Monday, February 15, 2010

Graphic Novel Monday- Interview with Julia Wertz

Today I have a special treat for you; rather than do a review, I have for you an interview with comics artist and author Julia Wertz, whose Fart Party graphic novels I've reviewed in the past- including her second collection, The Fart Party volume 2, which I reviewed last week.

Julia contacted me last week and was kind enough to answer the following questions for us. If you want to read my reviews of her books, you can click on the book covers below.

1. Lots of my readers are folks new to graphic novels; what would you want them to know about the medium as they start exploring?

For readers first getting into graphic novels and comics, I’d recommend approaching them the way you’d approach the styles of traditional literature. With regular books there are very clearly defined genres- fiction, non fiction, biography, science fiction, romance, mystery, etc- but with comics, it all gets lumped into one category, which is very misleading.

The only time comics get categorized properly is in comic book stores, and even that is a little iffy. It helps to figure out what genre of comics you’re interested in- superhero, autobio, alternative, etc- and educate yourself about the creators in that area.

I think it’s a mistake to assume that all readers/makers of comics should be interested in all comics. The genre has been expanding rapidly and much like with traditional literature, there’s no shame in disliking parts of it. You’d never assume that a sci-fi reader should also be interested non-fiction and while they certainly can be, it’s a mistake to assume that they HAVE to be. This faux pas doesn’t really occur in literature since it’s such a large genre, but since comics are still relatively new in comparison, they struggle with this lack of distinction. Nothing drives this point home more than having to endure 5 days of comic-con while you’re sitting there trying to sell autobio stories from your childhood and then an old dude like Hell Boy walks by and you’re like “why is this my liiiiife?”

2. When did you start drawing? Who influenced your style?

I was a late bloomer in the sense that I started drawing comics in college, but I’d always liked reading, writing and drawing, I just didn’t know I could combine the two even though, like most people, I grew up reading the funnies and comics like Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield and The Far Side. I think it’s the simplicity of those kinds of art styles that ended up influencing me even though the comics that got me drawing comics were more artistically intricate. As a kid I loved the way that cartoon characters had buggy eyes and exaggerated reactions to things, so I employ those traditional techniques in my current work. I was always so taken with the fact that Calvin and Hobbes could look so cute and funny but also be heartbreaking at times.

I was also really influenced by Bill Pete’s work, although I didn’t realize it until much later. Some of my favorite Disney movies as a kid were Pinocchio, Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan, the Jungle Book…the Disney movies with a slightly darker tone and artistic aesthetic, all of which Bill Pete worked on. I also had many of his books as a kid and I always loved his easy, loose style, but I didn’t realize until a few years ago that all of that work was Bill Pete’s until my friend Aaron told me to read his autobiography and I recognized the larger catalogue of his work and how it’d been a big part of my life since I was a little kid.

3. Can you name some of your favorite comic artists or recent graphic novels?

Besides those mentioned above, there are many more current cartoonists whose stuff I greatly admire, such as Phoebe Gloekner, Ivan Brunetti, Julie Doucet, Vanessa Davis, Emily Flake, Lisa Hanawalt, Gabrielle Bell, Joey Sayers, Nicholas Gurewitch, Laura Park, Lynda Barry, etc…the list is too long to keep going and I always leave people out on accident. A few of the graphic novels I read last year that I really enjoyed were Jillian Tamaki’s Skim, Ken Dahl’s Monsters, and Carol Tyler’s Late Bloomer.

4. City life is so embedded in your work; has your move to New York changed anything about what or the way you draw? How is New York treating you and your comics?

It’ll probably seem like it changed a lot of my work since my next book is all about moving to New York, but as soon as I finished that book, I started on another one that is a lot like the old Fart Party stuff. I just had to get that period of my life out of the way and settled back into a more comfortable routine. I don’t think big, epic adventures like moving to New York are captured all that well in my style of focusing on the more mundane parts of every day life, so I feel in that sense my work may have suffered for awhile but now that I’m more settled, I’m falling back into my old ways of cartooning. I have a feeling I could be doing that anywhere though, not necessarily in New York, but I definitely think that if I’m going to make pointless comics about, say, going to the grocery store, there is no better city to do it in that NY because something bananas always happens even when you’re just running to the bodega to get a soda or something.

5. Apart from comics, what else do you like to read? Favorite author? Favorite book read last year? Anything you're looking forward to in 2010?

Actually, I read more books that I do comics. I read mostly fiction, non fiction and memoir. My favorite book I read last year was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I absolutely love her style of straightforward story telling without wallowing in self pity. There’s nothing worse than an insufferable whiner and she steers clear of that pitfall so effortlessly. Other ones I really enjoyed were Jonathan Carroll’s Land of Laughs, Pete Hamill’s A Drinking Life and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, although the movie was a real piece of shit. I’m not caught up on what’s coming out this year though, I’m usually pretty far behind on current stuff because I just buy whatever I can find at the dollar rack at the Strand.

Julia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and best of luck and continued success with your work!

You can visit Julia's website,, for more of her art and comics.


Alea said...

Awesome interview, I love Julia's comics :)

bermudaonion said...

Great interview! I want to check out her work!

Sandra said...

I enjoyed reading the interview. As you know, I am too old-fashioned for comics/graphic books. Just plain text for me. But I enjoy your posts on them.

jewwishes said...

Fabulous interview, Marie!

Book Dilettante said...

Very nice interview. I've been toying with the idea of bringing home some graphic novels from the library!

Zibilee said...

Great interview! I like the advice she gives to new readers of the graphic novel genre and would be interested in reading one of her books. She sounds as though she's very knowledgeable about the genre in general.