Tim Chamberlain: Comics Relief

How a local artist became a big-deal cartoonist.

Photo via Scott M. Lacey

Photo via Scott M. Lacey

When you work in a comic-book store, you hear a lot of weird stuff, thanks to the genre’s notoriously dorky followers. At least that’s what budding Watertown cartoonist Tim Chamberlain, 31, concluded when he got a job at a neighborhood comic shop in 2008 after attending the Maine College of Art. Looking for a way to capture the bizarre subculture, Chamberlain began illustrating comments he overheard while ­working — gems like “Comics don’t objectify women … if anything, comics give ugly chicks something to aspire to look like.” What the subjects in his single-frame cartoons lacked in teeth, they made up for in zits and spittle.

Chamberlain kept his work to himself until his brother, a comedian in New York, convinced him to post the cartoons online. Under the screen name Mr. Tim, he launched the blog Our Valued Customers in 2009. With a mention on the Comics Alliance website, his traffic soon hit 75,000 daily visits. Despite his success, though, Chamberlain stayed anonymous. “People who come into the comic shop are weird enough as it is without taunting,” he says.

On July 3, Chamberlain and his online persona will unite when the book version of his work, Our Valued Customers: Conversations from the Comic Book Store, hits shelves. To promote it, the artist will attend conventions in Baltimore, New York, and Portland, Maine, this fall.

These days, Chamberlain, whose work appears regularly in The Weekly Dig, finds inspiration everywhere — from flea markets to conventions to lines at the movie theater. He’s always armed with a notebook and pen, waiting for a zinger. He says his work “is about regular folks, not just the heavyset guy in the soup-stained Little Orphan Annie T-shirt. It’s something everyone can laugh at.”