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Autobiography of a cartoonist

Brooklyn Daily

BY NATALIE O’NEILL

Sickness, alcoholism, and dead-end jobs aren’t typical comic strip material — but Julia Wertz isn’t a typical cartoonist.

The wryly funny and boundary-pushing Brooklyn-based illustrator — who earned a mini-cult following for her simple, sarcastic zine “Fart Party” — will showcase her new long-form graphic memoir at a comic-centric Brooklyn Book Festival reading.

“The Infinite Wait” features three bold and self-deprecating stories highlighting the humor in life’s sometimes-dark moments.

“It’s the first book I’m actually proud of,” Wertz said. “It’s not just punch lines at the end; it’s a little more serious.”

While in her last book, “Drinking at the Movies,” she chronicled her haphazard move to Brooklyn, her latest collection of illustrated stories show a black-and-white cartoon-version of Wertz as an oddball kid, who turned out to be an underwhelmed whiskey-sipping college grad and a sober grown-up living in Greenpoint.

One of the stories follows her struggle with the autoimmune disease lupus, a story concept that a “big name publishing house” told her to ditch — prompting her to ditch them instead, Wertz said. (She switched to the smaller publisher Koyama Press).

“I’m glad I didn’t listen to them,” she said. “But I was also being childish, thinking, you can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my dad!”

A second story is set in three libraries from three different phases in her life — one from childhood, another in San Francisco, and finally an alcohol rehab center — using the lit houses as a narrative thread.

The third focuses on “jobs,” tracking her journey from a pretend gig selling rocks to neighbors as a kid to washing dishes and eventually finding success as a published cartoonist.

On Sept. 22, Wertz will click through a slideshow of the novel, which she penned at a shared Greenpoint art studio called Pizza Island.

Working there and living in Brooklyn inspired her to be more prolific, she said.

“I like the work ethic here,” she said. “It makes me work hard — instead of slacking off, making a zine then calling it a day.”

The Comics Crowd at Bergen Street Comics [470 Bergen St. between Flatbush and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 230–5600]. Sept. 22, 8 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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