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Catching Up With The Comic Book Men: Interview With Walt Flanagan & Bryan Johnson

Catching Up With The Comic Book Men

“Cryptozoic Man” & “Come Book Men” Season 3 Debut This Week

By Matt McGloin & Byron Brewer

 

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With Cryptozoic Man coming out this week from Dynamite Entertainment and the third season of Comic Book Men kicking off on AMC this Sunday, Cosmic Book News decided now would be a good time to catch up with Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson.

Crytpozoic Man, written by Johnson with art by Flangan, is available today in local comic shops. The four-issue series centers around Alan Ostman, a middle-aged husband/father, who sees his life quickly unravel when his daughter goes missing on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest. After Gray aliens abduct him from a roadside bar, he learns that the fate of the world is dependent on trapping some of the world’s most legendary and enigmatic creatures.

Season 3 of Comic Book Men premiers Sunday at midnight and promises more from Kevin, Walt, Bryan, Mike, and Ming. The comic crew are back behind the counter and in front of the microphone talking all things pop culture in addition to episodes featuring special celebrity guests, such as Lou Ferrigno appearing on Sunday, and more.

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Cosmic Book News: How has it changed your life going from the guy behind the counter to being in front of millions and being the voice of comic fans everywhere with AMC’s Comic Book Men?

Walt Flanagan: Life has changed very little for me. I’m asked to speak more than I’d like but otherwise it’s pretty much the same.

Bryan Johnson: I’m more the guy behind the guy who’s behind the counter. For awhile in the ’90s I managed the Red Bank Stash then tried my hand at it again in the mid-2000s when Kevin needed someone to manage the Stash in Westwood, CA. Turns out I don’t have the disposition required to work in retail. However, I DO have the disposition required to tease and torment customers and my friends alike and get paid for it, so I would say my life has changed for the better.  

Cosmic Book News:  I know it’s “reality,” but can you give us any hints at all as to what is coming up in Season 3?

Walt: We have some very memorable people popping up at the The Stash this season. Some iconic ’70s faces as well as the ’90s.

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Bryan:  I loved shooting this season. Our Executive Producer, Brian Nashel, who came back from season one after missing out on season two due to a schedule conflict is a Jersey guy, too. Right outta the gate he shared our sense of humor and understood the tone of the show which went a long way in terms of a smooth and extremely productive relationship. This season there is a slightly looser structure to the show. We spend more time with transactions, conversations about comic related stuff and in the podcast studio. 

Cosmic Book News:  Will the Dynamite Entertainment Cryptozoic Man comic book mini-series rear its head again?

Walt: Yes, the Cryptozoic Man comic has an episode geared around it. Look for it in your local comics shop October 9th!

Bryan: C’mon, let’s not be silly. Can you imagine if people weren’t given a follow-up to the Cryptozoic Man pitch from season two? There would be rioting in the streets. The president would declare martial law. A wave of mass suicides would overtake the country. Walt and I would hate to be held accountable for something so tragic. We decided it was easier just to revisit the storyline in season three of Comic Book Men and avoid all that bad juju.  

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Cosmic Book News: As your show is kind of a humorous take on the comic book world, what do you think of the current crop of comic book movies being so serious?

Walt: I really love the deadly serious tone of the current crop of comic flicks. I would love to do a 100% deadly serious episode of Comic Book Men just to freak people out.

Bryan: Anyone who watches Comic Book Men knows I’m not really into comics all that much (I know, the irony), so I don’t see many comic book movies. I tried to watch The Avengers but just couldn’t get into it.

Now, if someone decides to do a movie based on Peter Bagge’s Hate, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, or Joe Hill’s Locke and Key, my butt is in a seat. 

Cosmic Book News: How would you compare the comic books of today with those you grew up reading?

Walt: It’s hard to compare them. They’re so different from when I first started reading. It was so easy and cheap to get everything that came out when I was young. The storylines weren’t so dense, and the creators were creating the books for kids to young teens. Nowadays comics are mostly created for adults; it’s really like comparing apples and oranges.

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Bryan: I feel like the stuff we read growing up was kind of deserving of the rep comics got as being “for kids” and not having much substance. Today, the writing and stories are so well developed and mature in theme. When you have writers like Alan Moore Neil Gaiman, Brian Wood, Grant Morrison, Brian K. Vaughan, etc. out there, it’s impossible for anyone to dismiss comics wholesale. These guys are true literary masters. 

Cosmic Book News: Does Ming get picked on that much really, or is that just for the show? 

Walt: I’m convinced Ming just wants attention — be it positive or negative as long he’s the topic of discussion, he’s happy.

Bryan: I know this may sound crazy, but I don’t feel like Ming gets picked on. Only bullies pick on other people and since neither Walt nor me are bullies, the only reasonable explanation is that Ming asks for it -nay – demands it. If you watch the show carefully, he brings most of the ridicule on himself. That being said, I love Ming, and he’s been one of my best friends for well over a decade now. Strangely, if anyone else gives Ming crap, I get very protective. I don’t like it when anyone outside our circle messes with him. 

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Cosmic Book News: Bryan, how did you get involved with writing and how did you choose comics as your medium? What comic book writers were your favorites as a fan?

Bryan: I’ve loved writing and telling stories as far back as I can recall. When I was twelve, I wrote a story about a substitute teacher who wasn’t all that nice to her students. The offended kids tricked her into going to the cafeteria where they proceeded to lock her in, but only after they had extinguished the oven’s pilot light and filled the room with gas. This was 1980, so unless you were clearly insane you got a trip to the principle’s office rather than the school shrink for that type of behavior. Three detentions later I wrote a story about a substitute teacher who was drugged and buried alive underneath home plate on the school baseball field. These clever students had rigged a system to deliver food/water/oxygen, so whenever they wanted, they could visit home plate and taunt the teacher for months to come. I honestly don’t know if it was my fault, but that particular sub never came back after that.

I feel like comics chose me rather than me having chosen the medium. I got into writing comics simply by wanting to work with Walt whose art I’ve loved since we met back in 1978. Sometime in the late ’90s I’d written “Karney“, a movie script that tonally is along the lines of Tod Browning’s Freaks. After I was assured by several people in the film industry that it couldn’t be done on a low budget, I adapted it into a comic book format. Now, for those who think Walt and I got only got published because we’re friends with Kevin — nope. Knowing Kevin has absolutely opened doors, but many times those same doors hit us on the butt on our way out. We had been turned down by EVERYONE and were on the verge of self-publishing when visionary and all-around good dude Chris Ryall from IDW Publishing called and told us he dug the material and wanted to publish the book.  

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Cosmic Book News:  Walt, how did you get involved with drawing and how did you choose comics as a medium? What comic book artists were your favorites as a fan?

Walt: As a kid I always dreamed of drawing comics; it’s really rewarding. As far as creators who inspired me? The list could go on and on but a few off the top of my head: George Perez, John Byrne, Gil Kane, Don Perlin, Tim Truman, the Buscema brothers, Ross Andru, but like I said I could list hundreds whom I adored as a kid and made me want to pick up a pencil.

Cosmic Book News:  Do you guys ever visit other comic shops?

Walt: I love visiting other comic shops. I wish I had more time to travel to see other ones.

Bryan: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begged these guys to let me fire-bomb the competition, but they’re sorta squeamish when it comes to stuff like that. 

Cosmic Book News:  Walt, what do you like most about Bryan’s writing?

Walt: I love Bryan’s subtle weird dialog as well as when he goes all-out weird and subtle is out the window. He really is great at doing the disturbingly twisted stuff. 

Cosmic Book News:  Likewise, Bryan, what do you like most about Walt’s art?

Bryan: Hands down, the originality and creativity. I know if I hand Walt a page with action as general as “Hordes of monsters descend on our hero,” every single monster on that page is going to be unique. It’s like there’s an endless procession of fucked-up creatures parading through his mind at all times.  

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Cosmic Book News: What’s your favorite comic book today and who are your favorite artists and writers today? 

Walt: Scott Snyder, [Brian] Bendis, [Geoff] Johns are some of today’s writers whom I dig. Artists of today? Wow, so many: Jim Lee, the Kuberts, [Bryan] Hitch. I love a book called Bullet Proof Coffin by Image as well. So fun. Like a dream put to paper.

Bryan: I recently bought the hardcover collection of Locke and Key and loved it. I’ve read all of Joe [Hill’s] fiction stuff, and it’s fantastic. You really have to hand it to a guy who goes into the industry with the type of comparison he’s facing. Sure, he used his pen name to avoid that, but in today’s world that stuff doesn’t stay secret for very long. My father is Stephen King? I’m not going anywhere near a laptop. I couldn’t deal with everyone and their grandmother’s blogs opining about my work relative to my father’s. I’m glad he braved those waters though, the fiction world is far better for it. 

Cosmic Book News: Is Kevin Smith working on any new comic books or films?

Walt: Kevin is working on a new film called Tusk. It sounds amazing. Cannot wait to see it. It’s gonna be brilliant.

Bryan: A few months ago Kev texted me asking me to read a script he wrote called Tusk. It’s based on a story he read about a guy who was deserted at sea for a few years and befriended a walrus. Eventually, he was rescued and once back on land missed his former companion and wanted to hire someone to live with him and act as a Walrus for a few hours a day. This entailed wearing a realistic walrus costume, making walrus noises, eating whatever the hell it is walruses eat — the full nine. 

The script is phenomenal. So bizarre. It’s David Lynch meets Rob Zombie meets Kev. There’s no way it can possibly disappoint. 

Cosmic Book News: Any changes coming to Comic Book Men in Season 3?

Bryan: We meet up with a few more notable guests than in past seasons but for the most part it’s pretty much the same. Lots of ball-breaking and blathering on about important stuff like “who was finer, Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge?” 

Cosmic Book News: Are you involved in any comics projects you’d like to mention?

Walt: Right now I’m drawing issue 4 of Cryptozoic Man. After that? Not sure.

Bryan: I’m presently finishing writing the fourth issue of Cryptozoic Man and after that I’m collaborating on an untitled project with my friend Jason Mewes who is completely consumed with Game Of Thrones and wants to do a comic in the same vein.  

Cosmic Book News: How many more seasons would you like the Comic Book Men series to continue?

Walt: I’d love to see Comic Book Men get into Simpsons territory regarding seasons. 

Bryan: I thought I’d be satisfied after we got season two thinking it would shut the mouths of the naysayers who ragged on the show and said it would get cancelled after season one. Well, season two wrapped and those same negative nellies were POSITIVE that there was no way in hell we would get a third season. I guess I want it to last as long as it takes to shut every one of their goddamn critical mouths. I don’t care if, after season 19, those same dopes are saying “C’mon, season 20?!?! NO WAY is that happening!” I’d do it just to spite them.

Cosmic Book News: Any parting thoughts?

Walt: Check out my and Bryan’s multiple award winning podcast “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave!” on iTunes. We do it with Brian Quinn of tru TV’s Impractical Jokers. It’s free. People seem to dig it. 

Bryan: Check out Comic Book Men on October 13th on AMC and listen to “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave!” TESD is near and dear to my heart and the podcast that Comic Book Men is primarily based upon. Oh yeah, follow me on Twitter a @tellemstevedave. Ming has more followers than I do and it makes me nauseous. 

“Cryptozoic Man” #1 hits Wednesday, October 9th! “Comic Book Men” premiers Sunday at midnight on AMC!

Read More about Catching Up With The Comic Book Men: Interview With Walt Flanagan & Bryan Johnson

Comic-Con Exclusive: Comic Book Men’s Bryan Johnson on new Cryptozoic Man mini-series

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:9525:]]It’s reality show come to life, or life come to reality show.

Amid the announcements of Dynamite Entertainment at SDCC, CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci has revealed that the company will be publishing Cryptozoic Man, the comic book project featured in an episode of the AMC television serie,s Comic Book Men.

To separate reality from “reality,” Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer hunted down one of the stars of the show, comic book writer Bryan Johnson, to exclusively get the 411 on the SDCC news.

Cosmic Book News: Bryan, this is all very surreal. How did an episode plot device from AMC‘s Comic Book Men become an actual Dynamite comic?

Bryan Johnson: Walt [Flanagan] and I had done two comic series for IDW Publishing in the past and we’d been talking about doing a new project which at first, we were going to self-publish. After some discussion, we thought it may be interesting to see if one of the bigger publishers would be willing to hear our pitch on an episode of Comic Book Men. The idea was to give viewers a glimpse (albeit somewhat untraditional) into the process of making a comic book from concept to completion. The flipside of that was running the risk of having our work rejected in a VERY public forum. Proposing the book on the show also gave us the opportunity to make the presentation much bigger than it would have been otherwise. It’s unlikely we would have gone the route of a pitch tape and wrangling Stan Lee to do the narration had we traveled the self-publishing route.

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CBN: Any chance that this whole realization of the book may in fact wind up as part of a TV series? (laughs)

Bryan Johnson: We have the reality end nailed down and will be revisiting the storyline in Season 3, but who knows? Maybe AMC is looking to produce a mini-series about Bigfoot and his buddies running afoul of a hostile race of inter-dimensional creatures.  

CBN: For the uninitiated, who — or what — is the Cryptozoic Man?

Bryan Johnson: The Cryptozoic Man was once a normal, everyday guy named Jack Gimlin. After Jack’s daughter goes missing on a camping trip, his life falls apart. One night after Jack gets his ass handed to him by a bully in a tavern parking lot, he’s abducted by aliens. Turns out the aliens harbor a dark secret, the fate of Jack’s daughter. If he agrees to allow himself to be medically transformed into a weapon they’ll use to defeat an enemy who threatens the destruction of their race, the aliens promise to reunite father and daughter. The result: Cryptozoic Man, a patchwork monstrosity comprised of pieces of several legendary cryptids

CBN: How does this four issue mini-series for Dynamite differ from what we know about the book from the show?

Bryan Johnson: Since the time allotted to present the idea was so limited on the show, we weren’t really able to explore the finer points of the story. Most everything we had planned back then and everything we discussed in that episode is still in effect. 

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CBN: What are your inspirations for the book? Any particular comic or something from other media?

Bryan Johnson: Both Walt and myself were huge fans of the Leonard Nimoy narrated ’70’s TV show In Search of. The premise of the show was quite simply exploring the unknown. Now sometimes the “unknown” was extraterrestrials, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle … THOSE were the edge-of-your-seat episodes. Unfortunately sometimes you’d encounter real clunkers … Episodes focusing on subjects like King Tut’s tomb or Easter Island. I’m happy to have grown up during that time period. Without constant media saturation, you had the opportunity to exist as a relatively naive kid. When I heard the Killer Bees were making their way to the United States, I went Defcon One. For better or worse, your imagination was on overdrive at all times because there wasn’t an internet that could immediately debunk whatever bogeyman was currently haunting your dreams.

CBN: What particular challenges will your protagonist face in the mini?

Bryan Johnson: The most interesting challenge Jack faces is how to face the minutia of day-to-day life after having lost a child. Walt’s a father and I’m so close to my seven-year-old niece that she calls me ‘Dada’. Like most parents, neither of us could conceive of how difficult, if not impossible, that situation would be to deal with. Jack has the added burden of having been the last one to see his daughter alive while they were on a camping trip together. Needless to say, more than a few suspicious glances are cast in his direction. 

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CBN: Tell me about the art of your cohort, Walt Flanagan.

Bryan Johnson: Ehhh … it’s okay, I suppose …

… But seriously, I’ve been a fan of Walt’s art since the fifth grade. He was the new kid in school and one day in class he drew a picture of a big old butt sporting googly eyes and a crazy smile. Underneath the picture he’d written “Wild Ass.” Much like the scene in Jerry Maguire, he had me at “Wild Ass.” 

Fast forward to our thirties and that kid is a professional comic book artist. I love … LOVE Walt’s art. He’s one of those guys his neighbors would describe as “that quiet, polite boy.” Thankfully, instead of burying bodies in his crawlspace he puts pencil to paper and comes up with the most wonderful demonic and depraved images you could hope to imagine. I was looking at a particular page from Cryptozoic Man the other day and marveled at the number of unique monsters he came up with. I’m a fan of the grotesque and depraved so Walt’s my man. 

CBN: Does it seem to you the comic book market is opening up to more off-beat concepts like Cryptozoic Man? It has humor, horror, sci-fi and even family drama of a sort.

Bryan Johnson: Concepts like Cryptozoic Man are never going to best the mainstays of the medium. Fanboys do love their tights and capes, don’t they? However, I think as long as writers of note and talent, guys like Joe Hill, show interest in writing comics that aren’t necessarily hero-centric the audience will be willing to give non-traditional comic book storylines a read. 

I’m not a cape and tights guy (outside the bedroom, that is) which is why when I read I’m drawn to titles like Preacher, DMZ, Y The Last Man, Locke and Key … etc, etc. 

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CBN: What do you want readers to take away from this mini?

Bryan Johnson: Our goal with Cryptozoic Man is fairly modest. We want people to walk away feeling that they got a great story and some fantastic art … bang for your buck. I realize that I’m not part of the mainstream which while imposed by my clear lack of mainstream appeal actually has worked to my benefit. Whether it’s Vulgar, a movie I wrote and directed for Lion’s Gate, Comic Book Men, our podcast Tell ‘Em, Steve Dave, or Cryptozoic Man, I get to write what I’d want to read, I make jokes that I think are funny, we say what we want (without cursing) on Comic Book Men. I’m a firm believer in do it for you first. There ARE other people out there who will “get it.” The best part of doing it your way is you never walk away feeling like you tried to appeal to an audience against your better judgment and failed. Ultimately your audience should be you and if other people want to join in along the way, the more the merrier.

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CBN: What’s up in the future for Bryan Johnson?

Bryan Johnson: I’m hoping we can get to season twenty-three of Comic Book Men so I can retire having never fully committed to a “real” job. I mean, c’mon. I get paid to make fun of my friends and customers, something I’d be doing for free anyway. Actually, can you strike that last sentence? I don’t want AMC finding out they don’t really need to pay me.

Other than planning to turn Comic Book Men into the longest running reality series of all time, I’ll be working on another comic series with my friend Jason Mewes once Cryptozoic Man is finished, doing live shows under the Why Bry banner with Kevin, and continuing on with my favorite project, Tell ‘Em, Steve Dave with Walt and our friend and well-known Impractical Joker, Brian Quinn. We’re @TellEmSteveDave on twitter, BTW. I saw you don’t follow us. What’s up with that?

CBN: Twitter? I’m 55; I can barely send emails and am still trying to figure out pencil sharpeners! (laughs) Finally, ever think of changing the name of the AMC show to COSMIC Book Men? (laughs)

Bryan Johnson: No, Byron, I haven’t.

(Editor’s Note: We now follow them on Twitter – Cosmic Man Matt)

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Bryan Johnson for answering our questions during his busy schedule. Also thanks to Dynamite’s own Nick Buccarri and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.

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