Review: Comic Book Men (Rating: C-)

Rating: C-

I was only half-joking when I said on Twitter that Comic Book Men (AMC) will set the comic book community back by about 30 years.

The only thing missing was a basement…but in their defense, this was the pilot and no need to blow everything in the first episode.

A Cold Open Like Clerks, But Not As Funny

In lieu of a basement, the cold open for the show has the staff of The Secret Stash talking about Robin and going over the same dumb jokes that have been said by any number of us…except not as funny.

And it just goes downhill from there.

I take that back.  I suppose this conversation might be funny for those that have not heard it before, but the conversation on tape played like a joke on Two And A Half Men, playing to existing stereotypes and firing right down the middle.

Which is sad since there are moments later in the show of both clarity and insight into comic books.  The problem is that they are so lightly peppered across the one hour broadcast that if you’re checking your Twitter feed for a second you might miss them.

Instead, the show reinforces every “Comic Book Store Guy” stereotype that people already have for us.

Welcome To The Android Dungeon

The reinforcement of the stereotype was the most surprising thing about the show given that  Kevin Smith, of all people, knows the pain of living with the image that has been placed on all of us who read (and love) comic books.

And yet, when given an opportunity to challenge and counter it, he and the producers of this show decided it would easier to just play to what is expected; three white guys (four if you count Smith) and one Asian guy who are all over 30.

No women. No younger people.

In January, Zoe Gulliksen wrote about not making it onto the show, and it still confuses me as to how she did not make it in.

Yes, these are his friends from childhood blah blah blah and one would argue that hiring a woman to the show, specifically for the purpose of casting her so the show would have a female “character” could be seen as sexist (or any number of other things).

But this is television.  It’s not real.  Even if they call it “reality television,” there are still writers and producers and it’s edited.

So, not having a female perspective is one of the most glaring things that hurts this show before they even got off the ground.  It distorts the reality of who the  people that create, read and sell comic books are.

Pawn Star For Nerds (and yes, please be offended by that title)

In so many of the conversations on the show about comic books, other perspectives would have been helpful.

But that said, they really don’t spend too much time talking about comics which again is a shame because the framing device of using the podcast recording sessions to talk comic books was one of the few things I liked about the show.

I can only guess that the studio note was that talking about comic books is too “high art” and too cerebral.  Instead, the producers want a cheap “Pawn Star for nerds” that they can let audiences laugh at the people coming into the store to sell items.

To that point, in this pilot I did not see a single customer actually buying a comic book.  Just people off the street trying to sell stuff (it’s not to say that we won’t see that in future episodes).  It was hinted that there was a “casting call” of sorts to line those people up.  I’m fine with that.  Like I said, it’s television.

Of all the sellers, the only one that was enjoyable came from outside of the core cast.  A very melodramatic man comes in with a case handcuffed to his wrist (seriously) wanting to sell lobby cards and a poster of one of the Romero zombie movies for $800 and $200 respectively.  Since it’s not comic book specific, they call in an expert.  And the expert they call in makes very short work of the melodramatic man.

That and some discussion over signatures being less valuable on a collectable (because they’re not able to certify them) were interesting but they were hidden beneath the “A story” of a  “forced challenge” that had the employees go to the flea market to sell excess merchandise.

Thank you once again, producers.  This “a story” seemed forced (studio note: “We must have conflict”); probably because it was and was utterly boring.

Back To Stereotypes

Of all the people in the store Bryan, who may or may not be an employee (I’m not quite sure), is clearly there to rub people the wrong way and to call comic book readers nerds. He’s quite annoying and while the show (and Kevin) try to paint him as a loveable jester, he came across to me as being a jerk.  I have stopped shopping at comic book stores for less, and if I had to deal with him I’d probably change stores or move to mail-order.

Limited Production When It’s Needed The Most

One of the other misses of this show is in the production.  There are a few moments of interesting discussion over comic books that you’d figure would lend themselves to seeing the panels that are being discussed  (example: confusion over what actually happens in the classic Green Arrow/Green Lantern issue with Speedy doing drugs) and yet they do not show anything other than covers of books being sold.

I don’t know if this is a money thing (can’t afford the rights) or they know how litigious DC and Marvel could be if they tried.  Not being a lawyer I would argue that usage of panels of a comic book in this particular case would fall under “fair use” that’s used for reviews.  But I suppose they’ve never picked up a Comics Journal or copy of Amazing Heroes…

In Summary

The ratings for Comic Book Men were simply OK.  According to Deadline.Com, the show’s lead-in (The Walking Dead) had it’s highest ratings ever at 8.1 million viewers but Comic Book Men lost 75% of that audience which left it with 2 million viewers.

That’s a significant drop off, and it will be interesting to see what the ratings settle into as we get into weeks 2 and beyond.

Overall, this could have been a great opportunity to change the way people see the stereotypes of the comic book community.  However, instead of Lisa Lionheart, we got another Malibu Stacy (but she’s got a new hat).

[Note: @ZeusComics in Dallas tweeted me to let me know about their show “Variants” which is a fiction web series that does have a lead female character.  I have not seen it yet, but will check it out]

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2 Responses to “Review: Comic Book Men (Rating: C-)”

  1. Marcus Says:

    I’ve only ever found 1 piece of work by Kevin Smith remotely funny, original or clever, and that was Clerks. All the rest at best have had moments of awesomeness, but usually have extremely poor/sappy/cliched endings, if not everything else from start to finish.

    • Noah Kuttler Says:

      It’s funny. I actually quite liked Kevin Smith up until about a year or so ago. I thought Red State was a good movie and some of his other stuff I was a fan of. But I think this show is ultimately just lazy.

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