Back in 1994, a major wind of change was blowing through the film industry. One of the most notable zephyrs to make their presence felt on audiences was Kevin Smith, and his unique brand of offbeat, comic loving humor. The debut of the movie Clerks at the Sundance Film Festival was a fortuitous twist of fate for the indie filmmaker, and it would catalyze an impressive writing and directing career. Smith has always maintained uniqueness to his films, and his cinematic universe (often referred to as the View Askewniverse) is expansive, hilarious, and remains perhaps my favorite set of films of all-time.
Clerks was the kick starter of the universe, and Smith would follow this up with Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks 2. It was Smith’s work on these films that attracted me to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as their films are all intertwined and follow a much larger story), and helped my nerdy self to take up an interest in reading comic books. Many characters, symbols, and stories are often retold and touched on in the View Askewniverse.
Smith did an excellent job over the course of his impressive career to weave together a believable New Jersey Tri-City area film universe that audiences were able to easily digest and feel like they were part of. With rumors of a Clerks 3 and a Mallrats television show, I can only hope that Kevin Smith will continue to build and expand on the universe that has given me and audiences worldwide so many hours of fantastic entertainment.
15. Rick Derris and His Conquests
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching Clerks, then you’re familiar with the name Rick Derris. It is revealed in the movie that Rick was sleeping with Dante Hicks’ (the film’s lead character) former girlfriend, and Rick is less than apologetic about it. He is portrayed by actor Ernest O’Donnell, and the young O’Donnell makes a point in the movie to brag about his sexual conquest of Dante’s ex, as well as boast about his own physique.
So, it should come as no surprise that Rick Derris is also brought up in Mallrats. Rick is mentioned to have hooked up with Gwen Turner at a costume party. In Chasing Amy, lead character Holden McNeil finds out that his lesbian girlfriend Alyssa Jones had a previous sexual encounter with none other than Rick Derris. Kevin Smith is akin to using one actor for numerous roles, and O’Donnell is no exception. He is also in the movies Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back (as the cop who harasses Jay in the movies beginning). Although he never reprises his role as Rick Derris, the legend of the man continues to live on in the Tri-City area.
14. Alyssa Jones: Holden’s Long Lost Love
In the films Chasing Amy, comic writer Holden McNeil finds himself falling in love with fellow comic writer Alyssa Jones. She’s smart, beautiful, and a lesbian, which poses a problem for Holden. Never one to back down from a challenge, Holden pursues and finds romance with Alyssa, though it seems that their romance is doomed from the start. Joey Lauren Adams plays the role of Alyssa Jones, and she does an excellent job portraying the comic writer.
Alyssa is briefly mentioned in the film Clerks during the scene that Rick Derris is informing Dante of his relations with his ex. The young woman that Rick leaves with is Alyssa’s younger sister. In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, we see the return of Holden McNeil, and towards the movies end, he makes a subtle reference to his old lover. After a screening of the movie they set out to stop, Alyssa is seen leaving the theatre, and having a conversation with one of her friends. It’s a small ode to a character that played such a pivotal role in what may be Smith’s best movie to date. Adams also plays the character Gwen Turner in the film Mallrats, continuing Smith’s trend of reusing his talent.
13. Olaf’s “Berserker”
Jay and Silent Bob are Smith’s best known characters, and their name became synonymous with potheads ever since their debut in the movie Clerks. What some people may not remember is Silent Bob’s cousin Olaf who has moved to New Jersey in order to pursue his career as a heavy metal singer. Of course, some things are lost in translation, and Olaf’s performance of his song “Berserker” is met with laughter. A recorded version of the song is also played in the film.
While it is never confirmed that Olaf became a metal star as he hoped, his impression was a prominent one, particularly on Jay. In the film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jay is seen throughout the film wearing a shirt depicting Olaf with the song title for “Berserker” underneath. It’s a small nod to a man that clearly made his mark on the impressionable Jay, and a nice touch in Smith’s universe.
12. Justice: Jay’s One True Love
Jay’s character has been portrayed as a total pervert who has very little luck with the ladies. His attempt to seduce Bethany in Dogma (even during the perceived end of the world) was met with resistance. In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, however, it finally seems like Jay has found a woman who loves him for who he is, and doesn’t mind the detracting factors that most women find unattractive. As it were, Justice is no peach herself, and is caught up in a diamond smuggling ring. The two characters struck up a romance, and few details were left about how their relationship panned out.
Smith’s next entry into his universe, Clerks 2, found the duo of Jay and Silent Bob up to their old ways of selling drugs in front of Dante and Randall’s job. One noticeable thing missing was Justice hanging out with the love of her life. Although we never learn the details of their romance, Jay is seen wearing a hoodie that reads “Justice TLF” towards the film’s conclusion. Though she’s gone, it’s quite clear that she’s the only woman that Jay will ever truly love.
11. Julie Dwyer’s Wake
Julie Dwyer is one of Dante’s past love interests in Clerks, so out of respect, he and Randall close down the Quick Stop to go to her wake. After sprinting out of the building to the sounds of horrifying screams, we see the duo hop in Dante’s car and speed away. We find out that Randall accidentally knocked over her coffin, which prompted the attendees to chase them out of the wake. Being that Smith’s universe is in a relatively centralized location, it should come as no surprise that some other characters in future films heard about what had happened.
In Chasing Amy, Holden and Alyssa are steadily getting to know each other, and their similarities are drawn from living in the same area. Their conversation turns to people that they know, and Julie Dwyer’s wake is brought up between the two. In Clerks 2, Julie Dwyer is mentioned again, as Randall and Dante are having a conversation about their future that never quite panned out.
10. Caitlin Bree Goes Catatonic
One of the most memorable scenes in the film Clerks involves Dante’s ex Caitlin Bree coming back from using the restroom talking about the sexual encounter that she and Dante just had. It turns out that Dante was nowhere near that restroom when the encounter took place, and that Caitlin had relations with a complete stranger. In a bizarre twist of fate, we learn that Caitlin hooked up with a man who had died while masturbating in the Quick Stop bathroom. Caitlin is then seen leaving in an ambulance, and we find out that she’s in shock, and will need years of therapy.
Much like the aforementioned Julie Dwyer, Caitlin Bree was also a topic of conversation between Holden and Alyssa in the film Chasing Amy. Alyssa mentions that she and Caitlin were really good friends (which is also mentioned in Clerks), and that the two had previously had a sexual relationship.
9. Nails Cigarettes
In the View Askewniverse, many characters are often seen smoking cigarettes, and is appears that they all have a similar preference. In several Kevin Smith movies, we see advertising for Nails brand cigarettes. The faux brand first appeared in the background of the movie Dogma as an ad for would be smokers looking for a brand to buy. Smith is a clever writer, so perhaps the brand’s name is a reference to being the final nail in the coffin for death.
Continuing their popularity in the films, Nails can be seen in the Quick Stop as Dante and Randall discuss finally calling the cops on the drug selling Jay and Silent Bob in their full length feature. Lastly, the brand makes its final appearance in Clerks 2. During the conclusion of the movie, Dante and Randall take a loan, and realize their potential in owning and running the Quick Stop. Behind the two, we see packs and cartons of Nails brand cigarettes. As a former smoker, I’m genuinely curious to know what they tasted like.
8. Mooby’s Fast Food
Much like Nails brand cigarettes, Smith was able to create his own unique brand that his fans are quickly able to spot and recognize. In Dogma, fallen angles Bartleby and Loki take it upon themselves to punish the wicked, and to pursue their once heavenly duties. One of their stops is at Mooby’s headquarters. The two accuse the board of the company of heinous crimes, and criticize them for treating the company’s mascot like that of an idol. It’s a small dig at Disney, but it was brilliantly executed. The two would go on to massacre all but one of the evil board members.
In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the chronic duo hit the road to California to stop a movie from being made, and seek comfort along the way. After waking up from a nightmare, the pair heads over to a local Mooby’s to use their internet to harass people in a chat room. The beginning of Clerks 2 starts with the burning down of the Quick Stop. So, it’s only fitting that the underachieving duo of Dante and Randall would find work at the local Mooby’s.
7. The Return of the Milk Maid
As someone who has worked retail jobs in the past, the movie Clerks was like the Bible to me. I completely understood where Dante and Randall were coming from, as I too would have loved my job if not for the damn customers. The scene of Randall talking about the dumb customers he deals with at RST Video hit way close to home for me, as I worked at Blockbuster Video the first time I watched Clerks. While I was able to sympathize with Dante as well, I never had to deal with a milk maid, or a person who looks through all of the gallons of milk to find one that never expires.
The scene is hilarious, and Kevin Smith’s mother Grace plays the role of the milk maid. Nearly 15 years later in Clerks 2, Dante and Randall finally take charge of their life, and buy the Quick Stop. During the film’s last scene, we see the milk maid make her triumphant return in the Quick Stop. It was a brilliant move by Smith, and the casting of his mother for continuity was an excellent touch.
6. The Buddy Christ
The Catholic Church was in need of a facelift in Dogma, and a local Cardinal decided to implement the “Catholicism Wow!” campaign. The typical depiction of Jesus on the Christ isn’t aesthetically pleasing, so the Cardinal Glick went with a more inviting image of his Lord by introducing the world to Buddy Christ. The satirical image is seen throughout the film, as the Cardinal’s implementation of “Catholicism Wow!” seems to have some success.
During an encounter with a nun in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the image of Buddy Christ can be spotted in her car right on top of her dashboard. It’s a tribute to Dogma, and acts as a display to the successful campaign ran by Cardinal Glick. In Clerk 2, the newly converters Jay and Silent Bob are still dealing drugs outside of a Mooby’s. During the film, Jay is wearing a shirt with the image of Buddy Christ on it.
5. I Assure You, We’re Open
The little relatable things in Kevin Smith’s movies are part of what makes them great. In Clerks, Dante is called into work on his day off (something that we can all relate to), and reluctantly shows up to work. When he tries to unlock and open the shutters, he finds that a bunch of savages shoved gum into the lock, forcing the shutters to be closed for the day. Dante proceeds to use shoe polish to make a sign that says “I Assure You We’re Open” for awaiting customers to see. The sign has become iconic, and is a trademark of Smith’s universe.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Clerks 2 ends with Dante and Randall buying and opening up the burned down Quick Stop. On the grand opening of their new shop, Dante puts up a sign that reads “I Assure You We’re Reopen”. It’s an incredibly fitting way to end the film, and was a great was to finally shut down the universe that Smith created. With the rumors of a Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2, it will be very interesting to see where Smith takes his characters and their stories.
4. The Hicks Family
Brian O’Halloran made his film debut in the movie Clerks as Dante Hicks, the film’s lead character. Dante was the likable underachiever who found himself caught up in a love triangle between a woman he doesn’t deserve, and en ex that he can’t seem to get over. Dante was once again the lead character in Clerks 2 where we find him still underachieving, and once again caught up in a love triangle, much to the shock of his best friend Randall. Dante also has a brief appearance in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Though it is not confirmed in the movies, there are several members of the Hicks family wading through Smith’s universe.
In Mallrats, T.S.’s girlfriend is featured on her father’s dating show, and one of the contestants trying to woo her is none other than Gill Hicks. He’s a complete fraud, and Brodie uses the limelight to roast Gill’s ego. Chasing Amy sees an appearance from Jim Hicks who is a network executive interested in developing a cartoon based off of Holden’s comic book. Working as a news reporter during the possible apocalypse in Dogma, Grant Hicks is a television reporter who can be seen briefly on television. O’Halloran portrays all of the Hicks men.
3. Shannon From Fashionable Male
In the film Dogma, lead character Brodie is a frequent visitor of the mall, and mainly spends his days just hanging out, and not really shopping. The manager of the store Fashionable Male quickly finds his behavior annoying, and has a personal vendetta against Brodie. His name is Shannon, and the well-dressed manager has it out for Brodie from the start. After Brodie’s girlfriend leaves him, she strikes up a romance with Shannon, much to Brodie’s dismay. At one point, Shannon is exposed as a pedophile after a tape is shown of him having sex with a teenage girl.
During a confession of her sexual history in Chasing Amy, Alyssa Jones reveals that she had a sexual encounter with Shannon while she was in college. In a cruel act, Shannon played the video on the school’s television network, and the student body saw Alyssa and Shannon hooking up. So, it’s fitting that Shannon’s comeuppance is by a leaked video tape in Mallrats.
2. Tell em, Steve Dave
The aforementioned Brodie is a comic fanatic and frequent mall visitor who is one of the lead characters in the movie Mallrats. During the film, Brodie is portrayed as having an extensive knowledge of the mall that he so frequently visits, and is aware of all the events that are taking place within the mall. When Brodie spots a huge crowd of people around the comic shop, he rushes over in a panic to see what all of the calamity could possibly be about. As it turns out, Stan Lee is doing a book signing, and security is told to keep Brodie away. The security guard tells Brodie to leave, and a character named Fanboy yells the line “tell em, Steve Dave!” which angers Brodie.
Years later in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the two characters are spotted leaving the screening of Bluntman and Chronic, and can be heard saying the popular line. Currently, the actor who portrayed Steve Dave, Brian Johnson, runs a podcast of the same name, and he was the basis for the character Randall in Clerks.
1. Walt Flanagan
Despite the number of actors who portray different roles in Smith’s movies, there is no other actor that can boast the amount of roles as Walt Flanagan. In Clerks, Flanagan portrays several different characters including the egg man, and the offended customer. In Mallrats, he plays Fanboy, and reprises the same character in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Flanagan is spotted buying cigarettes in Clerks 2, and even has a small role as another Fanboy character in Chasing Amy. Still not impressed? Walt is also is Dogma as one of the protesters.
These days, Walt is the lead on the television show Comic Book Men which is an absolute guilty pleasure of mine, and his knowledge and love for comic books inspired me to dive headfirst into some great reads. Though the roles are small, Flanagan is a mainstay in the View Askewniverse and I can’t wait to see his return in future Kevin Smith movies.