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The Kevin Smith Bait-and-Switch at Comic-Con

Kevin Smith animated imageWhat I expected to be the latest installment in Kevin Smith’s hugely entertaining traveling road show on Friday night at Comic-Con turned out be that only in part. Turns out it was also a painful lesson in how one should always read the fine print. Alas, after some relatively brief –and typically candid– remarks about how much things have changed in the 12 years he’s been coming to Comic-Con, particularly regarding how almost all of the major studios are here “whoring” themselves to the fans, Smith then shamelessly proceeded to do the very same thing. This was not to be the full-on Kevin Smith Q&A show we’ve all come to know and love after all, but a screening and panel discussion of the forthcoming CW series Reaper, the pilot episode of which was shown in its entirety … and which was directed but –and this is important– not written by Smith.

Not being a viewer of any shows on the CW, I suppose I’m not really the target audience for this show, but I expect I’d have tuned in to check out the pilot just based on Smith’s involvement. You might think that would make for a more enjoyable Comic-Con presentation for a Kevin Smith fan. You’d be wrong, at least in my case. Reaper plays like an embarrassingly obvious (and pandering) knockoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with an unlikely teen hero discovering he possesses powers granted him by the Devil (to whom the kid’s parents sold his soul before he was even conceived – don’t ask), powers he’s meant to use to capture escaped souls and send them back to Hell where they belong. He’s even got his own built-in gang of Scoobies. Unlike Buffy, however, the writing on Reaper is not at all clever, but is rather the opposite of clever. What might we call that? Oh, yeah … retarded.

To be fair, Smith does a very fine job with his directing and most of the cast, which includes Ray Wise (Leland Palmer of Twin Peaks fame) and the lovely Messy Peregrym (the shape-shifting Candace from Heroes) acquit themselves admirably … though one feels pity for sidekick character who comes off as a poor man’s Jack Black (through no real fault of his own, it should be noted). At the end of the day, however, there’s just no dressing up this turkey.

Following the screening of the pilot, Smith brought out some of the stars and the writer/creators of the show for a panel discussion. Not too surprisingly, however, since I suspect I might not have been alone in having shown up expecting be purely entertained by Kevin Smith, no one really wanted to talk about Reaper. Oh, sure, a few people made polite attempts, but it seemed that most folks wanted Kevin to do his thing, and when one fan essentially called him on it, Smith acquiesced and delivered a typically foul-mouthed (and typically hilarious) anecdote involving sexual relations between his family’s “massive” Labrador retriever and their new miniature Dachshund puppy. Smith went into great detail with his extended story, as should come as no surprise to those familiar with the writer’s oeuvre, and had the audience both groaning and erupting into gales of laughter at the comedic sexual stylings of the Smith family dogs.

Once the genie was out of the bottle with that story, there was really no going back to any semblance of a Reaper panel (thankfully), and for the most part we ended up getting a good thirty minutes of what I suspect most of us were really there to see. Responding to a question regarding which comic book character he’s not yet written that he’d like to write in the future, Smith unhesitatingly replied, “Doctor Strange.” Also on the comics-related tip, Smith referenced The Dark Knight teaser that had been shown at Friday morning’s Warner Bros. panel, sharing his initial reaction of, “oh shit, that is dope.” This being Kevin Smith, he also cheerfully volunteered to allow director Christopher Nolan to perform sexual acts upon his person if only he were able to see the whole movie today.

By the end of those thirty minutes (or so) of listening to choice Kevin Smith anecdotes and watching him trade insults with his fans is worth a great deal … even if you had to endure an episode of Reaper to get to the good stuff.

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