For longtime subscribers to the cult of Kevin Smith, watching his reality series Comic Book Men has been a pretty surreal experience. For years he’d said that Randal from Clerks and Brodie from Mallrats were based on his friends Bryan Johnson and Walt Flanagan respectively. But it wasn’t until now that we could see them in the flesh and realize that yep, that’s 100% true. Sure, they’re older now and don’t speak quite like Kevin Smith characters. But between Comic Book Men and their podcast Tell Em Steve Dave, all of the mannerisms, expressions, obsessions, and attitudes of the beloved indie comedy icons have slid out of Walt n’ Bry. It’s been pretty strange and hilarious to watch the characters kind of come to life (or at least, to see the life that they came from).
Walt Flanagan is of course the original Comic Book Man. A lifelong devote to paneled entertainment who spread his obsession over to Smith who in turn put Walt in charge of the Jersey comic book store Jay And Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Collecting comics, selling marked up Star Wars figures, cheering for The New Jersey Devils, and shooting the shit about pop culture was all Walt had planned until the AMC reality series came along. Now he’s on TV and…well…doing the same thing to be honest. But at least now we get to giggle along with him. The fourth season of Comic Book Men premieres this Sunday on AMC and we here at CGM got a chance to chit-chat with Walt to celebrate the occasion. We discussed the new season, the raging ego of Ming Chen, his fantastic podcast Tell Em Steve Dave, comics (obviously), and the upcoming stop motion Christmas special he’s working on. Dig in and enjoy.
Comics Gaming Magazine: You seem to be pretty involved with creating the storylines for Comic Book Men, so were there any ideas for episodes you were particularly excited to try out this season?
Walt Flanagan: Yeah, there was a lot actually. We had a stand-up night at the stash where the guys have to perform stand-up comedy centered around comic book jokes. We got BQ in that, so I was really anticipating that. Plenty of Easter Eggs for people who listen to Tell Em Steve Dave. We also had an ice cream truck pop up, which something else that listeners of the podcast should appreciate. There were plenty of things that I threw out there that we got do this year. So that was cool to see them come to light.
CGM: I’m sure that Ming’s stand up is something to look forward to.
WF: It’s everything that I dreamed it would be and more.
CGM: How’s Ming doing these days? Are you and Bry able to keep the ego under control or is that just a lost cause at this point?
WF: I don’t know if there’s anyone that can at this point. It’s been unleashed for too long. It’s a beast that cannot be tamed.
CGM: You seemed to be slightly uncomfortable with being on camera initially, has that gotten any easier?
WF: I don’t ever really watch the show to be honest. I can’t imagine sitting down on Sunday to look at it. I don’t really like seeing myself on camera. At this point, there’s definitely a feeling of not even noticing the crew anymore. I’ve developed the ability to forget and just talk, normally saying things that will never make it on the air. Maybe Tell Em Steve Dave, but definitely not Comic Book Men. So yeah, there’s a point where you finally just forget and relax.
CGM: It must be a good outlet to have Tell Em Steve Dave to get all of the non-broadcast appropriate material out of your system.
WF: Oh yeah, there’s definitely been occasions where subjects have come up that are just too raw for Comic Book Men that we’ll then recycle for Tell Em Steve Dave. So that’s perfect.
CGM: How’s the show changed working at The Stash between seasons? Is it a tourist stop now?
WF: Some days yes, some days no. There are definitely days where it’s like pre-Comic Book Men and very few people come in. You start to think that people have gotten over it. Then the next day it’ll be jam packed with people from all over the world. It’s hit and miss.
CGM: How do you feel about the fact that this niche culture you’ve loved so long has gone so mainstream over the last decade? Is it exciting or has it kind of spoiled things?
WF: I don’t know if it’s either/or to me. I mean, it’s more beneficial to have it be more mainstream. It’s not such a niche thing anymore, so there are people who will come into The Stash just from the show and they’ll actually buy a comic book now where they wouldn’t before. It’s not a geeky thing anymore. Everyone wants to at least try a Walking Dead comic book. So that’s just better for business.
CGM: Do you still collect anymore or has running the store wrecked that for ya?
WF: Like working in a candy shop ruining candy? To some extent. I mean DC’s got 52 titles, Marvel’s got a major output. There’s so much stuff out there that I can’t read it all. But stuff still comes in that excites me. I just picked up Marvel’s Moon Knight Epic and that made me so excited to see all of that under one cover. So I went home and devoured that. I’m still buying, but I’m maybe reading more on the company’s dime now. I can’t buy it all.
WF: What, you mean now?
CGM: Well, maybe more initially when you got the script.
WF: Oh ok. Yeah. Kev told me that he had based it on me, so I knew what to expect. I think it’s more the mannerisms than anything else. Maybe a bit here and there of the personality. At times I see it come through, but it’s hard to think that way.
CGM: Why didn’t you continue your path of becoming the Lon Chaney Of The 90s after Clerks?
WF: Because Kevin was able to secure real A-list actors to portray the characters in his movies after that. He didn’t need his friend to put on a bad wig and pretend it wasn’t the same person that you had just seen five minutes before.
CGM: How’s the Tell Em Steve Dave Stop Motion Christmas project coming along?
WF: It’s coming along awesomely. We just got in a piece of footage from the guy who is making it, his name is Mr. Oz. He just sent in a fake trailer for the AIDS-squito movie. No one who doesn’t listen to Tell Em Steve Dave will know what that is. It is flat out crazy and so well done. It looks like David and Goliath on crack. That won’t be ready for Christmas though. He’s supposed to be done sometime in February. It’s going to be amazing.
CGM: Finally, with it being Halloween do you have any horror comics you’d recommend other than obviously Karney, Cryptozoic Man, and War Of The Undead.
WF: Yeah, I’d feel like a shill mentioning those.
CGM: I’ll do it for you then.
WF: (Laughs) Thanks. But yeah, definitely. First off, all of the Swamp Thing volumes by Alan Moore. Those are the best. And also the New 52 Swamp Thing that Scott Snyder wrote is really good. So was the New 52’s Animal Man when it started. That was really killer and so creepy. Then I don’t know if you’d call it a horror comic, but it sure feels like one: a book from Image Comics called Bullet Proof Coffin. And then, I think it’s still in print, but I’m not sure; The Essential Werewolf By Night by Marvel Comics. That’s a really creepy book. You can’t go wrong with any of those.