How Kevin Smith learned to love the mainstreaming of comics
Kevin Smith, foreground, and his 'Comic Book Men.'
February 10th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

How Kevin Smith learned to love the mainstreaming of comics

“It’s a glorious time to be a geek,” Kevin Smith said.

The filmmaker's new reality series, "Comic Book Men," is set to premiere Sunday night on AMC after "The Walking Dead." The show is designed to pull the curtain back on comic book store culture. Though such a spotlight may be brighter than fans are comfortable with, Smith said it's time for comic book store owners, creators and readers like himself to make a few sacrifices.

“You gotta give up a little bit of innocence,” he said. “If you love something so much, it may bug you when other people jump on the bandwagon, but if you love something, you just want to share it.”

Original Media, the producers of "Comic Book Men," came to Smith for "geek programming" ideas, he said.

“What you’re gonna see is not what I pitched,” he admitted.

Originally, he saw a comic book store version of popular series like the History Channel's "Pawn Stars" in which comic books and nerdy collectibles were priced and sold.

Instead, "Comic Book Men" is about Smith's friends Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan, the inspirations for two of his comic book and sci-fi-obsessed movie characters: Randal in "Clerks" and Brody in "Mallrats," respectively.

"It’s like pulling the cover off, and saying, 'Here are the real guys, and they’re way funnier!' "

Responding to criticism about the show's lack of female comic book fans, Smith's response was essentially, "one thing at a time."

“The fact that there’s a reality show set in a comic book store, you figure, has got to be a good thing,” he said. “It’s a reality show, and the reality of that store is that there’s four dudes who work there, and there’s no chicks. If this works, where do you go from ‘Comic Book Men’? You go to ‘Comic Book Women’! You take the best shot you can with any comic book reality show.”

Smith expressed hope that we might see that in the future: “At this point, hopefully as change comes slowly, everyone will have their comic book moments."

Smith also acknowledged that the comic book industry itself has a long way to go (a recent survey about DC Comics' "New 52" readers had 93% male respondents).

Talk to any woman who’s a genre aficionado. They’re still fighting the female body stereotype (in comics). Even the male body stereotype. The stories are predominantly about dudes in capes saving women. Frankly, you find indie comics about stuff that can be a little more personal. But women are still woefully underrepresented. African-Americans are still woefully underrepresented.”

Smith also said that the insular nature of comic book stores is something that has to change for the industry to survive, and he hopes shows like this – despite any misgivings that it exists just to follow any nerd-interest programming trend – will serve as an introduction to potential readers.

“Sometimes, even in our comic book store, there’s an air of ‘What are you doing here? You’re not a regular,' ” he said. "If you go in saying, ‘Hey, I heard about some Superman story on the news. Can I get that issue?' you’re not welcome with open arms, generally. It’s like you’re a carpetbagger."

Comic book stores are like the doomed Klingon Empire in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," Smith said: Time is running out.

“We can’t be so exclusive, turning our noses up at people who don’t know comic books,” he said. "The economy of the industry can’t bear it anymore."

However, big gambles like "New 52" and the death of Peter Parker in Marvel's "Ultimate Spider-Man" seem to be paying off, with increased comic book sales in 2011. Even so, it is nothing like the glory days of the early 1990s.

Despite the ups and downs of the comic book world, Smith is proud that overall, geek culture is living out its own glory days.

“I come from a time where it wasn’t hip to be square, so to speak, before geek culture was embraced the way it is now,” he said.

Smith said that after his planned filmmaking retirement (after the movie "Hit Somebody"), there will still be plenty of geeks left in Hollywood.

“It’s one thing to say ‘I love Batman;' it’s another to make the f-ing best Batman movie ever made, like Chris Nolan,” he said. “There are plenty of geeks, man, and the door’s been kicked wide open. You can’t put this genie back in the bottle.”

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. facebook likes

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    April 2, 2012 at 4:23 am |
  2. JenC

    i watched the first episode and was so disappointed with it. I felt like i was trying to interpret inside jokes the entire episode. I think the show would have been much better if it had been a more "pawn star" format. I think if they should focus on the comics and interesting things people bring in to the shop. The lead guys are nerd snobs and really not that funny. I think if they want to open the comic book world up to people then you engage the audience, they should show people what new comics are out now. This could have been a great venue to show great comics to people beyond just selling or appraising older comics. There are so many fantastic comics out today, they could advertise new comics and show collectibles to be bought or appraised. they could have even gone to collectors homes to showcase their collections, they could get the story behind collections. If they wanted to be authentic then they could also show how they find the items that they put in the shop by going to estate sales or having guests come in a selling their collections.
    The radio show scenes are really poorly paced and seem to full of inside jokes that none of the viewers are in on.
    The socially awkward and snobby demeanor of the lead characters is really off putting.

    i had such high hopes for this show but instead it just reinforces the notion that comic book shops are only places for the nerd elite.

    March 3, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Karate

      It's interesting to learn that Ketubah is like a marigare of love and fine art wherein every detail can be a symbol that has its own meaning. Because of its ancient and venerable history, Ketubah has its place as an important form of Jewish ceremonial art throughout time

      July 3, 2012 at 6:08 am |
  3. Schmuz

    I watched only to get the teasers for TWD they are showing during the show in hopes of getting people to watch...and then promptly changed the channel. It is pretty embarrassing to watch. The dialogue is forced. Yes, I am talking about Comicbook Men...although TWD is just as bad ;)

    February 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  4. AaronABrowne

    ****
    OK, I am sorry... but Kevin Smith is totally contracting himself, and Its like I gotta go on this 'campaign', because his show is ...this wasted opportunity of his. As a comic book geek I gotta reply.
    AMC might as well call this show football men, because this show just as accurately portrays people who frequently play recreational football.
    1.
    Just as Smith states at other sources (like at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&am Corwin the shows executive producer said he "...and smith started talking about doing something on AMC ...but without falling into the stereotypes associated with being a comic book fan, saying those stereotypes are tired and don't describe the guys on the show who have their lives well put together...", in this article Smith goes on to contradict himself:
    “I come from a time where it wasn’t hip to be square, so to speak, before geek culture was embraced the way it is now,”
    –It is still not 'hip to be square'. The next gen of comic book readers, which your show lacks, are not your typical 20th century $penders. I mean, when do I get to have My Own Show, because I more than do what AMC calls 'research'.
    The Eisner Award winning shop Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor, MI -or- Criminal Records in Atlanta, GA -or- Isotope Comics in SF all more accurately depict the next gen $penders on this medium. Significantly they are not Marvel Zombies, or people who are socially timid -totally the opposite. THEY ARE ALSO WOMEN. Sorry, Kevin Smith, but to quote yer friend Ben A. from Boston's Good WIill Hunting: "Yar' Suspect!"
    *****
    2.
    In response to this article's remark:
    However, big gambles like "New 52" and the death of Peter Parker in Marvel's "Ultimate Spider-Man" seem to be paying off, with increased comic book sales in 2011. Even so, it is nothing like the glory days of the early 1990s.
    -Whooooaaaa!!!!! There were no glory days of the 90's, man. Marvel was running on either an 'about to be bankrupt', or running on an actual 'we just delclred bankruptcy' management. I do not consider holo-foil covers, and a speculators bubble bursting bigger than a Stan Lee's ego much of a 'glory days'... The 90's was also DC comics giving us... UGH! just check out the youtube link I posted directly at the bottom here...
    -All I can say is stop the 20th Century constant regurgitation of ...crap. What am I talking about? Think about this when you do your research on TIme/Warner's New 52 from their publisher DC, and Disney/Marvel's the death of Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PlwDbSYicM&w=640&h=390]

    -If only both Time/Warner's DC and Disney/Marvel (90% of the US market) published exciting and smart stories, instead of the 20th Century ever regurgitated $toryie$.
    ****
    3.
    What do you need.
    Not fake, but actually interested and authentic female collectors (especially if they can talk about how to buy/sell comics).
    You need to have the local comic shop community / customers get in on re-creating another bunk story like in the kick-ass youtube vid I just posted.
    You need to have your staff visit the stores I mentioned and reboot your store.
    ...or dont do any of this and let the world know that people reading comics are lame... Your staff are a bunch of nice and smart and OK guys, but they are not your next gen consumers nor entertaining, unless you like watching ...(yawn) Pawn Stars.

    February 17, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  5. Randy Jones

    Really boring show i guess about four white guys picking on an Asian guy. Unless the Asian guy is going to shoot all the white guys next week I won't be watching ever again.

    February 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  6. Spidey-Man

    The show wasn't actually aweful...
    But it was pretty bad. Will not be watching again.
    What a shame. I was really looking forward to it.

    February 13, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  7. Amalia

    “What you’re gonna see is not what I pitched,” he admitted.

    That's his way of saying, "It's not my fault if it sucks."

    February 13, 2012 at 3:08 am |
    • Spidey-Man

      yup...

      February 13, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  8. PAT

    the show doth suck!!!

    February 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  9. Billu

    I love Kevin Smith movies and collect comics – I will definitely watch this.

    I really don't get the hate here....

    February 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  10. Jose

    You tell 'em - Steve Dave

    February 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  11. YoDude

    I thought "Chasing Amy" was a breakthrough low budgie, not making "comics" the big point, but a good coming of age
    for boys to men maturity issues. From that, I kept my eye on Smith and sure enough, he wasn't a "flash in the pan."
    An original.

    February 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  12. Mark

    Fan of Smith's since "Clerks" . Sure he's had a few mis-fires, but overall, very entertaining flicks. "Dogma" alone completely skewers the Catholic church, and every organized religion, but does it from a stand point of knowlegde from a first hand insider. He writes what he knows, and he knows these characters. "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" was absolutely perfect for us fans because we GOT IT. The jokes were for US. Thanks Kevin! Get on with you bad self!

    February 12, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Jimar

      It's sad that a young girl killed sehrelf because of religious harassment. And it's not just Christians against Pagan/Wiccans, it's any religion. No one should have to go through that.Perhaps we should ALL take a stand and learn to say Enough', before something like this happens.Then again, that is just my opinion.[]

      March 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  13. Bobby

    Kevin Smith is lame. This show will last two weeks, tops. Clerks was interesting when it came out ... but not great. It turned out he had nothing else to say beyond that initial film. He's been getting fatter and fatter as his movies have gotten more and more boring and irrelevant. "I know, I'll direct a buddy picture with a comedian and an action movie hero ... because no one's ever tried that before." Please. And now he's claiming to speak for all nerds with a tv show about comic books? Two weeks, tops.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  14. Roni Kanuhsa' Liberski

    Love

    February 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  15. Janet

    Kevin Smith is the worst filmmaker ever. I don't even know how he got onto tv. But this'll probably fail like "Cop Out" did in theaters!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  16. Count Screwloose

    I think I liked this show better when it was called "The Big Bang Theory."

    February 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Janet

      LOL!

      February 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Bryan

      For sure right? I mean ones a scripted drama about a group of friends with a wide range of topic and the other is a round table discussion about comic books. Exactly the same in every way.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
      • Todd

        LOL

        February 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Megan

      Mike Miller Posted on As someone who works in cinthlog retail I can safely say it's rare to even find cool comic related shirts at all. Let's hope the trend catches and you can get you phoenix shirt and maybe I can get my hands on a Blue Lantern shirt

      August 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Bert BigDongle

    He doesn't even look that fat in the picture. Must be pear shaped.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Robert

      Try finding a recent picture of him in something other than a hockey shirt. It's not pretty.

      February 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  18. Capybara91

    I detest reality shows but will probably watch this one because of the comic books. It has to be better than Lizard Lick Towing or Toddlers and Tiaras,

    February 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  19. Guest

    How about a TV show about people too fat to fly in airplanes?

    February 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  20. Mike R

    Where's Jay?

    February 11, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • Emircan

      JLA 1 is just the first chapter of the arc, and doesn't seem to be wreittn for me. Rather for some one who doesn't know anything about comics except Batman is cool! . But worst comic hyperbole is silly. The DCnU relaunch has many real good books, or its seems. It IS hard to tell after one chapter,but Wonder Woman, Frankenstien, Omac, Green Lantern Corps,Batwoman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Batman ,Demon Knights and Action Comics All seem to be fun ,quality comics. JLA is slow, but I think thats because its for new readers. I'm not sure that is the way to attract new readers, but what ever. With 52 books,there are Kid friendly books, books with T +A ,books WITHOUT T+A, books with strong female leads, monsters, middle ages, war . I realize you are just reviewing one book, and really one chapter in the story, but the DCnU relaunch has a lot going for it.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  21. Lana

    “If you love something so much, it may bug you when other people jump on the bandwagon, but if you love something, you just want to share it.” Er, I mean make money off of it.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Marty

      You are right. Make money off of it. My husband has 7 boxes full of boarded comics. I can't lift them. they have been sitting around for over 20 years. taking up my closet space. I don't know the first thing about them but I think I am gonna try and learn cause some of them may be worth money.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Jang

      Regarding the great pop/art comics dbetae it's fun to wonder how much of this trend towards mapping in comics might relate to those diagrams and maps that used to fill out superhero comics. It was a thrill, silly but no less potent for it, to learn exactly where on his belt Batman kept his sleeping capsules. And those marvelous adventures promised by the map of Kamandi's Continent Kirby provided at the end of the first issue: Monster Lake! Expanding Tiger Empire! Mystery Crater Country!!Do you think these types of mappings relate to the pastiche of scientific labeling that, for instance, Phoebe Gloeckner and Peter Blegvad have employed? Or does that serve a different, wholly satirical purpose? (My take, but I'm interested in your thoughts.) Maybe it was the high expectations that had been generated from reading such praise over the years, but I finished Hicksville a bit underwhelmed. Not disappointed exactly, it's a fine comic, but sort of surprised that this was hailed as such a breakthrough. I'll have to crack it open again; to the best of my recollection (it's been, what, five years now?) the two issues of Atlas impressed me more, but for the life of me I couldn't tell you why.Huizenga and Ware make a natural contrast. The latest Acme Novelty Library was formally dazzling as Ware can be, the pulp sci-fi story in the first half being explained by and in turn commenting upon the character study in the second. But compare it to Huizenga's similar gambit in "Ganges #2," with the video game mechanics of the opening story expanding to the pained but resiliently human tale of the players in the followup, and you instantly see how narrow and downright snooty Ware is. He's so anxious over perceived low-brow influences he can't help but keep tearing down the relationship between pop culture and the fans it inspires that's ostensibly the subject of his comic. Whereas Huizenga realizes it's the response to the game, the human reactions it evokes, that give it its merit to begin with.Ware's chronology diagrams are amazing; The Building is setting up to be his greatest work. But, jesus, how many times can those rounded, thick-edged Waremen lie in bed staring miserably up at the ceiling?Dirk Deppey recently to a lovely little comic that maps out time as well; though its discrete forward jumps are kid's stuff compared to Ware, the straightforward humanism is quite effective.As was a terrifying parody of Gasoline Alley I read once where the characters kept irrevocably aging panel to panel, all the while commenting on the horror of it. Unfortunately I can't remember anything more about it. Mad Magazine, probably?Which last example, come to think of it, might have served as inspiration for Moore's hilarious (well, weren't they all?) Jack B. Quick episode "The Facts of Life," wherein our adolescent Einstein, in the name of scientific understanding, shoves his best mate out on the road to puberty–a thorough mapping of chronological advance to geographical progress.Sorry, I'll stop there. Your columns encourage this kind of wide-ranging rumination; a cartography of the mind. Thanks.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  22. Flora

    I am a nerdette, and I will not be watching his show. Not because women aren't represented, but because I can watch that other show about geek speed dating at cons on TLC instead. I really think that one represents geeks in reality much more accurately, and not just when we're in our comfort zone (i.e. the comic book store).

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Porkrollbaby

      Certainly there isn't room in anyone's life for TWO shows about geek culture. I'm assuming you're not really a fan of the comics medium to not give Smith's show a chance.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • rkersh

      what is a nerdette?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:12 am |
      • Saloni

        you cant have darwin wihoutt thomas hobbes. darwinism is essentially applied hobbesian thought. Uh, maybe you could explain this, before I go on reading Leviathan again. I've read Origin and Leviathan before, but I'd like to know what, exactly, I'm looking for before I re-read the brick-like prose of T Hobbes.

        August 5, 2012 at 3:40 am |
  23. Erina

    Kevin Smith is an idiot with a HUGE ego.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  24. pokie

    i like his movies. i do not like reality shows

    February 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  25. Steve-O

    Kevin Smith seems like a nice guy. It's too bad his movies kind of suck.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  26. Shorn

    Yes, Smith, pleeeease 'retire' after your string of forgettable, crap movies and worse comic books (the worst Batman comics I have ever encountered). You were over your head when you shot Clerks and you managed to never improve. Nice work.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • DarthRandall

      How many movies have you made, fanboi? Like his movies or not, he's a self-made successful writer and director, with more credits under his belt than every anonymous poster here combined will ever have.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:18 am |
      • Todd

        Well said, DarthRandall!

        February 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
      • David

        Nicely put, DarthRandall. I would add that Kevin is also very encouraging of aspiring writers and directors.

        February 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
      • DorkRandall

        Oh, dear. Someone made Randy cry. I'm not sure if you know how life works outside your parents' basement, but nobody's required to make a movie to have an opinion on someone else's movie. If that was the case, your opinion (which plants your nose firmly in Kevin Smith's colon) would be equally invalid as shorn's. If it makes you feel better, your opinion actually isn't worth anything, though.

        February 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  27. Z-ro

    Blunts filled up with Kush its a bad habit.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Z-ro

      LIL KEKE –whoops

      February 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm |