Although Julia Wertz posts comics fairly regularly to her website, fartparty.org, she doesn’t consider her work a web comic. In addition to two print volumes of The Fart Party (which include lots of material never posted online), Julia is behind the I Saw You.. comic anthology (as editor), a number of zines, and a forthcoming book, Drinking at the Movies. She was kind enough to answer Dan Copulsky’s questions, by email, in January 2010.
Some comic artists put all their stuff online for free and make a living from merchandise and ad space. You support yourself with comics, but do it a different way, putting less online and focusing on selling print collections and original art. Are there things that make different models work better for different people?
Definitely, just as there are some comics that work best online and some that work better in print. In order to build a web comic that can garner income enough to live off of, you have to be diligent in posting regularly, and having a comic that either appeals either to very broad audiences or, say, a dedicated, niche audience. If you’re going to make comics with the initial intent of publishing online and making money from it, you have to be organized, timely and marketable. Because I create Fart Party with a focus on print media, online publication is kind of an afterthought. I don’t post regularly, I don’t really know how to run the website, and I don’t sell t-shirts or beer cozies or whatever the kids are into these days.
Do you think your model is the best for you financially, or do you prefer it for other reasons?
It‘s probably not the best choice financially, but I get along all right at the moment, and I prefer my model because I don’t really give a smooth fart about merchandise. I once attempted to sell t-shirts and cards and quickly realized that no matter how many t-shirts I sold, it would never feel as gratifying as seeing the comic in print. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to have books published (although I never considered comics until much later), so now that I have been lucky enough to earn a meager living from doing so, as long as I can I’m going to throw myself wholeheartedly in that direction. The publishing world is dissolving and I want to ride it out as long as I can. Then when it all blows up in my face, I’ll probably have to resort to selling used underwear online. I hear that’s pretty lucrative.
A lot of your comics feature an angry, boozy caricature of yourself. Do you ever feel like portraying yourself in a certain way in your comics encourages you to be more like that character in real life?
No, not really, the comic always comes after whatever unfolded in real life, so it doesn’t really affect my personality or my reactions to things. However, I am not actually an angry person in real life, that’s more just a manifestation of my imagination or a comic exaggeration of little things that I’m normally just slightly annoyed by. How that works is that say, for example, you read a 3 panel comic with this format:
1) I’ve been introduced to a situation
2) I’ve been annoyed by said situation
3) I say some angry or irreverent, smart ass remark
That’s a fairly common format for a Fart Party comic. However, what that comic is missing is the 4th panel that is how it “really happened,” which is usually me cracking up or otherwise ruining the joke by revealing that it was just faux anger. So, in that sense, no, the way I portray myself doesn’t affect how I am in real life, but my sense of humor in real life greatly effects the way I portray myself in the comic. I know where to draw the line in a comic story to make it funny but in real life I’m kind of just a babbling idiot most of the time.
Do you ever feel limited in expressing other sides of your personality?
Yes and no. Sometimes I’ll want to do a very serious diary strip, and it just looks preposterous done in Fart Party style. However, in my next book I have a lot of very serious scenes and I think they look all right, but probably only just because I never really linger on the seriousness, I always couple it with a joke. If I want to do a strip that is all serious, I do it in a completely different style, like this. I kind of like being forced to address serious issues in Fart Party style though, because it reminds me not to ever take myself too seriously. There is humor to be found in almost every situation, and as long as I’m drawing in an exaggerated, cartoony style, that’s hard to forget.
What do you look for in a comic shop? What places are your favorites?
I actually do most, if not all, of my comic book shopping at conventions because that’s where I can find pretty much everything I want to spend money on. However I adore alternative comic shops like Needles and Pens in San Francisco, Atomic Books in Baltimore, Desert Island in Brooklyn, Guapo in Portland, Quimby’s in Chicago, etc.
You go to cons as both an exhibitor and a fan. What’s the most pleasant way to be approached by people? What do you say to artists you admire?
The best way to be approached is for people to just act normal. It’s a good thing to remember that exhibitors feel just as awkward and shy as everyone else there too. Sometimes after a con I will read on the internet that someone who wanted to talk to me didn’t because I looked “bored/angry/unhappy,” none of which are true (well, maybe the boredom part) but it’s just because I have a really serious, someone unpleasant looking face that people often mistake for negativity. That’s just how I look, I can’t help it! but I’m happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. Most cartoonists appear a little reserved but are really easy to approach and talk to, especially if you ask them about what other work they’d recommend. A lot of people, myself included, have a difficult time discussing or “selling” their own work at conventions but are happy to point people to other work they enjoy.
As for what I say to artists I admire… hmm… I don’t know! I’m sure I’ve babbled and made an ass of myself plenty of times but I find conventions very overwhelming and for some reason that makes me forget almost all interactions I have during them, which is probably a good thing.
In one of your comics a few months ago, you wrote about overhearing people at a restaurant talking about you and your work. Do you think it’s a weirder experience for you to to overhear that or for them to read your comic later?
I’m sure it was slightly weird for them to read it, but it can’t be nearly as weird for them as it was for me to sit there and listen to them talk about me while I was right behind them. It was like having a quick glimpse into what it would feel like to have invisibility powers but it totally gave me the douchechills, so if that’s what invisibility feels like, count me out. I just wanted to have that power so I could rob banks and hang out at amusement parks after they were closed.