Kevin Smith's Latest by Jordan Ferguson
I have a complicated relationship with Kevin Smith.
I have the cherished memories of watching Chasing Amy and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, his original run on Daredevil in '99 was largely responsible for bringing me back to comics after abandoning them as a preteen. His follow-up on Green Arrow actually made me care about Green Arrow [no small feat] while actually devising a "plausible" resurrection scenario that featured a rare DCU cameo from Gaiman's Sandman in the process. This all wins.
But somewhere around Clerks 2 things started to go south. I paid good money to watch one of his acclaimed spoken word gigs here in Toronto sometime around 2009 expecting 'Superman/Giant Spider' levels of hilarity. Instead I got two and a half hours of him talking about weed and Wayne Gretzky.
Seriously, those were the only topics of conversation. You can't make that up, friends.
It's only rolled downhill from there. His comics writing has left me cold [Green Hornet, no; the Neal Adams, hairy-chested 70's sex god Batman he's been working in recent projects, nononononooooo], his advocacy of mountainous levels of cannabis consumption leaves me puzzled, and the puffed chest, juvenile arrogance of his podcasting empire just makes me embarrassed.
The latest episode of Smith's newest venture, the AMC show Comic Book Men, is wrapping up over my shoulder as I type this. The show follows the days of the staff at Smith's comic shop in Red Bank, New Jersey, Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, combining the item appraisal of "Antiques Roadshow," with the staged shenanigans of a "Hogan Knows Best," [The lads are filming a commercial! Now they're tooling around Red Bank in the 1960's Batmobile!]. Smith makes appearances in the roundtable discussions, sprinkled throughout each episode, ostensibly recording sessions for future podcast episodes, looming over the shop employees in the hockey jersey he always wears without fail, temples damp with sweat from the studio lights.
An aside: as a husky gentleman myself, I understand the difficulty in navigating the turbulent sartorial waters between the shorelines of comfort and style, but dude, you need to ditch the goddamn hockey jersey and denim short combo, or at least get ones that don't hang on you like a party tent. End aside.
I want to like this show; I should like this show, as a member of the fraternity of fandom. But I don't know why it exists. If it's to reduce the stigma associated with the worst parts of comic shops make them more palatable to the elusive "new reader," it fails terribly. The show doesn't trust itself enough to do away with reliance on the worst parts of comic book shops cliches in its attempts at humour. This is evident most awkwardly in Bryan Johnson, the acerbic know-it-all with a severely distorted opinion of his own charisma, who doesn't work at the shop yet is always there. You know this guy, I know him, we all know him. We accept him as an unfortunate reality we have to deal with to keep loving comics. But will all those folks loving The Walking Dead, vaguely aware that it started and continues as a comic, be enticed by the images middle-aged dudes in ratty t-shirts sitting around talking about which fictional character they'd have sex with?
Maybe I ask too much, friends [I probably do], but I feel like we can do better. I know we can do better. I know the men on this show can do better. They need to realize that they're not just representing themselves on this show, they're representing all of us, they could show that we're something other than socially awkward trolls huddled behind the postered-over windows of the local comic store. The sad part is, I don't know if they want to.
With great responsibility...