Who Is Kevin Smith?

Pop in any Kevin Smith movie from your DVD library and prepare for a “Nerding Out” column unlike any I’ve ever written before.

While most every month I wax rhapsodic about my favorite comic book news, never before have I dedicated a column to a single topic, idea or person.

That changes this month.

Today I want to tell you about a man.

Have you heard the good word about Kevin Smith? Let me open your eyes. Let me open your mind!

I feel like Meat Loaf’s character in “Fight Club,” in that scene where he speaks so reverently about Tyler Durden to Edward Norton. And like Meat Loaf in that film, the man I speak of today also sometimes goes by the name “Bob.”

But enough coded reference, in-joke and allusion, let’s get to the point of it all – to the heart of the matter. Let’s talk today about Kevin Smith.

If you haven’t been paying attention in recent years, the man’s built himself a nice little niche in the entertainment industry.

Not familiar with what he has to offer? Just read on as I run through a small segment of his multi-media empire in this month’s edition of “Nerding Out”!

SMODCAST

Forget his film work. Today we talk about Kevin Smith and his roster of podcasts.

Throughout the last few years, Smith and his friends have been pumping out a steady stream of radio shows online – all downloadable for free from his website, Smodcast.com.

For those unfamiliar with the medium, a podcast is quite simply just a downloadable radio show. Unlike radio though, no station or airwaves are necessary to broadcast it. Instead, a podcast gets recorded, put online and then can be downloaded and added onto an iPod or other mp3 player to listen to whenever.

Fans of the director know he can talk.

Long before he started his podcast network in 2007, Smith had become known for his speaking engagements – having even turned some of his Q&A appearances into DVDs of their own.

So it’s no surprise now that, some five years later, Smith’s decision to sit down with friends and talk about various topics has yielded a whole roster of weekly radio shows.

Check out the site online at Smodcast.com. There you’ll find a weekly show which Smith does with Jason Mewes, who plays “Jay” to his “Bob” in most of his film work. There’s also a weekly comedy show which Smith does live with friend and L.A. radio DJ Ralph Garman. Then there’s the one-on-one interview podcasts in which Smith talks to people who have been a part of Batman comic books and cartoons, but I’ll get to that.

All in all, Smith’s got a roster of about 25 shows which update weekly – only a few of which involve him.

Did you like Smith’s “Zach and Miri” movie? Well, Katie Morgan herself has her own podcast. As do Mike and Ming from the AMC show “Comic Book Men.”

Not familiar with all of Smith’s film work? Don’t feel put off. Surely, I’m not going to convince you to check out these podcasts if you downright dislike the guy. But for those of you who’ve maybe just seen a film or two and like the comic book banter in “Mallrats,” check out one or two of these radio shows. Smith’s not only got a lot to say, but a lot of what he puts out is pretty funny – whether it’s his thoughts on comic books or just stories from having worked in Hollywood. You don’t have to be a super fan to appreciate what’s online at Smodcast.com. That’s the best part. It’s approachable for both the casual fan as well as the unfamiliar.

FATMAN ON BATMAN

People who don’t read Batman comics often look at me funny when I tell them that Batman can actually be one of my least favorite elements in a Batman story.

Some of my all-time favorite quote-unquote “Batman” comics actually feature the character sparsely in the pages of the story being told.

How can that be?

Well, Batman’s city of Gotham is rich with possibility for stories. There’s his rogue’s gallery as well as all the other regular characters associated with both him and Gotham City.

So you see, Batman is so strong a character, with such a well-established mythos, that other elements of his city and supporting cast can sometimes take center stage.

What’s the point of all this build up? What’s the relevance?

Well, even though I enjoy listening to Kevin Smith talk extensively in his podcasts, I also thoroughly enjoy it when he lets his guests take center stage.

In one of his several regular-themed podcasts, appropriately titled “Fatman On Batman,” Kevin Smith interviews writers, actors and others who have had something to do with either Batman comics or Batman cartoons.

His “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast used to be my favorite, but now I find myself fiending each week for another installment of his Batman show.

If you like the character of Batman at all, do yourself a favor and download episode one of the show right now.

In only the first few weeks of podcasting his “Fatman On Batman” show, Smith interviewed Paul Dini (of comics and cartoon fame), Mark Hamill (who has voiced the Joker) and also talked with the voice of the cartoon Batman himself, the voice of Harley Quinn and cartoon heavyweight Bruce Timm. In more recent weeks, Smith’s interviewed writers such as Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins and Grant Morrison.

Then there’s the commentary tracks.

DC Comics recently released a two-part direct-to-DVD movie version of Frank Miller’s classic “The Dark Knight Returns.”

The book came out in the mid-1980s and was one of those comics which kickstarted the idea that comic books could be a more adult medium.

Check out the two recent DVDs and then give them a second watch with Kevin Smith and company, as Smith provides his own commentary track courtesy of his “Fatman On Batman” podcast. I initially had little interest in listening to a commentary track for the movies from someone who wasn’t involved with them, but then I downloaded the podcasts of Smith’s show where he and Paul Dini watch old episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series.” The banter’s not only entertaining, but it’s insightful and always ends up addressing a number of other topics. It’s fast becoming one of my favorite things he does.

SUPER GROOVY

All this talk about cartoons and I’ve yet to mention that the world will soon have another “Jay and Silent Bob” feature film.

Of course, the new movie will actually be a cartoon movie – drawn up by a Canadian animator named Steve Stark.

The film will not only bring Smith’s two classic characters out of retirement, but will also feature the voices of Eliza Dushku, Tara Strong, Ralph Garman, Neil Gaiman, Ben Gleib, Jon Lovitz and others.

Don’t expect the film to come to a theater near you though. Smith’s taking “Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie” on a city-by-city tour. That’s right. The film will be forgoing a traditional theatrical release and instead will be taken on the road by Smith, just as he did with “Red State.” The first batch of dates have already been announced for the North American Tour, which kicks off on April 20. Check out SeeSmod.com/GroovyMovie for details.

Tickets for the live events went on sale Friday, which coincided with the release of the first trailer for “Super Groovy Cartoon Movie.”

Taking a line from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” Smith said in a press release that “Groovy Movie” clearly is not the comic book movie the world wants, but is the comic book movie the world needs!

TRIVIA QUESTION

In an episode of Kevin Smith’s “Fat Man On Batman” podcast, Smith told one of his guests about the origin of the name “Silent Bob.” So, in keeping with this month’s Smith-centric theme, here’s today’s question: What character from the first Batman movie partially inspired Smith to name his alter ego “Silent Bob”?

Skip to the “Assorted Etceteras” section at the end of this month’s column for the answer.

TELEVISION TAKEOVER

Sure, I could talk about Kevin Smith’s Internet show “Spoilers” on Hulu, but I guess some sections of this month’s column can go without full-on rambling about the man.

Tune in tonight for another episode of “The Walking Dead,” which returned recently to AMC from its mid-season hiatus.

Though, now that I think of it, Kevin Smith was a guest on that first episode of “The Talking Dead” after its return, which also featured the actor who plays the character Glenn and was a hell of an episode of the weekly talk show. But I digress …

I’ve been good so far since the show returned to AMC from its mid-season break. I haven’t gushed about it here. I haven’t spoiled anything. I pretty much haven’t said anything about it at all.

Tonight’s another episode though. Will the Willbury drama come to a head? Will the Governor mount his attack on the prison? Will the tense interfamily drama between the Dixon brothers blow up? Who will have it out first with Merle? Maybe Glenn? Maybe Michonne? Is Merle a changed man? Will the Governor take him out? And how will Tyrese ever come to be a part of the prison crew now? Writer Robert Kirkman keeps even those of us familiar with the comics interested in the show by playing out plotlines differently than they were drawn in the books.

Oh, and AMC’s “Comic Book Men” got moved to Thursdays.

Sorry. I just figured I better throw in one last little Kevin Smith tie-in before wrapping up this month’s column.

ASSORTED ETCETERAS

Where do we go from here, dear reader?

The war with Atlantis is over. Aquaman and the Justice League wrapped up the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline just a few weeks back. And Scott Snyder’s finished his “Death of the Family” arc. Not to mention what’s come to pass in the pages of Grant Morrison’s “Batman, Incorporated.” Thoughts on the fallout from any of those storylines? I won’t spoil it for any of you. At least not yet. Head to your local comic shop and grab some back issues. Few things feel as nice as a stack of unread books beside a comfy chair with a cold beverage in hand.

More from me in a month’s time, but first, in answer to this month’s trivia question: Kevin Smith named his character “Silent Bob” in part after the Batman character “Bob the Goon” from the first Tim Burton film.

Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. For more, visit Nerding Out With Nick Dean.blogspot.com.