Hocus Pocus: Satterlee talks "Smoke & Mirror"

Yesterday we talked to writer Chuck Satterlee about his August shipping book "Of Bitter Souls." But having just one book out in comic shops isn't enough for the relative newcomer to the indsutry, so Satterlee's working on another monthly color comic coming from Relative Comics Studios and publisher Speakeasy Comics starting this September called "Smoke & Mirror." We caught up with the writer to see what he's got planned for this series.

Satterlee's joined on "Smoke & Mirror" by penciller Claude St. Aubin ("Green Lantern," "Magnus: Robot Fighter"), inker Kevin Breyfogle ("Green Arrow") and colorist Lovern Kindzierski. Where "Of Bitter Souls" finds a cast of characters with very questionable pasts, "Smoke & Mirror" stars a cast of characters with a slightly better background, but with their own internal struggles. The series is centered on Luke Gabriel. "Luke's a street lawyer in Chicago who deals with all of the people that society will not," Satterlee told CBR News. "He hasn't always been so altruistic, however. The man was once a high-powered attorney with only materialistic goals. That is until he met Silas Binder.

"Silas is an old acquaintance of the senior partner in his firm, Benjamin Abbott. When Luke is assigned to represent Silas, a series of events is put into motion. Luke lost his father, a street-lawyer, to thugs who he was trying to fight in court for some homeless folks. Luke never forgave him and decided that he would acquire things that his father couldn't give him. Luke basically lost his dad early and had very little fatherly figures in his life. Silas was a superhero in the forties. He worked as one half of a team called Smoke & Mirror. He was Mr. Smoke and she was Miss. Mirror. His powers are on the spell casting side and hers are speed and the ability to harness heat energy and blast it from her hands.

"One day, Miss Mirror was killed in the line of duty," continued Satterlee. "Mr. Smoke, who had loved her, but never told her, blamed himself and hung up the cape. He has had no one to love for a very long time. He is now in his eighties."

As the lawyer and the client find each other, Luke learns of Silas' past superhero life and Silas begins to mentor Luke, who takes on the mantle of Smoke (no Mr.), who's soon to be joined by another. "They get along pretty well with Silas mentoring Luke until, that is, Zoe Abbott shows up. Zoe is Benjamin's granddaughter. Miss Mirror was Benjamin's sister. And guess what, it turns out that the Mirror power is genetic!"

Each issue sees Silas mentoring Luke & Zoe about being superheroes and dealing with different crises by telling them stories of what it was like when he was a superhero. As those stories are told, the art and color style of the book shifts slightly to tell those flashback stories. The first issue will introduce readers to the new Smoke, while the second issue sees the introduction of the new Mirror, as well as Benjamin Abbot. "The series is really about paying attention to our roots," said Satterlee.

"I am fairly stingy with the golden age pages in the first couple of issues, but it grows in issue three," continued Satterlee. "Because the golden age flashbacks are meant to be a learning tool for the modern age Smoke & Mirror, I don't think that there will ever be a full golden age issue, but I do plan on giving a lot of space to that great time in comics. I just love old comics. I really want to do justice to them and I'm nervous that the 'gimmick' of changing art styles and colors will be lost if we do it too much at one time. I did get really lucky with Claude St. Aubin. He really nails that golden age style! He is probably the most underrated artist in the biz. When Lovern Kindzierski signed on, I about fainted as he is pretty much the father of modern day computer coloring. He can go from a modern style to mimicking that of a golden age book so easy. It flows like butta!"

The idea for "Smoke & Mirror" first presented itself to Satterlee about four years ago when he was having lunch with a friend at a fast-food joint in Chicago. Initially, the idea was to have a young thief living with an older character who used to be a superhero. "The story just kind of evolved over the years into it's current form," explained Satterlee. "This one is the harder of the two series for me to write. It seems to take twice as long for me to finish each script as it does for me to finish an 'Of Bitter Souls' script. I think it is harder for me since it has been changed so much since the idea's initial form."

Satterlee got hooked up with artist Claude St. Aubin a few years back through Bryan Augustyn, whom Satterlee thinks of as something of a mentor. Satterlee and St. Aubin were working on a project together, but that first project never materialized. But, they stayed in touch and now find themselves working together on "Smoke & Mirror." "Claude blew me away then and he continues to do so on every page of 'Smoke & Mirror!' He had some early input, but pretty much concentrates on his pencils. Kevin Breyfogle (Norm's brother) is the series inker and he does incredible justice to Claude's pencils. It's strange that he hasn't had more work in comics. He is an incredible artist. It sort of gives a new meaning to the name, Relative Comics Studios." (laughs)

Those golden age stories found in "Smoke & Mirror" will also play a role in another comic soon to see publication. "Vito DelSante has a series coming out through Speakeasy Comics called 'The Mercury Chronicles,'" said Satterlee. "It's absolutely stunning writing and features pencils by Mike Lilly! Anyway, the series is also set in the forties, as is our golden age flashbacks. You're going to see Vito and I having a little fun with each other's characters in each other's books."

Inker extraordinaire Jimmy Palmiotti is also joining the crew, handling the inking duties on covers, and Billy Tucci has agreed to do a guest cover for a future issue. "Also, I am extremely honored to have a pin-up in issue one from Dick Ayers," said Satterlee. "How cool is that? I mean, this man started out inking for Siegel and Schuster! What an incredible honor to have him in our book."

So why Speakeasy? How did Satterlee get hooked up with them? "I do an interview column for the International Comic Arts Association, which was founded by Erik Enervold, our art director and editor. He does a newsletter called the Livewire. I saw in Livewire that Adam Fortier was accepting submissions and I submitted. He decided to publish both titles. I felt like I won the lotto or something! Both books! Adam is a visionary, but more than that he has a solid plan about what he wants to do with Speakeasy. I believe in Adam Fortier and I believe in Speakeasy. I'm not diluted. I know that the chances of any publisher making it are slim, but if I ever met anyone with the plan to make it happen, Adam is that man. I respect the hell out of him and what he's doing. I know how many submissions he gets and it still knocks me out the we were accepted!"

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