Q+A: The Joker Behind 'Our Valued Customers'
Mr. Tim is an illustrator who manages a local comic book shop in Boston. The 30-year-old Groton native and School of the Museum of Fine Arts alum also happens to be the brains behind Our Valued Customers, a blog he started in late 2009 that racks up anywhere between 10 and 12,000 hits per day, where — Monday through Saturday — Mr. Tim posts his own comics depicting the antics, comments, and overall craziness of the shop’s customers. Yes, it’s genius. And no, I’m not going to tell you where he works. Or his real name. Mr. Tim took set aside his sketchbook for a few minutes to talk about fighting Spider-Man, his secret superpowers, and the other one percent.
How did you come to create Our Valued Customers?
After about a year of working at the store, I started drawing these unflattering caricatures of the more irritating customers and writing down things I overheard or was asked that struck me as funny. So I had a big sketchbook full of this stuff and my brother was visiting from New York and after looking through them he said, “These are really funny. You should put them on the internet.” So it was really born out of this “bored at work” exercise, and I never thought anyone would ever see them.
You post a new comic almost every day — are there ever days where you don’t overhear anything funny or interesting?
Oh yeah. It’s not like every single day [has a] barrage of horrible customers, foaming at the mouth and spewing craziness. I got in the habit of stock-piling weird quotes in a notebook, that way I actually have a comic to do every day. Plus sometimes I’ll be out at another comic store or in line for a movie and I’ll hear some guy shouting about how he could take Spider-Man in a fight and I’ll write it down.
Do you work on them in the store?
Well, people don’t take kindly to you drawing crude cartoon versions of them while they watch you, so I usually do them when I’m at home. They don’t take too long. The lettering takes the longest, but if I have a full day to just draw I can do about 8 to 10 in a day.
Who are your customers, exactly?
The majority of comic book folks and comic shop customers are awesome. However, like in any group, there’s that loud, crazy one percent that will continually amaze you with the crazy things that they say.
Do you ever have people who recognize themselves on your blog?
I haven’t, but then again, my comics are pretty unflattering, so hopefully when people see them they think, “That’s not me. I don’t have a horrible overbite and I don’t spit when I talk.”
What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve seen a customer do?
Once a drunk guy wandered into the store at about noon and after staggering around grumbling to himself he … ah, relieved himself in his pants. It took a few minutes [for me] to realize it had happened but as soon as I did I was like, “Get the hell out of here!” and thankfully he did.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve overheard?
I don’t know. I mean, just look through the comics, everything is a little outrageous. I think what really makes comic customers different from other retail customers is the specific nature of the material. We comic folks are really passionate and a lot of times that passion can get a little out of hand and an otherwise rational person can come off as a lunatic while arguing about Captain Sisko or Batman.
What are your favorite comics and/or graphic novels?
I really loved The Brian Michael Bendis run on Daredevil. The Ultimates 1 and 2 are awesome and any of Walter Simonson’s Thor. I just read Paul Pope’s Batman: Year 100 and that was really cool.
What illustrators and artists inspire you?
Gahn Wilson, Johnny Ryan, Amanda Conner, Shakey Kane, Peter Bagge, Jim Mahfood, Sergio Aragones … all of those guys. And all of the old MAD magazine artists like Don Martin, Al Jaffe, and Dave Berg.
If you were a superhero, what would your name and super power be?
I’d want to be Have Enough Money Man. My superpower would be not having to panic every time the cable, electric, and phone bills are due.