He brought geekdom to the masses with his films Clerks and Mallrats. Now Kevin Smith turns to TV with AMC's Comic Book Men, a reality show set at Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, the comics shop Smith owns in Red Bank, New Jersey. The fanboy auteur tells TV Guide Magazine why his newest project is scarier than a zombie attack.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you surprised to be back on TV after your bad experience with Clerks: The Animated Series?
Smith: F--king stunned! When that ran in 2000, ABC ordered six episodes and only aired two. It should still be on the air today! But here's what's really haunting: AMC came along and said, "We're ordering six episodes." I'm, like, "We're cursed! We're dead!" [Laughs] I felt like I was in Battlestar Galactica: What happened before will happen again!
TV Guide Magazine: Seriously? You're that spooked?
Smith: Nah, actually I think this is going to work. Now that we're a little deeper into it, it feels like it might actually pan out. This is AMC, dude! They don't put you on the air in a whimsy. They gave this show very serious consideration. But I still feel a little like Roy Scheider in Jaws — I've seen the shark up close and I don't want to go through that hell again.
TV Guide Magazine: But you've been handed the dream timeslot! You can't beat it.
Smith: It's true. AMC has nuzzled us safe as kittens in the slot right after The Walking Dead and right before their talk show Talking Dead. That's our audience! So you will definitely see us promoting the Walking Dead comics in our store and on our show. We know how to kiss ass. We know how to polish the apple. I love [Walking Dead creator] Robert Kirkman. If he came to me and said, "Give me your firstborn child," I would seriously have to think about it. Not only is his show our lead-in, he's our spiritual godfather. His geekery allowed our geekery to hit the air.
TV Guide Magazine: This series happily fosters the notion that comic-book fans can't get laid. Why are you so cool with that?
Smith: Because it's true! [Laughs] We're pathetic! Look, one of the great things about the dudes in our world is that we are very self-aware. We're in on the joke. As a kid you're encouraged to be yourself, when what most of us really wanted to be was someone else — someone else much, much cooler! But that's all changed. Back in the day, we'd bristle at being called nerd or geek. Now we wear it like a badge of honor.
TV Guide Magazine: How is your staff at the Stash handling all this?
Smith: They didn't want to do a reality show. I had to back them into it. [Laughs] But now that we've seen it we're all wondering why we didn't do this sooner. These guys are geniuses. They walk to the beat of their own drums and have maintained who they are in the face of adversity, and that to me is heroic. There is nobody on TV more complex. You turn a camera on them and comedy happens, drama happens. This show didn't start out being about the Stash. We had planned to have a search to find the best, most interesting, most acerbic comic-book staff in North America. [Laughs] Until it was pointed out to me that it was all right under my nose. When I first started talking with AMC it never occurred to me to use my own store and my own guys. Seriously! I can't take the credit for this idea. To turn on the TV and see my incredible friends' faces on AMC — the only channel I watch by the way — is going to be f--king amazing, man. It's the greatest magic trick in the history of mankind.
TV Guide Magazine: And the moral of this story?
Smith: The more I stay out of things the better they turn out!
Comic Book Men premieres Sunday at 10:01/9:01c on AMC.