Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sketched TV: Comic Book Men

Get out your nerd stereotypes and raging hobos, we're reviewing Comic Book Men!
This is an awful show that should not be watched.  It's laden with bland nerd stereotypes, and pretty much signifies what is wrong with the comic book industry today. 
Comic Book Men is a reality TV show focused around Kevin Smith's comic shop, The Secret Stash, and it's three employees, Walt Flanagan, Ming Chen, Micheal Zapcic, and one customer who just always hangs out there I guess, Bryan Johnson. The show revolves around the guys talking comic shop, having contests with each other, appraising and buying customers' rare items, and talking with Kevin Smith on his podcast.

Let me preface this with saying the only reasons I watched this were A) AMC was holding the trailer for next week's The Walking Dead hostage until the first break of Comic Book Men, and B) I generally like Kevin Smith's work and wanted to give him a chance. 

If you're unaware about the backstory of this show, it was originally entitled "Secret Stash" and was going to be a "realistic" reality TV show about real people talking about comics in a comic shop. Then when it was switched to Comic Book Men, a number of people had fears that it would not include women in any kind of role and be hugely stereotypical of what you'd expect form old guys talking about comics. I can safety say that their fears were well founded.

Comic Book Men is a show about four old white guys talking about comics, and also an Asian guy they incessantly make fun of for no discernible reason.

The first warning sign for me was when Kevin Smith introduced Walt, the main boss, and Bryan, the filthy Alan Moore-esque hobo they've adopted into their store, and completely left out the other two employees. "Oh Ming? He's just our resident Asian. We just keep him around for tax purposes." That's what it felt like. Then the guys proceeded to talk about the ultimate fantasy girls they'd want to bang.

The message this show is putting out, much like the major comics publishers have been doing lately, is "This is a boys club! This is inclusive! No girls allowed!" The first and ONLY female interaction comes halfway in, when an over bubbly woman in a black corset comes to sell her Chucky doll. Now, we know this isn't really how it all happened on the first day, right? This is all staged and they designed it like this? So why pick her? Everything about her, the guys interaction with her, and their later talks with Kevin about her screams, "This chick is CRAZY! What is she even doing here? Look at her with her weird clothes and character ticks!"

I get that yes, she is a bit odd and you put her on the show mainly because she's cooky, but really, this is the female that you start the show with? In the first episode of the first season and the ONLY woman who gets any kind of screen time in the episode? You don't want to maybe put in some halfway normal woman who's also super into comics to prove that it's ok for girls to like comics too? No female co-worker or female friend?  And even if she is weird, who the hell are you guys to judge?! You work in a comic shop and talk about Batman and Robin being gay all day and you're calling her crazy?! Why would you be so rabidly inclusive in this day and age?!!

This is the main problem I have with the show.  They call themselves nerds, they put themselves out to be the downtrodden of society, the weirdest of the weird, the outcasts, and then they have the gaul to shun people out because THOSE guys are too weird and different? You can't have it both ways, guys. Either you are the outskirts of society that everyone makes fun of, and you welcome everyone different with open arms, or you're no better than the people who have shunned you, just with a different rule set for your click.  It's disgusting. 

These guys can't even get along with each other. This week's challenge(Are they going to have a weekly challenge? I don't really understand how the show is set up), Walt had some overstock to get rid of so he made Ming and Mike and the Alan Moore lookalike hobo go to a flea market and sell it all.  Whoever made the most cash won the challenge and got two weekends off in a row, which, considering Bryan doesn't even work there makes him more of a dick for trying to steal the weekend from the two working guys. And he says as much about Ming! 

Full disclosure, this segment stirred up a lot of memories for me, because I used to go to those flea markets with my parents to look for action figures when I was a kid. So going in, I was semi-interested in this challenge.  I wanted to enjoy it.

But for some unknown reason, this dirty bearded jobless asshole makes it his mission to incessantly rag on Ming. And throughout the rest of the show, I notice the rest of the guys just make Ming their punching bag, and I can't for the life of me see why.  It's not like he's an uppity jerk, or bad at his job, and they never establish he was mean to them at some point, so I have to figure they are just ridiculing the only non-white guy IN THE ENTIRE SHOW because Ming is weak and never stands up for himself. Do you see what this is? A BUNCH OF COMIC BOOK GEEKS ARE BULLYING ANOTHER COMIC BOOK GEEK. Why would nerds, who they are trying to pander to, who are all shapes, sizes, races and genders, want to watch this? It would be funny in an ironic sort of way if it wasn't so batdamn infuriating. 

The worst is the untamed hobo Bryan, who would not give Ming a break. I cannot see why he hates this guy so much. Throughout the challenge, he steals Ming's customers, insults him, insinuates he's a pedophile to passing people, and in one case goes so far as to break one of Ming's plates he's trying to sell! WHAT THE FUCK?!

This is where the absolute high point came when another Flea Market merchant came over and called Bryan on his shit, saying "You do not break another owner's stock! You break it, you pay for it!" He actually made him pay Ming. Why can't we have THAT guy on the show? I was so thrilled. I cannot tell you how much I hate bullying and unnecessary douchbags.  But it was a false victory.  When the guy walked away, Bryan bullied Ming into giving his money back, with the threat of breaking more if his stuff. 

When Mike and Bryan both firesaled their tables an left early, leaving Ming behind, the filthy hobo warlord Bryan gave Ming the finger and called him a douche as he drove a way. This is supposed to be funny? Long story short, Ming ended up winning the challenge, but it's another false victory as I can see in the previews it looks like he'll continue to be their punching bag for seemingly no reason.

I haven't talked about any of the store interactions in which customers try to sell their collectables to the store. These range from slightly interesting to boring. The problem I have with this is that Walt, along with appraising the material, is also trying to buy some of it, so it's hard to tell when he's giving them an honest price and when he's trying to score something he really wants for the lowest price possible. It goes from "your collectible is worth 400$!" to "I just conned this guy out of his poster for only 75$!" I find it hard to care here.

All of the segments are framed with the guys talking with Kevin Smith on his podcast. Kevin Smith is usually funny, but these conversations are only so-so. If it were just Kevin Smith talking about comics for an hour, I'm sure it would have been much more enjoyable. So really you should just go listen to his podcast instead of watching this piece of crap. 

Overall, I wanted to like it. They have interesting bits of comic history trivia here and there and it could have been a nice look into how people today really feel about and interact with their comics. They went to flea markets and almost talked about Moon Knight, whom I love. And I enjoyed the opening credits. But it's so inclusive, close-minded and downright awful, it makes the comic book industry and it's patrons look exactly like what people think it's been for years: a bunch of dirty smelly old white guys who don't know anything about girls, and only care about their possibly gay obsession with superheroes.  

THE GOOD: semi-interesting appraisals and trivia, good credits, kevin smith
THE BAD: Inclusive, no one other than white males over the age of 35 interested in comics could possibly get into it, Bryan is a huge lazyass dickhole, appraisals and collectible finds not as interesting as other shows.
OVERALL: Do not watch this. It's a disgrace to the nerd community. I can't see why anyone would think this is enjoyable to watch. Boycott on all accounts.
TV LIKE IT: Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, Antique Road Show, Kevin Smith podcasts, any other reality TV show with unlikable cast members
ONE SCENE METAPHOR: They have a semi-nutty guy bring in a collection of Dawn of the Dead merchandise. They call in a specialist, since movies aren't Walt's forte(and really, why have the guy on then?!). My interests are peaked, who could the specialist be? Oh wait, another old white guy. Nevermind. 

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