Kevin Smith likes to talk. A lot. So much so that the most recent parts of his career allow him to talk more and more and more. He’s got a podcast. And a YouTube channel. And he’s spent much of the last decade traveling around giving talks about himself, his career, and most recently about his newest movie.
(As a side note, if you don’t know who Kevin Smith is, then you’re probably not a Gen Xer or a fan of super heroes… probably. Smith makes movies, usually funny movies, or at least that’s what he’s best known for. He’s also done other stuff, like writing, podcasting and owning comic book stores and just doing all kinds of work in movies and television.)
I can’t say I’m the biggest Smith fan in the world, though I’ve enjoyed his movies over the last few decades and I’ve generally found him entertaining when I’ve watched a video of him giving a talk, or a lecture, or whatever it’s called that he does when he’s on a stage running his mouth. Anyway, I recently had the pleasure of seeing Smith live at The Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina. Smith opened with a showing of his newest movie, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, then afterwards he gave the crowded room more than an hour of his time as he answered questions and told stories.
Smith was always the gentleman (though he might not agree with that word to describe himself) and he was always patient with the crowd. His attitude reminded me somewhat of Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer for rock band Queen, in that Smith genuinely seemed to love the audience, loved to interact with the audience, and to entertain the audience — rare qualities, in my opinion.
(As another aside, if you’re a fan of Smith’s and haven’t seen it yet, go watch Jay and Silent Bob Reboot when you get the chance. I won’t say it’s the best movie in the world, and it’s probably not even Smith’s best movie, but it brought to mind Avengers: Endgame… as a stand alone movie by itself, it’s merely okay, but as the culmination of decades of film, it’s an awesome movie.)
That night as I sat in the theater watching Smith on stage, he told of how he reached out to actor Ben Affleck, someone he had not spoken with in a decade, and how he got Affleck to appear in the new movie. Smith also talked about his family and other friends appearing in the film, and then he talked about the late, great Stan Lee, he of Marvel Comics fame.
Let me stop here and provide a SPOILER ALERT. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know more about Stan Lee and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Are you done? Ready to move on? Okay, here we go, and you were warned.
Stan Lee was supposed to appear in the movie, but he passed away before his scenes could be shot. He still makes an appearance in the film during a clip in the credits where he is interviewed by Keven Smith, but that’s it, the last we fans will see of Stan Lee in a Kevin Smith film.
But why am I telling you all this? Why am I writing here at Black Gate about Stan Lee and Kevin Smith?
Because, ultimately, I’m writing about heroes.
I’m not calling Stan Lee or Kevin Smith actual heroes. Or Ben Affleck, for that matter, even if he was da bomb as Batman. I’m sure to some people these guys are heroes. But more importantly to me, the likes of Lee and Smith are ambassadors for heroes, especially super heroes and comic books, and to some extent for all things heroic.
Heroes are important to me. They have a special place in my heart. Which is a big reason I’m a board member of the Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF), a non-profit publisher focusing upon heroic literature.
That night in the theater when Stan Lee came up in the conversation between Kevin Smith and his fans, it was something of a bittersweet moment. Everybody in that large room missed Stan Lee. Lee had been perhaps the strongest advocate for the heroic. Yet now Stan was gone, and the lack of his presence was felt that night.
But something dawned on me as Kevin Smith kept talking (and talking and talking and talking… love ya, Kevin). It dawned on me that Stan Lee might be gone, but his legacy lives on, and we still have other advocates for the heroic. Smith is one of those advocates. Perhaps he’s even the biggest such advocate we’ve got left.
We need our heroes, and we need people out there who will vouch for those heroes, who will speak out for them and about them. Kevin Smith seems as good as anybody, in my opinion. Yeah, sure, he makes goofy movies about fart jokes and the like, but he also talks with joy about people who have influenced his life, about his own personal heroes, and about the fictional heroes who make the world a better place. Perhaps it takes something of the clown, and a loquacious one at that, to bear the banner of the heroic for the future.
As a member of RBF, I don’t think I could ask for anything more.
Ty Johnston is vice president of the Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit organization focused upon bringing heroic literature to all readers. A former newspaper editor, he is the author of several fantasy trilogies and individual novels.