Back Issue__ Julia Wertz: (Not) Drinking at the Movies
Julia Wertz is no longer drinking at the movies, but she's still walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to there.
By: Mish Way
Photos: Rafael Rios
28-year-old graphic novelist, JuliaWertz named her latest book, "Drinking At The Movies" after one of her favorite activities. Every week, Wertz would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, buy a big beer and go see a movie on her credit card points, alone. Lately, she's dropped the beer from the equation altogether, which she says was "probably the best decision I've ever made." Now, instead, she eats burritos.
Wertz is the author of cult favorite graphic novels, The Fart Party Vol. 1 & 2, she’s the editor of “I Saw You: Missed Connection Comics” and the creator of The Fart Party website. Born in the Bay Area, the tiny, 5’2 brunette with an equally tiny voice got into comics during her last year of college when she was diagnosed with Lupus. Being sick at home diminished her attention span and the four paneled pages of comics seemed to make sense to her. Inspired, she tried creating her own and found her calling. Wertz launched her website in 2005 and the ever-popular The Fart Party was born. Wertz is sarcastic, cynical and sharp-tongued – a little firecracker, but she’d probably hate being called that.
“I don’t keep an audience in mind when I make comics,” says Wertz. “If I do that, I start tailoring the story to fit a more interesting story then what actually happened.” Her work is devastatingly biographical. Earlier strips focus on her relationships, her love for cheese, hate for waiting tables, winter weight and irritation with babies. She strings inside jokes through all her panels like a secret language. Wertz may write with only herself in mind, but her stories are relatable and heartwarming, even when she’s making jokes about abortion.
“Cartoon me is a lot more negative and ornery,” she says. Wertz in real life has never been the same girl who appears on the page, especially not these days. “Sometimes I don’t like the person cartoon me seems to be.” In the beginning, cartoon Julia would often eat the limbs of people who annoyed her, stuff babies with cocaine for drug smuggling purposes or spread her butt cheeks to defecate on a stranger who asked her a stupid question. “I like to fancy that I’m a lot more accepting and happy in real life.”
Her work isn’t considered standard comic book fare. Wertz is kind of a lone she-wolf in the comic book pack. “Superhero comics are mostly a boys game but that’s because most women just aren’t not that kind of stuff, it’s not for a lack of trying. They just don’t care about it.” But being a strong, successful female is a typically masculine art form doesn’t really faze Wertz. She thinks gender has little to do with any of it. “There are so many female cartoonists that most indie comics I read are by women, but only by default. I don’t really like to differentiate between male and female artists. I think that in art, it’s a pretty level playing field and both sexes labor away at work that is an isn’t accepted by the mainstream.”
“I moved to New York over three years ago but am just really starting to appreciate it,” Wertz who is originally from San Francisco says. This is an oddly positive stretch for Wertz considering that frustration with New York was a reoccurring topic in her comics. “I have this newfound love for the city that I never thought I’d have. I like going on long city walks, eating little pies at the farmers market. I find that I get my best ideas on those days.”
Currently, Wertz is busy promoting her new book, which means the days of 9-TO-5 employment are long gone. “I kind of miss working at coffee shops,” she admits. “I miss the feeling of ending a shift and being completely done for the day. I can’t even watch TV anymore. I always have to be working on something while I watch. Now that comics are my work, I never really clock out.”
But, Wertz seems happier now. When I ask her to name the five things that can always kill her signature cynicism she lists “Pizza Island [her cartoon studio], people that say ‘good morning’ to their neighbors or people on the sidewalk, my horrible cat, eating ice cream in the park and outdoor movies in the summer.”
“I have a very negative streak in me that I rode for many years and am just coming out of now which I attribute to quitting drinking and starting to get out of my own head and communicate with others more.” She still needs her solidarity. For that, there will always be her walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. "Walking always gets my brain churning and that’s usually when I come up with a bunch of new ideas,” she tells me. “Or maybe it’s just the burrito.”
See how Julia Wertz feels about fashion below.