Kevin Smith 'Strikes' Again

[Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back]Kevin Smith can't catch a frickin' break.

When the New Jersey filmmaker's satirical "Dogma" was released a few years ago, the members of the right-wing Catholic League protested the flick, calling it anti-Christian even though Smith is a devout Catholic. Now Smith is being attacked by a gay rights group for supposed homophobic content in his newest cinematic endeavor, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."

Amazingly, Smith can laugh about how he's been able to bring these two - shall we say, diverse - groups together for a common goal, even if that goal is to condemn his movies.

"I'd love to be at that mixer," Smith joked during a panel at last weekend's Wizard World convention in suburban Chicago. "'We believe in Jesus.' 'We believe in gay sex.' 'Wanna dance?'"

Smith spoke about "J&SBSB," his work on the hit "Green Arrow" series, the upcoming "Brave and the Bold" relaunch and many other subjects during two hilarious, filled-to-capacity Q&A sessions at Wizard World. Regardless of protests past, present or future, Smith is absolutely beloved by his fans, especially those of the comic-book-collecting variety. Much of that adoration comes from the fact that the 31-year-old Smith has never shied away from his own fanboy past. For that matter he embraces it, by putting comic-book references in all of his movies and by writing a slew popular funnybooks himself. A lot of his popularity also stems from the great rapport Smith has with his fans, whether it's rapping with them at signing appearances, chatting with them on his own Web site or cracking wise - often at their expense, and often with expletive-filled phraseology - during convention panels. How many other successful Hollywood filmmakers would even attempt to make time in their schedules to attend a fan convention?

And not many other Hollywood big shots would start off a public appearance with a joke about two of the more popular and unprintable sexual variations, either - something Smith did at his first Wizard World panel this year, and to a riotous response.

Dressed for both panels in baggy shorts and one of his trademark hooded sweatshirts, Smith fielded questions for two hours Saturday and about an hour Sunday. He was joined on the dais the first day by Jason Mewes, who has co-starred in all five of Smith's films as the foul-mouthed drug dealer Jay. (Editor's note: If you're this far into the story and you didn't know Mewes plays Jay or that Smith plays the aptly named Silent Bob in these movies, you're at the wrong Web site.) Mewes' screen time has varied in each of Smith's films, with "J&SBSB" being his biggest role. Smith said his friend was thrilled to get top billing in the new picture and to be prominently displayed in the promotional posters. Mewes even gets more space on the posters than Smith or the film's other actors, including Ben Affleck and Chris Rock.

"He asked me, 'Where are you?' and I said, 'Behind you,'" Smith said, recalling to Mewes' first examination of the "J&SBSB" posters. "And he said, 'That's right.' He was also very proud of the fact that Affleck is behind him as well."

Although Smith promises "J&SBSB" will be his last cinematic trip to what fans have termed the View Askewniverse - the locales and people that have occupied all of his films - he isn't about to ditch Mewes. Smith promised he'll always have work for his long-haired buddy. "We'll always use Mewes - someone has to pick up the dishes," Smith joked at Wizard World. "He doesn't always have to play Jay. Mewes wants the big roles - he can play Hamlet."

"Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" - which opens nationwide today - has a fairly simple premise: Our two heroes discover a motion picture is being based on their likenesses, and they travel to Hollywood to wreck the production. Longtime Smith fans will realize that's familiar ground for the two miscreants, who helped sabotage a game show in Smith's second film, "Mallrats." Smith promises the tone of "J&SBSB" resembles "Mallrats" more than the often-serious moods of his other films. Whereas "Chasing Amy" was a heart-wrenching look at relationships and "Dogma" made a strong statement about the modern state of religion, Smith promises "J&SBSB" is just a comedy and not a message picture. "There's no message," Smith said. "There's no weight to it whatsoever. It's funny for the sake of being funny."

[Kevin Smith]And that's what mystifies Smith about a complaint he received earlier this summer from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - or GLAAD - about "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." The organization has said the movie belittles the gay lifestyle and is a threat to gay and lesbian people, something Smith fervently denies. "I don't know what movie they saw," Smith told the crowd at Wizard World. "There are a lot of gay jokes, but none are at the expense of the gay community. This movie is offensive to no one, except people who like intelligent films."

The admittedly plump Smith said he doesn't mind retiring Silent Bob. He's never considered himself much of an actor, and he told the crowd he's tired of watching his waistline for Hollywood. "Every minute I spend on screen is one minute I can't spend getting as fat as possible," Smith said. "Now that I'm no longer playing Silent Bob, I'm gonna get Marlon Brando big." Smith said his alter-ego will return to theaters in an animated feature film, however, one that hopefully will get more respect than the aborted "Clerks" cartoon that aired briefly on ABC last year. Smith has never been shy about how poorly he felt the show was treated at the network. "We felt like we got screwed over the last time," he said at Wizard World.

Films aside, Smith has found a most successful second career as a comic-book writer. First came the various comics he's written for Oni Press based on the characters and events in the View Askewniverse. Then there was the critically acclaimed eight-issue run on "Daredevil," which launched the Marvel Knights line. Now he's writing "Green Arrow," bringing the long-dead Oliver Queen back to the land of the living - and to the top of the sales charts.

Whereas "Daredevil" had severe scheduling problems, with fans sometimes going months between issues, "Green Arrow" has been coming out regularly every month since it launched. Smith gave all the credit to editor Bob Schreck, who demanded Smith deliver six completed scripts before DC even solicited the series. "If it's on time, it's because of him," Smith said.

Smith plans to leave "Green Arrow" somewhere between the 14th and 16th issues, but only so he can relaunch DC's legendary "Brave and the Bold" series. "Green Arrow" penciler Phil Hester and inker Ande Parks will join him on the new series, which will team Batman with the many heroes of the DC Universe. The Dark Knight's first partner will be a certain Emerald Archer. "Logically it's going to start with Batman and Green Arrow," Smith said during Wizard World. "But the other DC heroes (will appear)."

Smith also joked about teaming Batman with the Haunted Tank, which got a laugh from the audience. Without naming names, he said readers should expect to see "all of your favorites and the obscure shit."

Maybe even a blond-haired dope dealer and his tubby sidekick, perhaps?

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