What’s a girl got to do to get some respect around here? Stick a needle in her arm?
I discovered Mimi Pond’s comix in National Lampoon, back in the early 80s. The magazine had hopelessly passed its glory days by then; Pond was one of the reasons to keep reading. I lost track of her work after the 80s, though I was aware she wrote the first full-length episode of The Simpsons1.
I stumbled over her stuff again recently. Published at the end of summer, 2017, The Customer is Always Wrong is the second in a series of semi-autobiographical memoirs. Its justification for being reviewed here is that it’s a graphic novel. Otherwise, it’s somewhat removed from our usual fare. Mind you, Madge’s self-medicated supporting cast probably see aliens and monsters all the time.
Title: The Customer is Always Wrong
Author: Mimi Pond.
A young woman tries to establish herself as a cartoonist and artist while waiting tables at a slightly seedy restaurant and associating with far too many people who have addiction issues and criminal associations.
Despite the prevalence of drug abuse and general seediness, the work doesn’t glamorize these things. Regular drug use has realistic consequences, and Madge’s relationship with exotic-seeming lowlifes gets her badly beaten up at one point.
Lazlo, Madge’s manager, proves a fascinating character, vacillating among the lives he lives.
The 400+ pages depicts events that probably felt important to Pond. I thought it dragged in places, while shifting rather abruptly in others. Life’s like that, but art doesn’t need to be.
Originality: 3/6 Like so many of the better slice-of-life graphic novels and semi-autobiographical indie films, The Customer… isn’t so much original as it is well-done. The twin events that bring the novel to a conclusion might be clichés, but they’re clichés because they happen so often.
Artwork: 5/6 Pond has always been able to evoke places and times remarkably well. Her visual execution of character remains effective if fairly typical of her subgenre, but her eye for detail has not faltered over the decades.
Emotional response: 5/6
Overall: 5/6 I didn’t live in Oakland, I’m neither female nor a cartoonist, and I only briefly waited tables, but sheesh, few things I’ve read lately have made me so entirely miss the chaos and promise of being twentysomething.
In total, The Customer is Always Wrong receives a score of 32/42.
1. She never received an invitation to become a regular contributor to the series, however.
The Simpsons, as most of you likely know, started on The Tracey Ullman Show, and had several installments before it premiered with a full-length episode of its own.