Thoughts From The Comic Book Men Series Premiere
Imagine if Clerks and Pawn Stars were thrown into a blender with a little Big Bang Theory, but with anyone that has a decent amount of likability or charm removed. That, my friends, is Comic Book Men.
On paper, Comic Book Men is a great idea. This “unscripted” show follows the staff of filmmaker Kevin Smith‘s comic book store in New Jersey. We’ve got the store manager Walt Flanagan, store co-runner Mike Zapcic, soft-spoken scapegoat Ming Chen, and the quick-witted customer who rarely leaves the store, Bryan Johnson. During the show, we see the staff haggle with customers on comic books, merchandise, and the occasional rare treasure (a Batman & Robin sketch by Bob Kane himself!). We also see our heroes hosting a podcast with Smith, where they talk about the world of comics. In this episode, we also saw Mike, Bryan and Ming place a bet on who could sell the most merchandise at a flea market, with the very meek Ming struggling to keep up.
Being a comic book geek myself, I obviously feel a certain kinship with these guys, but that doesn’t mean I have to find this show entertaining. The most interesting aspect for me was seeing some of the books and merchandise and saying: “Oooh, I want that!” or ”Ooooh, I need to read that!” But I can do that in my own local comic book shop. I can also haggle for merchandise there. So what’s the point of watching Kevin Smith’s buddies work in a comic book store when it’s no more entertaining than me going to one myself?
The podcast segments on this show have no real value either. At one point, it looked like they were going to discuss the use of drugs in comics, or maybe the ethics of using superheroes using kid sidekicks. These points spawned from a customer bringing Detective Comics #35 into the sore, the cover of which features a character using a hypodermic needle. But instead of devoting some time to what could have been an engaging discussion on often-times controversial subjects in this medium, they simply go to the next segment. This happens a few times in the show. It’s frustrating.
So what can we get from Comic Book Men that we can’t get from simply talking with our buddies, or heading into a comic shop ourselves? Well…Bryan Johnston picks on the Asian guy a lot, does that count? I get that it’s just what friends do sometimes, and maybe they were just trying to make Ming into an underdog character for the audience to root for, but after awhile you genuinely start to feel for the guy. I mean, sheesh, what’d he ever do wrong?
Assuming what I saw tonight is also what the remainder of this six-episode season will be like, I think Comic Book Men represents a missed opportunity. With The Walking Dead as it’s lead-in, I’d wager a lot of people were watching this premiere. As such, Comic Book Men could have been a show about why these men love comics so much, what their appeal is and what kind of an audience they attract, along with discussions of intriguing topics within the genre. That’s not to say it has to be an hour-long round table discussion show. But it’s not very entertaining to see Kevin Smith’s buddies razz each other, and then talk about how much a poster costs.
One thing a lot of people seem to be saying about this show is that it reinforces some of the negative stereotypes people have about comic book readers and comic book stores. Sadly, that’s very true. I may buy the owner of my local store a sympathy card this week, because of how his profession has just been portrayed to the masses.
Front page image from montrealgazette.com. Image 1 from tvguide.com. Image 2 from popwatch.ew.com. Image 3 from scifimania.com.