AMC's 'Comic Book Men' come to life

REALITY PREMIERE "Comic Book Men"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC

REASON TO WATCH For Kevin Smith fans.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In Red Bank, N.J. -- Smith's hometown -- is a comic-book store called Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash that's owned by the quirky director ("Clerks," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"). Four guys who run (or hang out at) the place relay their adventures in the comic book trade to Smith on his podcast series.

They are: Walt Flanagan, the store's manager and Smith's high-school buddy, who's been there since its 1997 opening; Bryan Johnson -- aka "Steve-Dave Pulasti -- who has appeared in several Smith films (though he doesn't technically work at the Stash, as much as occupy a stool there); Mike Zapcic, resident expert on All Things Comic Book-related; and Ming Chen, who long ago helped create the website for Smith's production company. Smith appears in this only during the podcast proceedings.

MY SAY There's something intrinsically fascinating about a grown man who can answer this without blinking: Which character in the 1957 DC Comics series Challengers of the Unknown goes by the anagram name of Tino Manarry? (And then say, "now give me a HARD question.")

There is also something intrinsically odd. How does he know this? WHY? Because comic books and their collectors occupy a parallel universe to our own, which brims with trivia about the adventures of Aquaman or the Shazam Family. Fanboys revel in their vast store of pop-culture knowledge which is a big reason Smith has been a pied piper to so many: He's a comic-book maven whose rep in that world possibly exceeds his rep in the indie production one.

"Comic Book Men" is certainly genial, good-natured, eccentric and dry-witted -- particularly when Steve-Dave, who bears a Billy Gibbons beard -- is on-screen. But its appeal is impossibly narrow, even within that subgenre of unscripted series (History Channel's "Pawn Stars") that revel in the eccentric pursuits of glorious oddballs.

BOTTOM LINE Way too obscure for the average viewer, "Comic Book Men" is strictly for Smith groupies, and there are probably enough of those to keep this six-parter afloat over its short run.

GRADE B-

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