By Amy Lukac
SLAM! The door of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash closed behind me.
Sometimes shortened to “The Stash,” the store located in Red Bank, N.J. opened in January 1997 for $30,000. Kevin Smith, aka Silent Bob, bought the shop that was once called Comicology after making enough money from the movie “Clerks.”
Smith put his friend and colleague Walt Flanagan, whom he characterizes as “our resident comics genius,” in charge of running the store.
Comic books fill the bright blue walls from the front of the store to the back. Props are placed on the walls and even near the ceiling, and collectables are showcased delicately throughout the store.
“Comic Book Men” is an American reality TV series airing on AMC and set at The Stash. The show started in February 2012 and stars Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Zapcic from Lincroft, N.J. Zapcic claims to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every issue of every comic ever made. If you’re looking for a specific Amazing Spiderman comic, Zapcic says that he is your man.
Along with the “Comic Book Men,” Zapcic’s career at The Stash began in 2000. He also hosts a weekly podcast called “I Sell Comics” with colleague and friend Ming Chen on Kevin Smith’s radio network, S.I.R.: SModcast Internet Radio.
So, why did Kevin Smith decide to buy Comicology and keep the store in Red Bank? According to Zapcic, Smith was born in Riverview hospital in Red Bank and has always had an attachment to the town.
On one of the episodes, the men all took turns explaining what super power they would pick. Zapcic’s answer was telekinesis and, according to him, that is still his answer and always will be.
Super powers would be a cool thing to have, but what if you could be a specific super hero?
“Any super hero? I mean, it’s one of those questions that – do you pick the obvious and want to be Superman, or do you stay who you are and become the ultimate human and become Nightwing or Batman? You know what? I want to be Nightwing,” said Zapcic.
We all can’t like every single super hero, right? As for Zapcic, he’s not a fan of Vibe from Justice League Detroit.
“I always thought he was such a racial stereotype. Even back in the 80s, I found that kind of offensive. Who else do I hate? Do I hate any superheroes? Nah. I mean, if you’re wiling to put on the suit and go out and fight the good fight, I don’t think I really hate too many superheroes.”
Working in retail and with people in general can be a pain. The “pawn” business can get pretty heated, so I was curious as to how nice the customers are when they come into The Stash to sell their collectables.
According to Zapcic, most of their customers are nice, and “only 0.0001 percent” get nasty.
Like I mentioned before, Zapcic knows of every comic book, but are there any collectables he has never seen before?
“There’s a couple I haven’t seen before they came into the store. In the next season coming up, you’ll see a few new collectables we’ve never seen before except pictures of them,” said Zapcic.
So, what was the moment Zapcic decided he loved comic books?
“Comic books have always been a part of my life. From Batman the TV shows to Spiderman the cartoon. I just don’t remember a time where I didn’t have comic books in my life.”
I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid; I also wanted to be an astronaut. After some thought, Zapcic told me he wanted to be a photographer when he was 14 years old. He adds that if there were more comic book shops when he was younger, that would have been his dream job.
I asked Zapcic how he would explain the show to someone that has never seen it before: “I’m going to describe it the way Kevin Smith described it when he pitched it: Antique’s Road Show with comic books.”
“The Walking Dead” season 6 premiere is Sunday, Oct. 12. Before the show, the comic books were popular and considered best sellers. Still, today “The Walking Dead” comic book series are one of their best selling series.
Meeting celebrities is always an exciting thing to do; especially if they’re Avengers, “I got to meet Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Anthony Mackie (Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier).”
Jealous? I am.
You would guess that the Comic Book Men have a lot of prized possessions. When Zapcic told me his, I became very envious.
“I have a Captain America shield signed by Stan Lee,” said Zapcic.
After the interview, I picked up a few new comic books to read and keep in The Stroud Courier office, took a few pictures of Zapcic and the shop and left feeling pretty “super.”
You can check out the new season of “Comic Book Men” on Oct. 18 at midnight on AMC!
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