Bryan Johnson and Walt Flanagan from Comic Book Men keep us updated at NYCC 2017. They talk SECRET STASH, how it was working on “Cryptozoic Man,” working on comics, and variant covers; plus, tons more in this exclusive panel interview Brandon Bloxdorf got at none other than NYCC 2017.

Speaker 4: So, you guys have been playing versions of yourself in fiction and nonfiction with Kevin for like 20 years now? At what point does that become normal or does it ever become normal?

Bryan Johnson: Besides from the couple little movie parts. I’ve pretty much been myself anyway. I’m not really different in real life than in the show. Except I can’t curse as much … or 45 times. I’ve tried every season and it never gets passed, other than that, it’s not really that weird, I don’t think. For you, it’s way different.

Walt Flanagan: Yeah. For me, I have to … I’m a very withdrawn and not very energetic person. So, during the Summer when we film Comic Book Men, I have to appear like I am happy to be …

Bryan Johnson: Part of humanity.

Walt Flanagan: Yeah. I have to engage with a lot more people than I normally do during the rest of the year. So, it is a sort of like — it is kind of like acting, at times. Where I have to bring a certain level of joy to seeing things and meeting people.

Bryan Johnson: He’s literally called “fake Walt” for those two months people would really think – I’m not even kidding around – they think, “Well, because it’s like a heightened version of life that you know, once those cameras go dark you don’t see that until the cameras light up again.”

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Walt Flangagan: It shows me that when people are going around like “fake Walt” was around, all year round, it really says a lot about how people feel about me whenever “Fake Walt” leaves.

ComicsVerse: Well, what can you tell us about the book you just drew, “Knights of the Fifth Dimension?”

Walt Flanagan: It’s going on sale today, or at the ComicCon exclusive. It’s a four issue series. Published by one of the guys who works on the crew, Tom —

[inaudible 00:02:23]

— he started a comic book company, probably season two of Comic Book Men and I was so impressed with his drive, and his passion, that when I was working on the comic book series I asked him if he would take a look at it and give me some thoughts on it, and when he came back and gave me such thorough and thoughtful impressions of the book, I asked if he wanted to publish it since he had so many great ideas and different things I hadn’t thought of … that’s how it can to be.

It’s kind of like a Jack Kirby-esk kind of artist who is ready to pass on the mantle to a younger artist. But this younger artist doesn’t realize though that this book he has been chronicling for his whole life is actually — it’s chronicling real superheroes that nobody knows about.

Bryan Johnson:  Is the younger artist 50 years old? Is it you?

Walt Flanagan: Nope. The younger artist is a middle-aged person, but not me no.

Speaker 4: I want to ask about … oh, sorry … I want to ask about another four-issue series, I want to ask about “Cryptozoic Man” and can we expect anymore?

Walt Flanagan: I would love to do more…

Speaker 4: You ended with “dot, dot, dot” questions.

Walt Flanagan: “Cryptozoic Man” was really fun for me. I was able just to draw weird, freaky stuff … monsters on every page. It was very fun to do. And I would love to revisit it one day… I mean, Dynamite has asked us to, it’s just a matter of timing.

Speaker 4: …that Alan knows where he comes from and he has these cryptics all behind him, I’m just like, “What happens now?” That’s a really great question.

Walt Flanagan:   Yeah, we had some ideas, but for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to see it … start working on it, but I personally would love to see it come back again.

Speaker 4: Do you feel the age of the artist has a big effect on the actual work, kind of like a musician has a certain peak, or do you think an artist is just consistent throughout his life?

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Bryan Johnson: Fuck you, you passive-aggressive youngster!

Walt Flanagan: I’m not sure … I didn’t get to hear the first part.

Speaker 4:  Essentially, do you feel an artist will always have a consistent style throughout their life or will they have a kind of peak … where in their life that they can’t go back to … kind of like a musician?

Walt Flanagan:   Yeah, I believe that. I believe though that’s also a product though of that musician’s fan base though. They reach a certain point, and they feel like they don’t want to hear new material from their favorite artists, and I think that plays into … maybe an artist not getting very … not stopping being innovative, or trying new, different things, because they see that feedback from their fan base, and they’re just like … it stifles them somehow.

ComicsVerse: Has your perception changed running a comic book shop and writing, and working on comic books as well?

Walt Flanagan:  Yes and no. I mean, running a comic  — the “Blue Juice” book, I mean, it is so difficult for an independent comic book to garner any kind of attention in this market, you know? And I know first hand that, because it is so hard for a comic book shop owner or the guy who is ordering the product to justify ordering independent comics, because they have only so much of their budget can they —

— have to spend, and everybody just wants D.C. and Marvel it feels like. Not a lot of people … at least in our shop, at the Stash spot in Red Bank … not a lot people are buying independents. It’s like, comic books are very expensive … so it feels like nobody has a lot of money just to try a new thing and try a new company.

So, it’s a very difficult task for … you see this Artist Alley full of guys with a lot of great ideas. But it’s so difficult for those books to get on stands and in shops across the country. And I know why it’s so difficult because these shops only have so much money they can spend. A lot of it has to be spent on proven commodities that they can move to pay their rent, pay their salaries, or employees.

Speaker 4: Is it like film, where without a name attached, you can’t get it through? I mean, separate from Marvel and D.C.,? Like if you had a celebrity name that was involved in writing a comic, would it sell more or —

Walt Flanagan: An independent comic?

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I think it can help. But at the end of the day though, unless that celebrity name is like somebody super huge in comic books … if it doesn’t have a Marvel or D.C. banner on it, a comic shop owner is got to be very careful what they order, because it’s … they’re ordering to the bone, it feels like at sometimes … you know, so it’s–

Bryan Johnson: The short answer is, the problem is nobody cares. Nobody cares, and they just want to buy shit they’ve.. they basically want to see the same movie again. If a movie is too trippy, or whatever, then they’ll be like, “What the fuck? What am I watching?”

Walt Flanagan: And as a kid growing up I would sample… I mean I was buying comic books off the stands where independents blew up in the 80s. A lot of stores carried independents, and I would always sample them. But now, being on the other side of the counter… You see that it’s so difficult to take a chance on a book, if it doesn’t sell. It just sits there, and — I get both sides because I’m trying to push an independent comic book and knowing how hard it is for shops across the country to take a chance.

Speaker 2: Will running the shop have you guys have a memorable experience where you’ve had someone just come in and it’s kind of warmed your heart a bit … do you have any experiences like that? Like, kids coming in, or something that you sort of just like, “Wow, that kind of makes my day,” working in the comic book industry?

Bryan Johnson:  Warms his heart? You can’t possibly talking…

Speaker 2: No, both you guys … yeah, you guys are working at that shop.

Walt Flanagan:  I mean, there’s a lot of stories. A lot of people who come in would never make it on Comic Book Men because it’s … in some ways it’s sad, but if somebody comes in a tells me that … I remember an older lady came in with a bowling bag … a bowling ball bag full of comic books … her husband had passed away, and there was nothing in the bag that was worth anything.

Bryan Johnson: Like the bag was worth more?

Walt Flanagan:  Yeah, it was like an old 70s bowling bag that was worth probably more than the comics … that’s very true, and I remember me and Mike just take it out of the register, we took it out of our pockets … we just bought these comic books because she just needs a couple bucks for them, but we would never have bought them if it was a guy in his 20s who brought them in, we’d be like, “Nah, these are just something we can’t move, but …

Bryan Johnson: And then I was like, “Nice Grandma, they went for it.”

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Walt Flanagan: That happens a lot, and you know, not a lot of kids come in buying comic books. I just think it’s priced out of their range at this point, comic books.

I don’t know about it … I can only speak of the Stash. But, I don’t know what it is across the country. At a $5 a pop, or $4 a pop, that’s a pricey hobby. And it’s — you know, I can remember buying every book that came out when I was a kid.

Speaker 4: How do you feel about the digital future on iPads or that, or do you think it’ll just die down with the modern youth?

Walt Flanagan: I think that’s where you’ll see most people … kids will probably be buying … if they’re going to be buying comic books it’ll probably be digitally. I think collectors who are my age or a little bit younger. They’ll never really want to go fully digital because there’s still that feeling of, “Well, you can’t bag and board, or resell a digital file. It’ll never book a wall book. It will never have any value. It’ll never be a collectible, a digital file,” but, the physical copy will still be at least conceived as a collectible.

Bryan Johnson: You’re too young to know this, but old fucks are very tactile, right? Like, they want a DVD, they don’t want to get it on iTunes, they want a copy–

Walt Flanagan: Yeah, they want to feel like they own it. A digital file doesn’t feel like … you can’t touch it.

Bryan Johnson: Like my mother huge farm… online! It’s so popular. That’s bullshit.

Speaker 4: Now, for you guys, a lot of what see isn’t specific the comics on Comic Book Men people who bring in the collectibles and the movie props and stuff like that. Does the fact that the Stash is known as that kind of store helped you guys stay viable in the comics market as well?

Walt Flanagan:   Yeah, I definitely think it helps. It helps in a way that more people than ever want to come to the store just because they actually saw the show. I can’t even tell you how many guys come in and they’re so … I don’t know if the word is “cute” but it’s absolutely … I tell my wife that its “cute” because the guys are so nervous that they have their wives come up here like, “It’s my husband’s birthday and they want a picture with you and Mike and Ming.”

And they’re so nervous that it’s just like —

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Speaker 4: I was scared to approach you in the store, for sure.

Bryan Johnson: It’s true. Like, females do not seem … they don’t have that same thing that guys are like, “Tee-hee.” Whereas the girls are just like, “Just fucking ask him! Don’t be a pussy about it.” You know?

Walt Flanagan: To have guys say, “It was my birthday, and I chose to come to the Stash…” you know, that’s only because of the store. And, you know, maybe that happened before because they were Kevin Swift fans or huge fans. But now it’s more so than ever, because of the Comic Book Men’s show.

Speaker 4: How big is the market for Variants in your opinion? Do you feel they’re as collectible as older issues or —

Speaker 1: I think that — that maneuver or that ploy is — it’s kind of played out in a variants or a marketing ploy that worked. Probably still work on some level but not the way they used to though. I mean now it’s — collectors now have got to have by now been like, “I can’t keep up with these variants.” I can’t … I’m sure there was a time when everybody … when somebody was trying to get every variant, but at this point, it’s a madness.

Speaker 4: Are you guys going to get that Quantum and Woody most variant comic of all time?

Speaker 1:  I didn’t even … what’s that? I know that’s a Valiant book, but, well …

Speaker 4: They have … they found rules of, like, legit 1990s holofoil. And they’re doing the new Quantum and Woody #1 that’s going to have a 90s holofoil cover. Then there’s an additional option where if you buy a certain number of copies, or whatever the hell it is, you can add stickers and a dye cut and it’s like the most variant-variant and it’s a truly absurd. Even the press release… it says, “The purpose of this is to kill variants forever.”

Walt Flanagan: And I totally get why Marvel, and D.C., and all companies do it. It’s just a way to garner more income for the product. I get why they do it, but it’s playing on the worse aspects of collecting though. I had that fever, whenever I was like, “I have to get every variant of my favorite comic book.”

It’s a drug, it’s a … you’ll go to the pour house if you keep chasing variants.

Speaker 2: Do you guys also get those FUNKO collectors, like the Pops?

Walt Flanagan: We have a chase case

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Speaker 2: Oh yeah!

Speaker 1: This summer, right?

Bryan Johnson: They made the variants and then they said the re-paints are going to be ready by today … when they’re done.

Speaker 2: Wait, Is this kind of like an exclusive thing we’re just finding out right now?

Walt Flanagan: Yeah, those guys went to the Funko headquarters. They represents their pops … it’s on Comic Book Men this season.

Speaker 2: Oh my god, oh that’s exciting.

Walt Flanagan: It’s a big episode.

Speaker 4: With all the horror that you’ve drawn, do you think that you’d want to do something Lovecraft in one day? And would you want to bring your unique style — I feel like, just like a good sense of madness and horror together to make a real, good call-it-what-you-will kind of story from your folks?

Speaker 3: We’ll definitely get into that.

Speaker 4: I’d love to see that. Just saying…

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