Autobiography works very well in the graphic novel medium. The fascinating stories of mundane life are usually unseen while we live them, going too slowly to see the big picture. When we look back, the richness of our stories comes out. Illustration heightens these stories, and so we get classics like Persepolis or Maus, which shows two stories, both the author’s and his father’s. The coming-of-age story Blankets is widely known for showing the awakening of teen as the mysterious adult world becomes unraveled and explored. Over Easy by Mimi Pond does something similar but for a different age group: the topsy-turvy twenty-somethings.
The setting is Oakland, California, in the roiling 1970s. “Margaret” is an art student on her last dime, so broke even financial aid is rejecting her. Meandering, she comes upon a coffee shop, “The Imperial” that looks from the outside to be an abandoned Chinese restaurant. There she meets Lazlo, gets hired on as a dishwasher (part of the application process is to tell a joke, the dirtier the better), and begins a new life as “Madge,” her new nickname and new identity. The blue-collar work is a powerful change from her comfortable life growing up middle-class with most of her time spent reading and the cerebral days of art school. It seems almost like magical realism, a place too weird to exist, but that is just the way our world is.
Pond indeed shows the life in the restaurant realistically yet magically. Much of the book is quick slice-of-life descriptions of the cooks, the waitresses, the customers, and the relationships between the cooks, the waitresses, and the customers. The many slices add up to a whole pie, showing an ever-changing, yet timelessly monotonous, world of brunch rushes and weary after-work drinks that change Madge. Characters are richly drawn and described, showing people the way they should be after stewing in thirty years of memories. Babette, the cross-dressing hostess from Mississippi, is approached by a little girl, who asks, “Mister, why are you wearing that dress?” He replies, “Because it’s so pretty, don’t you think?”
Over Easy goes further to describe the very makeup of our world. Through her eyes, we see the end of the hippie movement with a few desperate hangers-on to such a way of life. Rockers in the early stages of Punk and a few Disco-fanatics are the new normal, but they all come together in the Imperial for a laidback lifestyle of lightning-quick loves, poetry, and recreational drugs, for which Pond gives a frank discussion. After trying coke, she is filled with excitement and self-assuredness, until she realizes she has ruined all of her customers’ orders due to her addled mind. Nothing is off-limits to Pond’s dreamlike portrayal of the world.
Today Pond lives in LA working as a writer and artist, doing work for famed shows such as Designing Women, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and The Simpsons, for which she wrote the first ever episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” Thought-provoking observations of the world continue to serve as fuel for the creative fire as newspapers continue to publish her work, and she posts cartoons on her blog. After fifteen years of often-interrupted work, she completed Over Easy, which will be released in mid-April 2014 through Drawn and Quarterly.