The Light from the TV Shows: Kevin Smith and his “Comic Book Men” are coming to AMC

If you don’t know that Kevin Smith has a tendency to get a little geeky with his pop-culture pursuits, then I can only presume that the sentence you’re reading at this very moment is the first time you’ve ever heard of Kevin Smith. Seriously, the man’s all about geek culture, and he’s not afraid to liberally pepper the dialogue of his films with comic book and sci-fi references…and by “liberally pepper,” I mean that, as often as not, you’re knee deep in the stuff. As such, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that his latest endeavor finds him serving as the executive producer of a new AMC reality series – their first in the genre – called…

The series takes place in Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the comic shop Smith owns in Red Bank, NJ, and revolves around the guys who work there – Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Michael Zapcic, and Ming Chen – as they go through their daily routine, much of which…at least for the purposes of the series, anyway…will involve the people who bring items into the store in hopes of selling them.

Yes, that’s right, go ahead and figure on every review of “Comic Book Men” featuring some reference to the series being like “Pawn Stars,” except geekier. This is in no way an inaccurate comparison. In fact, to hear Smith tell it, his pitch for the series actually involved the words, “Let’s do ‘Pawn Stars’ in a comic book store.” But, look, I’m just gonna tell you outright: that sentence alone would’ve been enough to get me to sign up for a season pass on TiVo, and having now actually watched a rough cut of the first episode, I see no reason to backpedal on that theory. Not only do we see some pretty cool shit coming into the store – like, say, a still-boxed Six Million Dollar Man figure with bionic “scope” eye – but there’s a lot of incredibly geeky conversation, too, like the guys’ deepest superhero crushes. (For the record, mine was always Tigra. Just sayin’.)

By the way, speaking of Smith, you probably noticed that I didn’t mention his name as one of the guys who works at the Secret Stash. This, of course, is because he’s got better things (relatively speaking) to do with his time. Don’t worry, though: he’s still in every episode, since the goings-on in the store end up being discussed on the group’s podcast, of which Smith is a part, and the recording sessions have been filmed and are spliced into the proceedings.

I’d really hoped to be able to sit down with Mr. Smith for a one-on-one interview during the course of the TCA press tour last month, but the man’s schedule was pretty well booked up, so the best I could wrangle was a roundtable. The good news: there were only three of us sharing the table with Kevin. The bad news: we only had 15 minutes with him. Now, please understand that I’m not being Bitchy McMoaney about this, like, “Woe is me, I only got to spend 15 minutes with the man behind ‘Clerks’ and ‘Mallrats,’ life sucks.” My issue about the time frame is…well, look, if you’ve ever seen one of Kevin Smith’s live performances, you know that the dude can talk like nobody’s business. There is video documentation to confirm that he can take a single question and run with it for an hour, sometimes longer. In short, each of us got one question answered – I was third – and after he answered mine, the publicist said, “We’ve got time for just one more.”

So, basically, what I’m saying is that Kevin Smith is not a man whose responses lend themselves to roundtables…but, hey, at least I got one question answered.

Earlier in the discussion, Smith had made a comment about how AMC had been interested in the series because they wanted to try and maintain the “geek” audience that was watching “The Walking Dead.” As a geek myself, I felt obliged to ask: just how geeky is the show allowed to get?

Said Mr. Smith…

We make a G.I. Robot joke. [Laughs.] That’s fucking so obscure, dude, I don’t know who else is gonna get it. Maybe five people on the planet…? But they let it ride. So there’s a lot of stuff like that. I mean, yeah, there’s definitely, like, “Which superhero would you most like to be?” The kind of easy stuff that people do. But then we get into deeper discussions that are more along the lines of “Clerks” or “Mallrats” or something, where we get into it.

Some of the stuff we’ve seen through has been absolutely amazing, you know? That’s been one of the fun things. Since there are transactions in the show, you get to see so much fucking shit come through the doors. So many toys, some things you’ve never seen before, and stuff like that. We had this guy bring in this Superman poster, and I’d never seen it…and I’ve seen a lot of Superman posters, but I’d never seen this particular one. And the back story he gave to it was fucking astounding. He was just, like, “This is Gay Superman.” “Well, what do you mean?” He’s, like, “The guy who painted this Superman, and he wanted this to be the representation of the ideal gay Superman.” I said, “Where did you learn this?” He’s just, like, “Everybody knows this.” [Laughs.] And I’m well studied, and I have never heard of this, never seen this depiction at all. And then Flanagan started buying into it, ‘cause he’s, like, “Look at his foot, he’s curling his toe!” It was ridiculous. But you get to see some stuff… I was, like, “That is a bad-ass poster, man! Where did that come from?”

The weird thing is, everyone that comes in to sell… Our store is not a buying place. Like, Walter believes in, like, “Get a book up on the wall, flip it, and get it off.” He doesn’t leave stuff up there forever. So you have all these people coming in to do transactions, and Walter’s, like, “Nah, it’s too much for us.” [Laughs.] “No, that’s too much. And that’s too much as well.” So there are a lot of people looking deflated. But he didn’t clown it up, he didn’t fake it for TV. He was just, like, “I wouldn’t buy this shit.” Like, at one point, he was just, like, “Am I supposed to buy things that we wouldn’t normally buy?” I was, like, “No, dude. Reality. Do whatever you would do.” He was, like, “Well, I ain’t buying this stuff!” This guy wants a thousand dollars for a Superman poster. I was, like, “Yeah, don’t buy that. Please.”

So you’re probably thinking, “What did the other two journalists ask Kevin?” And that’s a reasonable question, but I’m going to let those guys keep their own questions and answers to themselves in favor of closing with a few highlights from the panel which took place about an hour later, mostly because it produced some of the most entertaining moments of the TCA tour. Part of that comes from the fact that I’m a Kevin Smith fan, obviously, but, frankly, some of these panels can be pretty freaking lifeless. If nothing else, you can’t say that Smith didn’t liven up the afternoon for us…and to prove it, here’s a trio of quotes which sum up the general vibe of Smith’s performance:

“The experience (of working) with AMC has been religious. Now I’m going to do a bit of AMC cock suckery here, so if you have no stomach for that, just put on your iPod or something like that. I don’t watch the shit that’s on TV. I watch two channels: AMC, because I fucking love ‘Mad Men.’ I love ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Breaking Bad.’ My wife loved ‘Rubicon.’ I couldn’t understand it, felt like a dumbass, but she liked it a lot. And I watch Oxygen because I love ‘Snapped.’ I love to see women who kill their husbands. Anyway, so AMC, the channel I watch, like I don’t really TiVo anything else. It’s just pretty much AMC now that ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is off the air, it’s pretty much all AMC shows.”

“All I ever hear single women talk about is not being able to find a good man. You will never find a better man than in a comic book store because if you throw a comic book guy just a little bit of attention and/or pussy, you got him for life. Life, the most loyal husband you’ll have. My wife, she gave me she dropped her standards this much, and she got me for life, man, much because she gave me a shot. Comic book guys are reliable dudes. So I don’t have to sell it beyond that. Ladies, if you’re looking for a man who will take care of your needs first, comic book dudes are all oral. This is where you want to be. That’s what will bring women into a comic book store.”

“AMC came down and met the boys (at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash). They liked the boys, and Elyse (Seiden, one of the producers of ‘Comic Book Men’), calls me and she goes, ‘We got a show on AMC.’ And I was like…my fucking dick and head exploded because if I had tried to get on AMC, if that was my plan, if I had, like, fucking orchestrated it, it never would have happened. But the fact that it was just luck and happenstance that all of a sudden the network that I love, the one that I fucking watch, now I got not only do I have a show on TV where I can watch my friends for six weeks in a row, it’s on the fucking network that I love. And I’m just like I must have sold my soul to the devil or sucked a dick that I forgot about because this is great fortune that I’m experiencing. And I didn’t really earn it. So I’m just very happy to be here. Thank you.”

“Comic Book Men” premieres at 10 PM on Feb. 12, right after “The Walking Dead.”


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