CCI: Kevin Smith Holds Court On Comic Book Men and the Future

Kevin Smith entered the room at Comic-Con International in his trademark orange-and-blue SModCo hockey jersey, posed for pictures and then sat down, only to quickly stand again, asking the assembled reporters, “Feels so weird to sit, can I stand? I’m ruined.”

Addressing why the cast of AMC’s Comic Book Men couldn’t join him in San Diego has originally planned, Smith pointed to scheduling conflicts and Walt Flanagan’s fear of flying. And although they discussed sending out one person to film the convention, they ultimately agreed it was best to focus on Season 2, deciding, “Let’s keep it in the store.”

Debuting in February on AMC, Comic Book Men takes viewers inside Smith’s Red Bank, New Jersey, comic store Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, and offers a look at geek culture. The show was renewed for a 16-episode second season in May.

Smith admitted that early in the show’s development they’ll figured it would be like History’s hit Pawn Stars, only in a comic store. However, he said he realized that “No one gives a shit about that,” and the drama would seem fake. Luckily, the focus soon became more about the interactions within the store -- like Clerks as a reality series.

Asked his opinion on Comic-Con, specifically whether the convention may be getting too large and too mainstream, and less about fans interacting with creators, Smith replied, “If you’re looking for intimacy or one on one, forget it, this is a circus. It’s massive at this point. Comic-Con is this, and now the radius has grown out this far because other people are like, ‘Wow, we got all these people in one place, let’s -- boom -- talk to them, market to them or sell to them. I don’t know, it’s cool for me as a fan, I’m not one of those people. … It’s not that holy of a place.”

He shared a story about the year Peter Jackson’s King Kong was at Comic-Con, and he was in the back of the room and he saw three Academy Award winners speak at the panel: “When I started coming here in ’95, it was like me and Stan Lee, that was it, and a bunch of comic creators and shit.” There’s a higher caliber of celebrity coming to the convention now. “It reminds me of Cannes,” he said, “it reminds me of Sundance.”

Continuing his love of the convention, Smith is adamantly against a rumored move to Las Vegas. “Why bring it to Vegas?” he asked. “It brings it down to some level like a porn convention – and I love porn!” He explained that the convention is a family experience, and it wouldn’t be the same in Las Vegas.

Smith talked about his work on Hulu and with podcasts, and how they previously didn’t seem like a legitimate source for entertainment, similar to movie stars once viewed television as death to their careers. “Everyone has the Internet,” he said. “I can watch it when I want.”

The noted the bias against the Internet is dying out, referencing Lisa Kudrow’s web show moving onto television, or his own show on Hulu series Spoilers, which is now on Canadian television. He asked his daughter once, “What network is Modern Family on? And she said Hulu.” When he began doing podcasts, it they weren’t very popular, but now there are a lot of different podcasts, and the same is happening for web series and Internet streaming.

He moved onto comic books, saying the comic book industry is “alive” and doing well, and the convention is packed. However, “the sales just don’t reflect it.”

“Somebody puts a comic book movie out there, someone is going to walk into your store, and if you’re a half-decent retailer, man, you can figure out a way to make him come back and come back, that’s the key to retailing,” Smith said. “After Comic Book Men aired last year, I got a complaint, somebody sent a tweet to me, that said, ‘Now thanks to Kevin Smith, I have every jackass coming to try to sell me their crap, hashtag -- it was hashtagged something really funny. And I was like, you dick. Like, it made me laugh. I don’t know what to tell you, you got fresh blood in the store, and stop crying about ‘Nobody comes in any more.’” As long as people are complaining, the industry is alive and well, as far as he’s concerned.

Returning Comic Book Men, Smith shared how his friend Walt Flanagan initially wanted no part of the reality series, saying, “I don’t want to be Snooki.” But Smith convinced his friend that every show would be a free advertisement. Funnily enough, when he asked his friend Bryan Johnson to be part of the project and explained what had happened with Walt, Johnson responded, “Who wouldn’t want to be Snooki?”

Smith also elaborated on his love for media outside of film, explaining how he used to say, “I need to self-express, give me $20 million and Ben Affleck,” and the project would take three years to complete. But his podcast is seven days a week. Film is “time-consuming,” and it’s “a business where the marketing is six times the budget,” referencing how Clerks cost $20,000 to make, and Miramax spent $1 million to promote it. He does intend to make another movie, but said he feels he can’t rely on film any more.

Smith does have plans for his View Askew Universe, specifically mentioning how it may be time to bring comic book one-shots back in digital form. “I asked Joey (Lauren) Adams, you want to write an Alyssa comic?” he said, referring to the character the actress helped to inspire and played in Smith’s Chasing Amy. Years ago, he could never ask her, even though she portrayed an artist, but now comic books are popular and mainstream from film. “It’s cool,” he said.

There are also two mobile games, Jay and Silent Bob: Fly, Fat Ass Fly and Jay and Silent Bob: Let Us Dance. Smith joked that he can now “play with myself in the bathroom and my wife doesn’t yell at me.”

Another possibility for the future of the View Askew cast is a television anthology with eight or 10 episodes, each one focusing on a different character.

“I always wanted to go back to Chasing Amy, for some reason,” Smith admitted. “I don’t want to sequel-ize the movie, but I always wanted to do, like, a check-in. I always thought it would be awesome to have Ben and Joey at a table and just have them fucking talk, because that’s all I can write, is dialogue. It wouldn’t be easy to shoot and shit like that, but it’s my dopey little dream.”

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