Last night, the world was introduced to Kevin Smith’s ‘Comic Book Men’ on AMC after ‘The Walking Dead’. Seeing as I’m the friendly, neighborhood Kevin Smith fanboy around these parts, it is my duty and fortune to present you with a recap of the premiere episode.
Before I get to the recap, I have something to share with the class. Last week, I had the pleasure of covering a Q&A to promote the premiere of the show. After the Q&A session, I was lucky enough to sit down with Walt Flanagan and Kevin Smith for interviews. Walt, who was extremely modest and down to earth, and I were straight business, but Kevin, who is known to talk for days, went on interesting and charismatic tangents for half an hour.
In this day and age where you can get practically anything but physical human interaction over the internet, I asked Walt, as a proprietor of a comic book store, what he thought about the state of comics today with the rise of the digital age. Walt said, “You can’t stop it. As decades go on, more and more stores will probably have to close due to the digital downloads of comic books. I think that’s the way it’s going. I also think what that’s going to do is the print runs of the actual comic books will get smaller and smaller as more people switch to digital downloads, making them more valuable.”
Kevin Smith and AMC may be the first to venture into the world of comic book store reality shows, but MTV is looking to get into the game of nerdy reality TV as well with their new work in progress ‘Fandom Rising’ from the producers of ‘The Jersey Shore’. I asked both Kevin and Walt about what they thought about this. Walt had no idea that it was even in the works. “I imagine they’ll be more dramatic, but I really can’t imagine that there’s room for two.” Kevin, on the other hand, is open to seeing MTV’s interpretation. “Do as many geek shows as possible because I’ll watch them,” says Smith. “I’m a stoner, know what I’m saying? You put on a geek program and I will sit there, smoke weed and watch that show. So, if theirs is remotely good, then I’m all for it. If it’s one of these kind of like, ‘These dudes couldn’t get laid with your d*ck’ [type of things] I’m not interested in that kind of sh*t. I’ve known too many geeks that get laid, chicks and guys who get pu**y and c*ck. That stereotype is dead. So if they’re doing something kind of like what we’re doing, where it’s the real deal, these motherf*#$@rs live and breath — they just like this stuff a lot, but they’re real normal people, I’m all for it and I’m happy to see that. It’s nice to be first, I’ll tell you that. It’s always nice to be a little ahead of the curve — makes you look smart.”
For the full transcript of what Kevin talked about during my round table, Comic Book Resources has it all for you. They also caught an exchange after the interview between Kevin and a certain reporter who mentioned that he was inspired to get into film-making because of Kevin’s work. Spoiler alert: that “certain reporter” was me. True story.
Now that we’ve heard a little from those involved with the show, let’s get onto the episode recap, which is full of spoilers. You have been warned.
The episode opens with Walt, Bryan, Mike, and Ming discussing how Batman acquired Robin. They go into Robin’s origin story and mention that Bruce and Dick are very similar. Walt says that Bruce “sees himself in Dick.” The guys erupt into laughter, then Walt tries to redeem himself by saying, “Grayson!”, but he’s drowned out by laughter.
The opening credits roll, then Kevin Smith introduces us to the Comic Book Men podcast framing device and the Comic Book Men crew. The guys discuss who their dream heroines are, and end up making fun of Ming for his choice.
The first customer of the series looking to sell some goods comes into the store with a Detective Comics #35, which has a hypodermic needle on the cover. Back in the studio with the podcast, the guys talk about how taboo that cover is, how DC tackled heroin before with the Green Arrow and Speedy, and whether or not it was justified of Green Arrow to slapping Speedy around for using heroin, even though he isn’t Green Arrow’s son. Meanwhile, in the Stash, the customer pulls out a framed Bob Kane sketch from 1970 on a press release. Walt appraises both pieces for the customer and deems the sketch priceless. He recommends that the customer take it to an auction house to sell it if he wanted to make money off of it.
Noticing that the shop is getting cluttered, Walt suggests a little competition between Ming and Mike. He says that the guys should go to Collingswood Flea Market and unload the overflow onto the customers there. Whoever makes the most money gets two weekends off in a row. Since Bryan is down to do anything to keep Ming from getting what he wants, he joins the competition as well.
The second customer comes into the store with some old school Meco Robin and Spider-man dolls, and a Six Million Dollar Man that’s in excellent condition. Walt is extremely excited about this find because of his own personal connection to the Six Million Dollar Man. After some haggling over the dolls, Walt buys all three for $185, with $10 belonging to Bryan, who only pitches in under the condition that he can look through the Bionic Eye whenever he wants.
A third customer comes into the store, freaking out Mike and Ming a little bit. As Bryan points out, the customer is a grown, goth-type woman in a corset with a Chuckie doll under her arm. She tells Walt that she’s looking to sell the doll for $500. Ming points out that if she was thinking of selling it, then she should have kept it in the box, to which she responded, “You don’t keep family members in boxes.” Walt points out that you don’t really sell members of the family in this day and age either, then crushes her hopes by saying that he could only offer about $100 for it. After she leaves the shop defeated, the gang is back in the studio for the podcast discussing their favorite horror flicks.
Back at the Collingswood Flea Market, Bryan is causing some trouble for Ming, who is diligently trying to sell everything on his table. To mess with Ming, Bryan says to a customer that he hopes that there isn’t a school nearby since Ming isn’t allowed within a thousand feet of one. Then, Bryan takes a plate from Ming’s table and smashes it, which draws the attention of another vendor who stands up for Ming and makes Bryan pay for the plate. Bryan pays for two plates and smashes another one. After the vendor leaves, Bryan tries to get his money back, but Ming refuses. Through the whole thing, Mike stands out of the way and laughs at his comrades’ antics.
A question that has been on the mind of every comic book geek throughout time was discussed by the group: Would you give up everything you own to become a superhero? Kevin said he definitely thought about it and shared a story with everyone. Back when he was dating, he wore a Batman t-shirt under his big, black overcoat. Like Batman before him, he left a card on the windshield of a girl. Instead of just having the bat symbol on it, it said look up. When the girl looked up, Kevin was standing on a roof looking all heroic. The moment lost its magic, however, when he asked her to move her car closer to him so he could get off the roof.
Another customer walks into the store with a bag handcuffed to his wrist. Assuming that he has something really good, Walt and Mike are excited. The customer pulls out a British ‘Dawn of the Dead’ lobby card set and a Dawn of the Dead’ one sheet poster. Not one hundred percent up on his movie collectible knowledge, Walt calls in Robert Bruce, an expert in collectibles. He looks over the merchandise and deems that they are, in fact, not as valuable as the customer thinks they are because the one sheet is Australian and the lobby cards are fairly common. The customer argues with Rob about value and ends up leaving the shop unhappy. Walt notes the amount of machismo in the air after that performance by Rob, and says that his talent would get him laid in a perfect world.
We check in at Collingswood one last time to see how the competition is going. Mike and Bryan sell off the last of their merchandise for cheap and get hot dogs before leaving Ming behind since he still has stuff to sell. Back at the shop, Mike brings Walt $54, while Bryan brings in $42. Rob Bruce, who happens to be at the flea market, sees Ming and buys the rest of his table for $23.
Walt and Bryan are discussing Christian Bale’s deep and raspy Batman voice when a new customer comes in with a Jack Kirby Thor poster and a copy of Tomb of Dracula #10, which was the first appearance of Blade. In haggling for these items, the customer notes that the comic is signed by the artist, but with no certificate of authenticity, Walt is forced to question the signature. Although his interest in the book has dwindled, he is still interested in the poster and he manages to talk the guy down to $75 for it.
A few hours after Mike and Bryan had returned, Ming finally walks into the store, eating a hot dog, which Bryan had deemed as “only for closers.” Ming counts the money out loud and reports that he brought back $75, defeating both Mike and Bryan, and thus receiving the two weekends off.
After the first episode of ‘Comic Book Men’, I’m definitely interested enough to keep watching. It wasn’t what I had expected since they venture into other areas of nerddom besides comics, like toys and movie collectibles. I like the ‘Pawn Stars’ aspect of the show, and I love the interactions between the cast members even more. Something funny that Bryan points out in the episode is “Does anyone actually buy anything here?”. It would be fun to see Walt sell some things to fans or whatever at some point in the future, but it wouldn’t be a huge deal if we didn’t see that. There’s still the banter that is ever present in Kevin Smith productions to tide me over. The show so far is delivering exactly what it promised, which is a slice of life in this comic book store where long-time friends work, so I am not disappointed.
If you’re into the show as well, check back here next week as I recap the next episode of Kevin Smith’s ‘Comic Book Men’.