Mimi Pond’s new book, Over Easy, just published by Drawn & Quarterly, is her most personal work to-date. It is a mostly-true account of her time working in a café in Hollywood in the 1970s. Wry and real, the book paints a vivid picture of a specific time in Pond’s life and in 1970s American youth culture as she waited tables at the Imperial Café. Pond took some time to talk with PW Comics World about her life and the culture during those years and her later drive to recapture those experiences in comics in the pages of Over Easy.
PW Comics World: How much of the story was embellishment versus autobio? It seems like it would have been very fun writing stories with such a larger-than-life cast, real or embellished.
Mimi Pond: It's hard to put a percentage on fiction vs. nonfiction since everything was so interwoven. It was fun writing about these people, some of whom are lifted from life, and some whom are amalgams of multiple real-life people. Sometimes some real-life characters were assigned some unsavory qualities to stand in for people so unpleasant I left them out entirely—which I did in a completely punitive way. Such is the joy of fiction, being lord of all you survey!
PW: The story reads as much as a cultural piece as a personal one. Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose to write about this particular time? And why write this story now?
MP: The 1970s was an era I have been trying to figure out for a long time. As a young person in the 70s you were made to feel like you had missed the 60s boat. All the fun stuff—hippie-dom, the peace movement, rock n' roll, drugs, Woodstock—had already happened. And they'd thrown out all the rules on top of it. So now we were in this, "I'm okay, you're okay," era. A moral swamp, which started, really, with the kickoff of the Manson Murders in 1969, making sure that the hippie well was good and poisoned—then Kent State, Watergate, the fall of Saigon, the oil crisis, Nixon resigning, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the Jonestown massacre, on and on. The 70s were a mess!
Pop music in the first half of the 70s was abysmal as well. The Captain and Tenille, The Carpenters, Debbie Boone, Seals and Croft, and all that overproduced, overblown arena rock. I blame cocaine! The only thing left to do was have sex all the time. That, it turned out, was boring too. The most exciting thing to happen was punk rock, which really was a huge shot in the arm to grassroots youth culture. There was no "Hot Topic" store. There was no place at the mall to go buy the right outfits for this. You had to make it up yourself, and that, besides the music, was to me the best part—a street level sense of dynamic creativity and energy that the whole decade had, up until then, completely lacked.
PW: The book is very honest, with a few observations and choices that might be misconstrued in a "PC" society. Was it important to you to keep the authenticity of the time?
MP: There were actually un-PC things my editor insisted that I take out, which upset me. This is just the way it was. Sexism was just massive and at the same time, a given. There were a lot more un-PC terms for minorities that were bandied about constantly—and often, humorously, because people were supposed to know that you would never call someone a “jiggaboo” or a “beaner” or a “flip” seriously. I had to fight to keep the word “cholo” in there.
PW: How long were you working on this project? Any plans to do a followup continuing your story?
MP: I knew from the very first day that I worked [at the Imperial Cafe] that it was a story I had to someday tell. There were years of notes and outlines. Everyone who has ever worked there has expressed the opinion that it ought to be a movie. I lived in Hollywood long enough to know that, were I to write a screenplay, it could be taken from me at any time and ruined, so I began really working on it in earnest in about 1998, as a conventional piece of fictionalized memoir. Then my agent could not sell it. I finally had to admit to myself that it wanted to be a graphic novel. It was such a massive amount of drawing to do I couldn't imagine how I was ever going to finish it. This little voice in the back of my head said, “But...you LIKE to draw.” I am working on the second, and final part of Over Easy now!
PW: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Anything else you want readers to know?
MP: I'm just so relieved and grateful, after working on it so long, that people seem to get what I've tried to put across.