Boom! Wham! Pow! The ComiQuad is a column dedicated to the spandex-laden world of comics and superheroes. It goes up each Tuesday and will alternate between comic book reviews and other comic book news. Reviews shall try to be spoiler-free. Zam!
Not everyone was interested in listening to blonde Adele sing or watching Nicki Minaj get exorcised at the Grammy’s Sunday night, and for those who weren’t there was another fascinating phenomenon on the boob tube: the premier of AMC’s Comic Book Men.
Hotly anticipated as a unique window into the generally niche culture of comic books, Comic Book Men debuted its first episode, titled “Junk,” at 10p.m. on the American Movie Classics (AMC) channel.
The show’s format alternated between the podcast musings of famous screenwriter/director/geek Kevin Smith and his merry men, a competition between his employees, and the shenanigans that take place inside his New Jersey store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.
Within the comic book store, the show strongly resembled the History Channel’s Pawn Stars, where multiple customers came in to get unique merchandise appraised and ultimately sold. Items this week included a Six Million Dollar Man action figure, a sketch of Batman from his creator Bob Kane, and a “life-sized” Chucky doll (yes, the homicidal Chucky). Podcast banter included the topics of favorite superheroine, scariest horror movie, and $300 jeans.
The collective, flickering moments of potential in this show would, in total, amount to about 10 minutes of air time. Unfortunately for the viewer, the show lasted for an entire hour.
In short, it offered very little to any kind of audience. For comic book fans, more interesting conversation can be had at any local comic book store or back alley of the Internet. Strangely enough, jeans prices are not the most titillating of topics. The banter was uninteresting and there was very little talk of comic book stuff. For those not entrenched in comic book culture, the show would either be terribly confusing and/or terribly off-putting.
For example, the entire episode stank of ugly comic book community stereotypes. Highlights include:
- Beginning with female character objectification. Zatanna is Kevin’s favorite because “she’s half undressed already.”
- Conversations about getting laid.
- Commentary on how Christian Bale’s Batman voice can convince a woman to do anything.
- “You’ve earned every inch that goes down your throat,” said one employee to another.
- “Can we make money off the mentally ill?” said one employee who surrounds himself with toys and comic books about a female customer who loves dolls.
And that’s the short list.
Between the moments of sheer boredom and general offense, though, there were some glimpses of decency. A few historical references to famous comic book creators and artists stood out. Conversations about the changing censorship in comics, including the image of a hypodermic needle on a comic cover, were also intriguing. Unfortunately, those glimpses were more difficult to find than an open booth at the George Sherman Union.
Overall, this episode proved that Comic Book Men was a wasted opportunity to shed a positive, or at least non-offensive, light on a niche, shrinking market. Instead of fascinating commentary, there were sex jokes. Instead of charming personalities, there were contests measuring manly machismo. Instead of hope, there was disappointment.
If people wanted sex jokes, immature measurements of masculinity, and an overall letdown, they would have gone back to high school.
So, in summary, Nicki Minaj being exorcised was not the worst thing on television Sunday night.