Greenpoint Gazette

Confessions of a Comic: Julia Wertz is Drawing You

BY Adriane Quinlan

Last week’s New York Comics Convention was a riotous swirl of dudes in Storm Trooper costumes, teen girls in the rubber bustiers of Wonder Women and shy nerds toting binders of rare editions to their idols—the men and women responsible for creating all of these fantasies who had been raised up into the light from the obscurity of drafting tables.
There in the back, beneath the Javits Center’s halogen lamps, sat Julia Wertz, a petite 26-year-old Greenpoint resident who, with her mousy brown hair, shruggy sweaters and habit of getting to bed by 10 o’clock, declares herself “a total grandma.” Still, Wertz has grown used to the spotlight: Her online comic strip regularly nets an audience of thousands.
But there are some things you don’t get used to. At the convention, a stranger approached and, Wertz recalled, cringing, “He proceeded to tell me all about my own life.” He knew how she started drawing comics while studying at SF State, he knew of her tough break up with her long-term boyfriend, and knew about her decision to move to Brooklyn, not Portland. He had tracked her life in New York through her dayjobs—bike messenger, barista, waitress—and knew about her desire to settle into an apartment—her lovely Greenpoint studio—after subletting all over the city. He even told her, she recalled, “Remember that one time you peed in a sink?”
But, it’s Wertz’s fault that her fans know all of this embarrassing stuff; into her self-deprecating, confessional comic strips she pours everything but the kitchen sink.
A member of the “Tell-All” generation responsible for everything from MySpace (her guilty pleasure) to LiveJournal, Wertz’s strip, “The Fart Party” is a headlining act in a new wave of “confessional” comics that take as their subject matter the foibles of everyday life. The result is less a snooze-worthy illustrated diary than a hijinks-filled illustrated Seinfeld set; She consumes the truly terrible, heart-rending moments of day-to-day existence and spits them out as punch-lines. In various strips, Wertz’s character misses her graduation, overdraws her bank account, plays video games en lieu of leaving the house on a Saturday night and endures the taunts of a boyfriend when she asks, “Why won’t you be nice to me?” and he answers, “Because then your art would suffer.”
Wertz’s persona is a cranky, stewing dark-haired girl who both is and isn’t her. When her fans meet her, they expect a wizened scrooge, a Daria, a spinster with a sour face. Instead, she says lightly, “I’m easy-going. I’m from California.” The character she developed whose round, Garfield-esque eyes are often furrowed and angry is, she admits “A part of me, but a very exaggerated part.”
Fart Party’s fan-base returns every week to click through the three-or-so new entries because they are drawn to its genuinely funny punch lines just as much as they are to its unabashed sincerity and pointed observations. “Some stuff I put up because it’s immediately funny,” Wertz explained. “Other stuff that’s less funny, I have to sit on. I have to give it years before I can wrap my head around it.”
Only a year and a half into her strips, a publisher approached her to compile one book of that work, “The Fart Party.” She’s coming out with a second compilation later this year. Most recently, however, she worked to collect comic strips based on real Missed Connections classifieds on Craigslist.org. The result is “I Saw You,” which contains comics by other local artists such as Sarah Glidden, Austin English, Nate Doyle, Gabrielle Bell, Emily Flake, Abby Denson and Tom Hart, and will be feted by a release party at Desert Island Comics on February 20th which will also feature most of that roster.
For now, Wertz would be happy to do comics forever. “There are five or six more autobiographical books that I want to do,” she says. “Then I’ll be done with the autobiographical stuff I gotta get out of the way.”
“But,” she paused. “I’m only 26, so I’m sure by then I’ll have more.”
Julia’s compilation of Missed Connection-based comics, I Saw You, will be feted with a release party at Desert Island Comics at 540 Metropolitan Ave., on February 20th from 7 – 9 p.m.

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