s a lot to talk about in a short amount of space; a couple of volumes of this story spread out over a few comics might have worked much better.
This comic book pretty much tries to hope that the reader will simply go “Oh yeah, I remember that!” and cross its fingers that that’s enough to propel its narrative. It wraps up rather nicely though as Michaels is able to recollect in time, just before the show starts, and brings things full circle.
As with these publications from Bluewater, the art itself wavers from faces that are instantly recognizable, to ones not so much. There seems to be a common thread with Bluewater Comics where many artists employed on these projects run hot and cold with likenesses and caricatures of the famous figures they are trying to illustrate in the story. This hurts the story rather than helps it, as it sometimes makes you take yourself out of the story, to comment on the haphazard approach of the art.
But another common theme that Bluewater does is make the presentation breezy and real easy to digest. This comic just scratches the surface enough to make its points about the show. For a full history of the show, one is encouraged to read Tom Shales’ treatise of the show, Live From New York for a more comprehensive look at the program.
Comics #4: Saturday Night Live has its flaws, but it does make for a quick light read, and for pop culture completists, it’s a decent addition to one’s collection. But if you prefer substance over style, then that’s another story.
The print version is available in comic book shops now and is available for pre-order at TFAW and Amazon. The digital version is available right now for the Kindle.