Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story
Julia Wertz’s latest autobiographical comic puts all the rest of them — Drinking at the Movies, Museum of Mistakes (to be rereleased next month), The Infinite Wait and Other Stories — into new context.
Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story is 300-plus pages of deceptively simply, impressively readable comics about her finally acknowledging her alcoholism and how she decided to change her life. Her journey isn’t always inspiring or straightforward, but it’s honest and relatable.
Wertz starts the book in 2009, when she’s drinking two bottles of wine of night but somehow still functioning enough to make a living in comics. She’s got a tiny, illegal basement apartment in New York City, a shared work studio with friends, a lot of observations about life in the city, and some impressively detailed streetscape backgrounds. (Her previous book, Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, shows just how much she loves these images and how well-observed they are.)
She tries the expected — therapy, AA meetings, support from family and friends, even rehab. There’s a lot of “wow, glad I never had to struggle with something like this” to the book, in my experience, but also a lot of “that’s a really good observation” or even “I haven’t been there, but I know what that feels like.”
There are stories about dating and her hobby of urban exploration, but the part I related to most was when she goes back to a comic convention and realizes she’s now one of “the olds”. She worries about “aging out” and feeling like a stranger in comparison to new, younger participants. That’s accompanied by all her close friends moving out of the city for various reasons (such as jobs or raising a family). It’s that time of life — you can’t be young in a city forever, and there’s a reason most people eventually leave.
Wertz’s 20s and 30s have been permanently captured on paper for us to read and learn from and laugh with. I wish there’d been more about the changes she only alludes to at the end, but the book is already a doorstop — although one that doesn’t feel padded or drawn-out. Perhaps another volume is still to come.