Tag Archives: Comic Book Men

For Kymberlee

Ok, Kymberlee. I’m doing this so you won’t turn your back on me in mock disgust when I see you next.

You’re right. I’ve got to write.

So, since someone on Twitter got me talking about gambling and baby things, I’ll write about that. Here you go.

My mother was 27 when I was born. My father, 48. When her contractions were five minutes apart, he drove her to the hospital, helped her check in and waited to hear the results…both mother and baby ok? Boy or girl?

She’d managed to get into an OB’s practice who prided himself on the fact that his mothers were skinnier after giving birth than before they got pregnant. His secret? Amphetamines. Lots of of very strong amphetamines. And even though my mother flushed hers down the toilet in the 7th month, according to her, she did, indeed, weigh less after I was born than before she conceived me. I was her first child.

I don’t know how they paid for the hospital bill or the OB care. I guess they spent every last dime that they didn’t have because one of her fondest stories was of our homecoming from the hospital.

“And here I was, holding you in my arms on the drive home and thinking, ‘We don’t even have any diapers, or bottles or a crib, and then we got home and opened the door and the first thing we saw? A bassinet, a crib, diapers, blankets! Everything a new baby needed! There was even a Tiffany pearl and silver teething ring!'”

How? Well, right before they left for the hospital my father (not so successful at earning a living by gambling on horses) gave his friend Frank (much more successful at earning a living by gambling on horses) $50 from previous track winnings and, as the story goes, instructions to win enough money to buy baby things. And he did. Either that, or Frank went home and out of kindness for a child he owed nothing to and would only see a few times in his life, used his own gambling payday saving to buy baby things.

Though all the other baby things have long since found their way to the dump, I still have that teething ring. Right now, it’s tacked up to my vision board where I’ve got inspirational notes, lists of things that will come true for me and my family, various pictures and a doctored cover of Vanity Fair. I’ve pasted my face and Michael’s face over Prince William and Catherine Middleton. It’s the issue published right after they got married. (Also doctored…) The headline reads, “Michael & Julia’s New Life”.

I mean, hell. With all the moving and the running and hiding and the escaping I’ve done in my life, to still have that pearl and silver teething ring, bought, no less, with gambling winnings–either my father’s or Frank’s–why the hell shouldn’t I bet that good things…the best things…are waiting for me, just inside through the door.

So tonight, even though I’m bone tired and a feeling like my “Life is Great” train car is stuck a bit on the rails, I’m writing this. For Kymberlee, Frank and me.

Expert Opinion

Expert Opinion

“We’re not taking anything. I’m going to tell you what to do with these.”

Face to face with the owner of over 200 long-boxes of comics, Michael shifts his weight slightly and gestures to the boxes corralling them in the storage unit. Box tops lean against dozens of open boxes at sharp, odd angles. After driving nearly three hours to meet the owner and another hour and a half assessing the collection, Michael has made his decision.

“Please,” the owner offers, sincerely. “You’ve spent so much time and shared your expertise. Please take any four boxes you want. I can’t pay you for your time and trouble, but at least that will cover the cost of your gas and tolls.”

The owner’s face is stamped with resignation and disappointment, softened a bit by a naturally gentle mien. He’d asked the man standing opposite to come and assess this collection that was his grandfather’s. Thousands of books from all the way back to the Golden Age of comics—a potential gold mine, though most of them, apparently, nearly worthless. The grandson had hoped to sell the collection and pay for his children’s education, maybe pay down the house and build a cushion against calamity.

Michael had given him some good news. There were about 10 boxes worth about $100 each – filled with books that had escaped the worst of the damage from years of ordinary storage. Sunlight, moisture, smoke and temperature fluctuations had taken their toll on the collection, with the result that for the rarest and potentially most collectible books, re-sale values had plummeted from thousands of dollars to pennies– thanks to foxing, fading, creasing and puckering.

Grateful that Michael had accepted his offer to visit the storage unit and assess the collection, the grandson was offering the expert four of the 10 boxes for his trouble.

“Ok, thanks,” chimes in the third person standing in the unit. Michael brought along a colleague. Company for the drive and someone who he thought may have an interest in buying a piece of the collection should it prove valuable. Michael’s colleague quickly walks towards his choice of boxes, bends down and starts pulling them towards the entrance, towards Michael’s car.

“No. We’re not taking anything,” Michael says emphatically. Then, in a softer tone, his words directed squarely at the grandson, “I’m going to tell you what to do with these.”

Something in his tone arrests his colleague’s activity with the four boxes. Puzzled, the third man looks up at Michael and the grandson who are still facing each other.

“No, really. Please, take them…”

“Listen to me,” says Michael, directing his words again, to the grandson. He looks into the other man’s eyes, something he does not often do– normally preferring to interact with people from a shielded position.

“You told us when we started looking through the books…that these are all you have from your grandfather, right?” The grandson shakes his head yes. “And the reason why your grandfather collected comics for his entire life since he was a very young man—you told us. He collected all these, why?”

Not breaking their gaze, the other man answers.

“Because when he escaped to America–from the Nazi concentration camp, they were the only thing that could comfort him.” The grandson’s voice is soft and full of emotion. “Reading them brought him hope and confidence in the possibility of a better world. Heroes and heroines that fought and won against evil….Gave him courage to start a family and continue living.”

The two men stand, eyes still locked. After a few moments, the grandson looks away, casting his gaze over all the boxes stuffed inside the steely interior of the storage unit. Perhaps he looks around thinking, ‘This is the last shelter for the imperfect remains of a beloved dead man’s hopes and dreams.’

“Right.” Michael’s voice interrupts the silence. The grandson looks back at him and smiles weakly, sparking a vehemence that Michael, the comic book man, rarely displays.

“Right! Your grandfather fought the Nazi’s. He survived. He escaped and came to a foreign land where he found work, raised a family and rebuilt his life – a good life. You’re his grandson,” Michael continues, voice rising. “Your children are his great-grandchildren. You may not be able to sell this collection for a lot of money, but it’s worth more than money to you, and especially to your kids.”

Now Michael is gesturing around the guts of the metal box, voice ricocheting off the steel and through the boxes. The other two men are following his movements with their eyes, their bodies twisting in place, taking in the expanse of the collection.

“These books are what kept him going while he put his life back together. They gave him hope and strength. You’re here because of what these books gave him and so are your kids. What you need to do is take these boxes home – at least some of them, open them up and read these stories to them. Let them hold these books and tell them stories about their grandfather. How amazing he was and how these books and his family are part of him and his legacy. That’s your value in this collection, and there’s no one who can pay you what that’s worth.”

The grandson brings his gaze back to Michael.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” replies Michael.

Michael and his colleague stand by while the grandson closes the door and puts the lock back on the unit—but not before they help him load several boxes of comics into his car to take home.

********

This is a true story. Michael came home that night, exhausted. After having something to drink and some time to check email, Facebook and twitter, he told me the story – rather, he allowed me to pull the story from him. He’s practically guileless and he’s got an eidetic memory so I always trust his account of everything to be exactly as he relates it – if he can be persuaded to tell. Michael is an exceptionally private person and typically only reveals things on a need-to-know basis.

My memory, especially for conversations—though extraordinary– is, however, not as flawless as his. So I have, undoubtedly, taken some license with dialogue and of course, since I wasn’t there, my representation of movement and interaction is an interpretation based on information shared and my knowledge of two of the three people in the story.

I share this with you because it’s one of the most compelling examples (that I know of) of two things: 1. How powerfully and wonderfully the genre of illustrated storytelling (yes, that’s comics and graphic novels, too) can influence the lives people, and 2. Why Michael Zapcic is the most important and beloved of my spiritual mentors. Many of us, I think, would have taken those four boxes.

Ok, there’s something else. I got to watch Michael for a couple of hours on the set of Comic Book Men this week. Afterwards, I thought about the show, the stories it told last season and all the stories it could tell this season. AMC’s tagline is, Story Matters Here, and I like that tag line. I think there are many, many stories, like the one above, that illustrate and illuminate the lives of people who love the genre, collect and share and yes, dream in panels and word balloons.

There’s more to Michael’s job than buying and selling and stocking shelves. More than banter, bags and boards. More than any show could capture no matter how many episodes. I’m looking forward, though, to watching how Comic Book Men tries.

Comic Book Men, season II, premiers Sunday, October 14th on AMC at 11:30 PM. It follows the season premiers of two other awesome shows, The Walking Dead (two hour premier) at 9 PM and The Talking Dead at 11PM. After 10/14, the lineup will be, TWD, 9 PM, TTD, 10 PM and CBM 10:30 PM.

Real Women Dig Comic Book Men

(This is a response to a particular blog post criticizing the new AMC TV show, Comic Book Men.  The author, whose blog title claims it’s her cape, goes on about how awful it is that there are no female recurring characters in the first season of the show.  And OK, I’ll admit it up front.  I’m totally hot for one of the guys in particular.)

Q:  Why are there no women in the reality tv show, Comic Book Men?

A:  Because, there are no women who work at Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.

And oh, by the way, it’s a show based on the store and if there are no women in the inner circle at the store, well then, inserting one just for the sake of inserting one would be sort of phony, right?

In fact, I presume that casting a woman in the pilot was probably done for a noble purpose – women SHOULD be included in the landscape of Fabulous Geekdom because there ARE so many amazing women artists, collectors and geek-girls living and working all around us.

However, (this is just my speculation) if a gal didn’t make the cut, so to speak, maybe those good intentions didn’t ‘feel’ real? 

In any case, I groan when I read (obvious, shameless) opportunistic bellyaching about there being no chicks in Comic Book Men. 

Please, for Goddess’ sake…Stop Whining.  Cast off the shrill, harpy shroud and REALLY don that cape. 

If you feel you need to act, use your power for more than bitching about what you DON’T have.  Strap (or, in case of cape, tie) one on and use your power for good.

Call to action:  All the heroic women who know how to get great things done, and we are legion, — support Comic Book Men with all your might.  Watch it.  Tweet and Facebook awesome things about it.  Recommend it.  Revel in it because it will shine a bright light on the righteous geek girls and boys who are going to frolic in the sun and whoop it up big-time now that it’s the coolest thing going to be a geek.

Then, when ratings are soaring, people are cheering and the whole world is clamoring for more…launch your own, all-girl, kick-ass version.  A mate, or complement as it were.  Then, all that energy, enthusiasm and thirst for more that’s out there will spill out and into your time slot, loving you and celebrating you like the geek goddesses you are.

Your cape?  Really. 

Prove it. 

Comic Book Men: The Crew- Thank You.

A year ago, there was no thought of Comic Book Men in my head. Life was going along much as it always did, with normal highs and lows and a fair amount of predictability.  A good life.

In June, 2011, that changed. Kevin Smith, filmmaker, comic book writer, author, business-owner, performance artist, loving father and husband, sincere and devoted friend and absolutely his own man, threw in with Elyse Seiden, producer for his film, Red State, and Charlie Corwin, executive at Original Media to successfully pitch (now named) Comic Book Men to AMC TV.

Holy Cow. How cool it’s been since then. I’d like to share more about how life’s been for me and my family since then-later. Right now, I want to share some feelings and impressions I have about the show’s amazing production crew.

What follows is mostly presented as first output–unedited except for grammar–observations. I had the privilege of meeting most of the crew, albeit for brief, sometimes single instances. Some of my impressions are certainly flavored with stories Michael brought home and his own feelings for the crew members.

I don’t remember having any specific expectations when I first started meeting the different professionals. Right away, I was touched by their camaraderie. They seemed to share a genuine respect and affection for one another. From Michael’s accounts, they were certainly accomplished and outstanding partners in the project.

For people who I met and actually spoke with for more than 30 seconds, I give about a paragraph. For others, I simply was not in the right place at the right time to say more than ‘hello, nice to meet you.’ However, I can tell you that Michael felt a fondness for and respected them all. I list as many names as I can remember. Hopefully, anyone I leave out will return for season 2…

This is shared simply as a way to say “thank you” to a group of professionals that agreed to take on the project, Comic Book Men, for its first season. Though by no stretch of the imagination can I claim to know them, just being around them for the short time I got was enough to open up a whole new way of looking at the world for me, and for that, and all their work, I am grateful.

Safa Ansarifar.
Safa I met on two occasions, once in the store, very briefly and again at the wrap party where I sat with him for about two hours. Big, open smile, eyes that flash with intelligence and something harder to read—maybe the energy of a struggle. Michael went to see him do a stand up comedy routine at Red Bank’s The Dublin House and told me later Safa was by far the funniest, and could certainly have held his own on any stage. He has an entertainer’s charisma. Safa was #2 camera.

Tom Mumme.

“The Sound Guy” is how Michael would refer to him, and I could tell when I met him that when Tom is in charge of sound for your show, you have nothing to worry about. It will be great. Also, I found him warm and sincerely welcoming the handful of times I ran into him coming in and out of the shop and during the wrap party. Michael enjoyed sharing stories about Tom, about his sense of humor and expansive knowledge of pop culture. Tom starred on a couple of episodes of I Sell Comics (podcast hosted by Michael and Ming Chen) and they all had a blast.

Ronnie Porto.
I met Ronnie once, during a rare visit (as opposed to a drive-by) to the shop while they were filming. Ronnie had just announced he was leaving the project to take on more responsibility (and hopefully exciting recognition) in his writing career. I could see immediately why Michael’s face softened and he smiled every time he mentioned Ronnie. He’s got a gentleness and a serenity that made me feel grateful I got the chance to stand across the counter from him. Ronnie worked on the set assisting Jeremy the director of photography.

Christian Paladino.
Christian was the line producer, which he explained is the guy who pays for things. I also learned he’s the guy who begins the process of recruiting the production team and makes sure they have everything they need to do their jobs: permissions, supplies, a place to crash, equipment, etc. I got to meet and speak with Christian on several occasions, and liked him immediately. Typical in successful professionals whose job includes managing many levels of personalities, responsibilities and the stress of keeping a project on the leash, he was consciously polite and self-moderated in his conversation at first. However, as we would see each other throughout the ten weeks of the shoot, Christian’s bubbling sense of humor, his easygoing comfort and enthusiasm about his work and the complexity of his character, including his passion for food, his love, Melissa, and his dog, Milo, shone through.

Melissa.
Melissa’s warm and engaging, with a drive to make things work and for helping others (as I found out talking with her about my work serving a non-profit mental health center). This is probably why she enjoyed playing den mother to the crew. Melissa worked with Christian and Mello to keep the whole ball of wax from melting–helped give the days shape and worked out kinks. She’s an extraordinary troubleshooter, and a foodie.

Milo.
I think Milo is a rat terrier or a jack russell terrier. Whatever, he’s a dynamo. Even though I scored very low points with him for not having any treats and not dropping any food on the floor, Milo greeted me warmly and even let me scratch him behind the ears for a little while. Cassie, my own canine companion, expressed curiosity regarding his scent, and after a thorough sniffing of my hands and legs, did not give me the impression she sensed any serious flaws in his character.

Shamello Durant.
Mello. This is the man who was the scheduler and chief encourager. He sent out the daily schedule and made sure everyone was kept in the loop.  A gentleman to his core was what I felt, sitting with him at the wrap party. He has a wealth of experience in the entertainment field and I got the impression that instead of getting jaded and cynical, it’s made him more compassionate and loving to his colleagues and everyone in his circle. That’s a hell of an accomplishment when the other option is so much easier. I certainly count sitting with him for a couple of hours one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in years.

Kymberlee Thornton
Wow. That’s the word that lept into my mind when she turned to me and smiled. More than anyone, It was Kymberlee who opened up the circle to invite me in. Maybe I feel that way because we’re both women, but my God, what a woman she is. Beautiful, and it radiates from the inside out and spreads to everyone around her. Kymberlee transcribed everything the guys said and put it in context so the editors could use it to help them with their work. She was kind to my sons, who visited the set a few times. An enormously intelligent person, Kymberlee struck me from the first as supremely skilled and shrewd in a, ‘it wasn’t easy, but nothing stopped me and I did it better than anyone could have and I know it and am damned proud of it” way. Truly a blessing to sit with her for a few hours at the wrap party.

Brian Nashel.
I’m not sure of Brian’s official title, but basically, he was the lead director.  I sat beside Brian for about 15 minutes in the studio before the wrap party. Brian gives me the impression that he’s used to meeting and working with people who behave differently when the camera’s on them than they did before. His eyes glint with intelligence, competence, and–what struck me for those few minutes as– a tightly reined impulse to investigate the character underneath a person’s varnish by pushing a few buttons and observing the reaction—an impulse he probably unleashes in his work as a director, but (mostly) holds in check regarding innocent bystanders. Certainly a powerful presence and impression.

Brian O’Toole.
A director, and second to Brian Nashel, I remember meeting Brian two times, once during filming on location at a local flea market, and again the evening of the wrap party. From the first, I liked Brian very much. At the market, he was in control, effectively managing the several moving parts of the shoot with calm focus. He took the time to talk with me, and I walked away with the impression that he is an intense, highly principled professional who prefers to work with people he likes but is perfectly capable of making any situation work. Later, when I saw him right before the wrap party, he looked exhausted and obviously had run himself hard during the shoot. When others were packing up gear, laughing and getting ready for the party, Brian was still trying to disengage from the work. He wanted to accomplish the first rough cut of a trailer before he left that night and send it off to the execs, and no doubt that’s exactly what happened.

Jerry Carita.
Jerry is the senior editor for the show. I got to sit next to Jerry while he was winding down the day of work, right before the wrap party, and he was extremely good natured about me peppering him with questions, “What do you do, how do you do it, why do you do it that way, what would happen if you did it this way, what’s your favorite color…”. Obviously wickedly talented, I get the impression he guards himself against getting too close to the personalities in a project, as he seemed to me a very high energy person who develops strong feelings about people and projects. Lucky for Comic Book Men, he’s grooving on the people and project.

Jeremy Schneider.
I spoke with Jeremy only for about 20 seconds, but our exchange is something I hold as a gift. At the (very loud) wrap party, he grabbed my arm on the way out and pulled me close so I could hear him. “Mike’s a great guy,” he told me with intense sincerity. “I know,” I said through a smile. “No,” he insisted, pulling me closer, “Really. Mike is a GREAT, guy.” Our eyes locked and my heart pounded. I absolutely know what he was trying to convey, and am so liking him for insisting we meet eye-to-eye on that one. Jeremy could be the next Hannibal Lechter, but I will have his back forever because he sees what I see in Michael, and values it.  Jeremy was the director of photography.

There are others that should be acknoweldged, though I didn’t have the chance to do  more than shake their hands:

Coop, Remy, Dane, Roan, and JB.

Thanks.

Comic Book Men

Comic Book Men, a new, unscripted (reality) television show with a home at AMC TV will premier on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 10 PM, right after The Walking Dead.

All those involved, Michael Zapcic, Ming Chen, Bryan Johnson, Walter Flanagan (the show’s core and the guys at the shop), Rob Bruce, the phenomenal crew, Kevin Smith and his staff, AMC and Original Media — all that I met and Michael talked about are talented, genuine people of character and great heart. 

This is something special.  Take a look. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTInvZtdS1I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_3C114lW7Y

And my husband just pointed out that I am biased.  Yeah, well so what?  No apologies for being Michael Zapcic’s biggest, geekiest fan-girl or thinking the guys at the shop are awesome and being excited for everyone involved. 

As the inimitable Stan Lee would (hopefully) exclaim…Comic Book Men — Excelsior!