This Sunday night marks the return of The Walking Dead to AMC. With it comes the channel’s Sunday night line up which will once again included Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men, now entering its 4th season. It’s 4th Season! That is quite an accomplishment seeing as when it first debuted back in February of 2012, some predicted it wouldn’t get a 2nd season, let alone a 4th one. The interesting thing is that while the series has gained more and more mainstream cable television fans these past couple of years, the nerd community has been conflicted on their views of the program. Some wrote it off early on saying that it didn’t give a well rounded view of fandom. Others have stated that it presents fanboys in all their un-resplendent glory, showing how truly mundane comic fans can be. But then there are guys like me that saw the potential of the series and have kept watching to this day. Over time, the show has turned into a program that a fanboy or girl can get behind, showcasing some of the stuff we love (comics, toys, memorabilia) and giving a bit of context on why we love it.
This is not to say that each episode has gotten better and better. There have been setbacks along the way. When one looks at the first season, there is a noticeable attempt to ape the style and format of other reality shows including giving every episode multiple Pawn Stars-like haggling scene. These continue to this day but have become a bit more toned down. Gone are the “white gloves” of season one and the “high tension” music and camera angles. Now, these scenes play out more akin to how they would in an actual comic shop environment, with the customers geeking out with Walt and Ming and Mike (but never Bryan, he’s too cool for that) about how awesome the item in question is. When you look back at season one and parts of season 2, it’s obvious that the producers were a bit too worried that fan culture would not be enough to keep middle America watching so they attempted to infuse things they would recognize from other shows. This insecurity washed away by season 3 (for the most part – they still attempted to do a Storage Wars episode that did not turn out well).
When last season began, it felt like they took the best bits from season 2, threw in a few guest stars, and began to celebrate fandom more than ever before. The guys got to tour a customer’s replica Batcave that he built in his basement, had artist George Perez do a special Wonder Man commission for Mike, threw a birthday party to commemorate Superman’s 75th, hunted down an Uhura Mego figure for none other than Nichelle Nichols, and even helped auction off a collection of comic inker Mike Esposito’s work. There were big moments and a few surprises, but through it all you felt like it was just another day at your local comic shop and that’s what made the season enjoyable.
This season appears to be following in last season’s footsteps with a fun a couple of episodes to start us off. In the first episode titled “Heir Apparent”, premiering this Sunday night at midnight, Kevin sends his daughter Harley to work at the Stash for a day as research for her upcoming movie Yoga Hosers, where she plays a store clerk. Walt takes her trough a day at the Stash. It’s not a real day of retail, of course, as she pretty much ends up haggling with customers about items they’ve brought to sell. There’s no montage of her doing any restocking of shelves or cleaning the store or anything like that…..and that’s a good thing. The episode is kept light and fun and Harley’s included in the day’s “counter banter” as they talk pop culture. In episode 2 titled “Walt’s Treehouse”, airing October 19th, we’re treated to a follow up episode from last season. Remember last November when a customer came to the store with the full U.S.S. Flag G.I.Joe playset and he and Ming put it together? Well he’s back and this time he’s brought a toy that piques Walts interest as it involves a favourite of his childhood, those damn dirty Apes! Needless to say, there’s another assembly of an awesome vintage toy in the back area of the comic shop. While nothing flashy, both of these episodes focus on some fun being had in the store and there’s a lotta love shown to collectible items and even some love thrown Frank Miller’s way with a young customer looking to buy the Dark Knight Returns miniseries. If you’re looking for a fun way to cap off your Sunday night, AMC’s got you covered. The rest of the season, which promises appearances by fan favs Billy Dee Williams and Adam West, along with folks like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, actor (and Ghostbuster) Ernie Hudson, and Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster of The Munsters), appears to be bringing us more basking in the warm of glow of fandom as the order of the day. I for one am glad to hear it. Be sure to catch Comic Book Men, this Sunday at 12 midnight as part of the AMC Sunday night lineup.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!