When Comic Book Men premiered in AMC in February of 2012, a show about five guys talking about comics at a comic book store, people wondered how long it was going to last. After the first season, the show was reduced from an hour to 30 minutes, and that got people talking about its cancelation. In 2014, AMC made an announcement that it was focusing on primarily scripted content and was going to cut all of its reality programs except for two shows. One show was the Talking Dead, and to many people’s surprise, the second show was Comic Book Men. The show premiered its 7th season in October of 2017, so what’s their secret?
Maybe it’s the charisma of five guys who sound and act like they hate each other but actually love each other. Or perhaps it’s guest stars like Adam West or Method Man stopping by the store to show off their geekdom. Or it could be someone stopping by with a copy of Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27. The show’s longevity has lots to do with many activities behind-the-scenes you didn’t know about until now. Here are 15 dark secrets from Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men you had no idea about.
15. DIDN’T THINK IT WAS GOING TO LAST LONGER THAN A SEASON
There are a lot of wonderful shows in which people didn’t think it would go past the first season. Reportedly Patrick Stewart, while doing the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, didn’t even unpack his suitcase, convinced that the show would be cancelled after its freshman year. Next Generation ran a full seven years! Comic Book Men made its debut in 2012, so congrats to them on starting their seventh season back in October 2017!
Just like Patrick Stewart, Kevin Smith and his crew thought they wouldn’t get past the first season. It was a niche show about guys talking about comic books… how long could the show last? Just like Next Generation, Comic Book Men reached a seven-year run, and could arguably surpass TNG‘s run on television!
14. MAD MEN’S INFLUENCE ON THE SHOW
If you don’t like the title Comic Book Men, you’re in good company, because neither did Kevin Smith. According to Smith, the original name of the show was called Secret Stash, named after the store that it takes place in: Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. However, AMC decided to try and borrow from some of the momentum from a popular show at the time: Mad Men.
AMC felt that the title kind of evoked the popular show starring Jon Hamm as Don Draper. The producers tried to come up with something more gender neutral, but eventually Comic Book Men is what they settled on. To respond to criticisms about the title, Smith pitched an idea for another show called Comic Book Women. AMC’s response? No. Speaking of which…
13. AMC SAID NO TO COMIC BOOK WOMEN
If you feel like Comic Book Men feels a little exclusionary, you aren’t the only one. AMC actually did test a number of women to be with the guys to break up the boys club. The person that Kevin Smith thought did incredibly well was a woman named Zoe Gulliksen, whose IMDB profile only lists as Lydia in the 2000 animated sequel The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire and a short film in 2007 entitled Sunday Morning.
In a podcast about the show, Kevin not only says Zoe was wonderful, but also had an important moment with Walt Flanagan, who had made claims that women didn’t know much about comics. Zoe is super-knowledgable to the point where she’s called “female Walt.” It was a good reality check for Walt and a great moment we’ll never see; AMC decided the chemistry amongst the guys was not something to tamper with.
12. KEVIN SMITH’S WIFE DOESN’T LIKE THE SHOW
If you ask Jennifer Schwalbach how she got a role in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, she’ll tell you she got the role because she slept with the director. Fortunately, the director and her husband are the same person. Jennifer and Kevin have been married since 1999 and their only child, Harley Quinn Smith, starred alongside Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp in the film Yoga Hosers.
Jennifer has produced a number of Kevin’s films, including Tusk and Yoga Hosers. However, is she a fan of Comic Book Men? Absolutely not. Kevin and Jennifer are fans of The Walking Dead but after Talking Dead comes on, instead of watching Comic Book Men, Jennifer opts to change the channel. Why doesn’t she watch the show? Her response is that living with Kevin every day is like watching the show. Ouch.
11. BRYAN JOHNSON LOVES TO DEMORALIZE OTHER PEOPLE
If you think that the friendship on the show feels real, it’s because it is. Walt Flanagan has known Bryan Johnson since fifth grade! As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt, and these friends don’t often pull punches when it comes to comments about each other. That may be the byproduct of such a long friendship, but does Bryan actually enjoy the vicious barbs that he throws at his lifelong friends?
The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, demoralizing people is something he prides himself on. Bryan even described himself as sort of a verbal Punisher because he likes to sit around and judge people. On occasion he’s called Ming an unfeeling robot. Even though the comments may be vicious, they do come from a loving place… or as loving as Bryan can get.
10. WILL WORK FOR COMICS
Running a comic book store was a dream come true for Walter Flanagan, and Kevin Smith was well aware of this. So when Kevin offered him the chance to run the store, Walter’s response was: “No!” Walt was married and working at Highlands Recreation Center at the time, so working at a comic book shop seemed like a step in the wrong direction. What got him to stay and manage the store and eventually be on Comic Book Men? A guarantee.
Kevin had to guarantee that he’d keep the store open for at least 10 years. Granted, Walt is credited for working his butt off for a decade to make the store run, so it wasn’t like this was a free ride. Walt’s passions and Kevin’s support kept the store running for 20 years and made it the perfect home for Comic Book Men!
9. SURPRISE! NO SURPRISES!
Without a doubt, Kevin Smith, Walter Flanagan, Ming Chen, Bryan Johnson, and Mike Zapcic have an intense amount of knowledge when it comes to comic culture. Besides the antics and drama that go on between the guys, the show also serves as a sort of geek Antique Roadshow where people walk into the store and have their items appraised. The items can range from the very obscure to the very expensive. However, there’s a catch: it’s planned.
Again, we’re not saying that these guys don’t have 12th level intellects, but we are saying that people don’t just “drop” by with items. The people that have their items on the show are scheduled weeks in advance and the guys have an idea of what’s coming into the shop. That way there aren’t too many surprises and the gang can double-check their facts. Sorry, fans, but there isn’t a lot of reality in reality shows.
8. BRIAN QUINN WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE SHOW
Impractical Jokers is a show that has four friends inflicting comedic pranks and crazy dares on each other. Brian Quinn, James Murray, Sal Vulcano, and Joe Gatto are formerly of the comedy troupe The Tenderloins and on Impractical Jokers perform public pranks on each other and document them using hidden cameras. The Jokers get thumbs ups for completing a task and a thumbs down for failures. As of November 2017 James Murray had the most thumbs ups.
Fans of the both Impractical Jokers and Comic Book Men may recognize Brian “Q” Quinn from the Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave! on SModcast.com, a podcast owned by Kevin Smith! If you ever thought that Q would be a great addition to Comic Book Men, you’re not alone! There were attempts to make him a cast member, but conflicts with filming Impractical Jokers didn’t make that possible. Do you think he’d make a great addition to CBM?
7. THE STORE WAS BOOTLEGGING VIDEOS
Digital piracy has been a big problem for years. Consistently the two most pirated shows have been AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s Game of Thrones. Whether it’s unlicensed streaming services or sites like Pirate Bay or Demonoid, people have found a way to illegally obtain material off the internet. However, back in the day when media was stored on things like DVDs and VHS tapes, you worried about bootlegging.
Although bootlegging originally referred to moving liquor around illegally, it was also used to refer to the illegal distribution of music, movies, and television shows. Bootleg videos were also how fans obtained rare material such as the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special. The Secret Stash, the store that houses Comic Book Men, originally bootlegged videos for years, until they realized that was something they should probably stop doing.
6. WALTER IS THE BRAINS BEHIND THE BUSINESS
In this digital age, how hard is it to keep a bricks and mortar store open? In 2017, Sears and K-Mart closed over 350 stores. J.C. Penny saw over 130 stores in their chain close. Payless shoes filed for bankruptcy and closed over 800 stores. We’re talking giants in the industry, so what is the dark secret of the success of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash located in Red Bank, New Jersey? Hint: It’s not Kevin Smith!
No doubt Comic Book Men has kept the store alive, but Kevin Smith credits cast member Walter Flanagan as their secret weapon. Walter came up with the idea for a flash mob to get them into the Guinness Book of World Records. Smith credits Walter for keeping the store operational with his ideas and business planning, and for the show also proposed making the fake commercial in Season 1. Congrats on celebrating 20 years of existence!
5. SECRET STASH WOULD BE CLOSED IF NOT FOR COMIC BOOK MEN
There’s a very surreal chicken-egg scenario with Comic Book Men: Is the success of Comic Book Men due to the Secret Stash comic book store or is the success of the Secret Stash comic book store due to Comic Book Men? Although it’s a bit of both, it’s definitely safe to say that the 20 years the store has been open in Red Bank, New Jersey is due to the success of the show, which in 2017 entered its 7th season.
There was a Secret Stash store that opened in California run by Bryan Johnson, but was only open from September 2004 – October 2007. Although we say comic book stores, most shops have to diversify to make a profit, with as little as 25% of total retail devoted to comic books. Fans of the show have definitely made long journeys to shop there opposed to going to a neighborhood store or ordering on-line.
4. BRYAN JOHNSON THINKS HIS CO-STARS STRESS TOO MUCH
Did DC Comics know that the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27 would be worth so much? If so, would they have still printed it on newspaper way back in 1939? Everything deteriorates with time, and that feels doubly true for comic books, whose value depends on how well-preserved the comic book is. The gang at the Stash actually got to see a copy of Detective Comics #27, but were not happy with what Bryan did.
The guys felt that Bryan could have handled Batman’s first appearance with a little more care. Bryan gave a very Bryan response and said that they stress out too much. As much as Bryan loves comics, even he is acknowledging that it’s 80 year old paper. Bryan in an interview even made comments that his co-stars are deteriorating like the very comics they love. Pow!
3. FAKE NEWS
Comic Book Men features comics, pop culture items, memorabilia from film, television and more. The store Jay and Bob’s Secret Stash is the home of props, gear, and outfits from View Askew, the cinematic universe created by Kevin Smith. Silent Bob’s wardrobe, a Buddy Christ statue, and a Carlton Fisk baseball card gifted from Miramax to Smith, who produced Good Will Hunting have a home at the store. There’s also a USA Today fake article from Dogma, but Smith can’t take credit.
Although the props department of a film normally makes fake items, apparently USA Today prefers to make their own fake newspaper clippings. Smith was surprised that USA Today provided them with the fake article “Catholicism WOW!” about Cardinal Glick. Instead of submitting the fake news for approval from USA Today, they’ll just make one for you. Who knew fake news could be so good?
2. COMIC BOOK MEN PREVENTS YOU FROM BUYING COMICS
As much as we love movies, we sometimes don’t love the efforts made in making them. Big scale movies often take over multiple blocks not just for filming but for equipment trucks and trailers for actors. These areas need to be blocked off from the public due to safety, logistics, or to maintain the movie secrets. Shows like Gotham and Law&Order are notorious for disrupting people’s daily routines, for example.
For those fans of Comic Book Men that want to visit the Secret Stash, it may not be as easy as just dropping by. Some fans have complained that they couldn’t get into the store because of filming going on, which both makes sense and is also ironic that people can’t shop there because of the show about people shopping there.
1. FULL CIRCLE
Kevin Smith made Clerks for a little under $28,000. A good chunk of that money was from selling his old comic books to a store called Comicology. Clerks premiered in 1994 and it launched Smith’s film career. Two years later he found out the store was closing and something amazing happened, so amazing the story felt like it was right out of a comic book.
The owner of the store told Smith to buy the comic shop from him! Although the initial offer was around $60,000, he was able to get it for half the amount, around the same amount he paid to shoot Clerks. The store that helped launch his career is now the base of operations for Comic Book Men, and like any good hero’s journey, Kevin Smith’s story has come full circle!
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