It turned out to be fine weather for a Free Comic Book Day on the East Coast after some torrential rain this week and especially out by the Jersey Shore there was plenty of weekend traffic and sunroofs open. Coming into Red Bank, the streets were busy and outdoor cafes were buzzing. Across from their own outpost for Starbucks (if you like that kind of thing), the storied Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash comic shop, created by local comic writer/filmmaker/podcaster and all around pop culture godfather Kevin Smith, was basking in their own corner of weekend sun.
I missed their initial FCBD rush due to shore traffic, but still arrived soon after opening to find plenty of the FCBD comics pillaged, with a single Guardians of the Galaxy dangling forlornly before being snatched. Also gone, of course, was Rocket Raccoon, the big book of the year. Last night, I heard that some people were planning on driving around comic shops all day just to try to make sure they got one. That’s not extreme really–it’s a fantastic comic. But the shop had a picture taken on the fly to show me of the initial madness:
Mike Zapcic (one of our own Comic Book Men on AMC with Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson and Ming Chen) is manning the homestead today and having pretty cute and hilarious conversations with the little kids and parents swarming the shop. Thankfully, a fair few kids comics are still available for them and staging some debate over the merits of Bongo versus Kaboom. Why not both? It is FCBD after all.
Mike says the superhero-based comics were, of course, the first to be grabbed, probably due to the popularity of superhero movies right now, whether or not the comics featured franchise characters (but that’s also a huge, though not exclusive batch of comic readers). But Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is a place that may bring you in for free comics, but should easily keep you an hour or much more looking through the strange artifacts and wide array of lesser available titles housed therein.
They have the poster art for the show Comic Book Men, of course:
And plenty of memorabilia related to the film Dogma:
And I’ll say for the record that Mike’s looks like a particularly painful transformation. But the commitment to keeping up with the latest craziness in pop culture collectibles as well as keeping a grip on nostalgia is strong in the shop, from Marvel bobble statues to an original Pee Wee Herman doll, a Murder She Wrote board game, and the original figures set on display of Star Wars (which is enough to make most geeks envious).
But as much cool stuff as the shop has, commemorative and saleable, the likes of which has brought me shopping here in the past, this sight was the one that really warmed my heart and confirmed my feelings about Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash:
And why I’ve always felt comfortable here as a reader and a fan. They preserve that underground comics ethos, that belief in the underdog making good that I don’t think is going anywhere anytime soon. It seems written into the DNA of the shop, and even of the show Comic Book Men. And that speaks to me. It’s a great thing that indie comic artists can come into the shop and ask for their books to be sold on consignment. They even have some racks for mini comics on their main wall right alongside the Big Two comics. And I can only respond with affirmation for that.
The shop has plenty of regulars, and some that only turn up on FCBD of course, but the shop itself maintains its own personality and that’s what keeps people coming back. It’s a groovy place to hang out, a welcoming place for readers and fans, and Red Bank is lucky to have them.
Well, what I ended up with today, after some hard-nosed decision making about free stuff and shopping, was the FCBD book Return of the Magi, from Top Cow, written by Marc Silvestri, which I think is going to be one of the most interesting comics of 2014 in terms of storytelling and concept as well as art, a Pop! Vinyl of the robot from Lost in Space, and a signed Jetpack exclusive edition of Cryptozoic Man. And I could easily have taken home a lot more–the lesser known trades are a particular weakness of mine at the Stash.
When I popped out for some lunch, I decided to eat at Readie’s, a cafe that has featured on the show Comic Book Men and is right next door to the Stash. There, sure enough, was the “Secret Stash Superhero” sandwich featured on the show on the menu:
It’s a pastrami, swiss cheese, and coleslaw with Russian dressing. When I stopped back by the Stash to see how things were coming along with the after lunch crowd (and there was a noticeable spike after lunch), things were hopping. And I noticed that Mike was personally attending a lot of requests to see classic comics off the wall and giving information as well as fielding questions.
When I checked the wall, having only been out to lunch a short time, sure enough, it was noticeably thinned out. Putting together my observations of the day, I realized there had been a brisk trade in classic comics the entire time. That to me says that Free Comic Book Day is about celebrating comics and adding to one’s personal collections as much as taking home those free books. And, of course, the retail attention is much appreciated by shops, many of whom rely on FCBD to give them a boost in sales for the year.
When I gathered up my stuff and decided it was time to head out, I couldn’t resist a podcasting glamor shot, since these guys are so known for their podcasts like Tell ‘Em Steve Dave and I Sell Comics! Just one picture.
But in closing, I’d like to thank the fine folks at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, and in particular Mike Zapcic for putting up with the extra craziness of having me around reporting while fielding the shopping frenzy of Free Comic Book Day. Hope it was a good one for the Stash and all you readers out there.
Hannah Means-Shannon is EIC at Bleeding Cool and @hannahmenzies on Twitter