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Comic Book Men Q&A – Mike Zapcic

Comic Book Men star Mike Zapcic talks about being the Stash’s resident comic book encyclopedia, how he almost quit comics and the one book that brought him back into the fold.

Q: If Rob Bruce is the pop-culture encyclopedia, then you’re definitely the comic book encyclopedia. Is there something that helps you remember so many facts about comic history and lore?
A: I think it just goes to being a comic book fan. When Walt is drawing a comic book or a project for somebody, and he needs a specific thing — and this is one of the most useless talents ever — but he needs, let’s say, a certain pose. He can describe it to me and I know I’ve seen it in a comic book and it takes me a minute or two to remember where I saw that and — boom! If we have the comic, I can just show it to him. Like I said, absolutely useless in the real world, but in this particular comic shop, very helpful!

Q: Like an obscure superpower! Do the other guys in the Stash have obscure superpowers?
A: Bryan Johnson is able to spend one minute with you and make fun of the one thing that would hurt you the most. He’s like Doctor Doom but with witty barbs instead of magic and technology.

Q: Do you remember when you first got into comics?
A: I can’t remember my first comic. Comics have always been part of my life. My older brother used to swap comic books with friends of his, when you had to buy your comics off the spinning rack at a malt shop or a five and dime. I vaguely remember being two or three and I got ahold of my mom’s scissors — which doesn’t speak well for my parents at the time — but I started cutting out panels of his comics because they spoke to me. When my brother found out, he freaked out and my father had to go and buy the comics. I think they were like 5 or 10 cents and he paid about $5, and then I had a box full of my own comics after that.

Q: Is there a comic book run that’s particularly special to you?
A: The run that solidified my love of comic books is a toss up between George Perez’s The Avengers and The Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. When those came out, that’s when I realized that comics weren’t just funny books for kids — these had stories, plotlines and they were amazing. It was like reading a soap opera, but about people with superpowers. Then, when I turned 15, I quit reading comic books for six months and The New Teen Titans brought me back. Before I quit, I was a huge fan and I had written a letter to the creative team, saying “Thank you so much for this, you guys were spot on,” and I did a critique of the issue. Then I put down comic books for, you know, girls and high school. Then a friend of mine, who was one of two other people in my school who collected comic books, called me up and said, “You gotta go pick up The New Teen Titans #26. You’ll thank me.” So I went out and I got The New Teen Titans #26 and my letter was printed in the back. And I never put comic books down again.

Q: So if fans get their hands on a copy of The New Teen Titans #26, they’ll find your letter there?
A: Yes, in the back of the book. And funny little side bar to that — I let them print my address and I started getting mail from prison inmates. My father came up to me and said, “Why are you getting mail from prison inmates?” and I told him why and he said, “Don’t do that again.”

Q: In this episode, you and Walt talk about how The Death of Captain Marvel was such a game changer in comic books, but why was it so important to you?
A: That happened in 1982 I think, when they came out with the original graphic novel. I think the cover price was $9.95 — or was it $5.95? I misremember, but it was 10 times what the cover price for what a normal comic book would be — they were touting it as “the future of comic books.” This told a story — a very heartfelt tale — and it was a very human tale that involved superheroes, but the biggest fight in the whole book wasn’t Captain Marvel fighting Thanos or versus the Lunatic Legion. It was him fighting against cancer for his life. If you read through that, it’s him and all of the people around him going through the five stages of grief, until he finally accepts that he’s going to die and it was up to him how he was going to go out. It is one of the most human stories I’ve ever read in a comic book, and if you’ve never read it, I suggest picking it up.

Q: So far this season, the Stash has welcomed two iconic ladies from television: Elvira and Lindsay Wagner. Was it surreal meeting them in person?
A: Oh, absolutely. I’ve had crushes on Elvira and Lindsay Wagner at various times in my childhood. The Bionic Woman was the closest we had to a female superhero until Linda Carter put on the Wonder Woman costume. There was Batgirl, of course, but she couldn’t lift a car over her head.

Q: What was it like for you to see Walt stunned by Lindsay Wagner?
A: It was amazing. I’m used to Walt being sometimes dispassionate, but always calm, cool, and collected — but to see him lose it like that, I was really happy for him.

Q: In Episode 4 of this season, you said you actually have a doll of Joey Stivic from All in the Family. Do you have any other weird items in your collection?
A: Nothing of that magnitude. The Joey Stivic doll was just because it’s something that’s so odd and so out there, there’s going to come a time when I can print money — someone is going to want it.

Discover the comic books Mike is currently reading with the weekly Pull List.

Comic Book Men airs Sundays at Midnight/11c.

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