Have no fear, the Comic Book Men are here! Kevin Smith and the merry band of geeks that staff his Jersey-located comic book shop, Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash make the leap to reality TV with the premiere of this new AMC series, which plays like a cross between Pawn Stars, Antiques Roadshow, American Chopper and, of course, Clerks.
Smith himself isn't the focal point of the series, instead appearing primarily in segments filmed at the recording studio where he and the four-man Secret Stash team -- Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Michael Zapcic and Ming Chen -- tape the Comic Book Men podcast. (If you want the full Kevin Smith experience, check out his latest Q&A special Burn in Hell, which premiered on EPIX the night before Comic Book Men.) Much of the action revolves around the store itself, where Walt tries to keep the business up and running while a steady stream of customers come in and out with various kinds of memorabilia to sell, ranging from Chucky dolls to movie lobby cards to a rare autographed sketch by Batman creator Bob Kane. ("Let me ask you something -- do people ever come in here to buy anything?" smart-aleck Bryan remarks at one point and, given the way money seems to keep going out the door instead of coming in, we've gotta agree.)
If Comic Book Men were just a half-hour series revolving around these transactions, it could be classified as good geeky fun. Unfortunately, the show lasts for an hour and in order to pad out the runtime, Walt (at the producers' suggestion no doubt) has to assign his staff some dull, menial assignments to complete. In the premiere, for example, they're tasked with selling off a plethora of back merchandise at a local Jersey flea market; the person that returns to the Stash with the most money in hand wins... a few days off! (C'mon, not even a cameo in Smith's next movie?) But at least those contrived sequences gave us plenty of time to match each of these guys up with their ideal superhero alter egos. These are the colorfully costumed folks they should cosplay as at this year's Comic-Con.
Kevin Smith Is... Professor X
Like Charles Xavier, Smith rarely ventures into battle himself, preferring to hang back at headquarters (in this case, the recording studio) while his disciples sally forth to fight the good fight in his name. (As the owner of the store, he also pays their salaries, although he doesn't also provide them room and board at his lavish mansion as Professor X does.) And in his role as podcaster-in-chief, Smith acts as part counselor and part teacher, listening to their experiences and dispensing his own pearls of semi-wisdom. Of course, he ain't bald yet, but the way his hair is thinning, it probably won't be long.
Rallying Cry: "I'm Kevin Smith."
Walt Flanagan Is... Oracle
Barbara Gordon is back in her Batgirl duds these days, but from the late '80s until the controversial DC reboot, she operated as Oracle, an information specialist that provided crucial intelligence to heroes in the field. In addition to having a deep well of knowledge inside her own noggin, Oracle had a superior computer set-up and a network of allies she could retrieve any nugget of information from, no matter how small. While Walt's mental database isn't quite as extensive, he is a walking encyclopedia of comic book history. Need to know how Batman met Robin or what distinguished comic icon Jack Kirby's art from the rest of the rabble? Walt's your go-to guy. And when he doesn't know something -- like, say, the retail value of a set of British Dawn of the Dead lobby cards -- he's got a source he can call on (self-described pop culturist, Robert Bruce) for a quick consultation.
Rallying Cry: "Let's get down to business."
Bryan Johnson Is... Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Shazam)
If nothing else, Bryan's definitely got the facial hair to be the wizened sorcerer that grants the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury (see what they did there?) to young Billy Baston a.k.a. Captain Marvel. Also like Shazam, he's a bit of a reclusive grump without an obvious day job; although Bryan hangs out at the store a lot, he isn't technically an employee. And while he claims to have a girlfriend, since she doesn't appear on camera (at least not yet), we've gotta wonder if she's the kind that lives in Canada.
Rallying Cry: "I just don't want to deal with people."
Michael Zapcic Is... Robin
Walt's eager sidekick behind the counter, Mike lacks the authority to make sales himself, but he brightly greets every hopeful before calling over his boss to seal the deal. And where the other guys all seems a little cynical, there's an almost childlike enthusiasm to Mike's demeanor that suggests he's an eternal boy wonder at heart. (Just to be clear, he's more of a Dick Grayson than a Jason Todd or a Tim Drake or a Stephanie Brown or a Carrie Kelly or... man, have there been a crapload of Robins over the decades or what?)
Rallying Cry: "I'm a Catwoman guy."
Ming Chen Is... Buddy Pine
Poor, put-upon Ming. Not only does he constantly serve as the butt of jokes around the Stash, but his skills as a salesman are mercilessly mocked while he Mike and Bryan are at the flea market. No wonder he reminded us so much of Buddy Pine, the pint-sized wannabe superhero that tries (and fails) to keep up with his favorite hero, Mr. Incredible. Y'know, maybe the guys should think twice about how they treat him, lest they end up creating their own Syndrome-like nemesis.
Rallying Cry: "Hot dogs are for closers, right douchebags?!."
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