It is hard to imagine a San Diego Comic-Con without Kevin Smith, but there was an era we’ll call BKS where Saturday nights at the event didn’t conclude with the Jerseyed One from Jersey taking the main stage.
In actuality, the director, podcaster, comedian and nerd culture commentator didn’t make it to SDCC until 1995. He went to screen Mallrats — offsite at the Horton Plaza mall — and didn’t even hold a panel. By ’96, Smith was speaking to a packed room at the con.
“That’s when I felt like I had arrived at Comic-Con,” he said in a recent interview. “The following year, ’97, we’d had Chasing Amy out there, and when I went back, I had a bigger room to do the Q&A, and they kept giving me bigger rooms every year subsequent to that.”
Now, Smith is one of the kings of the con, and undoubtedly the main man of Hall H. As the con celebrates its 50th showing, Smith arrives with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot — and a red band trailer for the movie — his anticipated return to the View Askewniverse, which again pairs him with Jason Mewes.
Smith joined Den of Geek to talk about the footage fans can expect at the Reboot panel, his favorite memories, the special meaning of SDCC to him, and how his late friend Stan Lee will be honored in the film.
[If you know and love Smith, you know the following quotes had to be significantly condensed for length]
DEN OF GEEK: What was your first SDCC experience?
KEVIN SMITH: I heard about the con my entire life, but being from New Jersey, I’d never been. I’d read about it in comic books, or in comic book publications, like Wizard, or the Comic Buyer’s Guide. This was long before they were doing movie previews and stuff like that.
By the time I get to go, it’s ’95. The studio brings Mallrats down to do a screening at Horton Plaza. So we don’t have a panel or anything like that, but we get to go to the floor. They’re giving out Mallrats pins, and then we’re having a screening that they put together full of creators. I remember Peter David was at my screening, and I was so incredibly impressed by that. Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti were there. These were rock star names for me, because I was a big comic book guy. So that was a huge memory.
After the screening, Scott Mosier and I approached all the artists that were at the screening and asked them if they would do our opening credit sequence, which didn’t exist at this point. The opening credit sequence to Mallrats is a series of comic book covers. So they had just seen the movie, and a lot of these cats are like, “Oh, my God.” So that’s how we put together our opening montage.
But you didn’t have a panel that year?
I didn’t interact with the con in ’95 other than walking onto the con floor, hanging out on the con, shopping on the con floor, and having those screenings. In ’96, when I went back, we set up a booth because we were friends with Graphitti Designs, so they put in a word for us and gave us half of their booth. And View Askew came down for the first time. We had shot Chasing Amy, but it had not come out yet, so we had posters of the comic book covers from the movie.
And then they gave us a panel in one of the smallest rooms. By this point, Clerks had come out on home video and Mallrats, I think, by this point had also come out on home video. So we had attracted something of a following. At that point, I remember the person in charge was just like, “Who are you? Why did this happen?” Because there were people trying to get in, and it was too packed.
That was when I felt like I had arrived at Comic-Con.
What led to you becoming this Hall H mainstay?
They kept giving me bigger rooms every year until one year finally they said, “We’re going to put you into Hall H” [Which became the main panel room in 2004]. That was when you could just take a chair and stay there all day long, and it was just when they started running all the massive programming. So I remember the first year they let me do Hall H. It was in the middle of the day. King Kong was going to be the big draw at night. Peter Jackson was there with King Kong. He was going to be the last panel.
I wound up going up at 3:00 or 4:00, and did my Q&A where I cursed my fool head off and stuff. Afterwards, they were like, “We’re not going to let you go in the middle of the day anymore, because this is a family event, and somebody asked you about Batman and Robin’s relationship, and you answered it in the most inappropriate way. So how about we put you at the end of the night instead?”
They moved me to nights on Saturday. Slowly, over time, it became this tradition. Like, “Oh, the con’s over because the fat guy sang.” And so, my Hall H career began. And so, I’ve been allied with the con ever since.
What is one of your favorite moments being with the con?
Last year was perhaps one of the best moments because I got an Inkpot Award, and that’s when the con lets you know you’re truly one of theirs. You look at the list of people who’ve one them, and you’re seated amongst legends. So that was the highlight of my year, especially coming after the heart attack and stuff. It was pretty awesome.
Why is it especially meaningful to be bringing Jay and Silent Bob Reboot to the 50th San Diego Comic-Con?
Our third act of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is set at an event called Chronic-Con, which is modeled after Comic-Con itself. For me to bring not only the trailer to Comic-Con, but maybe some footage from that con scene, our Chronic-Con scene, to Comic-Con — we’re going to have people in Hall H watching a fictional version of our Hall H, and that’s going to be so incredibly meta.
I’ve taken almost every movie that I’ve made that I could to Comic-Con, and done a panel with it long before that was the norm, before studios spent lots of movie doing that, because that was my audience, those were my people. To come back to this one, especially after talking about it for the past two years, almost three years … to finally come back and be like, “We did it” is going to mean everything.
The only bittersweet part to it was Stan was meant to be there. Stan was always such a big part of my con experience. The movie ends with a little piece of me and Stan at the con that we were lucky enough to shoot long before he passed.
Do you have any favorite memories of you and Stan at the con?
When I think of con, I always think of this moment where … maybe 2010. We pull up to the con in the back where they drop you off. If you’re going to the Hall H panel, they bring you out back by the loading docks. That’s where everybody gets out of the SUVs and stuff. Me and Jason Mewes get out, and as we’re getting out, who’s getting into a car, but Stan Lee himself, who we’ve known for a long time at this point.
I go, “Stan.” And he goes, “Kevin.” And we hugged and chit-chat. He never remembered Jason’s name, so he’s going, “Hey, you.” But me, for some reason he remembered my name. So we sat there, and we chit-chatted. He tells me about his schedule. I told him about mine. Then we said we’ll catch up over the next few days, and he went off.
Jason Mewes generally isn’t the person to mark the moment, or be emotional about anything, but he had an awakening moment, where he touches my arm dramatically, but not for drama — because he meant it. He was just like, “Can you imagine if you went back in time and told us that the first person we meet when we come to Comic-Con is Stan Lee, and he hugs you? Isn’t that crazy?”
It always stuck in my memory, because it was crazy. You become so used to Comic-Con and so used to Comic-Con culture, because we’ve been going for so many years, but it took Jason to realize we had a major moment right there that we take for granted because we knew the guy.
So, when I think of Comic-Con, I think of that moment where Jason was smarter than me.
On that final note, I was in high school when Mallrats came out — before I had made it SDCC, before the con became what it was, before the MCU. Us nerds knew Stan, but he wasn’t widely known in the mainstream. You helped showcase The Man, and I loved talking about him to friends who saw Mallrats. So, it’s full circle.
That’s so damn sweet. There was a moment in time where I was able to be like, “Hey man, this is Stan Lee, the guy that created Spider-Man.” Then, years later, in Captain Marvel, Stan Lee was like, “Hey man, this is Kevin Smith, the guy that created Silent Bob.” He returned the favor. It was nuts.