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Q&A – Walt Flanagan (Comic Book Men)

Walt Flanagan-325.jpg

Walt Flanagan is the Secret Stash’s store manager and long-time friend to Kevin Smith. He spoke with about how he and Smith bonded over Batman, his favorite comics, and why he doesn’t like hearing himself laugh.

Q: You went to high school with Kevin Smith. Did you hit it off immediately?

A: I knew of him in high school but I didn’t speak to him. It was only after he graduated. We both worked at a recreation center in our town, Highlands. It took probably almost six or seven months before we even spoke, and it just happened to be around four months out from Batman, the Michael Keaton movie. The PR machine was starting to ramp up, he expressed an interest in going and seeing it, and that kind of led to him finding out that I was into comics.

Q: You bonded over comics, then?

A: Yeah, over Batman and the upcoming movie. I gave him some books that I thought were cool to read before the movie came out. His exposure was more to the Adam West TV show Batman, and he wasn’t really following what was current back in the ’80s.

Q: Do you have a favorite Batman incarnation?

A: I’m gonna say the Jim Aparo Batman. I like the way he drew Batman. He was synonymous with Batman in the ’70s. It was kind of just classic Batman — not funny and not goofy, but also not super scary-looking. Just very classic.

Q: How often do Smith’s movie fans come into the Secret Stash?

A: Quite often, on a pretty consistent basis. Daily.

Q: Can you ever tell in advance that they’re fans?

A: Sometimes you can tell. Sometimes you don’t even realize. Sometimes a guy walks in, he doesn’t look like a typical fan and then he’ll drop, like, four hundred bucks on every single thing we’ve got in the store.

Q: Do they ever ask you questions about your roles in Clerks and Mallrats?

A: Yeah, if they’re that big of fans and they recognize me. That doesn’t happen that often.

Q: What do they ask?

A: I guess how cool was it to play so many parts in Clerks. I tell them it gets cooler every year, but at the time it was really just that [Kevin] was shooting at two o’clock in the morning and the actors just never showed up. So it became a little joke of just changing my appearance a little bit to see if anybody even notices.

Q: You seem to enjoy a lot of the items brought in, but you often hold back from buying them. How often does your inner fan win over your practical side?

A: On occasion it happens, but for the most part the inner fan is more interested in things that really aren’t valuable. It might be just one odd little comic book that’s worth nothing but I want to read it because I’ve never heard of it before.

Q: Do you have any examples?

A: There was this 1967 magazine released during the Adam West Batman TV show. They released a movie based on the TV series and it was a magazine about that movie and a whole bunch of serial comic book characters from the past that had movies in the ’30s and ’40s. I had never seen it before. When I looked it up it really wasn’t worth anything, but I wanted to read it, so I bought it off the guy for ten bucks.

Q: Is there a comic book out there that you think is not appreciated enough?

A: Bulletproof Coffin is the one I’m digging right now, from Image [Comics]. I think it deserves more attention. It’s so good. I just like the weird vibe. It feels like I’m reading someone’s dreams.

Q: Is there someone in the group whose tastes are most aligned with yours?

A: Mike. I think we both love the same books from our youth that excited us as 13-year-olds. Until 17, we both pretty much read the same exact stuff, even though we didn’t know each other.

Q: Has being on an unscripted show revealed aspects of yourself that you weren’t aware of before?

A: I don’t think so. I don’t feel I discovered anything new about myself through it.

Q: Not even when you watch the episodes?

A: The only thing I realize is that I have to stop laughing so much, because I can’t stand how goofy I look when I laugh. That’s my one thing that I’m going to try, to maybe keep a poker face on at all times. I wasn’t aware that I looked like an idiot laughing.

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