Comic Cons stole my life!
Comic Book Men on AMC is on of the hottest shows in all of geekdom. Here, our Comic-Con beat reporter chats with the one and only Ming Chen.
Comic Book Men: No Ordinary Nerds
The offbeat and often hilarious AMC hit TV show Comic Book Men delves into the world of four fanboys uncovering treasures in the comic book world. The show takes place at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, a comic book store based in Red Bank, New Jersey and owned by comic guru, comedian, podcaster, and film-maker Kevin Smith. What makes this shop so special are definitely the four guys behind the counter showing their love for all things geek. Walt Flannigan, Mike Zapcic, Brian Johnson, and Ming Chen share their passion for comic books, comic book collectibles and pop culture with fellow fans looking to buy, sell or simply chat about their favorite fandoms. While the show has been touted as “Pawn Stars for geeks”, I see it as even more than that. I see it as a place for fans to connect with others having the same nerdy interests. Let’s face it though, geek has become chic!
On my recent trip to attend Heroes and Villains Fan Fest (HVFF) in Atlanta, I was happy to see that Comic Book Men was being represented by the one and only Ming Chen. I was even more thrilled to learn that I had been granted an opportunity to interview the charismatic Mr. Chen. The show is now six seasons in and it was obvious just how much Ming is enjoying his time with the show, with the convention scene, and simply absorbing all the joy that life has to offer.
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Ming Chen’s Comic Con Connection
ComiConverse: How are you doing here at Heroes and Villains Fan Fest?
Ming Chen: I’m doing great. I love Heroes and Villains Fan Fest, I love their sister con Walker Stalker. They run a really good show. In the era where there’s three, four, sometimes five shows in a weekend just in the US alone… ya know ya got your good ones, your mediocre ones then you got your great ones and this is one of the great ones. This is my 24th or 25th convention this year. I see the full range but these are the ones I really look forward to coming back to.
ComiConverse: I was watching episodes of Comic Book Men, doing a little research, and was wondering how you got into the whole comic book genre?
Ming Chen: I think every kid gets into comics. Especially now. When I was six, one of the kids at school gave me a copy of Avengers and I fell in love with it. I went and saw Iron man, I went and saw Captain America, I saw a female called Tigra which was a female cat in a blue bikini and there were the hostess fruit pie ads in there, the whole thing fascinated me. From there I was all in.
ComiConverse: How did your family feel about you taking on this comic realm?
Ming: If you talked to my mom and dad, I don’t think they fully grasp what I do. They’ve never been to a con. When I was a kid I begged my mom to take me to a con but, she wouldn’t.
ComiConverse: I was going to ask if you went to cons as a kid.
Ming Chen: It wasn’t until I went to one in high school which was at the mall, that’s all we had back then though. Then when I was in college I went to a con near me, I grew up in Michigan, it was called the Motor City Comic Con. Interestingly enough, I went when I was in college… one of my first real conventions and literally almost 20 years to the day I went back but this time as a guest. I told this story to all the people in the audience. I was like “Hey, ya know I was once a guest like you, maybe 20 years later you might be up on stage because you wrote a comic book or you’re in a comic movie. I dunno, just keep your path though, you’re on good path.”
Fans, Food, and Fun
ComiConverse: How do you feel about social media? Has it changed how you interact with different fans?
Ming Chen: I love social media. I think it’s a great way to get in touch with anybody who might care about you. The TV thing brings in a lot of people to follow you, I wonder how many people actually care if I post a picture of what I had for breakfast. It turns out that quite a few people do. Laughs.
ComiConverse: I was told to ask you about the food.
Ming Chen: Yeah, I like to eat. I seek out high quality dining experiences. I like to share the places I go to with the world. You might be traveling one day and you’re like “Oh, Ming ate here. It looks really good.” As far as the cons and the TV show goes, it’s a really easy and free way to market whatever you’re doing. I don’t know why more people don’t do it more aggressively.
ComiConverse: I guess sometimes people can get into trouble on social media. I think if it is kept fun and light…
Ming Chen: Yeah, yeah that’s what I do. And I think it’s opened up the world. When I went to school I didn’t have a lot of friends who knew who the X-Men were, who knew who the Avengers were, who knew who Professor X was, or Batman’s back-story or any of his rogues gallery. So now you can go to a convention or you can just hop online and social media and find many of the people. It really, I don’t wanna say validates whatever you like, but there’s nothing like seeing something, loving it and sharing it with people or recapping it with people, or arguing about it with people even.
ComiConverse: That’s a good point.
ComiConverse: Getting to Comic Book Men… Did you think it would be as successful as it is?
Ming Chen: It’s pretty insane. I didn’t know where it would go. I knew the other guys. I knew that our conversations might be interesting to maybe a niche audience. I was thinking geeks mainly who also sit around in their mom’s basement or wherever and talk about the Death Star exploding Alderaan or something. And when you have those conversations, at least to us in that moment it’s the most important thing that we could debate about. Never mind politics, the economy or any ‘real’ issues. We wanna know how many people died on Alderaan when it blew up. We thought maybe it (Comic Book Men) would appeal to some of those people and what I didn’t see was is it seems to be appealing to anybody into pop culture, comic books, the explosion of the comic book movies or I think some people who don’t read comics but do love toys and say “I just watch it because you guys are funny”.
ComiConverse: I too love what you guys talk about but also love that you guys are funny. I think there is a fascination with reality shows in general. Seeing that connection you have with the fans that visit the store…
Ming Chen: It’s cool, I love talking to my friends. I don’t really love when they make fun of me. I think it’s kinda cool that other people like it. A lot people think they’re funny but they’re not really funny. I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m funny, but when I’m with those other three guys or with Kevin (Smith), we’re pretty funny.
ComiConverse: I definitely think it all works together.
Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash… Stop on In!
ComiConverse: So, you live in New Jersey. How long have you been there for?
Ming Chen: I’ve been in New Jersey for 14 years. Mike, Brian and Walt all grew up there. Kevin was born and grew up there up until 2002 then he moved out west seeking out the film industry. He bought Ben Affleck’s old house and he’s been out there ever since.
ComiConverse: I’m from New Jersey myself and I keep thinking I need to take a trip over to Red Bank to pay the store a visit.
Ming Chen: I love it, I love it. C’mon down to the store, you’re always welcome. For anybody listening we do actually work there so it’s not all for show. So c’mon and you’ll see us.
ComiConverse: I also know there’s a lot of celebrities that pop into the store. Is there somebody that you would wanna see walk in there?
Ming Chen: Top of my list would be George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars Universe. That would be really fantastic. Stan Lee has been on the show twice. I was asked to introduce him at his VIP party (during Rhode Island Comic Con), that was pretty awesome. Stan Lee is like god. No bones about it. Stan Lee is a god.
More To Ming
ComiConverse: I wanted to take a moment and ask about family. I read that you have two kids?
Ming Chen: Yeah, I have two kids. An 11 year old daughter and an 9 year old son.
ComiConverse: Are they into the whole comic book…
Ming: They are into pop culture. They don’t really collect comics, they’re into toys. My son is really a huge gamer. My daughter is mainly into the American Girl Dolls. What’s interesting is I see her obsession with collecting where she’ll obsess over a doll she doesn’t have or a doll she wants or doll she does have and knows all the facts behind it.
ComiConverse: Does that come from you?
Ming Chen: That comes from me for sure. As a toy collector, as a pop culture collector, I act the same way.
ComiConverse: Is there anything you would like to express or let people know that you never get asked?
Ming Chen: I just kinda love life and adventure and traveling so, going to conventions is kind of a perfect way to see the world and kind of become a local for three or four days. That’s exactly what I love to do. I just love being in the convention environment. So if I’m anywhere near your place, come on out. We can talk Goonies, we can talk Aliens, we can talk Rogue One, we can talk Hawkeye, we can talk Avengers.
ComiConverse: Avengers was the thing that pulled me in.
Ming Chen: If you want a fellow geek to talk to, like seriously… I can talk your ear off.
Thank You Ming and HVFF
ComiConverse: I will definitely have to take a trip to the shop. Before I let you go I would like to add the high praise I hear from fellow con guests, artists, and vendors… that you are such a fun guy and so great with all your fans! I thank you so much for your time.
If you see Ming’s name on the guest list at your next convention visit, stop by and see him! Not only will you be welcome with open arms but you may just get a few laughs and perhaps some cool nuggets of information regarding your favorite fandom.
I also want to give special thanks to Heroes and Villains Fan Fest (specifically Michael Guthas and Liz Solo) for setting up this interview. It was an honor and I am grateful.
Keeping You Comic Con-nected!
Source: Heroes and Villains Fan Fest