An entertaining, warm-hearted and informative graphic novel centred on a diner in 1970s California.
Over Easy is published by Drawn and Quarterly, whose roll call of excellent cartoonists includes Lynda Barry, Daniel Clowes and Jillian Tamaki. Mimi Pond’s previous works span many humor books, but she is arguably best known for writing the first ever full-length broadcast episode of The Simpsons.
Pond was forced to drop out of art school in the 1970’s due to lack of funds, and consequently embraced a new lifestyle as a waitress in a diner full of eccentric characters. Over Easy is a colourful and immersive musing on this time in Pond’s life.
Over Easy encapsulates an interesting time in history, when hippies are falling out of fashion and punk rock is starting to permeate alternative scenes. The cartoonist herself is happy about this due to a pre-existing distaste for hippy attitudes, which she describes to comic effect.
The introduction notes: “From the very first day I knew that I was part of a story”. It’s easy to see why, with our young protagonist thrown headfirst into a cast of hippies, disco rollers, punks and poetry-writing chefs as they experiment with drugs and casual sex.
The café where she ends up working is staffed by a host of hilarious characters whose working relationships are complicated by their labyrinthine romantic entanglements.Pond has a knack for bringing dialogue to life with an appealing chattiness and sense of humour.
The regulars and passing customers of the Imperial Café also inform part of the story. Pond has a knack for bringing dialogue to life with an appealing chattiness and sense of humour, alongside her own narration and inner reactions to events.
Oakland is portrayed in exquisite detail, and sharply contrasted with a night out in the city (a footnote states that “the city” always means San Francisco) which ends badly when the protagonist’s ride home decides to abandon her. However, despite this and some of the other characters’ bad behaviour, Pond’s acquaintances are depicted with an obvious affection.
Over Easy is incredibly keenly observed – it can only be assumed that Pond kept plenty of notes at the time, or has an excellent memory for detail. Even allowing for artistic licence, the characters and story are so believable that it’s hard not to imagine the scenes taking place.
Pond restricts her colour palette to whites and blue/greens and this, together with her lively and evocative drawing style, adds to the book’s immersive effect.
Very much a coming-of-age story, it’s fascinating to see how the main character adapts and blossoms under her new circumstances. Gradually she begins to see the many flaws in the older people she looks up to and her naivety is replaced by self-confidence.
Ultimately, Over Easy is a comical look at everyday life during an exciting and tumultuous time, rendered with skillful artwork and a keen eye for detail.