Michael Zapcic with Thomas Mumme, left, during Thursday’s live ‘SModcast’ at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Below: Kevin Smith on the center monitor during a taping earlier this week in Red Bank. (Photo below courtesy of Robert Bruce. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Michael Zapcic had the “really surreal” experience earlier this week of walking past Madison Square Garden, glancing up at the massive Jumbotron and seeing a commercial for ‘Comic Book Men,’ a new cable show in which he appears as himself: a self-described comic book geek.
“I’m like holy crap! It’s them! It’s us!” he recalled Thursday, in the tone of an average, fedora-wearing citizen spotting a caped man flying overhead.
Life in the mini-Gotham that is Red Bank may never be the same.
Only, yeah, it will be exactly the same, because ‘Comic Book Men’ is a reality show, one focused on the daily interplay of three employees of “possibly the world’s most famous comic book store” Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash on Broad Street, where the show is set.
Over six episodes, four opinionated, superabsorbent sponges of superheroism Zapcic, Ming Chen and Walt Flanagan, plus original store manager Bryan Johnson spend a lot of time “just arguing about stupid movie plot points, which happens every day without cameras anyway,” says Chen.
The show is the brainchild of Middletown-raised filmmaker Kevin Smith, who owns the 15-year-old store and participates in each show during podcasts known in the sprawling Smithian ‘smerchandise’ empire as ‘SModcasts’ that bookend each episode.
The SModcasts, normally taped in the store at a poker table strewn with Surf Taco crumbs, were recorded on a specially built set elsewhere in Red Bank in recent months.
There’s also lots of interaction with customers, some of them from overseas, looking to buy and sell comic books, toys and tchotchkes.
Red Bank resident and sage “pop culturist” Robert Bruce is in it, too, offering an appraising eye for rarities: comic books, action figures, toys and more.
“His focus is on the most obscure things in the world,” says Zapcic, who apparently butts heads with Bruce in the show, as in real life.
At some point, a faux Batmobile is expected to pop up, too.
It’s basically a “character-driven show,” Zapcic said during a redbankgreen interview that doubled as a SModcast Thursday. “The producers “basically pointed the cameras at us and said, ‘be funny.'”
The Stash staffers own up to being totally amped about their debut Sunday night: Ming says he’s had trouble sleeping. But what excites him most, he said, is that the natural comedic chemistry of his colleagues Flanagan and Johnson will finally be on display for all Gothamites to enjoy.
“These two guys are so damn funny, and without even meaning to be,” said Zapcic.
“That’s the key part. They’re not trying,” Ming said.
For more about both the store and the show, tune into redbankgreen‘s ‘smodcast’ interview of Chen and Zapcic here. Click on ‘Smodco Morning Show #80.’