Right before we met up in the beer garden at Charlie’s Kitchen, Tim Chamberlain—aka MRTIM, the creator and cartoonist behind Our Valued Customers—had received the very first copies of his very first book, a Penguin imprint with at least a hundred of his comic book store caricatures contained within its pages. Before this, Our Valued Customers, Chamberlain’s comic strip based on the quotes he’d overhear from patrons of the comic book store he used to work at, lived solely on the internet and, more recently, as a weekly installment in the DigBoston Fun Pages.
Understandably, this is big.
Are you freaking out!? How does it look? How does it feel?
Tim: It’s so great. I’ve been living in the production of this for 16 months, so now to actually see it is like, “Oh yeah, here it is!”
It’s totally surreal too, because I look at my bookcase and it’s all these cartoonists that I’ve grown up reading—there’s Charles Schulz, Ian Wilson, Gary Larson, all these old Mad Magazine guys. I didn’t know about these artists from newspapers; I knew them because of books.
When you’re little, you go to the bookstore, you pick up a book in the humor and cartoons section, and you’re like, “This is funny!” I fell in love with so much of that stuff through books. These guys were “real” cartoonists to me because they’ve got a book.
And now you’ve got a book.
And now I’ve got a book! (laughs).
Talk to me about your process. You’re not creating these comics on a tablet—you’re sticking with ink and paper, right?
Yeah, I draw everything. I was drawing [Our Valued Customers] while I was at work, so they’re all drawn on the backing boards that you get for comics. When you buy a comic book, you get a bag and a board to keep it flat so you can tape it shut, because, you know, every comic is going to be worth millions of dollars! (Laughs) No, no comic will ever be worth anything again. But yeah, we just had piles of boards around because people are buying them, so I started drawing the first bunch of comics on those and I kept that going. I draw on those still. Every one of the comics that’s on there I have the original on my bookcase.
These comics can be straight LOL-worthy. Do you ever feel mean?
The thing about it is that a lot of the real wacky ones, the guys who are really intense about the stuff that I draw comics about—I’ve said shit like that before, I know I have.
I never wanted to be making fun of someone and I never wanted to hurt anybody’s feelings. If the comic is of a guy ranting about something for ten minutes, I’ll condense it into two sentences to bring the gist of it across. A lot of these quotes come from big long tirades, but I don’t want to spend a week just drawing this one guy saying stuff so I’ll condense it and make it fit into a bubble.
Who’s your favorite Valued Customer?
It’s funny, today I drew the 821st comic—I’ve done a lot of these, a real lot of them—so do I have a favorite one? I like all of them. My favorite one might be of this kid who was really excited about the Captain America shield hanging up behind the cash register. The kid was just falling over himself when he saw it, all “OH MAN, OH MY GOSH, OOOH! IT’S THE ONE!” He was just so excited to see Captain America’s shield. Those are always the funniest, because to an extent they’re all something a little kid said—all the comics are—with that pure excitement.
OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS IS OUT ON PENGUIN ON 7.3.12. FOR MORE INFORMATION AND YOUR DAILY DOSE OF OVC, VISIT OURVALUEDCUSTOMERS.NET.