During Jekyll Comic Con 2016 this past December, we got a chance to sit down with Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen of AMC’s hit show Comic Book Men – the reality TV show based on the lives, careers, and often offbeat personalities of the staff of the Kevin Smith owned comic book store Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, NJ.
Mike and Ming were kind enough to answer questions for everyone in attendance, and shared some very entertaining stories and insight in this special exclusive interview. Here’s what they had to say!
Nerd Nation: You two have been with Comic Book Men since the beginning, how did you first come to be involved with all of this?
Mike Zapcic: “Really, I started working at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in 2000, so I was just already around when they started the show. I started doing podcasts with this guy (motions to Ming) and it just all sort of grew organically from there.”
Ming Chen: “Yeah. I actually started doing a Clerks fansite back in the day, and eventually started working at the Stash, so I guess they figured it was easier to use us than pay somebody else to come in and do it.”
NN: Honestly, how much of Comic Book Men is actually 100% real and how much of it is staged for dramatic effect?
Zapcic: “First of all, we’re not actors. There are some things that are planned for us to do, but everything that we say in every episode is 100% us. We can’t memorize lines or anything like that. There’s no scripting. The closest thing that ever happened like that was in season two, the original producers weren’t available so the studio brought in three new people and they all sucked, so we were having to deal with them reinventing the wheel, and they kept trying to put words in Bryan’s mouth and he was like no, and it got to the point where they kept doing this and they got fired by the end of the season. So, if you go back and watch that season and we look pissed off in the episodes, it’s because we are. But that’s the closest we ever got to scripting, everything else is just us being ourselves, and that’s something we’re very proud of.”
NN: So, you guys aren’t planning on branching out and doing any other TV or film roles?
Chen: “Oh, absolutely not. We suck as actors. (laughs)”
NN: Comic book stores are pretty cramped quarters, how hard is it to move around in there while you’re filming?
Zapcic: “That’s a great question, and you know we actually built a fake counter for the show. We still have the real counter, and use that for everything else, but use the fake one in the show so the camera crew has room to move around. We have a fairly big store, so it’s a lot larger than your average comic book store, so that helps, but I think that after seven years we’ve gotten used to where they are and we’re able to kind of do the ballet and dance around them while they film.”
NN: You guys see a lot of celebrities come into your store on the show. Who do you think was the coolest one you’ve got to meet thus far?
Both: (emphatically) “Stan Lee”
Chen: (laughs) “You mean other than Stan Lee, right?”
NN: Well, yes, other than Stan Lee, of course.
Chen: “Take Stan Lee off the table, and I think anyone from the old Star Wars universe, Billy Dee Williams or Peter Mayhew most notably. Like, if you told me when I was a kid that Chewbacca would come in or I’d be sitting there playing cards with Lando, I wouldn’t believe you.”
Zapcic: “Elvira coming in this season was really cool. But Overall, I think getting to meet George Perez was probably the best thing for me.”
NN: You two do a lot of conventions, what would you say was the craziest thing you’ve ever encountered during a con appearance?
Zapcic: “I’m not going to say the convention, but we were sitting at the bar after hours at this particular one, and this girl comes up and starts blatantly hitting on Ming. He politely rebuffs her, and then without missing a beat, she runs right over to me, right beside him, and I just look at her and say ‘wow, am I your second choice?’ (laughs) Actually, now that I think about it, that’s happened more than once.”
Chen: “I was at MegaCon a couple years ago trying to use the bathroom, and this guy in the bathroom who wanted a photo kept bugging me and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I took the photo with him and a few hours later I look on Instagram and see this photo and right there in the background there’s a row of guys peeing.”
NN: What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought at the store?
Chen: “Oh, that’s easy. We once bought an entire original run of The Walking Dead issues 1-150 for $2,000 but we made our money back on that.”
NN: What’s the hottest comic on the market right now?
Zapcic: “Hottest as in out right now, definitely Dr Afra in the Star Wars universe.”
Chen: “Hottest as in price-wise, Walking Dead #1 which is worth about $1,500.”
Zapcic: “Yeah, New Mutants #98, the first appearance of Deadpool, is climbing way up there, too.”
NN: Of all the upcoming comic book based movie and television projects, which ones are you most looking forward to?
Chen: “Y the Last Man. I am so excited about the TV series because it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I couldn’t ever see them doing it as a two-hour movie, and I’m so glad to see it becoming a TV series, on FX I believe, and I hope it sticks.”
Zapcic: “Guardians of the Galaxy 2 looks pretty good, and I really want to be excited about Justice League, but I just don’t think a lot of comic book movies are getting it right lately.”
NN: What do you think comic book movies aren’t getting right lately?
Zapcic: “Just the spirit of the characters. I don’t think a lot of people are really capturing the characters all that well. For example, I don’t think Henry Cavil is a very good Superman. Ryan Reynolds was a great Deadpool and Benedict Cumberbatch was a great Doctor Strange and that’s really what I’m talking about, Marvel is doing a great job sticking to the source material, and that’s much better than what DC is doing. I’d just like to see a good DC movie.”
NN: What would you say is the coolest thing you’ve got to do since starting the show?
Zapcic: “Everything man, seriously. I mean, I got to drive the Batmobile. That was awesome and probably my favorite. To be honest with you, though, the damned thing handles like a parade float.”
Chen: “Switching clothes with Steven Yeun on a Walking Dead panel at a convention was probably mine. I put Steven’s hood up on his hoodie, and came out instead of him when they announced his name. Got some cheers, that kind of tapered off, took my hood off, laughed, and called everyone racists and ran away. That was hilarious.”
NN: Finally, where can people find more on your guys and Comic Book Men?
Zapcic: “Well you can find me and Ming on our podcast, I Sell Comics on the SModcast network at smodcast.com, and you can find out all about Comic Book Men on AMC’s website, where you can find out show times, and watch clips and all that.”
On behalf of all of us here at Nerd Nation, we’d like to thank Mike and Ming for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Special thanks also to Hollie Quinn for her assistance with questions and notes in the production of this interview. Comic Book Men returns this February with all new episodes, exclusively on AMC.
– Dave Harlequin
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine