Kevin Smith can trace the beginning of Comic Book Men to a time before Clerks. A time when he and childhood friend Walt Flanagan would drive around New Jersey looking for a comic book shop to get their daily dose of geekdom. “One day I mentioned to Walt how I would love to own a comic book store. I thought that would be awesome, and Walt said he wanted to run one. I figured he meant the same thing, but he didn’t. Owning one was too much responsibility to him, he just wanted to run it.” Fast forward almost twenty-five years. The fifth season of Smith’s geeky reality series Comic Book Men kicks off this Sunday on AMC. The cast, which includes Smith, Flanagan, and the other employees of Smith’s comic shop, appeared at New York Comic Con to chat about what’s in store for them this year.
Nestled away at the Javits Center in New York City, the cast was eager to chat about the fun things fans will get to see in the new season. There was nothing more exciting to them than the guests that come to the store in season five. The show has seen plenty of celebrity guests over the last five years, and the new season will welcome Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew, to The Secret Stash. When asked how they’re able to snag such impressive guests, Mike Zapcic was willing to let us in on the secrets behind the show’s biggest celebrity visits and craziest gimmicks.
“Our showrunner asks us each to write a list of what we want to see and what we are passionate about. Then each season they try to get at least one or two things from each list onto the show.” Sadly, Mike remained rather tight-lipped about his wishlist for season five, but he did shed some light on previous stunts they never thought the network would go for. “The ice cream truck had been constantly pitched and re-pitched to AMC since the first season. It became an obsession of Walt’s to get that ice cream truck and turn it into a comic book truck. I think they finally let us do it just so he’d shut up about it.”
Of all the surprises coming this year, the cast all agreed that the biggest is simply having a fifth season. Some may attribute the show’s success to its timeslot, right after The Walking Dead‘s Sunday night rerun, but even residual viewers aren’t enough to keep the show afloat for five years. No, audiences love the Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash crew, but Kevin Smith revealed at New York Comic Con that they were never meant to be the stars.
“The boys didn’t want to do the show at first. When AMC wanted to make Comic Book Men we just arrived at our store. I didn’t even pitch it being set at The Stash. I kept telling them we’d search America and find the perfect comic book store to set the show in, and I meant that. So, AMC wanted to see what a pilot presentation looked like and gave Charlie Corwin at Original Media $10,000 to make it. I didn’t know how we’d make it, we hadn’t even found our comic book store yet. I asked Charlie if it was enough money, and he said it was but we’d lose most of it to location costs for a comic book store. So I said we could just film the pilot at my comic book store. This was the first time I ever even mentioned I owned a comic book store in the month that I had been developing this comic book store TV show. I hadn’t brought it up because I guess I didn’t want to seem braggy.”
After listening to the Tell ’em, Steve-Dave podcast that Flanagan hosts with fellow cast member Bryan Johnson, Corwin demanded they make The Secret Stash the location for Comic Book Men. “He told me I was an idiot for hiding it from them. He loved the podcast and loved how funny and real the guys at The Stash were.” Of course, Kevin had trouble convincing Walt and the crew to be on the show. “Walt told me he didn’t want to be a joke like Snooki, and I couldn’t understand it. Who wouldn’t want to be Snooki, man? She made a lot of money!”
It took a bit of wheeling and dealing, but in the end Kevin was able to convince Walt, Bryan, Mike, and Min to commit to the show. All these years later Kevin owns his own comic book store, Walt runs it, and a reality show lets the rest of us share in their dreams.
Comic Book Men season five premieres Sunday, October 18, at 12am EST.
IMAGES: AMC Networks