No one has reveled in geekdom in more media forms than Kevin Smith. His empire spans movies like Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Chasing Amy, his Red Bank, NJ comic book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, writing Batman comics; stage shows-turned-DVDs; his SModcast Internet Radio podcasts and last week’s Live From Behind, a live interactive event simulcast to 500 movie theaters around the U.S. and Canada.
So when AMC offered him a show based around his comic book store and podcast, he could barely contain himself.
“My (expletive other body part) and head exploded, because if I had tried to get on AMC, it never would have happened,” Smith blurted in what was arguably the most effusive quote emanating from last months’ Television Critics Association Press Tour.
Comic Book Men, which premieres Feb. 12 after The Walking Dead, seeks to further feed the zombie drama’s fanboy audience. It stars Smith’s longtime friends, muses, occasional film actors, podcasters, and Stash employees Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Mike Zapcic, and Ming Chen as they buy, sell, and debate the merits of various comic collectibles. They share details with Smith podcasts woven throughout the series.
“I’m hoping people fall in love with these guys as much as I’ve loved them for years,” Smith told Co.Create. “I think they’re clever, I think they’re original. Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan are the only two people I’ve ever met who are most like themselves and have never apologized for it. They made me more comfortable in my skin.
“I’m a guy who will bend to the whim of others. I’m married, so I know how to do that,” he adds. “Bryan Johnson has never been that guy. You need someone like that in your life. That’s a role model.”
The show came about when Elyse Seiden, Smith’s Red State executive producer, and Charlie Corwin, a veteran film and reality TV producer, approached him to brainstorm program ideas to pitch to AMC. Smith’s take: “Let’s do Pawn Stars in a comic book store” and he offered up the Stash–which Smith has owned since 1998 and Flanagan runs–as a cheap place to shoot a presentation pilot. “The dudes that work there, they’re funny, they do podcasts. So they can stand in for whoever the eventual cast would be,” said Smith. After listening to the guys’ podcast, Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave, Corwin called him. “He goes, ‘You’re a fucking idiot. This is the show. These guys are funny.’”
The deal with AMC was easy. Convincing his friends was the hard part. “I called up Walter, and I was like, ‘Dude, you’re never going to believe this, but we might have a reality show on AMC!’ And he goes, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ I said, ‘Why?’ And he goes, ‘Because I don’t want to be fucking Snooki!’“
Smith had to convince Flanagan that a TV show would bring more customers to the store, and enable Johnson to afford knee surgery. “The only one who really wanted to do it was Ming,” said Smith. “And it shows in the show. He’s so ecstatic to be there.
“Everything you know about me–comic books, hockey, comedy–came from those people,” he added. “So for me to be able to turn around and, years later, say, ‘Here’s your own TV show’ is kinda neat.”