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Robert Kirkman: Without Whom There Was No Comic Book Men

I had a TV show for 7 seasons, 96 episodes … A beautiful thing that never could of, or would of happened had not a young man said, You know, I think I’m a comic book writer, and went on his journey.
— Kevin Smith - SModcast 404

On the latest episode of SModcast (episode 404), Kevin Smith explained that he couldn’t have made the Comic Book Men TV series without comic book writer Robert Kirkman.

“Very rarely in life are there people whose path intersects with yours unintentionally, and their good fortune – for some inexplicable reason – becomes your good fortune as well,” said Smith in the opening of the episode.

 Robert Kirkman Photo:  skybound.com

Robert Kirkman
Photo: skybound.com

Robert Kirkman, whose fortune Smith is referring to, is the guest on the episode and is best known as the creator of The Walking Dead.

What brought Smith and Kirkman’s career paths to an intersaction was a call Smith received from Elyse Seiden who had been a producer on Smith’s Red State. Siden wanted Smith to have a conversation with her and Charlie Corwin, a producer of unscripted television, about a TV show that could maintain the Walking Dead audience in between seasons.

“It’s just charming to think that there was ever a time in this world where somebody somewhere was like, What if nobody watches The Walking Dead,” said Smith.

kirkman-03.jpg

Smith suggested to do a Pawn Stars style show inside of a comic book store.

“Instead, AMC went and created Comic Book Men,” Smith recounted in 2015 during a panel at New York Comic Con.

Originally named Secret Stash, AMC chose Comic Book Men as a play on its show Mad Men. And to CBM’s benefit, it wasn’t aired in between seasons of TWD.

 “Thank god what they did was paired us with The Walking Dead, because otherwise, you probably might have never even heard of Comic Book Men,” said Smith.

Smith recognizes that he never would have received the call from Seiden without Kirkman’s creation.

“I don’t know how else to express this,” explained Smith. “This was never going to happen for me … It was not even a potential or a possibility. But because somebody else followed their dream, a dopy one of mine – that I dared not have – came to fruition.”

 Smith stands with protesters of his  Red State  at Sundance. Photo:  Vulture

Smith stands with protesters of his Red State at Sundance.
Photo: Vulture

The timing of CBM’s inception was fortunate for Smith’s career. A month earlier (remember this is 2011), he had just announced at the Sundance Film Festival, that he would be self-distributing Red State (see SModcast 154: SMundance.) Some critics within the film industry took Smith’s words about the problems with traditional film distribution as a sign that he was finished in the business.

“I would always tell Charlie Collier, the head the AMC Network, this show has been a real shield against the shitters,” Smith told Kirkman. “But thanks to that show, I could be like, Clearly I can’t be out of the industry. I’m on the number one network following the number one program.”

All the while, Smith acknowledged that it took TWD to give him the platform to make it happen.

“If I would have tried to make this happen… everyone in this industry would have pissed and shit on it,” said Smith.

SModcast 403 isn’t the first time that Kirkman and Smith have sat down for a recorded conversation. Kirkman was a guest on episode nine of Geeking Out, an AMC late night show hosted by Smith and Greg Grunberg. Recently, the two were also on camera for IMDB during San Diego Comic Con.

During the podcast, and in classic SModcast fashion, Smith asks about Kirkman’s secret origin. Which is a non-traditional route into the comics industry compared with other rockstar comic creators.

“Without Robert Kirkman sitting down and going, I’m a comic book writer, it does not aggregate to the point where I can say … I had a TV show on AMC,” Smith told Kirkman.

On the episode, the two also discuss new projects, the economics of the comic book industry, and the strangeness of interacting with celebrities in normal situations.

And tying to Kevin Smith’s roots as an independent film maker, who created characters based on his friends, he acknowledged that the impetus that brought those friends to television was Kirkman.

kirkman-04.jpg

“Robert Kirkman created something that aggregated to a place where a network had crazy fucking money to be like, Here, go make a show with your fucking friends.”


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