Julia Wertz is an amazing indie cartoonist and she embraces all that entails. (I recently wrote about her prior major work TENEMENTS, TOWERS & TRASH, which I hauled to NYC with me on my last trip to that amazing shit-smelling, rodent-infested, culturally vibrant city.) She overshares, imparting gross parts of one’s life that’s rarely described elsewhere, but is also very earnest and sincere and honest and heartfelt, even if that means showcasing her troubled mental underbelly.

The rawness of indie comics is something that simply can’t be recreated in other mediums, partially because of the scribbles and sketching and personal lettering, but just … there’s an intimacy when you read a comic or graphic novel. You push it up to your face, almost like you’re hugging it. It’s not like a film, which is projected quite a ways away from you. It’s not like a novel, where scrutinizing the font will not bring any sort of further elucidation, whereas with a comic or illustrative work, drawing it closer to your eyes may bring everything into focus.

Wertz has been through a lot — self-admittedly by her own hand — and she’s put so much of herself out there, and it’s so artfully done.

(I’ll note that I pre-ordered this book some time ago, forgot that I pre-ordered it, then ordered it again and she notified me asking: “Are you sure you want another copy?” How many other creatives would do that?)

So yeah, I’ll always be in her corner.

IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE — the full title is IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE: A COMPLETELY AVERAGE RECOVERY STORY — is quite the epic as it’s over 300 pages long and spans quite a bit of time and change. It still contains Wertz’s immaculate architectural reproductions, but also retains her expressive cartoon roots. When I was reading it, I’d gawk at the street in one panel, then laugh at the exaggerated simplicity of her comic self throwing her arms up in the air. It’s a perfectly calibrated work.

On a side note, with IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE, Wertz does an incredible job of underscoring the importance of human interaction and communication when you’re struggling. As she’s a very witty, sardonic person, it’s all handled with both the levity and gravitas it deserves, while also not shying away from how difficult that can be. Obviously I haven’t lived Wertz’s life but, when dealing with my own problems, I found that the solutions that helped her get sober mirrored my attempts to deal with my mental issues.

In other words: do not be afraid to reach out to people. Do not be so proud or scared. I know that’s easier said than done — I’ve been there. However, so many folks are either hurting or hiding their hurt or have made a sort of temporary peace with it, or they simply suffer with it. When they hear that you are in need, most will lend an ear or shoulder or both, or they may even ask for your ear or shoulder. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, you’re making yourself vulnerable. In the long run, it’s worth it. You will find folks you can rely on; well-wishing folks who will have your back and folks you can earnestly and honestly talk to without (mostly) feeling judged. You are not alone, but you do have to make the effort to not be alone. You have to do the work.

You can pick up a copy of IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE via Bookshop:


GOOD TIME PARTY GIRL is a self-reflexive work of sorts: penned by POPULAR HOME magazine editor Robert Dougherty, it’s a recounting of “The Notorious Life of Dirty Helen Cromwell”, straight from her mouth, according to Robert.

Dirty Helen Cromwell (Helen, from here on forth), was — for some time — a Milwaukee fixture from the Prohibition age. While she was reluctant to lay down roots anywhere, she did find a home in Milwaukee with her boozy outpost THE SUN FLOWER INN, which is where Robert first met Helen.

What follows is Robert jotting down Helen recalling a good forty years of ‘good times’ as a self-proclaimed ‘woman of pleasure’. In other words: a sex worker. There’s a moment where she wishes that the term ‘call girl’ was popular in her time.

The tales recalled in GOOD TIME PARTY GIRL are certainly those of a willful, self-possessed woman, one who isn’t a skin-flint, but values what remains in one’s pocket, while still living a remarkable life, one the that included all sorts of fashionable dovetailing, as well as shoulder-rubbing with Al Capone.

“My advice is not to accept initiations to these cruises if you aren’t prepared for certain eventualities.”

That’s about as dark as Helen deigned herself to deal with, but as one dives deeper into GOOD TIME PARTY GIRL and reads about the litany of dead husbands, and the brave face she plastered on, the harder the read becomes. This is a memoir/auto-bio where the absence of details are more damning than the inclusion; you can almost feel the hurt in certain eras of hers that she glosses over, ambiguous hurt that hits harder than when she discusses the death of one of her several husbands.

That said, yes, you do have to read in-between the lines for that. Otherwise, it’s a bold, brash tale of a bold and brash and gregariously singular woman who made her place in Milwaukee. That alone is reason enough to read her tale.



I’ve been a bit disheartened to see that this release wasn’t as buzzy as it should have been, considering it’s the first new graphic novel from Alison Bechdel (DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR, FUN HOME) in almost a decade, but so it goes. Hopefully it’ll gain some traction, but I do fear that the subject material was ill-suited for a pre-post-pandemic time.

As you might expect, it’s another fantastic memoir from Bechdel, and visually far more vibrant than anything else she’s done so far. I balked a bit when I heard that, since I’ve always found her stark line work and muted use of colors to play towards the tone of her material, but Holly Rae Taylor’s minimalist watercolors never trample over Bechdel’s pens and, most certainly, emphasize the physical exertion Bechdel’s put herself through over the course of her life.

To summarize: THE SECRET TO SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH is about Bechdel’s lifelong obsessions, first and foremost exercise, but also work, writers, and her attempts to find a proper, healthy balance, one of which I think practically anyone can empathize with. (Personally, there were more than a few passages of her self-reflection that reminded me of the ways I’d try to exhaust myself pre-pandemic.)

Some of the material will naturally be familiar with you if you’ve read her prior memoirs, but very little of it feels like a retread. While the tale of her experience, and her examination of writers’ lives such as Jack Kerouac, Margaret Fuller, and Dorothy Wordsworth make for compelling reading, what really drew me into this piece was how perfectly paced and managed it is. It’s a brilliant showcase that demonstrates how she’s evolved from someone who thought of herself as a ‘just a cartoonist’ to someone who not only knows how to write and visually tell a story, but also to do so in deeply multifaceted way. Her use of visual elements, be it with animals or simple background objects practically demands a re-read, but she also knows exactly when to throw in a callback to forty pages before in way that is leading, but not obvious, and twists it into more than just a callback.

I can’t neglect her sumi-e-esque splash pages, all of which are glorious and deviate from her traditional style, but are never superfluously thrown in to break up any ‘potential monotony’ of telling a paneled story.

It’s a tremendous accomplishment, one that I look forward to revisiting.

An aside: I received the book as part of a Chicago Humanities Festival incentive: pay X $$ and you get the book (via Chicago’s fantastic Seminary Co-op bookstores), plus access to a live virtual interview between her and artist (and friend) Nicole Eisenman. It was the most delightful piece of pandemic virtual media promotion I’ve seen. I could have listened to them talk for hours, and you can hear the same conversation via the link below:

One last thing, which might be a bit of a brag, but: Bechdel not only signed my pre-order copy, but also drew herself as a chickadee. If you read it, keep an eye out for chickadees.


(YouTube) Charles Nelson Reilly’s one-man show. Yes, most folks know him from the ‘funny’ (a.k.a. best) episodes of THE X-FILES. People with too much time on their hands know him from the best episodes of MILLENNIUM. Game show dorks and people like me also know him from TV schlock like HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. However, he was far more than that — he was one hell of an individual, a queer pioneer. He made his own space in his own way, and THE LIFE OF REILLY features him regaling us about his life, his trials, tribulations, and trailblazing in his own words, on the stage for one last time.

“The things we go through when we’re young… it’s amazing.”

For reasons beyond me, it’s not available to stream or buy, either digitally or physically, so I feel no compunction about sharing the link below.

The film, as a YouTube playlist (better than nothing! Think of it as a series of vignettes.):


(DVD/BR) While I appreciate Bob Fosse as a talented choreographer and director, I don’t think much of the man himself, which is what conflicts me about this self-indulgent paean from himself, about himself, to himself. On one hand, the self-glorification of his caddish behavior — even if he hangs a lampshade on it — is pretty despicable and, even more criminal, it’s often dull. On the other hand, the closing scene is a goddamn stunner, and may make the film worth your moral price of admission.

Closing scene (NSFW):