I watched the first episode of the second season of COMIC BOOK MEN on AMC last night (I had recorded it earlier this week). The show, which debuted back in February, features the staff of Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash comic book store in Red Hook, New Jersey. The shop is owned by writer/director and fanboy supreme Kevin Smith. Pictured above are the store's manager, Walt (left) and Brian (right), a man who doesn't work for the store but spends an inordinate amount of time there apparently without ever buying anything. The show was one-hour in its' first season but the new episodes are only thirty-minutes in length.
In the season opener, Ming, a Secret Stash employee who is constantly ridiculed by other staff members, comes up with the idea of hosting kids' birthday parties at the store. It's a ridiculous idea that results in total chaos and only a small amount of revenue. The kids run amok (there are no other adults other than the store's staff in attendance) and the whole thing seems engineered and staged to generate laughs and inject some "action" into the show.
That element of action is needed because the rest of the show is divided between two settings. In one, the staff and Smith sit around in a recording studio and talk about the episode. The other setting is the check out counter in the store (it's in a new location in the shop this season, farther back in the space with new merchandise on display around the staff) where the guys hang out and talk about comics and buy collectibles that customers bring them.
Full disclosure: I've done business (one time) with Jay and Bob's Secret Stash. I've never been to Red Hook, New Jersey but the store did buy an item I had listed on eBay earlier this year. It was a copy of ESSENTIAL GHOST RIDER, a Marvel trade paperback reprinting early GHOST RIDER stories in black-and-white. After receiving payment, I shipped the book to the store and left positive feedback on eBay. Thanks for the business guys.
That's about all of the good things I have to say about this show. I don't care for Kevin Smith. Never have. I've never seen any of his films and I recall reading an interview with him a few years ago in which he seriously dissed comic book artist and legend Jack Kirby. Kirby, as regular readers of this blog will remember, is my all-time favorite comic book creator. Smith has always come across to me as a bit too full of himself. He's also sartorially challenged as he never appears on the show wearing anything other than an ubiquitous hockey jersey. These super-sized jerseys or Moo-Moos for Men, look stupid on anyone other than a hockey player or someone under the age of 18.
The staff is rude, condescending and insulting to the customers. They'll barter with someone for a collectible and then make fun of them after the leave the shop. Brian, who is not an employee, is especially annoying, making sexist remarks and crude jokes towards the customers with no repercussions whatsoever.
The staff also spends a great deal of time educating the sellers about the items they're selling. I realize that this is for the folks at home who might not have an encyclopedic knowledge of comic books and pop culture but it comes across as lecturing and I-know-more-than-you-do. Also, the sellers never get their original asking price which makes me wonder why anyone in their right mind would sell anything to a comic book dealer in this day and age when they could go online to a to website like eBay, name their price and maybe get it. Obviously, the sellers and their merchandise are arranged by the producers of the show so the guys will have something to talk about, haggle over and ultimately purchase.
I will admit that the guys can occasionally be funny but more often than not, they're just snarky jerks who love comic books but can't stand comic book fans. The shop is receiving a ton of free advertising thanks to the folks at AMC and I'm sure business is brisk. Having your business spotlighted on a weekly television show will certainly generate traffic and sales. But I don't know that I'd shop there should I ever find myself in Red Hook, New Jersey.
The general public already has a dim view of the people to be found in comic book shops, both in front of and behind the cash registers. COMIC BOOK MEN doesn't do anything to change this stereotype. In fact, if anything, it makes it worse.