The Fart Party
By Julia Wertz
Atomic Book Company, May 2008, $13.95
Julia Wertz’s comics would be terribly juvenile if they weren’t wonderfully juvenile – little snippets of life from a young woman in San Francisco, obsessed with beer, cheese, bicycles and comics. (Not to mention the occasional outburst of cartoony violence.)
Wertz has been posting her autobiographical comics at www.fartparty.org for nearly three years now, with occasional published-on-actual-paper minicomics as well, but this is the first collection that sits comfortably on a shelf. It seems to collect roughly the first year of the online strips, when Wertz was living in San Francisco with her boyfriend, Oliver, though the book itself doesn’t say that, or have dates on any of the strips. (Wertz’s life has changed a bit since the time of these strips; she’s currently ensconced in Darkest Brooklyn.) The strips here do form something of an arc, and have a natural ending, which is rare for any collection of regularly published comics, from the web or anywhere else.
Wertz’s style is simple and cartoony, but springs out full-formed from the beginning of the book with all its rubber-armed, pointy-eyed, casually-violent energy. Wertz does include a couple of strips she created earlier, in a more conventionally “realistic” style. But she buries those strips in the middle of the book, and they’re definitely less distinctive than her current style. I’m sure the fine-art brigade will hate her work – as will the good-taste brigade, which is similar but not identical to the first brigade – but she’s a real cartoonist, and that’s something to be celebrated. There’s still room for improvement in her style; her faces are only intermittently expressive at this point, and the figures’ body language tends to huge, stagy gestures even when those aren’t appropriate.