Comic Book Men – Episode 101: Comic Book Men – AMC
After debuting to encouraging ratings, the entire first episode of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men reality show is now streaming, so you can catch up with all the inaction you missed.

Given its monster (ha ha) spot right after ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead, Comic Book Men has it made. But a lot of people—some of them comics retailers—were cringing after watching the show set in Kevin Smith’s Red Bank, NJ comics shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. At the Huffington Post, retailers Steven Brown and Carmelo Chimera wrote:

AMC’s new reality show chronicles the life and times of five people working at the New Jersey comic book store “Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.” Cutting between shenanigans at the store, a roundtable podcast, and the pursuit of rare collectibles, Comic Book Men promised on the surface to provide a unique look into the often-misunderstood world of pop culture collectibles.

Unfortunately, despite some promise and a few clever elements, the show was too slowly paced to capture the viewer’s interest. While the pilot episode contains some wit, and at least a few laugh out loud moments, for the most part it leaves you wondering if there was some over-arching point that you simply missed.

Our own favorite review came from Ron Marz:

Indeed, even for the world of reality TV, where any actual activity is repeated just before the break and replayed just after to stretch things out, this show was slow. It was also pretty familiar territory to most people reading this site: four guys—three of them white and two middle-aged—standing around a comic shop bullshitting. This formula would be awesome if the people were Jonathan Ross, “Hurricane” Helms, Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garafolo, to name four celebrity comics nerds who can be witty. Or even if one of them were Kevin Smith . Well, one of them IS Kevin Smith and it is still just like that time you went to the barbecue and hung out with those guys who work over in quality control. (Am I the only person who became uncomfortable that the guy everyone picked on was the Asian guy? And that he just looked bemused by the whole thing?) The cast is likable enough but not quite enough to anchor an hour of TV.


For anyone who has never been in a comics shop, the Land of the Misfit Boys portrayal will just reinforce every stereotype they ever had. Jokes about Catwomen and getting all excited up about The Six Million Dollar Man. Yep, that’s what them nerds do.

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a horrible economy so people are always coming in and trying to sell some piece of weird nerd-related crap like a Chucky doll or a horrible sketch by Bob Kane. All the sellers have ridiculous ideas of what their stash will sell for, and almost invariably walk out sadly, painting a picture of a mancave of childish fantasies with no value in the real world.

“Do people ever come in here to buy anything?” one cast member asks, and you have to wonder if ANYONE will actually pay for a comic any more.

While this was only the pilot, one can definitely see the gears of TV development screeching and clanking in every moment of Comic Book Men. I’m guessing that Smith pitched it as a comedic slice of life based on his funny, quirky employees being outrageous. (This concept is the format for a podcast that all five of them do, a filmed taping of which provides the “men sitting around talking” footage.) Somewhere along the way, AMC must have seen the ratings for Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, two hugely popular half-hour shows in which we learn the value of precious heirlooms sold by desperate people and weird junk squirreled away by deadbeats, respectively. Some of store manager Walt Flanagan’s patter was straight from Rick Harrison on Pawn Stars. “What are you looking to get for this?” and so on.

But there are many differences. On those other popular shows, the potential for valuable junk has a lot more latitude. In a comics shop, unless some ninny walks in with a DETECTIVE #27, no one is going to hit the jackpot.

Even more important…those other shows are 30 minutes long! At an hour, Comic Book Men is wayyyy too long. I know that finding a Kevin Smith production long and talky should shock no one, but still…WHYYYYYYYY.

I’m kind of disturbed that AMC thinks this is the kind of show to hold The Walking Dead audience, to be honest. Did they just hear “comic book” and think it’s all the same? Guys with a room in their home dedicated to their cold-cast Justice League statue collection will probably identify with Comic Book Men. The Walking Dead, unless I’m mistaken, appeals to women, and a broad swath of the 18-49 demo. This audience will just look at a few moments of Comic Book Men and think “Oh, those boring nerds,” and switch to that episode of Person of Interest they DVRed.


  1. Why would you post this?! so much Bandwith has went down the drain LOL.

    this is exactly what i fear a Reality TV show about comic culture would be like. They should get some pointers from Mythomania(it was OK) and see what we really care about and struggle with.

  2. If I was the type of person who allowed myself to become offended, this show would have offended me. I could only watch 30 minutes. I had to turn it off when (spoiler alert!) the Star Trek plates were being smashed.

  3. My main problem with the show, outside of the very salient points you mentioned, was that the show seemed even more manufactured than the typical reality show of this type. I mean, it’s not realistic that Rick know the historical background of every object that is brought in the shop and is able to relate it in such a succinct manner, but at least it seems just a tad more natural.

    Perhaps my perception was altered by seeing the audition notices being handed out at NYCC last year,or just the poor editing choices (chopping up the flea market scenes might make things more interesting, but when the characters at the flea market appear in the store the very next scene then back at the fea market the scene after that, a certain amount of reality is lost, but I saw the seams in the production.

    Also, I’m not a big fan of them making fun of the woman with the Chucky doll, saying she was maybe TOO attached to it. Especially when Walt was hugging a Six-Million Dollar Man figure just a few seconds before. Maybe the double standard was meant to be funny, but it didn’t come off that way.

  4. Correction: ALL of those guys are middle-aged.

    And while all the picking on Ming was somewhat discomfiting, I could let it go because those guys have known each other for 15+ years–there’s usually one person in a group of friends that gets picked on the most. But the casual viewer doesn’t know the history and if I didn’t I wouldn’t watch the show again just because of the way he was treated.

    Maybe the show would work better at 30 minutes, maybe not. I think the real problem is just the restraints of television. These guys are much more entertaining in the podcasts.

  5. It’s also going to reinforce the behavior that leads to every comic shop worker’s most dreaded phone call: “I got this box of old Richie Rich’s that I found in the corner of my basement! They’re real old! How much will you give me for them?”

  6. I don’t know, knowing those guys I might be biased, but I thought it was ok. Of course the show is utterly staged as there is never a steady stream of people trying to sell crap. If you watch any of the tattoo shows they are fake, with Kat Von D wearing a different wig in the span of ‘minutes’.
    I just don’t understand why it had to be sold as a reality show. They could’ve just made it straight up fiction. But it’s probably more expensive.

  7. Ignoring the content of the show for a moment (and since I wrote a whole blog about it and not enough room to go into here), the premiere of The Walking Dead had roughly 8 million viewers.

    Comic Book Men retained 25% of that audience (meaning that it lost 75%). 2 million is still a nice number, but a) that’s the starting point of a number that will slide down even more as time goes on given the quality of the show and b) I thought the point of a lead-in is that you retain your audience. 25% retention sounds fairly low…

  8. Yeah, I can’t really argue most of your points, but I think I’ll at least give the next few episodes a shot. What can I say, I live with hope, and there were a couple of funny bits.

  9. Well, perhaps Cartoon Network will see this and greenlight “The Eltingville Comic-Book, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Role-Playing Club”.

  10. Intersting mix of a video Smodcast, The Apprentice and Antiques Roadshow all mixed up in a comic book blender.

    Not bad for a first episode.

    If they hone it, Comic Book Men could get really interesting.

  11. The show only pulled 2 million, and that was WITH the Walking Dead next-episode preview being held hostage at the first commercial break. I’m expecting next weeks ratings to be dismal.

    Just because The Walking Dead was based on a comic doesn’t mean the television audience wants to see a bunch of fat guys talk about comic books. Hell, I’m a huge nerd and comic fan, and even I don’t want to see that…

  12. I was also struck that the store never seems to have any customers. And the guys keep alluding to having wives, but they are not shown. The only female who sets foot in the store is the gal with the Chucky doll, and that’s not exactly comics.

  13. I think the store never seems to have customers because they’re filming either outside of store hours (likely given the obvious artifice of the situations) or when they know traffic is usually really light to nonexistent. The space doesn’t seem large enough for a camera crew and a full compliment of customers.

  14. Flea market scene – tuned out. Only when people are treated as equals are they truly friends. Ming wasn’t firing back so there’s no good ol ribbing back and forth. Just uncomfortable enough so that even the flea market patrons noticed.

  15. At least they could have gotten the price of the Detective 35 within the correct ballpark. That book was worth easily more than $5000 not $300 (and the owner is selling it in his shop for $12k at last report.)

    So, to the people that know, they come off as ignorant buffoons. To the people who don’t know, they come off as ignorant buffoons. The only winners? Ignorant buffoons.

    Put a bullet in this show now.

  16. I remember when people in comics kept saying that what comics needed was advertisement on television…

    … this is something even better because it’s basically an hour advertisement that pays for itself and has a brand name to go along with it.

    After the formula gets worked out, and especially if they start to cover other “off-the-beaten-path” comic stuff, this show could really work in an age when Big Bang Theory is popular.

  17. That Detective Comics #35 was a 1.5 CGC so it would not be worth $5000. According to it would be worth $880. Stores typically pay half of what they would sell an item for, so $300 was not a bad estimate off the top of his head.

  18. Why so many haters? It’s on television, it’s FREE TO WATCH!! As a comic book artist and Kevin Smith fan I was entertained and I’m looking forward to the rest. Nice to see a reality show that’s not about partying, fake love or dumb rich people!
    Keep it up!

  19. I think the show will evolve over time. I think you’ll see mainstream and indie comic creators appear on the show eventually. The show has a lot of potential. And M Kitchen is correct in saying this is a free promo for comics. Give it time.

  20. what most of you don’t seem to realize is that this show was not meant to finally portray the inner goings-on of a comic book store. it didn’t have some grand mission statement. it’s based on a comedy podcast. and that’s pretty much what it is – comedy. so stop the whining and laugh. as for the whole “picking on Ming” issue? he’s been their friend for 15 years, it’s just one of those things where you have a buddy you always rip on. and it’s not like they just gang up on him, they rip on each other. seriously, it’s just comedy

  21. I thought the show was interesting, although I wasn’t expecting all of the negotiating bits – that was uncomfortable. But I guess people like that sort of thing. I much preferred the discussion on the characters. Although I do hope they keep in mind that while comics fans can laugh with other comics fans about comic book silliness, they are forming opinions in the minds of non-comic-book people.

    Although I’m not sure if the audience for this show is non-comic-book people or what.

    I do think the big bearded guy is kindof a bully…

  22. Bad comedy. Taken from a boring podcast. Seriously what’s AMC doing diving into reality TV it isn’t fitting for them and this show is hardly a good starting point of it.

  23. @Warren: is clearly out of touch with the marketplace. They list the value of a 5.0 at $4,400.

    Yet–a leading authority with prices of completed sales–shows a 4.0 was purchased last November for $18,700, or more than 4x the listed 5.0 price. In fact, a Poor (.5) sold for $3,850 in 2009–more than 10 times that 1.5 offer!

    So, given incorrect market knowledge it’s not a bad estimate off the top of his head, sure. But we usually call that a rip off.

  24. Some good some lame…I probably don’t think I’ll watch it again..I just know everything and nothing they said was anything any person in the know doesn’t know….and they’r’e certainly not gearing it to an audience that needs to learn anything…so I’d imagine if they want to keep it going they;ll have to crank it up a notch..and either go for the newbies or be a little more serious with alt talents and Bring in some Heavies like Lees old Vid Series..the comic book greats..(God..has it been that long?). though I liked the characters..just the substance was a little weak. That’s definately a rental for me.,,I was bored 10 minutes in..and The walking dead was a gift to them so that I’d watch it after the marathon. Nope. It’s pretty lame.

  25. Plus…It really wasn’t funny. Sort of like College humour I guess…Dumb ass humour which I suppose is ok for some..but bleh…boring. No spark to it. Sorry ..hope I don’t offend..but at least there’s tons of that bad humour all ovr the place so those that like it will never go hungry.

  26. But to be fair…(critic hat off) a decent first effort. Hope they can learn from it. Here in Canada we used to have a rocky little show called “Prisoners of Gravity” which perhaps they should check out.(Hopefully they know what I’m talking about.) The “Pawn Stars” series formula just can’t work with this.
    The Audience just knows too much about the product. They’re not educating….balls in their court I guess…hope the series lasts..but they have some work to do.
    But I wish em the best.

  27. I knew zero about this series and dvr’ed the first episode. Once I saw Kevin Smith’s name pop up, I was a little hesitant. I enjoyed Red State maybe Smith’s moved past the t & a humor. Then I started watching this crap. Oh… my… god no. Comic fans get enough shit and now we’ve got a show perpetuating every stereotype that I loathe about the industry. Seriously, they’re talking about which version of Catwoman they’d like to bang? WTF??? When they’re not making the ‘funny’ it’s a hack version of Pawn Stars.

    To fix this trainwreck, I’d switch to interviews with creators and have each episode be like a mini-documentary on a different shop every week. Highlight some of the good stuff coming into the shops. Get away from the Secret Stash as soon as humanely possible.

  28. @ Mike Magnan
    “Here in Canada we used to have a rocky little show called “Prisoners of Gravity” …”

    Yeah, it was an amazing show. It turned me onto The Sandman.

    Check out my earlier comment with a link to the TVO PoG archive.

  29. Comic Book Men was an unadulterated train wreck that alternated between being painful and insulting to watch, and mind-numbingly boring. Kudos to Smith for taking away any conception of comics being cool that Walking Dead might have given to non-comics fans about the medium. Although I will say the show is a perfect example of why I won’t step foot into any of the LCS in my area, because they’re all exactly like Secret Stash: snide, arrogant nerds with limited social skills behind the counter and the omnipresent hanger-on / buddy who has nothing else better to do than hang out in the shop all day and make wisecracks.

    It could’ve been a really great vehicle to educate people about various aspects of comics, using the context of people coming into the shop to try to sell things. Good example: a customer comes in with a vintage Kirby Thor poster, and while there is some brief discussion between the show’s regulars of what makes Kirby’s work so legendary (wouldn’t want to take any screen time away from that riveting flea market sequence) at no point to we actually get to see any of it beyond the poster . Guess it was too hard to call up Marvel and get some clearances. Maybe Quesada’s no longer taking Kevin’s calls.

    Quite frankly, the format of the show would’ve been much more interesting if they went around to different shops in different parts of the country, and showcased some positive aspects of comics and comics fans instead of going straight for the mouth-breathing, action figure hugging stereotype. Got no desire to watch to see if this gets any better or at least less assh*lish. After the way they mocked the goth customer behind her back for an easy laugh at someone else’s expense, I’ve got no time for this garbage.

  30. I liked it. I wasn’t looking for an ambassador of comics, I was just looking for more Tell ’em Steve-Dave antics. If you wanted to do a show that had a more diverse audience, I would try shooting it at Bergen St comics or something like that. I guess I can understand everyone’s discontent for the show, I just knew what I was getting into.

  31. What did everybody expect this show to be? It’s like everybody was expecting something crazy. This was exactly what I thought it was gonna be. I thought it was great. Walt is funny.

  32. @ Thomas
    We sort of expected it to be something better..thats all. Something where we really get into the grain of Comics. How old comics smell so COOL Kirby, Romita (both of em) great Kane, Ditko,Lee,Eisner,Bagg,Crumb,Gaiman,Miller, The Hernandez Bros,..etc.(I certainly can’t name em all here..).Not some chick trying to sell a cheap Chucky doll. As Mike L noted above…it just really made us look like the stereotypical comic Geeks. I hope they can fix it…cause it would be great to have something serious on the air. I liked ALL the catwomen so that’s sort of a moot point…It’s like asking who’s tougher..Batman or Captain America? Who;s faster? Superman or the Flash…Of course I know the answer..even those topics would have been more interesting..haha.. Though I’m not sure the general population would support it perhaps we can if they add some lead to their stuff.

  33. I liked it. My GF sat in on about a third of it with me, too, and she could care less about comic books, but she liked it, too.

    The only part that really bothered me was the thrill they got from getting way less money from people for stuff that they thought worth way more.

    But I enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed the more than the bargaining, but I enjoyed it.