Julia Wertz‘s I Saw You…Comics Inspired by Real Life Missed Connections is at once an anthology of work by top contemporary comics artists and an enticing overview of the voyeurism that has crawled into our everyday lives. The book features comics inspired by anonymous posts from Craigslist’s Missed Connections section, compiled into a mosaic of perverted romanticism and all-too-public heartache. Wertz recently chatted with Boldtype’s Chelsea Bauch about the gift of procrastination, online honesty, and the fine line between romance and creepiness.
Boldtype: Where did the idea for I Saw You, as a basic concept and as a comics project, come from?
Julia Wertz: From procrastination. I was searching for a job on Craigslist, and I was wasting time by looking at apartments and houses in cities I don’t live in, as well as the Missed Connection ads. As a cartoonist, it was just natural to want to put the two together, but I didn’t want to do a whole book of them myself, so I gathered other cartoonists, and hence, an anthology was born.
BT: How did you go about selling the book?
JW: At first it was just a zine. I never meant for it to be anything more than that, but it’s “high concept” — which means the initial blog calling for other submissions got a lot of links, and someone in the publishing industry saw it and contacted me. I sent them some zines, and from there it got turned into a book.
BT: Had you been a voyeuristic reader of Craigslist’s Missed Connections section beforehand?
JW: No, and I’m not today either. It was just a fun side project from my own autobiographical comic The Fart Party, which is collected and published by Atomic Books and runs online twice a week. I think Missed Connection ads are actually pretty lame.
BT: There’s a huge audience of people who read the section for fun or vicarious amusement — what do you think is the allure then?
JW: It’s kind of like peeking in someone’s pathetic diary. And everyone not-so-secretly hopes they’ll see one posted for them, I guess.
Click on the images above to view at full size.
BT: How do you think message boards have changed the way we interact with strangers, especially romantically?
JW: People feel less inhibited, so they’re more likely to be honest — or they’re more likely to lie. It’s easy to embellish or to censor yourself online, creating an online persona that’s different from real life, so it’s probably more deceptive than honest. I’m not sure about the romantic aspect though; it’s not an outlet I’ve forayed into.
BT: What was it like to edit a collection of other peoples’ comics, rather than just your own?
JW: It’s frustrating and time consuming, and I will never do it again.
BT: How did you solicit submissions? Did you reach out to specific artists that you like?
JW: I handpicked about half of the artists, and the rest were open call. I wanted the book to have a lot of variety, and not just be my specific choices.
BT: The last panel of the book reads: “It’s a fine line between ‘hopeless romantic’ and ‘creepy’” — what do you think differentiates one from the other?
JW: Most advances made by strangers in public situations like that are unwanted. Most people know this; however, there are some people who are completely oblivious to it, and think that just because they made eye contact with someone or thought a stranger was attractive justifies an advance, whether in person or online. The vast majority of those are just creepy.