Recently we had the chance to talk with Mike Zapcic about all things comics and the upcoming seventh season of Comic Book Men.
You started reading comics at a very young age. Do you remember a specific moment when you realized just how much you enjoyed comics and what it was about them that was important to you?
Mike: A very specific moment no, but I can tell you they’ve always been a part of my life, I’ve got five older brothers so I got a lot of hand me downs in regards to comics. One of my earliest memories was grabbing some comics, my brother had borrowed a stack from a friend of his, and I think I was three or four and I grabbed a pair of scissors from my mom’s sewing kit and I cut out a bunch of panels that I thought were really, really cool. Of course, my brother didn’t think it was cool that I had destroyed a bunch of his friends comic books and he freaked out on me, my dad actually had to pay eight dollars for this stack of comics and then he said here, these are yours, so then I had an instant collection.
I have a twenty one year old step-son who is constantly showing me comics he’s bought and what he thinks I would like. Is that part of what makes comics unique, that there is no real age barrier?
Mike: That is definitely one of them. There are comics that are meant for a more mature audience but depending on the ability of a child to adapt, I mean I never put those restrictions on my kids. Granted, we kept them away from a lot of stuff that we thought might mentally hurt them but they’ve heard they’re father curse so I think they can read a guy say ‘damn’ or ‘hell’.
What was your reaction when you heard about the idea of turning the daily life at the Secret Stash into a TV show?
Mike: Are you kidding? I was like, wow, they want to do that? They want to hear our inane tirades like Star Wars versus Star Trek? Hey, that’s great, that’s awesome, I’m all in. Another thing is when Kevin Smith says hey, you’re going to be on TV well, you’re going to be on TV.
Comic Book Men is about to enter its seventh season. What is it about the show that still makes it fresh or fun for you?
Mike: Just the fact that people get to see into our everyday lives, even though it’s a little bit different because you have cameras on you, these are the same conversations we’d be having whether or not the cameras were on. They get to look into our lives and some people find it interesting which I think is amazing. For me it’s an everyday thing but people come up to us, they make pilgrimages to the Stash specifically to meet us and I think that’s really, really cool because they want to see where the magic happens and comic books are pretty magical.
So what do you think of the state of the comic book industry right now?
Mike: I think it’s going strong. The Marvel cinematic universe has given it a new lease on life, they’ve got really good stories to tell and they’ve only just scratched the surface. We’ve got a lot of years ahead of us, a lot of years to go and they have a huge pool of content to dip into.
Speaking of the movies, do you think the big screen, and small screen now, have done a good job adapting comics to their world?
Mike: I think Marvel has done a lot in terms of cinematic and DC and Marvel are both contenders in regards to owning television. Netflix has shown that Marvel can do darker and more adult takes on the superhero genre and DC has Arrow which is also pretty dark, and is also leading in the animated genre, but I think they are both very well equipped.
I hear a lot of talk in the comic world about canon or continuity. Do you have a problem with an artist, TV show or movie franchise changing something up so that it doesn’t follow canon?
Mike: No, if it tells a good story I think you can mess around with it a little bit. I don’t see a problem at all unless they contradict themselves later down the line. That’s one of the things about being a comic book nerd, we get a bad rap for complaining about things from panel to panel but no, that kind of nerd went out in the nineties, we’re a little more forgiving these days. If you can tell a good story, just tell it.
I’m sure some people think celebrities drop by every day, or you guys go cruising around in the Batmobile a lot. What is a typical day like for you at the Secret Stash?
Mike: Well, I’ll tell you what happened today. A guy called up, said he had a bunch of stuff to sell, so he brought it in, I just gave him some money and now I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to catalogue and get out on the sales floor. Weekly we get new comic books that are put out by the publishers, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then I have people coming in during the week trying to sell stuff. We’re getting a lot more picky these days, I think the show gives us that, what I think is a really cool perk, where I don’t have to buy a whole collection, I can pick and choose what I have to buy.
Obviously comics are big business but would you say when you get down to it, it’s a combination of the art and story that makes it a unique piece of entertainment?
Mike: It’s a purely American form of entertainment. The artwork is definitely the first thing that people see and if you’ve got a great artist like Jim Lee or George Perez or Alex Ross doing the art chores it certainly helps but most people won’t come back if the story is not compelling. You really need that correct balance between story and artwork to make the comic stand out.
The first episode of the new season has The Walking Dead as the theme. What was that like?
Mike: Oh yeah, those guys. They actually help float the industry. I won’t say it was a dark times for comics but they certainly made people sit up and take notice. When things like this become such a blockbuster, a worldwide phenomenon, it just helps the comic book industry all over the place, it really does. It gives DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and the smaller companies a shot in the arm when it comes to people really sitting up and taking notice and saying hey, comics aren’t just for kids anymore.
So besides Comic Book Men, what other projects do you have going on?
Mike: Ming Chen and I do a podcast called I Sell Comics and another podcast where we just rant about stuff called The Ming and Mike Show. We’re actually going to opening up a podcast studio in the near future called A Shared Universe and we’re going to try and make pod-casting available to everyone.
I want to thank Mike for taking the time to speak with us
Season seven of Comic Book Men premieres October 22nd, 2017 at midnight on AMC