Kevin Smith, famous for his self-made films like CLERKS, MALLRATS, and CHASING AMY, was able to sit down with us at NYCC 2017 for his panel on the new season of COMIC BOOK MEN. The show is focused on a comic book shop that Smith owns in Red Bank, NJ. CBM hit’s their seventh season this year full of new guests and amazing memorabilia. 

Kevin Smith - Comic Book Men _ Season 6 – Photo Credit: Pawel Kaminski/AMC
Kevin Smith – Comic Book Men _ Season 6 – Photo Credit: Pawel Kaminski/AMC

ComicsVerse: Since you’ve done Chasing Amy, Mall Rats, all these great things. You’ve done Daredevil, Green Arrow, Batman, all these awesome comics, as well.

Kevin Smith: Thank you.

ComicsVerse: What’s the mindset that changes for each one, or does your mindset change for each medium?

Kevin Smith: You know, some stuff like when you’re making a Jay and Silly Bob obviously you’re not working in the realm of Daredevil. Like everything is goofy and stuff like that, but when you work with a comic book character, like when I worked with Dare Devil or the Green Arrow comics that I’ve done I get to exercise a part of me that I would never exercise in those movies. Like the more … It sounds weird because they’re comic books, but the more grown-up side of me.

Kevin Smith: Stories don’t revolve around like, let’s get high and see what happens? The stories usually revolve around some grizzly crime or series of fucking crimes, so I mean, that’s the stuff I grew up watching more than stuff like Clerks or Jay and Silent Bob.

Kevin Smith: I love comedies and stuff, but I read comic books, I loved horror movies. Those are the things that fed my imagination. So if I could jump to another medium or pivot as they say nowadays and play in a different way than I normally get to play in my day job, that’s thrilling as a creator of stuff. And the beautiful thing is in comics there’s very, you can’t really fail. You know what I’m saying? It’s one thing if you were to make … If I were to make a Green Arrow movie, there’s every good chance in the world that it’ll fucking fail and if I’m directing it?

Kevin Smith: Trust me. It’ll fucking fail. But if you’re writing in the comics you can really fail. Shit, even if you’ve got a six-issue storyline that sucks, just wait seven months, somebody else will be taking care of that character and you’re moving on and stuff. So it’s a nice lab. It allows you to play around and for years of doing that, doing off, for lack of a better description, off-brand material, like not Jay and Silent Bob, just doing that kind of like with Daredevil, Green Arrow, stuff like that. It’s now led me to this place where we’re hoping, fingers crossed, BBC America is going to do this Sam and Twitch Show, which at first … Todd McFarlane tells this great story, which is nice but always makes me want to cry when he tells it.

Kevin Smith: He goes, “They came to me” BBC America. “With a couple creators, you know, a couple of writers will be behind the show. You are one of the names and then there was another guy who was from the X-Files.” And he goes, “I’ll be honest with yah, I’m not going to say you were the best writer.” And I was like, “Thanks.” What’s next? And he goes, “But there’s an x-factor because he’s done this kind of material, but you never have and that’s what’s kind of interesting. So what would that be like? If you were doing stuff about you know”

Kevin Smith: And I don’t want to point out like, well, I did Dogma, but no one knows that “But what would it be like if you were working in like the supernatural realm in a proceduralist.” So thanks to that early comic book work I kinda head in and try that, but that also has to do with the confidence one gets from working on those CW shows.

Kevin Smith: Normally I’m used to doing my own thing, shoot it at my pace, do whatever I want, but when you work in that world, you’ve got to shoot on schedule, you’ve got to shoot their stuff, you’ve got to make sure it looks like the show otherwise they don’t invite you back and stuff. So having done that a few times, I’m like, “Oh. I understand the episodic world a lot better and if I was in charge of it? If it was like I was writing the scripts, this would be even more fun.” And shit like that. So it made me a little more confident to open the door for that sort of thing. You know, back in the day people would be like, “You want to do a TV show?” And I’d be like, “Fuck, no.”

Kevin Smith - Comic Book Men _ Season 6 – Photo Credit: Pawel Kaminski/AMC
Kevin Smith – Comic Book Men _ Season 6 – Photo Credit: Pawel Kaminski/AMC

Kevin Smith: We did a cartoon once and ABC canceled it after two episodes. Then this made me a little braver because this has been going seven seasons, but I have nothing to do with this other than I show up and talk on camera. The boys and Brian, the guy you kind of, I call him the director but he’s not technically the director, he’s the showrunner. It’s different titles in TV. But they create the show. They get together and they … This is what we’re going to talk about and blah-blah-blah and then they turn on cameras and just extrapolate, and the show happens.

Kevin Smith: So I don’t even do that. I show up like three times a year and stand around the table and go like, “What happened this week?” And then they tell me the story. So that made me a little more confident heading towards TV because I come from a world where I have to do everything and suddenly this show was world where I do nothing. I’m this guy. I show up and I’m like, “Tell me what happened?” And that’s it.

Kevin Smith: So suddenly you learn to work with others and once you can do that like CW helped that a little more, where I’m like, “Oh. I don’t have to do everything. In fact, it’s better if these people do it because they’re expert at it and they’ve been doing it every episode for the last two seasons.” So, that allowed me to grow. Maybe it’s taken time, maybe people would have gotten here a lot sooner than me, but it’s allowed me to go from the self-definition of what I was, and it wasn’t even self-definition.

Kevin Smith: A bunch of people said, “You’re an author.” And I was like, “Okay.” And then one day it got me to a place where I was like, “Well, I can work with others within their system and then jump out.” I’d be always free to go back to my thing but be able to play with them. And that, honestly, I’m going to go way back to it, all starts with me writing Dare Devil and then Green Arrow. Stepping outside the comfort zone.

Kevin Smith: Now it’s kind of commonplace, like people in TV and movies jump into comics. It’s easy. But when we did it there were only two people that I ever saw, that had come from movies and were working in comics and it was not Warren Skaaren, but who’s the guy that wrote Batman? It’s Warren Skaaren, Sam Hamm! Sam Hamm wrote 1989’s Batman and he did an arch in a detective called Blind Justice. Like two issues, or something like that. And I was like, “Holy shit! That guy works in movies and he’s writing comics? This is fucking legit.”

Kevin Smith: Then the next one I saw was Jeph Loeb who runs Marvel’s Netflix shows. Now he had written Commando and Teen Wolf, and then one day years later wrote Challengers of the Unknown miniseries. So you can’t see it unless you can be it and I saw two people who went from movies to comics and that was considered by most, not even a step-down … I remember I told my agent, “I want to write this Dare Devil comic.” He’s like, “Why? What do they pay?”

Kevin Smith: I was like, “That’s not the fucking point, dude. Like $100 a page but whatever! It’s all about like, fucking writing the character.” So because of that, I got to step out of a comfort zone and now I, years later, get to try something I never imagined I would have tried. Taking somebody else’s thing and trying to turn it into and an ongoing series with all the flavor of what I do without it being my thing at all. Like there will be no Jay and Silent Bob in it and stuff. It will be well, I mean, not that different from X-Files but maybe a little funnier.

ComicsVerse’s New York Comic Con Coverage

ComicsVerse: Well, regarding all that, You’ve given so many comments on how to make it in the business and what to do, and how you made it. Is there something that you find that’s special about you, Kevin Smith, that sets you aside from the rest?

Kevin Smith & Foosball

Kevin Smith: No. That should be quick. I mean, I’m really good at foosball but that has never helped my career once. Nobody knows that and I’m kinda hoping one day it outs. Where people are like, “Fuck! He’s smoking at foosball.” But it’s never helped anything. No. That should be quick. I mean, I’m really good at foosball but that has never helped my career once. Nobody knows that and I’m kinda hoping one day it outs. Where people are like, “Fuck! He’s smoking at foosball.” But it’s never helped anything. No.

Kevin Smith: One day people are going to be like, “That is a legit sport.” You remember how poker almost got into the Olympics? One day foosball will too. I honestly don’t. I mean, a big part of my shtick and my shtick is I say it a lot but it’s the absolute truth is I believe there is nothing special about me. And people try to argue and it’s very sweet of them. We just did a podcast, and an episode of SModcast that will go up this week with me and Brian, and Walter, and for the gazillionth time, I’m like, “Without these two people, I’d never become who I am.

Kevin Smith: I don’t make Clerks, and I don’t you know … I put them as the origin point. Ground zero for everything I would become.” And Walter’s like, “I disagree.” He’s like, “I think you would have done that shit. Like, you were always into stuff and it would have gotten there.” And I said, “No. I completely disagree.” I was like, “Because I hung out with you guys. Like, I have your sense of humor but number two I didn’t want to like, do anything else but hang out. I found true soulmates. People that were like, funny, and brilliant, and thought differently than other people, and stuff.” So I wanted to be with those guys a lot more.

Quitting Day Jobs For Batman… And A Dream

Kevin Smith: I had a job at Domino’s the night, June 23rd, 1989, it’s my first day on the job and shit, and there are me and four other trainees. And so they were all like … I wanted to go with my friends to the movies that night because they were going to see Batman. And I was like, “Fuck! I can’t go see Batman. I’m stuck at fucking Domino’s wearing slacks!” And so the manager’s like, “We have too many trainees today. Is there anybody that wants to volunteer to go home?” And I was like, “Me! I’ll go!” And I’m like, well it’s your first day. You’re supposed to stick around. And I was like, “I’ll come back tomorrow. I swear to God.” I said, “But yeah, I’ll totally, you’ve got too many people I’ll be the first one to go.”

Kevin Smith: So I went two blocks over and saw Batman with Brian and Walter. I never went back to Domino’s. The next day my Mom is like, “How’s Domino’s?” I said, “Oh. It was alright.” And I said, “I’ll be honest, I left. I went to see Batman.” She’s like, “What?! You just got that job!” I was like, “I know, but they said that people could leave and so I volunteered to go.” And she’s like, “Well, you’ve got to go back today.” I was like, “I don’t think they’re going to welcome me back.” And my Mom got really pissed and she was like, “You have to find a job tiger.”

Trouble In Paradise

Kevin Smith: That’s how pissed she was, she still called me tiger. She’s like, “You have to find a job, a real job. You’ve gone through three jobs this summer. You dug graves, you worked in an Italian bakery and now you’ve Domino’s and you fucking quit all three.” She’s going, “You can’t just live here rent free. You’ve got to get a job.” So she’s like, “I’ll give you one week.” And I looked in the newspaper and found an ad for a video store in Leonardo, New Jersey. Alright here, I can draw the line directly. Like, right from Brian and me, wanting to be with Brian and Walter because I admired them. They were older than me by about two years, maybe three but they didn’t give a fuck about the shit that other people did. They didn’t want to drink, they didn’t want to party.

Kevin Smith: What they wanted to do was sit around and talk about fucked up shit. And not fucked up shit like, “let’s kill kittens.” It wasn’t that. It was just like, “imagine you’re in a situation where like, you can save everybody but you’ve got to suck a dick.” It was that kind of stuff. You go deep down the well.

Maintaining Relationships & Friendships

Kevin Smith: Bonding friendships. I’d rather sit around and talk to them about fantasy dick suckings that I would do to save people than hang out with people, like “let’s drink. Let’s go. Let’s fucking party and shit.” That wasn’t a party to me. So hanging out with them, their sense of humor groomed mine. I’d like to think I was a funny person but their shit made me funnier. Everything you see in those movies was informed by them. So, did that answer the question?

ComicsVerse: So, how has your relationship changed like-

Kevin Smith: With them?

ComicsVerse: With them.

Kevin Smith: I don’t see them as much as I would like to but that’s the beauty of this show. Is that when the show is on, I can turn on the TV and I’m like, “Oh my god! It’s my friends.” And the show, I was telling a dude over there, the show’s very much a nostalgic show. We’ve been on seven years and I think it’s an open secret, it’s not a show that’s predicated in the now, even though comic books are very now, we sit around and talk about comics we used to read and toys we used to buy, and stuff like that. So for me, it’s a memory lane show.

Kevin Smith: There was a show on HBO way back in the day called, Remember When. My old man loved it. They would be like, “You know, remember when? 1956.” And they would just do a deep dive on that fucking year and since he was like alive then, he was like, “Oh my god!”

THE GIFTED After Show Episode 1: The Gift Gets Real

The Best Part About Working With Your Friends

Kevin Smith: He was way into the show. Now when I watch this show I’m like, “I get it.” It’s a deep dive into the things that I used to enjoy and one of the things I used to enjoy more than anything in the world is listening to those two dudes talk to each other. Even more so than engaging with me, I would just sit there and watch them tennis match back and forth.

Kevin Smith: Walter’s the kind of guy that just likes to stir the pot, just for the fuck of it, and it’s kind of fascinating to watch. It always has been. And for years, I always said, “Like, you guys are funny. You should, I swear man, I put you on my podcast and people think you’re so funny, and you’re different, and you think different.” And they would always be like, “No.

Kevin Smith: People just say that shit because we’re your friends.” But it’s not. They are different. There was something there and having this show, and being able to put it on display for the rest of the world? You know, I spent most of my career going, “Hey, it’s me.” And the latter half of my career I’ve been going, “Hey! It’s them.” Just introducing a bunch of other people from podcast and the show like this.

…It’s Bittersweet

Kevin Smith: The best thing I get out of it, man it’s bittersweet, is we get to make the show together but part of the reason the show exists is because I live in Los Angeles and they live in New Jersey and so I don’t get to hang out with them as much as I do, and a lot of the hanging out that we do is on set. Now, the good news about that is we are literally paid to do the exact same fucking thing we would do if there was no show. So we sit around and talk to each other anyway. We just don’t get to curse as much, that’s the only thing.

Breaking Away From Replication

Press Question: Is it hard to break away from replication? Because you mentioned before how you wanted to be and are, and since you have a resume, like, “Oh. I’m expected to be funny.” Is it hard for you to-

Kevin Smith: It’s not hard. It’s certainly not hard for me. You can do whatever you want, right? But it’s hard for other people sometimes to be like, “Well, I don’t like that.” You know? People like the funny movies, the earlier funny movies I did. Lately, I’ll make a movie, [Walrus 00:12:52] movie and people are like, “Go fuck yourself.” So I get it. Some people don’t want to take the trip with you. They think you’re one flavor and suddenly you taste like something else, that’s weird for them but it’s not weird for everybody. And ultimately it’s not weird for me and you’ve got to serve yourself. It sounds masturbatory but the only reason I’m on this journey is

Kevin Smith: It sounds masturbatory but the only reason I’m on this journey is because I was like, “I want to see what that would look like if I made a movie.” And everything I do is never predicated on how much will it make, or fucking, what will … It’s always like, “I want to see that. I just want to see it.” So if you’re willing to see it and you’re willing to understand that not everyone is going to fucking follow you, and some people, in fact, are going to actively campaign against you because fucking how dare you do something else.

Do Whatever You Want… Even If People Say You Suck At It!

Kevin Smith: You can do anything you want. You’ve got to let go of fear and this is a real first world fear to be afraid of some stranger on the internet being like, “You suck at this!” People have been telling me I suck at anything I do for about 46 years now.

Mike Zapcic, Ming Chen, Kevin Smith - Comic Book Men _ Season 6 – Photo Credit: Pawel Kaminski/AMC
Mike Zapcic, Ming Chen, Kevin Smith – Comic Book Men _ Season 6 – Photo Credit: Pawel Kaminski/AMC

Kevin Smith: Professionally for about 25, and then for as many people to tell me I suck, there’s a lot more people that tell me I’m good. So the truth’s in there somewhere in between and sometimes those cats can’t make the trip with you if you want a changeup or something. I try to be courteous about the whole thing. I try to be like, “Thanks for taking the trip so far.” Like, “Oh my god. You made all the difference. If you want to get out of the car, I completely understand.” It’s like you make something like Tusk or Yoga Hosers, it’s like farting in the car, only certain people can stand it.

Kevin Smith: You know, Jason Mews will be like, “Ew!” But he’ll stay in the car. Everyone else might pile out of the fucking car. So you know, you find the people who can live with your stink and you keep working with them, and then maybe one day you know, you learn not to fart in the car again? I don’t know. The analogy kind of falls apart. The metaphor falls apart.

AMC & Working For An Audience

Kevin Smith: But you can’t do it, you know, it’s a weird job. You work for the audience but you can’t do it for the audience. You’re doing it for the audience because eventually, they’re going to see it but you have to do it for you first, which again, sounds very selfish and masturbatory but it kind of is. It’s about going like, “I want to see something that doesn’t exist.” Even if it’s lame. Like this shit here. I want to see a show about my friends on TV. Never existed. Was never going to exist.

Kevin Smith: Thank God, AMC kind of made it and stuff. So as long as you’re willing to pay the price for that. The price is sometimes people will go like, “Go fuck yourself.” You go for it. To be fair, people have been telling me to “go fuck myself” long before I ever did shit like this. You get used to it. You get inured to it, to a certain point, to realizing that there’s one voice you’ve got to listen to and it’s the one that’s in here. As long as it’s never like, “Kill children.” Don’t listen to that. But if it’s just like, “Hey man, go make that thing” And if they don’t like it, fuck it. Maybe they’ll like the next thing. And if they never like anything you did ever again, they were there at one point when they did like something.

Going Against The “Norm”

Kevin Smith: Sometimes, it’s weird to watch fans to go from being fans to being people that actively dislike you because you’re not doing the thing that they like you for originally. It’s not, “Well, fuck those people.” It’s a shame, and it’s bittersweet. Hate to fucking lose anybody, but you’ve got to keep being you. That’s why they liked you in the first place and even though they’re not liking you right this moment in time, in the grand scheme of things, you are respecting the individual that they looked to in the first place.

Kevin Smith: The one who’s like, “Well, I’m going to do this, even if you don’t like it.” You know. Just like how Clerks wasn’t for everybody. My Mother fucking hated it and shit, but a bunch of people were like, “We love it!” You know. Tusk isn’t for everybody, for even less people and even though there are a lot of people that are like, “We fucking hate it!”

Kevin Smith: There’s a hardcore group of people that were like, “Now you’re on the right track motherfuckers.” Yeah! It’s crazy like, how many people I meet who are like, “I finally started paying attention to your bullshit after that Walrus movie.” And I’m like, “That movie did it?!” So you never know what it is. Moose Jaws soon. First Jay and Silent Bob reboot we start in January and shooting, it’s pre-pro in January, shoot in February, and then Moose Jaws follows that.

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