Hands up those of you who love comic books… Yup, I thought so, I see absolutely no hands are down, and some of you are on your feet applauding – easy crowd tonight. Okay then, hands up those of you who love reality television… Put down those hands people…
Comic books? Reality TV? Wait, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise, but first, a bit of background…
Real To Virtual
So, just to complete the stereotype, as well as being into video games, tech, sci-fi, etc., I am also a massive comic book fan. In fact, I would say that it was an addiction. I have a garage full of comic book boxes, boxes inside the house full of them, trades overloading shelves and comic book paraphernalia dotted all over the place. At one point I was spending £30-£40 a week on comic books, and that was just my standing orders, I dread to think how much I spent on back issues, trades, collected editions, variant covers, signed editions and advanced orders. I have so many comic books that I simply cannot afford to bag and board them all. Sacrilege, I know!
However, real life has a curious habit of sneaking up on your day to day activities and I soon found myself collecting for the sake of collecting and rarely getting a chance to read anything. Plus the space, the sheer space my hobby was taking up was unbelievable. So, I did what I had to do, I stopped. Well, not exactly quit as such, I buy the odd trade here and there, perhaps a miniseries, but I’ve mostly moved to the realms of digital comic books. It isn’t the same as holding a real physical book in your hands, but it’s cheaper, saves on floor space, and iOS and Android Apps like Comixology offer cool features like panel-by-panel view.
One of the prides of my collection is a hardback triple signed collected edition of a Daredevil story called Guardian Devil, written by director/producer/screenwriter/author/comedian/podcaster/avid Twitter user/Southwest Airlines hater Kevin Smith. Any fanboy will know who Smith is and they will all know that he also owner of a comic store in Red Bank, New Jersey called Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.
Before I continue, I feel that it is prudent, at this point, to make it known that Kevin Smith, yes, Kevin Smith favourited one of my tweets a few weeks back. Granted, I had tweeted that I was listening to his latest Hollywood Babble On podcast that he does with comedian Ralph Garman, but it was enough to make me almost pass out. Almost I said… Oh, I was also followed, briefly, by Yvonne Stahovski of Dexter and Chuck fame. The latter has nothing to do with this article; I just wanted to show off.
Reality Clashes With Awesome Nerd Culture…But Did It Work?
Anyway, I digress. Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is also the setting of a reality television show called Comic Book Men which airs on AMC, you will know this show if you’ve watched The Walking Dead, which is pretty much all of you. Now, I love comics, I love Kevin Smith, but either ‘meh’ or outright hate reality shows. So it was with a mix of high hopes and trepidation that I approached Comic Book Men.
Already in its second season, each episode also has a (more adult) companion podcast where the staff, which includes Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson (unofficial staff member), Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen (who is forever picked on) go about their business running the comic book store, with Smith himself sitting down with them to talk about the latest happenings. Fans will recognise the former two when I say Tell ‘em Steve Dave, if not, then I demand that you watch Clerks, Mallrats and all the other Viewaskew flicks and comic books.
Okay, so on paper the show doesn’t sound like much, but for the comic fan it is as close to Nirvana as you can get without accidentally stumbling across a near mint copy of Action Comics #1 at some car boot sale, where the old lady selling it doesn’t know its true value so only wants pennies for it, not that I would condone such actions. In the show, you have a bunch of really likeable people, yes I am also including the acerbic Bryan Johnson, talking about comics, movies and having banter with customers.
Think Clerks but less “37” and more “How may I help you sir?”
Probably the highlight of each episode is when a customer comes into the store, wanting to sell something that Walt Flanagan (also the manager) takes a liking to and this, usually, kicks off a haggling war. Even better is when someone wants to sell something of importance or great value that they have to call in their pop culture expert, Robert Bruce, to cast his opinion.
Like the X Factor auditions there is a certain amount of morbid glee to be gained from watching things go wrong for somebody. As bad it makes me sound, I do so enjoy watching someone take in a comic book expecting a high cash value and sale, only to be turned away as the book has a split spine with tape holding it together, flaking and badly yellowing pages or, in one case, some guy attempted to sell a limited edition Godzilla model, but neglected to mention that the tail had snapped off and had been carefully glued back on – something picked up by the aforementioned Robert Bruce.
It is riveting stuff and you’re filled with waves of nostalgia when customers come in with toys and comics from your childhood.
As mentioned, each episode is backed up by an accompanying podcast where the language is a lot more adult in nature – I mean, they are Kevin Smith and his friends after all, but it is just as much fun with a lot more detail about the items that various customers have brought in to sell to them.
Yes, the show is a little scripted in places, but that’s part and parcel of the whole reality television genre, but, as mentioned, the extremely affable staff, the setting and the obvious love of comic books and pop culture that they have, makes this show highly enjoyable and most of all, fun.
It is sheer pop culture bliss.
Have you seen this show? If so what did you think? Let us know in the comments section…