Every Geek’s Dream Job

Courtesy of AMC

“Hello and welcome back to ‘Comic Book Men,’ the only show with less testosterone than ‘Sex and the City,’” Kevin Smith says.

The world of comic book nerds is at the heart of this new reality TV show from AMC. The six-episode series follows the crew of Smith’s New Jersey-based comic book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, as they buy and sell comics and salivate over valuable memorabilia.

Comic aficionados will be able to relate as the crew stare with boyish wonder at an exact replica of the 1966 Batmobile, driven by an unassuming middle-aged man. The manager agrees to make a trade in exchange for driving the estimated $140,000 car.

“Ladies, ever been hit on by Batman?” one of them says confidently behind the wheel.

The crew consists of Walt Flanagan, the fast-talking, hard-bargaining manager of the store who goes limp for DC and Marvel rarities. Mike Zapcic is second in command with his quiet, encyclopedic knowledge of all things comics. At the bottom of the chain is Ming Chen, the go-to whipping boy who does all the tedious work and is subject to ridicule from all sides. And then there is Bryan Johnson, who doesn’t actually work at the shop but hangs around and makes an occasional appearance, as he also does in several of Kevin Smith’s movies. Smith himself only shows up during the group’s podcasting sessions, when everyone discusses the goings-on of the day.
Geeky banter and sexual humor are the bread and butter of the show. The crew bickers over what the best superpower is; whether or not superheroes retire; and which comic character they would share a drink with.
“Tony Stark,” Mike says quickly.

“The one hero that has a problem with alcohol and you’re like, I wanna go with him?” Walt asks. “It’s almost as if somebody’s like, ‘Hey man, you can bring one guest to the kryptonite ball,’ and you’re like, ‘Superman.’”

Though the show is certainly amusing for the average viewer, only avid comic fans will find enough to keep tuning in. It’s not that the comic chitchat is hard for unknowledgeable viewers to follow — informational pop-ups keep everyone up to speed on the original release date and significance of each comic. It’s just that the show won’t create a passion for comics where there isn’t one already.

The only moments of dramatic appeal come during the negotiation process, when customers come in to sell comics, action figures and memorabilia to the store. Then it’s fun to watch both sides squirm as they battle over prices.

You won’t really find yourself laughing out loud either, though the show was meant to be more of a comedy. The other workers constantly badger Ming, but it comes off mean-spirited, and his flat portrayal as the laughing stock character makes him more pathetic than funny.

Getting to watch the crew fawn over comics is what’s really amusing. You can’t help but smile as Mike sniffs a collection of 1940s DC comics, including the one where Wonder Woman first appears, and Walt admits, “I’ve literally got to hold myself up here, my knees are shaking so bad from looking at those comics.”

Rating: 3 out of 5