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Artist draws upon service-industry experience

We’ve all worked at jobs frequented by… quirky patrons. Now think about how weird comic book geeks are, and multiply their respective bizarritude levels by each other. Comic store worker-turned- artist Tim Chamberlain (or MRTIM, as he signs his work) has witnessed this mash of entitlement and obsession first- hand, transcribing his encounters into a webcomic series. Our Valued Customers has quickly gone from underground sensation to garnering attention from the Gawker network and Crave Online and has given Chamberlain a new career. Eagle News recently had a chance to talk with the writer/artist about his success and upcoming projects.

Eagle News: How would you describe the comic Our Valued Customers?
Tim Chamberlain: Our Valued Customers is a single panel comic strip I started drawing about four years ago while I was working in a comic book store. It started as a way for me to spotlight the specific sort of crazy people that you deal with in any customer service job, like the ones who would come in and act crazy or needlessly argumentative, guys I’d catch trying to steal stuff, complainers, basically the worst of all the people who you interact with in any job where you’re serving the public. What I really liked was how they weren’t just these run-of-the-mill interactions because they all had to do with comics or “Star Wars.” So because of that, I feel like Our Valued Customers doesn’t come off as another one of those “my job sucks” comics; it felt more like I was showcasing this strange side of passionate comic fandom. It was just an exercise at first but then I had a sketchbook full of them and my brother had the idea of putting them on the Internet.
EN: What do you think it is about comic shops that bring in such an eclectic group of people?

TC: With all of the big comic book movies, comics are more accessible than ever. So especially now, I think there are tons of new people going into comic shops for the first time and getting into this stuff, so I know that’s a big draw. But really I think that the more specific of a thing your store sells, you’ll attract the people who are really into that one specific thing. So, for example, a comic book store, you attract the guys who are REALLY into comics. They might not be great at interacting with other people but they love comics, so they’re coming to YOU. But that’s the same with people who are passionate with anything. I hear from people who work in record shops and video game stores who read OVC and they say, “Oh yeah, we have a guy like that.”

EN: You’re coming out with a book, “The Worst Arcade in Town.” Can you talk a little about that?

TC: You know that arcade game called “Golden Tee”? It’s a golf arcade-style video game that is in almost every bar I’ve been to in about 10 years. There’s always a crowd of dudes clustered around it, and they’re always hooting and cheering while they play it for hours. I always assumed that it must be really fun to play, so a few months ago I was out with some friends, and I noticed that the “Golden Tee” machine was free so I went over and put in a dollar. It was so dumb! It was actually an arcade version of ‘Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge’ from that episode of “The Simpsons.” I couldn’t believe it. So when I got home I started sketching out OTHER horrible games that I thought people might want to play if they enjoyed “Golden Tee.” By the time the sun came up I had sketched about 50 of them. Anyway, the first collection of them is a 32-page, black-and-white comic, and it’s available at ourvaluedcustomers.net.

EN: What made you decide to break from what you’ve been doing with Our Valued Customers?”

TC: I always have done stuff other than OVC, but it wasn’t until recently that any of it started taking shape into anything I was ready to show anybody. Our Valued Customers isn’t going anywhere. I did cut back the output from five days a week to three but that’s only because I’m really busy doing a few other comic projects.

EN: Will there be more material that’s set apart from “OVC?”

TC: Yes. “The Worst Arcade In Town” came out two weeks ago and my two other comics, “Persons of Interest” and “Stinktown” #1 ,will be available by the end of the summer.

EN: OVC and TWAIC are both single- panel comics. Have you thought about doing multi-panel layouts?

TC: Yes. I’ve been so influenced by MAD Magazine since I was a kid and even in my teens; the longer stories by Peter Bagge and Johnny Ryan were the things that made me want to do comics in the first place. I’ve wanted to do longer format work for a long time, and I’ve been working on “Stinktown #1,” for a few months, so hopefully people will be able to see it soon.

 

 

 

“Our Valued Customers” the book is available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble and at finer comic book stores everywhere, from Penguin books. You can buy “The Worst Arcade in Town” as well as see the entire archive of OVC at ourvaluedcustomers.net. 

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