June 20, 2018
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‘Comic Book Men,’ premiering Sunday on AMC

By Rich Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal

The new series “Comic Book Men” taps into the love and longing that many of us have for those colorfully drawn magazines of our youth. And it gives us reason to believe that our love for those pages of bright, action-laden panels had some value.

That’s certainly the belief of Kevin Smith, the writer-director-actor famous for films such as “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma” and “Red State.” Smith has also had a long life in comics: writing them, collecting them and selling them through his New Jersey store, Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash (named after two characters from several of Smith’s movies).

“Comic Book Men,” which premieres at 10 p.m. EST Sunday on AMC (after the return of the comic-inspired “The Walking Dead”), follows Smith and other workers in his store as they talk about comics and deal for rare and precious items. Smith has compared it to “Antiques Roadshow,” particularly in the discovery of treasures among things others would consider junk.

“It’s like taking a box of Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries, removing all the Cap’n Crunch, and just having a bowl of pure Crunch Berries for the geek,” Smith said in an AMC Q&A. “Everything that comes through the door, you’re just like ‘Oh my god, I have that!’ or ‘What is that worth?’ or just something you never knew that existed, like ‘I never knew Bulletman had a pal.’ And suddenly you’ve got something that, if you’re a geek, that is brilliant television.”

But clips from the show more closely invoke “Pawn Stars,” “Hardcore Pawn” and the like in the dealing that goes on and the nicely confined setting inside a store.

But I’d watch Smith’s show. As he asks at one point, what would stop anyone from pursuing a part of his childhood if he could? I am one of millions in this country who spent a good bit of that childhood hip deep in comics; my old, well-worn comics were also read by my sons (who later acquired issues of their own), and I have a few boxes of the comics still set aside. Now and then I wonder if they’re worth anything, but I value them more for the instant connection they make to my youth. And even in adulthood, I dip into newer pages, looking not only for bold adventures but for larger meaning about society and culture.

But especially for bold adventures.

So “Comic Book Men” is appealing. Listening to Smith and his cohorts talking about vintage issues makes me want to jump onto the screen and join in.

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