AMC's Comic Book Men TV Review
Comic Book Men is one of AMC's latest TV reality shows. The series chronicles the business adventures of the New Jersey-based Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, a comic book and pop culture emporium where nostalgia is bought and sold.
AMC's Comic Book Men Debuts
Comic Book Men debuted over AMC on Sunday, February 12, 2012, at 10 PM (ET), following the popular zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead. Five principals are featured on the show: Secret Stash owner Kevin Smith, store manager Walt Flanagan, employees Michael Zapcic and Ming Chen, and unofficial adviser and hanger-on Bryan Johnson.
The premiere hourlong episode introduced the quintet, with the five men congregated around a table and radio microphones discussing comic books and superheroes. The action cut to the Secret Stash where one toy dealer from down the street brought in a Detective Comics #35 from January 1940, whose Batman cover features a wicked looking hypodermic needle wielded by a villain. The book was in less than stellar condition, graded CGC 1.5, with Walt valuing it at around $300. The guy also had a fantastic sketch from 1970 of a grinning Batman and Robin drawn and signed by Batman creator Bob Kane (1915-1998). It was valued at least $10,000, with the Secret Stash gang advising the owner to take it to Christie's or Heritage Auctions for maximum top dollar.
With too much low-end stock on hand, it was then decided to send three employees to the big Collingswood, New Jersey, flea market, where they would try to unload as much material as possible. The employee who racked up the highest sales would get two weekends off. The enterprising Ming Chen eventually won the contest, selling $75 worth of merchandise.
L-r, Ming Chen, Bryan Johnson, Kevin Smith, Michael Zapcic and Walt Flanagan of Comic Book Men - AMC
Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash Happenings
An off-the-street customer later brought in a nifty mint-in-the-box Lee Majors The Six Million Dollar Man action figure made by Kenner Toys in 1975. The doll's owner originally wanted $250, but eventually accepted a final offer of $185.
Next up was a woman who owned a life-size Chucky doll made by Spencer's Toys, which unfortunately was without the original box. Secret Stash offered $100, but the lady declined, exiting the store with little Chucky firmly in tow.
That was followed by a man who wanted to sell a British lobby card set from George Romero's 1978 horror classic Dawn of the Dead, which had been released in the UK under the title Zombies. The guy also had a rolled one sheet movie poster from the same film, wanting $1,000 for both items. Walt Flanagan, the Secret Stash's manager, then called in expert Rob Bruce, who pointed out that the one sheet poster was actually Australian, and not the more valuable American version. He valued both the poster and lobby set at under $500, a figure which obviously didn't please the owner who subsequently declined to sell.
Secret Stash was afforded another opportunity to buy when a customer brought in a Thor poster executed by noted comic book artist Jack Kirby (1917-1994) in 1970. The guy also had in his possession a The Tomb of Dracula #10 Marvel comic book from July 1973, purportedly signed by artist Gene Colan. His asking price: $400 for both, with Secret Stash making a counter offer of $160. Eventually, the guy sold the Thor poster only for $75.
Comic Book Men: Mania & Bad Jokes
Comic Book Men is a little off-center and downright unorganized at times. The manic bull sessions around the table, centered on discussions of superheroes and the like, occasionally sound like something from a junior high circle jerk.
Bryan Johnson, who according to AMC's website is not a Secret Stash employee but "holds court behind the front counter," comes on especially strong. Overweight and possessing a scraggly beard and long, unkempt hair, Johnson sounds as if he's auditioning for a standup comedy gig. He's also not averse to taking cruel shots at people, describing the patrons at the Collingswood flea market in less than flattering terms, as if he himself is some kind of GQ cover material. Johnson can also be seen tossing merchandise off the table of one of his flea market competitors, breaking one of Ming Chen's collector dishes and giving Ming the finger as he drives away, telling the kid, "Goodbye, douche bag." This is funny?
Comic Book Men has the potential to be a good series, but they need to lose the pathetic stab at comedy and concentrate on the business of comic books and pop culture collectibles. The show can still be entertaining, perhaps more in the way of the History Channel's Pawn Stars, with the viewer gaining valuable insight into this fascinating realm of nostalgia.
Comic Book Men's Bryan Johnson - AMC
- Comic Book Men writer-director Kevin Smith, owner of Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash comic book store - AMC
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner