Patton Oswalt Talks Comic Book Movies, Geek Cultures, Zombies, The Wire, and More

Don't be surprised if you find comedian Patton Oswalt thumbing through the bins at Gotham City Comics in downtown Mesa sometime Thursday. Or at nearby Evermore Nevermore checking out the shops' selection of steampunk gear. 

After all, the diminutive comedian is a major consumer of nerd culture (and a ginormous comic book devotee too) and will be performing down the street at the Mesa Arts Center Thursday night.

Oswalt's also a major geek icon pundit and infamously declared in a January issue of Wired that nerd culture has reached a critical mass of sorts and needs to be destroyed in order to be saved. 

We caught up with Oswalt for a phone interview and to get his opinions on such topics as comic book movies, geek fads, and if artists have an expiration date. 

In your new book Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, you joke about how teenagers tend to only write stories involving zombies, spaceships, or wastelands. Do you all think the whole post-apocalyptic and zombie fads have run their course?
It would seem that things are way past over-saturation, but whenever it seems that things get there hopefully somebody will always take a new approach and surprises the world with their creativity so you never know.

Like the literary mashups of the past few years, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Have you personally grown tired of the zombie fad (not to mention pirates and vampires)?
Well, I'm tired of a lot of those things, but - like I said -- now and again something comes along that surprises me. I'm always open to someone taking an original approach that no one else has seen.

Probably the most original comic book movie of the last year Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in my opinion. Being a huge comic book fan, were you a huge fan of the movie?
I thought it was it was a terrific movie, yeah. I really liked it. Again, it proves there's always ways to surprise people and reinvent things.

Do any of this summer's slate of comic book flicks (Thor, X-Men: First Class) interest you?
I'm going to definitely see all of them. I want them all to be good, but I'm more hopeful than excited.

Any good comic book properties left that haven't been turned into movies yet?
There's always people doing new stuff -- new comics, new creator-owned stuff, stuff in smaller titles -- so there's always new properties that I think could be developed and be cool. Again, it's the fact that sometimes when you live in an over-saturated world, it's more easier to be surprised because you're so numb to it. When the surprise comes, it's a much bigger deal.

Have you had many geek out moments in the past year with certain movies or TV shows? 

You know what, not really this past year. There hasn't been that many opportunities to geek out yet.

What's your biggest geek out moment in general?
Probably the last thing I geeked out about big time, and for the longest time, was The Wire. I got really, really geeky about that show. That was the last thing that I totally got immersed in, in terms of wanting to read everything I could about it. That one really resonated with me for some reason.

Were you sad to see it end? 

Sort of because it was bittersweet because I wanted it to go on but it was good that it ended that early and perfectly and didn't stick around until it reached past it's peak.

Do you think there's an expiration date on anything cool, whether it's TV shows, comic, movies, or trends?
I think it depends on the work. I don't think there's a set expiration date that's applied to everything so things can keep going on and being great and other things, they're limited.

Who are some artists, in your opinion, who never lost their cool?
I think The Onion is a good example of something that has kept being good, never lost its level of quality. Cormac McCarthy has had a really good run of writing great stuff. [Yasujirō] Ozu with his films, that was a long career that never got bad. Again, it just depends on the individual. I don't think there's a universal "sell by" date that applies to all artists.

In addition to releasing your book and touring, what other projects do you have in the works?
I've got a new album that I'll record next month so, I'm doing as many shows as I can leading up to that.

Quick scenario: Your house is on fire, you only could save five cool things, books, movies, whatever or grab a couple of things, what objects from your would you save?
I don't really collect anything and it's weird now, that's a weird question now because anything that gets destroyed, there just seems to be another version of it out there. I don't know how much I would risk my life for actual. I don't own any comic objects like this is a one of a kind thing. I either auction them off for charity or don't bother with that kind of stuff. Everything I have pop culture wise, books, movies...I don't even own DVDs anymore. We just stream everything. I can't think of anything that's like, "Oh my god, I would. gotta go in and get that." Maybe some signed books that I have by people but I don't want to talk about those because it sounds like a brag. Personally signed stuff, I would probably go grab.

Patton Oswalt is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street.

Tickets start at $22.50 and are available here. Oswalt will also hold a reading and signing session for Zombie Spaceship Wasteland at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. More info can be found here.

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