Comic Book Men season 1 episode 4 review: Zombies

It's taken four episodes of AMC's Comic Book Men for The Walking Dead's influence to fully kick in. CJ checks out Zombies...


Walt kicks off Comic Book Men‘s equivalent of A New Hope by asking Bryan, Ming and Mike what their all-time greatest superhero versus superhero battle is. Not great if you’re a fan of indie books about talking animals who suffer from persecution, genocide and/or terminal disease, but a valid question nonetheless.

It’s taken awhile to realise, as he’s often so quiet, but Mike could be the biggest comics nerd at the Stash. Straight away, Zapcic offers up Superman and Captain Marvel’s tussle in Waid and Ross’ 1990s epic Kingdom Come. When Ming throws out Superman against Batman he’s ridiculed for not citing any issues. Mike’s quick to jump in with Miller’s Dark Knight Returns #4.

Mike handles this week’s first valuation amiably too. A young lady and her partner stop by to browse the Stash and they take a shine at something the store sells for once! It’s Marvel’s valuable, ground-breaking Giant-Size X-Men #1 from 1975. She’s a big X-Men fan.

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If you’ve been keeping track of the women-in-comics furore that’s been bubbling away for a while, you might want to look away now before you hulk or she-hulk out. Walt makes a comment in the podcast booth about the two things that keep people from buying comics: money and wives. Ouch.

Ming and Mike tell the lady customer and her plucky sidekick, also a comics collector, that it’s cool to see a couple who collect comics. Note that word was couple – not woman. As one half of this site’s comics reporting couple I have to admit that made me smile. Hopefully reaction to this tiny part of an already criticised series won’t get in the way of enjoying the one show about comics we have on TV.

It’s clear from the lady’s interest in Giant-Size X-Men – and the look on her face on the revelation that the Stash has good quality copies of Incredible Hulk #180 and #181 too – that this is someone who loves comics. She’s treated by Mike like any other customer who has good taste, as she should be. It’s still not easy to shake the feeling that Walt’s podcast booth comment will start a new round of irate social media reactions and blog articles over the next week or so.

More importantly, you might be wondering why an X-Men fan would be so excited over two issues of Incredible Hulk. That’s because Len Wein, John Romita and Herb Trimpe’s Wolverine snikts into comics for the first time on the last page of #180, and battles the Hulk in #181. Keep your eyes peeled for the information notes as it’s probably the only time you’ll see ever Marvel’s Canadian super-team Alpha Flight get mentioned on the gogglebox! Eventually the couple get their three landmark issues for a tidy $1600.

Ming interrupts Bryan’s oddly insightful scatological inquisition of Walt about Kryptonian toilet habits by suggesting a new marketing idea for the store, in one word: zombies. This isn’t Ming’s only suggestion to bring new customers to the Stash. In the podcast booth, Kevin and the others go over the Spanish debacle, when Ming repeatedly put an ad in the local Spanish-language paper. The Stash sells comics published in English.

Walt agrees to run with Ming’s idea to dress the guys up as brain-hungry walking dead for a flyer advertising 20% off at the store. Bryan, as usual, cuts to the chase. “So once people get here – we’re not zombies?” Hmm, dubious and dubiouser.

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Another nerdy couple wanders into the Stash, this time a rather tall bloke and a short lady both wearing identical hipster glasses. Stilt-man wields a rare and boxed 1991 15-inch Godzilla action figure from Bandai. They’re hoping to raise money to pay for their wedding. Aww! Walt can’t value the figure so he calls Rob Bruce while the couple browse the comics. Check out the first episode, Junk, for more of Bruce’s no-prisoners bargaining.

This prompts some geeking out by Rob and Stilt-man over Godzilla series and Monster Island. Kevin, a Mecha Godzilla fan, asks the guys in the podcast booth what their favourite Japanese monster is. Walt likes three-headed galactic dragon King Ghidorah. If this is your first episode watching then it’s that kind of show, refreshingly so. People can freely admit to appreciating giant death-lizards from space.

Reality TV zooming happens when Rob takes a closer look at the figure’s tail with one of those monoculars antiques dudes have hidden away in their utility belt – Godzilla’s been glued back together. Stilt-man’s face suddenly resembles Rodney from UK sitcom Only Fools and Horses when the schemes of Del Boy get him into trouble. It’s one of those moments that’s really awkward, like when a Nazi commandant suspects you’re a spy who’s just pretending to be a Luftwaffe pilot trying to have a quiet pint a standing-room-only Bavarian bierkeller full of SS. Don’t make any sudden moves, hipster.

Even Stilt-man’s fiancee is surprised to find out he knew the tail was glued back on. He plays the nonchalant act but Walt’s noticeably annoyed. Rob takes no prisoners. Thankfully for Stilt-man his fiancee has some chops and pushes, reminding Bruce he was interested in the figure as soon as he saw it. Lady Stilt-man takes up the bidding and strikes a bargain with Rob for $175. Stilt-man is, to put it colloquially, proper dischuffed. He says, “No offence you guys but you’re not invited to the wedding.”

Make-up techie Justin shows up in a Monroeville Mall t-shirt to transform the Stash staff into zombies. The effect’s cool but totally over the top for the ad, to Walt’s chagrin. Ooh, Twilight. In the podcast booth they discuss the best prosthetics and make-up in movies. Kevin singles out Heath Ledger’s Joker and the Chuck Heston Planet of the Apes. After the photo shoot even Walt admits he’s got a good feeling about the zombie ad, titled Day of the Walking Deal.

Another female customer strides through the front door and plonks down a longbox of comics inherited from her dad, citing his instruction to sell them if she ever needed money for some fancy book-learnin’ of the non-comics variety. Flicking through the box with some deft back issue technique, Walt reports that there’s a lot of classic Silver Age Marvel. Straight out of the box is Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man #2, featuring the first appearance of the Vulture. A near-mint copy could fetch eleven grand, but this isn’t one.

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Hold up, though. Also in the longbox is the debut of Smith’s favourite, Daredevil. Walt picks out 1966’s Fantastic Four #48, the arrival of Galactus and Silver Surfer. Even better, although those unfamiliar with ’60s Marvel might not immediately see why, is a good condition copy of Fantastic Four #51 – Lee and Kirby’s This Man, This Monster. I’d agree with Walt that it’s one of the best stories in comics. The issue’s a direct challenge to anyone who thinks you can’t tell a comic book story well outside of a 400-page graphic novel.

“Forget Shakespeare,” quoth Walt. “This is the greatest story ever told.” Bold words, Sir Flanagan. Yet more from yonder customer though. “I’m still one of the few girls in any comic book shop I walk into.” Secret Stash, Twitter would have words with thee! Kevin and Bryan take the opportunity to tease Walt in the podcast booth about his opinion of women customers. She walks away from the store with advice to consult the Overstreet Guide and look for around eight grand for her collection.

Ming papers most of Red Bank with the zombie flyers. Meanwhile, back at the Stash, Walt quizzes the guys about which iconic monster they’d be. Breaking away from sneakily reading this January’s brilliant Liberated Ladies issue of Twomorrow’s Back Issue magazine to answer, Bryan goes for Dracula on the basis that eating anything doesn’t bother him.

Action figure valuation numero dos. A Seth Rogen lookalike walks in looking for McFarlane Toys’ Tortured Souls line, plucked from the noggin of Clive Barker. Definitely not Christmas stocking fillers for the munchkins. Kevin puts it out there that they never should have been made. Bryan calls them “visions of hell moulded into plastic”. Sounds not too dissimilar to Barbie.

Why is Rogenganger buying back toys his girlfriend made him get rid of? She cheated with a pianist. It’s hard not to feel bad for the lad even if he is into some pretty freaky collectibles. Bryan and Walt ask Rogenganger if getting back the Tortured Souls figures is his way of putting his foot down, and he agrees. This man, this monster?

Rob Bruce brings his mate Cliff by the Stash with some framed pages from a 1988 John Buscema Silver Surfer book. Walt barely stops himself from doing a backflip. “Money’s no object” he blurts out, and Mike quickly asks what he did with the real Walt Flanagan. Buscema’s a legend, the kind of artist you don’t get in comics anymore, so you can understand the excitement.

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Buscema’s Surfer pages are a one-off, unique set. Walt bargains Clint down to $9200 for the set. The pages prompt Kevin to ask the guys what their holy grail of geekery is. Ming chooses a prototype Boba Fett action figure, and Mike picks the apt – at least for UK audiences – cover of Avengers #151. It’d be interesting to hear Den of Geek readers’ choices, so leave your comments below!

This episode was the best so far and raised an interesting question through this week’s customers: should a collector or fan compromise their hobby for anyone else? From my own experience, I can say that it wasn’t meant to be for me until I met my fiancee Jennie Whitwood, who shares a love of comics among other nerdy things.

Comic Book Men‘s starting to show its heart’s in the right place and I hope viewers can see beyond the online bluster to give the show a chance.

Check out our review of Comic Book Men’s previous episode here.

If you like the show then download the Comic Book Men podcasts here.

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