Check out what we think of a unique piece of TV history that sadly ended a few years ago. For those of you who missed it make sure you check out why we recommend Comic Book Men
I recall when I first stumbled upon Comic Book Men and was excited by the concept of a semi-scripted reality show about comics produced by fellow fan man Kevin Smith. Having grown up with his movies and being a fan of his podcast I had a good feeling it could prove to be enjoyable viewing. Kevin Smith is a slept on talent from the era of nostalgia to many in my generation. He inspired a lot of people with his success in movies after releasing an independent film called ‘Clerks’ and the rest is a profanity laced joy ride in celluloid history.
Out the gate the first season had me hooked and my buddy Boris of the Bash Bros started watching shortly after we watched a few episodes at my place. The first season had longer episodes than most shows in that format but were funny and informative with a cast of ‘real’ people that made it feel like more of an authentic show on first watch. It did not feel like a reality show, it felt like Clerks with comics and their wacky and genuine humor always made me sad to see Kev call it an episode and pull down the faders on the mixer. The show would go on to have 7 seasons along with the companion podcast and would have guests ranging from from rap icon Method Man of Wu Tang Clan to Billie Dee Williams who played Lando in the original Star Wars trilogy.
I would have to say the timing of the series cancellation was pretty cold blooded seeing that AMC would pull the plug 4 episodes shy of the 100th and not too long after Kevin Smith’s heart attack in 2018. Stating that it did not make much sense financially to the studio the show was taken off the air. In another move Fatman on Batman has seen Kevin also remove his first 50 episodes including the classic Conroy episode which is an all time favorite of fans of Smith and Batman the Animated Series. It is peculiar how with the fading of the Marvel and DC movies it is as if the whole wave is beginning to subside as I am finding it harder to find good shows on nerd culture on TV with decent production value. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy YouTube content as much as the next guy but I still like the production of a network show and you will be hard pressed to replicate what Comic Book Men did because at it’s core it is about friends believing in each other and living a shared dream and that is what I think made me enjoy it as much as I did.
I am writing about this because I feel that the show was a cool way to get people interested in comics and their history. It made total sense having a show like CBM on TV what with Marvel and DC controlling the box office for the past decade Smith used the times to shoehorn in a show for us. Kevin and his gang at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash would give you the stories behind some of the best and most influential characters and artists in comics and the culture. Having a component like Pawn Stars the average person could also see the real price of certain items and learn some history in the process that would only add to the nostalgia of each episode. All in all the show is entertaining and informative and I truly recommend it if you can stream it where you are because you will get some laughs and it will take older viewers back to their childhood. For those of you outside of the United States make sure to check out some of the VPN options.
I can tell our readers who may not be familiar with Kevin Smith and his contributions to cinema that I cannot recommend enough the following films:
I came into to comics at the point of transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. At the Time, Marvel was publishing a lot of re-prints of classic Silver age material, most notably Marvel tales (re-printing Spider-man) Marvels Greatest Comics (re-printing Fantastic Four) Marvel Triple Action (re-printing Avengers) and X-men (reprinting X-men). So I am something of an authority on Silver Age Marvel, as well as Bronze Age.
During the actual Silver Age, I was too young to read. But I was already into superheroes through the medium of television. There was a Batman series on TV at the time starring Adam West that I loved and had toys of and the show still shares a cult status among fans and marks a specific time in American Television. The DC cartoons were in my opinion were much superior to the Marvel ones. Most of the Marvel cartoons consisted of someone waving panels of Jack Kirby art while someone narrated and fell short of translating the excited from the page. The DC cartoons where much better animated, the exception being the Spiderman cartoon. So when I started learning how to read, I came into comics with a bias in favor of DC.
Unfortunately, DC squandered this advantage with comics that were so much lower in quality than the Marvel ones, even to a 6-year-old’s eyes and that is saying something. In the Early DC comics I first read, Batman was fighting ordinary criminals with no costumes or powers, Superman was fighting Terra Man (the space cowboy), Clark Kent had a new co-worker, Guy Lombardo, a sportscaster who would bully Clark (while Clark pretended to be bullied), Wonder Woman had no powers and was a Kung Fu Fighting Private Detective, The Metal Men all got melted, and the Justice League teamed up with the Justice Society to search for the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
The first Marvel comic I read, in contrast, features the climax of the Skrull/Kree War, a reprint of the Fantastic Four defeating Galactus, Ragnarok, the Mimic (with the combined powers of the X-men) fighting the Super Adaptoid (with the combined powers of the Avengers), MODOK and Dr Doom fighting over the Cosmic Cube, and in the same issue: Captain America vs Nick Fury and the Falcon vs. the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950’s. With that beginning, although I occasionally bought DC comics, I was mostly a Marvelite from then on.
Comics in those days were $0.20 each. I’m pretty certain that they were deliberately priced at double the cost of a chocolate bar, which costed $0.10 in those days. At 20 cents per comic, that should have meant, if I got hold of a dollar, that I should have been able to get 5 comics for a dollar. It should have been that way. . . . But Americans like to make tax paying as painful a process as possible. Every Spring Americans get super stressed trying to fill out the income tax form and I am sure many have seen this play out in sitcoms through the years. But unlike other countries, in the States, sales tax is tacked on on top of the labeled price, not included in it. So a dollar bought me 4 comics and some change. Then a period of inflation began under president Nixon. Chocolate bars became slightly larger and rose to $0.15 and comics added a couple of pages and rose to $0.25 each. Again, this should have been 4 for a dollar. Instead, it was 3 for a dollar and some change leftover.
Every pharmacy, or 7-11 small store had a rotating rack that would hold more than 50 different comics within its thin frame. And I was very dependent on the good will of parents to buy me that comic I wanted so bad. Often I had to choose one over the other as was the case for most kids growing up. So I chose not to find out what happened with the Avengers and the Space Phantom, because I wanted to see Quicksilver and the Human Torch fight over Crystal. Most comics stories were two of three issues long and I would often miss the beginning or conclusion of a story, after all it is hard to develop consistent buying patterns as an infant with no disposable income! There were a few instances where I was able to get every issue of a particular comic for several months in a row. Because if a story lasted longer than one issue, it would be a whole month before I got to see what happened next.
I was just the right age to be coming in at the very beginning of a lot of Bronze Age things. My very second Avengers story was based on a idea suggested by an intern named Chris Claremont, in which the Avengers fought the Sentinels. I came in at the beginning of the Defenders, and just before Steve Englehart began writing the Avengers and Captain America. I was there for the beginning of Jim Starlin’s run on Captain Marvel and Roy Thomas’ run on Fantastic Four.
I thought I liked particular characters. I didn’t realize that I actually like particular writers, including: Stan Lee (Fantastic Four, Avengers), Roy Thomas (Avengers, X-men, Fantastic Four), Steve Englehart (Defenders, Avengers, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Amazing Adventures featuring: the Beast), Steve Gerber (Defenders), and Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel). Because of this I missed things I would have liked and later discovered like Warlock (Jim Starlin), early issues of Master of Kung Fu (Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart), Guardians of the Galaxy (Steve Gerber) and Man Thing (Steve Gerber).
The Marvel Universe was much more coherent back then. It was only ten years old at that point and several writers had very long runs in the Silver age. Most notably Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who did more than a hundred issues of Fantastic Four, as well as a long run on Thor and Roy Thomas who had very long runs on both Avengers and X-men. Comics would often reference events in past issues, and would often include a panel showing the events they were talking about with a footnote, indicating which issue they were referring to. Writers would spin very long subplots and then tell the next writer what they had been doing. So, for example, Roy Thomas had been laying clues for years that something was strange about the Vision. And it was years more before Steve Englehart finally revealed that the vision had been built from the android body of the original Human Torch.
Also, the Comics Code was loosening its’ grip a bit, allowing horror comics to be produced. DC mostly did anthology horror comics. (Swamp Thing was an exception) But Marvel was doing ongoing series featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, the Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night, Man Thing and the Ghost Rider. And Western and War comics were still around too.
But then, this era of my comics fandom came to an end, when I moved to a place where comics were not available. As a result, I missed things. But when I moved back, I returned to comics. Again, just in time.
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