Our Valued Customers (Penguin)

Comic book store register monkey Tim Chamberlain documents the frequently ridiculous comments that come from the mouths of nerds.

 

96 pgs. B&W; $11.00
(W / A: Tim Chamberlain)
 
If you’ve ever set foot in a comic book store, you’ve invariably heard some preposterous things, from incredibly animated “Who would win in a fight?” arguments to “Pfft! That’s stupid, I could write better comics than that!” criticism. But one person has actually been paying attention: Boston-based comic book store clerk Tim Chamberlain, who captures the choicest nuggets in his long-running webcomic Our Valued Customers, which you can lose the next few hours of your life reading at http://ourvaluedcustomers.blogspot.com/.
 
The book is subtitled “Conversations from the Comic Book Store,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer as there is no back-and-forth: the person on the receiving end of the conversation, be it a friend of the speaker or “Mr. Tim” himself, is typically left unillustrated. The single-panel strips that make up Our Valued Customers are a marvel of economy, each one containing just three elements: an opening narrative caption that sets the scene, a single dialogue balloon to deliver the punchline, and a caricature of the speaker.
 
It’s the interplay between the illustrations and dialogue that really makes the strip work, and boy, does it work. Chamberlain has a fine ear for which diatribes to record for posterity, but it’s Chamberlain’s glassy-eyed, slack-jawed drawings that sell the gags: take the angry, pimple-faced teen in the Green Lantern shirt who whines about his friend “He reads Marvel and DC. You just can’t trust that guy,” or the squicked-out punker chick with the tattoos and labret piercing who opines “It must be so gross to kiss Colossus. I bet he tastes like pennies.” Chamberlain captures it all with cartoony verve using chunky, thick-lined vector art; his work seems simplistic on the surface, yet he’s versatile enough that no two of the one-off characters look alike. Between the spot-on skewering of every flavor of comic geek (the site divides them into five categories: creeps, crazies, jerks, dopes, and “jus’ folks,” mostly those unfortunate normal people who find themselves dragged along to the comic shop) and Chamberlain’s expressive cartooning, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistently funny webcomic.
 
I can’t praise Our Valued Customers enough, but I also feel like I’m kind of wasting words talking about it when you could just go read it here, right now, and thank me later. The only complaint I have regarding Our Valued Customers (the printed one, anyway) is one of value. The printed edition contains a scant 89 strips, barely a fraction of the complete archives, and makes for a very brisk read for your $11 when you can read hundreds and hundreds of the strips for free online. While the lower cover price may drive impulse purchases at the bookstore, as a fan, I can’t help but wish for a larger archive collection at a better price per strip. But hey, when the worst complaint one can lodge toward a book is “I wish there was more of it,” that should tell you something. | Jason Green

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