If you believe the stars of "Comic Book Men," not much has changed since millions tuned in regularly to watch their hijinks on national television last season. Even now they play it cool, sorting comics during their downtime, answering the phone with the familiar greeting of “comics,” and hanging out at a shop that only weeks ago served as a fully functional TV studio.
Maybe it’s not an act, though. As the airing of the show’s second season nears, the guys of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash seem to have taken the entire experience in stride, seeing the show as an amusing, perhaps a bit surreal at times, digression from a normal life that already included conversations about which super heroine is the hottest anyway.
With 11 weeks of shooting in Red Bank wrapped up and under their belt and Comic Book Men season two debuting Oct. 14 on AMC, the guys of the Stash – three quarters of them anyway – are looking forward to the new episodes, still excited at the opportunity to play real life and real conversation on TV.
“The fact that we’re on the same channel with Breaking Bad and Mad Men is amazing to me. It’s the big leagues,” Kevin Smith film fan turned Kevin Smith website designer turned Kevin Smith podcaster turned Comic Book Man Ming Chen said recently. “It might just be as a pinch runner, but it’s still the major league.”
The show was developed by Smith, who is noted not only for his movies such as "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy," but for his writing, public speaking engagements, and most recently podcasting on his network of shows called SModcast. Though Smith makes appearances on the show as a discussion moderator of sorts for scattered segments throughout, he’s hardly the show’s star. That .
The foursome discusses comics; they price, buy and sell memorabilia; talk trash, and generally hang out at the shop and at cons and other excursions, making fun of each other at opportune moments, of which there tend to be quite a few.
Though they were hopeful that the show would turn out well, what they didn’t know was how well a national television audience would receive Comic Book Men. With the first season attracting millions of viewers each week, AMC renewed the show, announcing the decision only a few months after the first season had finished airing.
“It definitely feels good to know people watched it and liked it rather than the opposite happening, where no one watched and the few who did hated it,” Chen said. “And my wife enjoyed the show, which was the real test.”
Along with a new season come some changes to the format. No longer are the episodes an hour long and instead of a measly six, viewers will be treated to a full season of 16 half-hour episodes. It’s not a big deal, Zapcic said, only now he and his cohorts have to be a lot funnier a lot faster. The show is also airing at a new time this season, bumped from the cushy slot immediately following megahit The Walking Dead and instead showing at 11:30 p.m. following the zombies on farm show’s talk show appendix, Talking Dead.
As far as what viewers can expect to see, fans will be excited to know that not too much has changed. Those who watch the show to learn about comic history and pricing will get their fill – Zapcic even said the Stash, at the urging of the show’s producers, purchases more this time around. If you’re watching for the interactions between the show’s cast, they’ll be plenty of that, too. There’s banter, special guests – including one whose name rhymes with Anne Snee – and of course plenty of humiliation dolled out by the cast mates.
“Everyone is at the top of their game,” he said.
While the guys at the Stash seem to enjoy their work on the show – Chen described it as fun, while Zapcic enjoys the process, but jokingly said he cringes at the site of himself on TV – real life, or rather the non-filmed Comic Book Men, has remained relatively the same.
“I can’t think of any real changes that have come of it,” longtime Stash manager and Comic Book Man Flanagan said of the show recently, sitting at the poker table at the back of the store where he and Johnson record their popular Tell ‘Em Steve Dave podcast. “Maybe people come in and are a little more excited to see the guys behind the counter.”
Despite having the eyes of millions see them each week, and despite filming right here in Red Bank, the perils of fame have yet to reach them. Zapcic said he’s hardly recognized, Flanagan, appreciatively, said he isn’t either. Chen, dubbed Red Bank’s mayor because of his popularity locally, doesn’t get many second looks outside of the downtown either. Johnson, they said, is another story. A big guy with a signature long beard, he’s typically the one who gets the “is that the guy from Comic Book Men?” whispers when out and about.
Superstars they’re not – yet – the guys recognize their place in a pop cultural landscape being defined by guys like them, guys like Josh Whedon, director of the Avengers and Christopher Nolan of Dark Knight fame, arguably Hollywood’s most popular filmmakers at the moment. Though billions of dollars in ticket receipts separate Hollywood’s geek elite and the Comic Book Men, they’re part of the same generation, unabashed comic book fans who not only grew up with comic books, but made comic books grow up too.
Zapcic said he’s proud to be a part of that movement.
“The geeks shall inherit the earth. We are the tastemakers,” he said.