Saturday, February 18, 2012


 AMC, the network that runs a very popular adaptation of the WALKING DEAD comic book, is now airing a new Kevin Smith series called COMIC BOOK MEN.  The show takes place in Smith's JAY & SILENT BOB SECRET STASH comic shop, and includes footage of the cast recording a weekly podcast.

Smith is a geek icon, and comic book imagery runs - if not gallops - through his films.  The shop is run by one of his closest friends, Walt Flanagan, and rounding out the staff are Ming Chen and Mike Zapcic.  Hanging out at the shop but not working there is Bryan Johnson, the infamous "Steve-Dave" from Smith's films.

So far I am the only GAME ON staffer to have seen the show, and I have to admit that it bothered me.  The staff of SECRET STASH comes across as condescending and even cruel towards their customers, even at times to their face.  Unfortunately, the only customers we get to see are folks hoping to sell the store collectibles, and not regulars or subscribers.  The only person seen reading a comic at any time, albeit briefly, is Johnson.

The show has received several reviews that at best are neutral, many are negative.  Not helping the case of the staff are replies to many reviews by STASH staffers that are far more rude and mean than the original representations on screen.

One complaint that I have to agree with is that of gender awareness.  Yes, the show is called COMIC BOOK *MEN,* but it comes across as feeling actively exclusionary, and not just male-dominated by happenstance.  I realize that comics in general is male-dominated, but the existence of blogs such as and prove that there is a definite female audience for the medium, and it is possible to alienate an entire gender from the hobby with just a few comments.
Just as disturbing to me are the ways in which the staff treats each other.  In any work environment, after a certain amount of time coworkers get to know each other and there is a certain amount of ribbing that comes with the territory as those relationships grow.  However, the staff does not stop at friendly jibes, they push the boundaries and enter into outright cruelty.

I bring this up because the experience presented by the staff of SECRET STASH is anathema to how we at GAME ON want to do things.  The retail industry in general, and comic retail specifically, is such a tenuous game that stores close far more regularly than they open.  We at GAME ON were lucky that when NOVA COMICS went away, opportunities arose that allowed Dave and I to join a NOVA subscriber in creating a new comic shop that would maintain the values we hoped to project to our customers, regular or new.

To me the staff at SECRET STASH created an environment on camera that makes the Comic Book Guy from THE SIMPSONS seem like a saint.  I have worked much of my life in retail, over 25 years, so I have a good idea of what makes a successful retail business.  Providing excellent customer service and creating a warm and inviting environment for ALL customers, both regular mainstays and brand new alike.

I certainly hope that the non-comic-reading public that at any time has had a curiosity about the medium does not look at COMICS BOOK MEN and change their minds about trying comics.

Comics are the new American mythology, and the success comic characters have had being translated into film means the potential for a greater diversity and number of comic fans for us to help.

If someone sees that show and decides to avoid the medium, then we all lose.

At GAME ON, we will ALWAYS strive to give you the best experience possible.  Yes, it may simply be a retail establishment, but ultimately our goal is to help those regular customers with their collecting/reading/gaming needs at the same time cultivating the interest of people that have never before seen a comic shop.  It is up to us, and retailers everywhere, to take this medium and like a new plant, make it thrive and grow.

We realize that it isn't easy to accommodate every request and wish, but I can assure you we will try.

If you are one of our 140+ subscribers, thank you.  We hope you will be with us as long as humanly possible.  If you are one of our regular walk in customers, thank you.  And if you are reading about us for the first time, about to make your first foray into comics or gaming, welcome, and we hope you find something that will entertain you, and we hope you will come back soon, ready to delve even deeper into this hobby we all love.

Maybe the show will get better, and Smith will be able to deliver his usual amusing comic-based entertainment and eventually provide viewers with a new reason to stop in and check out a comic shop.

But if not, please know that we at GAME ON will do everything we can to make you WANT to come back, and share in our enjoyment of a lifelong hobby and passion.


J. R.

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