The Fart Party Volume 2
Independent comics, perhaps now more than ever, are truly in a golden age. Thanks in large part to the internet, material once only available via semi-obscure mail order catalogues or at yearly venues such as Bethesda's Small Press Expo can be found on the shelf at Barnes and Noble mere inches from the works of Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, and Alan Moore. Not only that, but it's easier and cheaper than ever to self-produce your own comics, if you can get your hands on a nice enough printer or drag yourself to a Kinko's. With all this in mind, it's easy to see why there's been an explosion of new indie material being produced. As with any genre, it's a mixed bag of fantastic, game-changing stuff and, well, crap. When you pick up a book with a name such as The Fart Party (released by Atomic Book Company, co-owned by erstwhile City Paper contributor Benn Ray), it's hard to know what you're in for exactly. And not only that, it's even the second volume of said book, what if you're missing essential, possibly flatulent backstory key to understanding the book?
Five pages in, these questions disappear; 10 pages in, you're hooked. The Fart Party is just that good.
Since 2005, creator Julia Wertz has been cranking thrice-a-week comic strips detailing her day-to-day life as struggling cartoonist living in San Francisco and New York, where she currently lives. What allows Fart Party to stand out in a field filled with autobiographical comics is Wertz herself, who, to quote the book's foreword by former City Paper comic Perry Bible Fellowship's Nicholas Gurewitch, "pretty much encapsulates the whole of the human condition." Her cartoon avatar, resembling the Utz girl's neurotic older sister, is easy to like and perhaps even easier to relate to. Little details, such as her love of Arrested Development or her childlike joy over receiving a mystery box in the mail, successfully create an honest, authentic character. What's more, the ordeals Julia goes through in this collection--breaking up with her boyfriend, working a shitty job, struggling to find her place in the world, etc.--are universal and she manages to document them in strips that are often laugh-inducing even when heartbreaking.
In addition to some strong writing, Fart Party Vol. 2 is lifted up by very strong artwork. Wertz's drawing style is incredibly simple, but contains a strong eye for detail, ranging from giving a character the perfect "just hid porno mags in a park" grin to her painstakingly rendered snapshots of San Francisco. Her decision to draw a large chunk of her comics concerned with her cross-country trip crudely and shakily is a bold one, but it does an excellent job of conveying that feeling of haste and tension that comes with traveling. The way she incorporates her run-ins with fellow comics colleagues Laura Park and Keith Knight, having them draw themselves into the strip in their own trademark style, is ingenious and looks beautiful on the page. And at 192 pages for $13.95, Wertz's sophomore collection of "Fart Party" strips is a not only a solid value, it's great introduction to some real fine comics.