Interview: National Geographic Takes Midtown Comics To TV With 'COMIC STORE HEROES'

New York’s Midtown Comics may be the biggest comic book retailer in the US, but on July 13th, they’re about to get even bigger. National Geographic is getting ready to launch Comic Store Heroes, a one hour special about the store, as they gear up for New York Comic-Con.

Specifically, the special – which, as we found out chatting with Charlie Parsons, VP of Global Development for Nat Geo is a back-door pilot for a potential ongoing series – focuses on Alex, the store’s buyer; Thor, the marketing guru; and Gerry, one of the owners. Along the way, we also get to meet some of the other people that make comics in New York unique, including blogger Jill Pantozzi, and some of Midtown’s quirkier customers.

“This follows a successful trend National Geographic has had, of exploring subcultures,” said Parsons when we talked on the phone last week. “Comic book culture is rich in personality and history… The variety of people who are passionate about comics. And Midtown is the epicenter of it all.”

The special was shot over what Parsons calls a “significant” amount of time, in order to cover as many aspects of comic book culture as they could. “We wanted to touch all the different elements of the world,” said Parsons, and noted that based on what really popped for viewers, it would give a better direction on where to go if there was a full series. “The guys in the store are great, the customers are great… There’s so many layers to it, that I think the storylines are endless.”

Now before people worry that Parsons and company are an outside force mocking the world of comics, take heed: as a kid, Parsons said he was a huge Richie Rich fan as a kid, before losing all his books when his Mom “disposed of them against my will” when he moved. So he connects with the struggles of the characters in the show, and the passion.

One other aspect of the show is a guy named Chris, who desperately wants to be a recognized comic book writer. Over the course of the hour, he puts together his book, shoots a short trailer, and tries to sell Midtown Comics’ Thor on getting his book on the shelves. We won’t spoil the ending, but don’t worry, regardless of outcome, National Geographic observes, but doesn’t influence. “Chris existed. Jill existed. Our cameras were at the store, and we just followed an interesting storyline to its conclusion,” said Parsons.

The interesting thing about this pilot is that it’s very focused on building up to New York Comic-Con… And that, of course, only happens once a year. So how would National Geographic approach an ongoing series? “Each episode would some kind of will they or won’t they proposition,” said Parsons. “In this pilot, we had a couple, which was great. The important thing is that there’s a reason to watch, and the day to day running of a business, especially a comic book business with passionate fans and collectors is rich with storylines. You could follow a day in the life as a series.”

Before we let Parsons go, we had to ask him about the other comic book store based reality show over at AMC, Comic Book Men… And in true comic book fashion, as wanted to know: who would win in a fight, Comic Book Men, or Comic Store Heroes? “There’s absolutely no question that Comic Store Heroes would prevail,” said Parsons with a laugh. “Comic Store Heroes would rise to the occasion, and thwart any attacks from the enemy!

Comic Store Heroes premieres on National Geographic on Friday, July 13th at 8PM.