As a gay, hispanic comic blogger, I often have a take what I can get attitude when it comes to comics being in the mainstream. I accept for now, but do not give in to the fact that Hollywood L.A. executives frequently shove sub-par reincarnations of my beloved superheroes and their storylines down my throat in various forms of media, knowing that I’ll be submissive for the sake of spreading comic book goodness. You can just hear them shouting, “Bottoms up!”.
This is not that though. Not entirely. The world as we know it is SO into reality T.V. that the comic book industry was going to jump on the wagon eventually. I don’t have “the cable” so this may be coming a little late [which is not the subject of this article]. With all the recent hoop-la about AMC’s new “reality” series Comic Book Men, I had to tune in to see if my preconceived notions were accurate or if in fact these men would show me something I didn’t already know.
Starring creator Kevin Smith along with comic store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, owner Walt, associates Ming and Mike, and resident loiterer Bryan, Comic Book Men gives you an insight into what goes on within the inner working of a comic book store, its associates, and its customers. Well… kind of.
Frankly the show is more like if Antique’s Road Show and Spike T.V. had an aggressive yet boring child who was somewhat racist, but mostly insecure. And side note, it’s a boy.
The show is split up between Mike and Ming buying memorabilia from customers, with no sales, and the whole gang, Smith included, around a poker/podcast table talking about random facts, making each other laugh with Coors Light humor and racially assaulting Ming, who for whatever reason, must enjoy it. I digress though, the aggressive borderline racist humor comes mainly from Bryan Johnson. Though I’m sure they all see it as boys having a good ol’ time, Ming is constantly used/blamed/referred to when someone needs belittling.
He is the quintessential Kato in that Green Hornet’s mess.
The team spends much of the hour making fun of the people who come in because of personality and looks, though they themselves are visually laughable, sporting messy bangs under baseball caps, sweaty exteriors due to prolonged standing and second-rate super villian facial hair. All except for Ming, whose “metro sexual” exterior, and by metro I mean he uses soap, gets his hot seat in a hot seat with Saruman, I mean Bryan Johnson.
But it’s really not about looks people. It’s about the lack of delivery, lack of quality, lack of substance and sans Ming, lack of diversity. The bottom line; the creators believe this show is what the majority think about and want from comic book stores and the people who run and go into them. It’s a shame that this opportunity, with its big cable television budget fell short of its potential. Ready for this? If only there was some sort of variation to this show. A variant, if you will. [yeah I typed that].
There are indeed small production YouTube shows, like The Variants, with its shoestring budget, that in one ten minute episode delivers the funny in a way that makes fun of the industry, but doesn’t make a mockery of it or its people. There is real knowledge and respect, not just random comic facts, that goes into each webisode. The cast, Richard, Ken, Keli & Barry, do a mighty fine job of putting a new spin on what it really means to work at and own an independent comic book store. It’s scripted comedy for a diverse audience, which makes it easily relatable.
The Variants is certainly not afraid to push boundaries and comically compete with not just comic book based series’, but comedy shows everywhere. At the end of its second season, The Variants cast is gearing up for its third, and is sure to show Comic Book Men that it takes more than the backing of a major cable network to bring hilarity, stay relevant and be interesting. You can check out The Variants at thevariants.com.