*Drinking at the Movies — Best of 2010

I thought I was tired of autobiographical comics, but after reading this gem by Julia Wertz, I realized I was only tired of diary strips (or to use the upscale term, “graphic memoirs”) with nothing to say.

Drinking at the Movies cover
Drinking at the Movies
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In contrast, Wertz has in this volume a simple concept for a through-line: how and why she moved to New York (Brooklyn, specifically) from San Francisco. It’s not an unfamiliar story — and that makes it more relatable, as most of us have wound up in a new city and struggled to become comfortable there — but her observations are unique and well-told.

Plus, New York is The City for many people, the only one that matters, so everything there takes on a bigger significance, bringing more depth to her challenges. Anyone who’s been there can relate to travel confusion, the city’s heat in summer, the dirt, crazy people, and the problem of finding a decent place to live.

The older I am, the more I appreciate reading about struggling young people, because I get the fun of thinking “thank goodness those kinds of decisions are behind me.” I’m thankful, for example, that I don’t have to walk blindly into locations and ask if they’re hiring, as Wertz does. (On the flip side: she doesn’t seem to much care about getting fired, while adults are more paralyzed by the financial responsibilities that puts in jeopardy.) Although younger, Wertz has a good sense of history, placing her acts in the context of bigger happenings. In other words, it’s not all about her, which makes the focus on her more palatable.

Wertz’s style is simple but skilled, comfortable but capable of telling her story. The flat figures are still expressive, and without flashy graphic tricks, the reader can concentrate on the meaning of what she’s telling us. The first four pages sum up how quickly things can change, taking us from what sounds like a pretty good time to an unsatisfying existence, full of loss — loved ones, job, and so on.

Once she’s moved, the book settles into moments that make up daily life, with (as suggested by the title) plenty of drinking when she doesn’t know what else to do. She perfectly captures the problem of not being happy with who and where are you but not knowing where you want to be. Her willingness to make herself look foolhardy or addicted or unpleasant provides a lot of humor, all the funnier for having more behind it, whether it’s hints of alcoholism or a brother’s rehab or depression.

Read more of Julia Wertz’s comics at her website — including this one about reviews on the internet. Or here’s an interview with her, complete with photos and comic about her wardrobe.


7 Responses to “*Drinking at the Movies — Best of 2010”

  1. The Fart Party Volume 2 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] enjoyed reading Julia Wertz’s Drinking at the Movies so much that I picked up her previous book, The Fart Party Volume 2. I’m glad I did. It was a [...]

  2. Best Graphic Novels of 2010 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz — This volume showed me that a genre I thought was played out through overuse, the autobiographic diary comic, just needed the right hand — and a good selection of events — to make it fresh and involving. [...]

  3. Read Drinking at the Movies Pages Online » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Wertz, before moving to a new website, is posting pages from her most recent book Drinking at the Movies online. So far there are four installments posted: one two three four. Check them out — this [...]

  4. It’s a Trend! More Free Reads of Eisner Humor Nominees » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Magazine website before it was collected, so that’s fully available. Julia Wertz’s Drinking at the Movies (my pick in this category) has had many of its pages posted at her old [...]

  5. SPX Programming Posted — Come See My Panel » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] press. Johanna Draper Carlson will speak with Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge, and Julia Wertz about publishing options [...]

  6. The Infinite Wait and Other Stories » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Infinite Wait and Other Stories is Julia Wertz’s followup to Drinking at the Movies, her collection of autobiographical comics about moving to New [...]

  7. A Disturbing Comic Diary on Alcoholism and Depression » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Wertz, the talented autobiographical cartoonist behind Drinking at the Movies, has posted a comic essay about coming to terms with alcoholism and […]

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