Kevin Smith made his name with realistic banter between comics lovers in Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. Now he's angling to capture the real thing.The indie moviemaker put out a casting call for comics geeks to show up last week at his The Secret Stash shop in Red Bank, N.J., with plans for a three-day shoot starting June 14. "He's not looking for actors, he's looking for real people who live and breathe the comic book lifestyle. Must be funny outgoing and have a knowledge and passion for comics, superheroes, movie memorabilia and everything that goes with it," read the recruitment post on Facebook.Last night he tweeted that the show would be on AMC, which recently announced plans for a stronger reality-show lineup. The pitch for comics fans also included a request for collectors. "It's Pawn Stars for Fanboys, and if you have something to sell/trade/or value, we want you to bring it to us!," the post added. (EW)
I like Kevin Smith. I like comic books. I like Pawn Stars. So in theory, I should be really excited about this. But I'm not. Not because it'll make comic book readers look bad or anything--though it almost certainly will do that--but because the show's probably going to be boring as hell.
The time to do a reality show set in a comic book store was the early '90s, during the speculator boom. You had kids reading comics. You had adults reading comics. You had people treating comics like they were legitimate long and short term financial investments. And the publishers! Oh, my God, the publishers! Their complete ineptitude made the whole thing a train wreck, but a fascinating one. Marvel was greedily gouging fans by publishing a ridiculous number of badly-written comics, DC was cluelessly trying to imitate Marvel by dumbing down their comics as much as possible, Image was making them both look stupid by selling millions of copies of little more than blatant ripoffs and splash pages to ADD fanboys, and Wizard Magazine was the carny virtually running the whole industry.
And of course, the nexus for all of that was the local comic book store.
Today, most comic book stores are actually respectable places of business. Going into one in the '90s, though, was basically like walking into some nerd's basement that had a cash register set up in it. Socially maladjusted owners and staff? Check. Posters of bikini-clad superheroines in erotic, anatomically impossible poses hanging on the walls, ensuring that no female customers would feel welcome, or for that matter, safe? Yup. A halfhearted attempt at best at pretending they were actual businesses, as opposed to a hobby to be enjoyed when convenient for the proprietors? Uh-huh. Apparently, banks gave loans to anyone who walked in back then, even a dude wearing a Punisher t-shirt.
So I'm not sure what the point of this show is. I'm also not sure if it's good or bad that they're doing a casting call. On one hand, interesting people are never a bad thing on a reality show. On the other, you don't want people who are going to play to the cameras. I'm sure there's one geek out there who thinks the key to making it on the show is to ramp up his geekiness by 1,000% and act like the comic book store version of Jack Black's character in High Fidelity, and he's probably right.
If they're serious about doing a Pawn Stars for comics, it's hard to imagine how they're going to get collectors to bring in their rare comics if they haven't already unloaded them by now. I suspect we'll see a lot of this sort of thing: A guy in his late 30s/early 40s who collected comics during the speculator boom and never threw them out, brings in a box full of stuff like X-Force, Prime and Glory, in mint condition and all bagged and boarded, thinking he's doing the store a favor and anticipating a nice payday for himself. He's stunned to discover that the comics are virtually worthless. He attempts to haggle with the clerk, dropping his asking price from $1,000 to $500 to $100 to "Well, can I just leave them here? I really don't want take them back home." After thinking about it for a moment, the clerk agrees, but reluctantly. The comics end up in the dumpster.
We'll also undoubtedly be treated to the interactions between the staff and the customers. God only knows what fascinating gems that'll produce. Debate over whether Batman could beat Galactus? DC reboot: Good idea or bad? Is Brian Bendis a great writer or the scourge of the Marvel Universe?
Now, will I watch that sort of thing? Yeah, of course. But it's hard to imagine too many other people doing so. Reality TV shows on cable often appeal to just a niche audience, but this may be a whole new level of nichiness.