Fart Party

By Julia Wertz
176 pages, black and white
Published by Atomic Book Company

I have a confession to make—the title of The Fart Party made me simultaneously eager and loathe to read Julia Wertz’s book. On the one hand, it’s hard to not see anything called The Fart Party and not groan a little inside. But, well, I have to admit that farts can be awfully funny at times. It wasn’t until I finally read Wertz’s story (with Laura Park) in Papercutter #6 that I knew I needed to sit down and check this out. And you know, I’m awfully glad I did.

The Fart Party is a collection of Wertz’s online strip of the same name (plus a lot of strips that were never put online), showcasing little vignettes from her life. It’s a pretty tried and true format, and one that is honestly quite easy to fail at. In order to make autobiographical stories work, you really need one of two things: an amazingly interesting life, or a very strong sense of style. It’s the latter that Wertz has on display here, thanks to her sense of humor and delivery. Her strips are often sarcastic, or crude, or sharp to the people around her. But at the same time, there’s a great deal of affection in the way she tells the stories. From doing an “angry dance” to going slightly mental over the discovery there was a third season of Lost, you always get a sense that Wertz finds the humor in the situation, even if it’s something that had previously angered her. As a result, you feel in on the joke with her, and what in person might have made you raise an eyebrow instead just elicits a pretty big laugh.

There is also some serious material on display in The Fart Party, mind you. There’s a series of strips towards the end about Wertz’s boyfriend Oliver preparing to move across the country (from California to Vermont) and their resulting break-up. It was there that I gained a lot of additional respect for Wertz’s strip, because it doesn’t feel like it’s a big tonal shift for The Fart Party even as it shifts gears into something a lot more important than being unable to pick out good-smelling perfumes, or belching. There’s still some humor in the strips, but it’s more than just that, and in some ways it’s a high water mark for the book. It really shows that she’s got some versatility (in the same way that her Papercutter story did) and is a talented creator.

Wertz’s art is very simplistic, but at the same time expressive. I love how she draws herself as a younger girl in particular; she’s not just a shorter version of herself, but rather someone that somehow looks more innocent and naive about the world. For such a stripped down art style, Wertz is about to bring a lot of emotions to her characters’s faces; you can always tell when someone’s excited, or angry, or grumpy, or giddy, or just confused by everything going on. (The last one seems to show up a lot in Wertz’s occasionally surrealistic comments to her friends.) It’s a cute overall look, and it helps keep the mood of The Fart Party to be pretty light, even when the occasionally gruesome event happens (like accidentally slicing her own leg open by standing on an aquarium).

The Fart Party really surprised me with how much fun the book was. I admit it, I slightly pre-judged the book based on its title, and I’m here to say that I was wrong. Wertz still regularly posts strips online as well, so it’s a nice way to take an additional look at her talent for yourself. In the meantime, all I can really says is Wertz, keep on farting.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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