I’ll admit to being skeptical about AMC’s new series following the Walking Dead from the moment I first saw a preview for it. But I decided to give the first episode of Comic Book Men a try and really see what it was about, since it was a show that spoke to my interests. But after that first episode I was pretty certain that the show is not for me.
My first clue was when in the opening minutes of the show the cast bursts into giggles because Batman’s sidekick is named Dick. That certainly didn’t establish a maturity level that I was excited about watching. At that point I checked to see which episode of Criminal Minds was playing on another channel, and finding it to be one I had seen, resolved myself to finish the episode to come.
There were moments on the show that made me smile. I don’t remember what any of them were exactly, but they were likely just little snippets of conversation between the cast members that reminded me of sitting with my friends in college and having similar, although likely more ridiculous, conversations.
I read that the show would be sort of like Pawn Stars with comics, but I feel Comic Book Men really fell short in this regard. One of the things that always impresses me about Pawn Stars is just how knowledgeable Rick and company are about just about everything. They do call in experts from time to time, especially to verify the authenticity of items, but they have a huge foundation of knowledge to draw from and I never watch an episode without learning something. On Comic Book Men, I really only felt that the store owner, Walt, knew anything. When customers came into the store he dealt with the items they were trying to sell while the others just sort of stood around and made silly comments. I felt this distracted from the actual knowledge Walt might have.
The other problem with this model is that people bring things to Pawn Stars often because they don’t know what they are or what they could be worth. They are often things that would be difficult to find prices for without consulting an expert. On Comic Book Men, except for the Bob Kane autograph, it seemed like most of the items could be easily priced by consulting sites like eBay (at least for a ballpark figure). The sellers knew what the things were in most cases and that took away a bit from the fun of discovery. And I can’t help but think that most of them would get a better price on eBay than they would at the store, if only because the store isn’t going to give you retail price so that they can make some money.
I was also surprised by some of the comments they made about their customers. Its one thing to say something to your coworkers after a customer has left the store; it’s another to do so on camera. I have to wonder if they will still be able to get people on the show if it’s successful enough for more seasons. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the show. I can probably get just as much money on eBay without being harassed on television.
I’m sure that many people liked the show and thought it was funny, and it may simply be the case that I am not the target audience for this show. But even my fiancé, who is a fan of Kevin Smith’s movies, didn’t like the show. He had had enough and left the room before it was even half over. That put me at an even greater loss as to who the target audience really is.
Although now that I think about it, I may have an idea of whom the target audience is. I think that for Comic Book Men, the target audience is people who enjoy making fun of diehard fans of not only comic books but general geek culture. The cast are clearly diehard fans and so are the customers. The cast makes fun of the customers and of each other. Audience members can enjoy making fun of all parties involved.
That isn’t to say that the audience is made up of horrible people or anything. Although I don’t consider myself part of the target audience for the show I know I’ve been guilty of such enjoyment myself. It’s almost a defense mechanism. I think we all sometimes feel self conscious about our hobbies so it can be reassuring to see people who are “more out there” than we are. And of course, if we are not a part of a fandom we are often baffled by the enjoyment others get out of it.
I didn’t watch the second episode this past Sunday, so I won’t be able to comment on the show further than to say that I really didn’t like the first episode and have no desire to watch any more of it. If you like it, I hope that you enjoy it. I would have preferred a show that was a bit more mature and involved a less stereotypical look at comics and their fandom. And I accept that the show I want is not this show.