Admit it. You check out “Missed Connections” at least a couple of times a week, just praying that that some poor noob is desperately seeking you ("I was on a train! I’m Asian!").
Well, cartoonist/writer Julia Wertz has not only come clean about her Craigslist compulsion, she’s created an entire book about the phenomenon.
I Saw You… Comics Inspired by Real-Life Missed Connections (Three Rivers Press) is packed with panels from 97 talented artists, each given one simple direction: Illustrate, in comic form, a “Missed Connection.” The result? A sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking and oft-times creepy romp through this cold, cold urban jungle we call modern love.
I sat down (in a totally different part of Brooklyn) for a G-Chat convo with Wertz—because in this age of digital friendship and getting sexual textually, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hi! Right on time.
Haha, yes. Ready for the interview?
Yep. I’m perfectly prepared. Let’s do this!
Awesome. OK. First question: You were first inspired to create your book, I Saw You… after reading Craigslist’s ‘Missed Connections.’ Do you still read them every day?
I don’t read them at all anymore. I overloaded on the concept while working on the book so I’m totally burned out. I haven’t read them in a few years actually.
So you haven’t ‘locked eyes’ with some dude on the train recently, and then headed online to see if he felt the same?
Oh, hell no. That kind of sappy ‘love at first sight’ thing is total bullshit.
You think? So what do you think of the people who write ‘Missed Connections’?
Well, I think it’s like shouting into a vacuum, since most people don’t actually read ‘Missed Connections’ ads, and they’re only up online for a few days. I think it’s a way for people who wish they’d talked to someone to kind of vent online, like they won’t feel as guilty/pathetic for having not spoken to someone if they can tell themselves: ‘Well, it’s OK because I posted an ad. So I’m not a total failure at life.’
How do you think the Internet has affected interpersonal relationships? Has it made it easier to connect, or harder?
That’s what interests me the most about ‘Missed Connections’ and the Internet, the way technology has affected how we communicate. Like this interview, for example, wouldn’t be possible without the Internet. We would have had to meet up in person, which would affect schedules, outings, etc… It’s kind of like that whole ‘Butterfly Effect’ thing. But with relationships, it’s strange because there’s the whole Internet dating phenomenon, which apparently works for some people.
My mom began her relationship with her husband via email after reading his newspaper column for years. So it makes it easier in some respects to get a hold of people, and it’s definitely easier to talk to someone via email or G-Chat. But there’s also an element of distance; some kind of personal connection is removed. So maybe in the long run it’s damaging the way people communicate and connect
Like people will just assume that they can find someone on the Internet if they don’t feel like being brave in real life?
Yeah, sort of like they feel there’s a second chance. The Internet is kind of mind-boggling in that respect, because by just having someone’s email address, you have instant access to their personal life via MySpace or Facebook, or if they run a website.
Kind of like stalking, huh?
Totally like stalking. But I think that can be a negative thing, because the Internet is misrepresentative of people’s real life personalities, so maybe such open access isn’t a good thing.
I guess that brings me to my next question–the creep factor in some of the comics (or many, actually). What do you think the overall mood of the book is?
Overall, it seems kinda creepy. Most people chose to illustrate ads where the connection goes unrequited, which is probably the most accurate depiction of ‘Missed Connections’ ads. However, there are so many contributors and different takes on the ads that it makes an overall tone kind of hard to pin down, which is what I like about it. It’s very eclectic.
Which is your favorite?
Laura Park’s one where the guy is ranting about rude girls from Lincoln Park, and at the end it turns out he’s talking to a room full of cats. I also really like Ken Dahl’s creepy one with the cop/driver. In Laura Park’s piece, it appears that the guy is on stage, maybe doing a comedy show or something. But the twist is that he’s just alone in his dumpy apartment with tons of cats around. I like that concept. And in Ken Dahl’s, the twist is that the creepy guy whistling at her is actually a cop, and the girl considers calling the cops after the incident. They’re not typical ‘Missed Connections’ ads; there’s a personal spin on the plot that takes the ad elsewhere.
How about you? What was your process?
Both of the comics I have in there are based on real life incidences. I never was really that into reading the ads, I just took a real life event and turned it into an ad.
Can you tell us a bit about those experiences?
One was where I would get flustered by a cute barista in my neighborhood and I’d always end up saying something stupid or ordering something I didn’t want. The other is where someone sort of asked me out (to attend their band’s show), but I was so busy listening to my inner monologue that I didn’t hear the information of where the band was playing. So I turned both of those into ‘Missed Connections’ ads. However, in real life, I’d never post one, and I probably wouldn’t have actually gone to the show anyways
Why wouldn’t you post one?
Because I think they’re ridiculous. Plus I don’t date, so what’s the point?
Haha! Kind of a semi-romantic book for someone who doesn’t date?
I know. It’s kind of completely inappropriate. The book is more just like, ‘I had a funny idea,’ that got expanded. I’m not into romantic shit at all.
What’s your usual thing? What would you say your ‘niche’ (to use a horrible word) is?
Oh, Fart Party! I have an autobiographic webcomic that’s collected in two published books. That’s what I really care about; this I Saw You book is really just a side project
OK, so how would you describe your comic?
I take mundane events in my life, arrange them into four boxes and round it all off with a punch line.
And the tone is usually pretty sardonic?
Well, it fluctuates pretty wildly depending on my mood or events in my life. I’ve documented moving to NY, breakups, people dying, getting cancer, running out of toilet paper, etc… Pretty much everything, so there’s no overall tone. Except that I never take myself too seriously.
Are you working on any new books?
One has a clear theme: it’s about all the jobs I’ve had. And the other is the third Fart Party book that’s more scattered, but has a clear outline. It’s about everything that’s happened to me in 2008.
What is the highest point of action in the autobiographical book?
Conceptually, when I move to NY is the highest point of action. But it’s the little things that are the funniest, like getting a carton of chocolate milk thrown at me from a window or getting peed on by a squirrel in the park.
Wait, the milk was thrown at you directly?
Yeah, and then they called me a cunt! Haha. Just random, senseless acts of, um, well not violence, but just silliness, I guess.
Was it unprovoked?
Yeah, I was just walking to the grocery market. It hit my shoe and exploded up all over my pants and jacket.
Oh no! If you had to write a ‘Missed Connection’ to that person, what would it say?
‘Fuck you.’ What else is there to say to that?
Haha, and what would the accompanying comic be?
Haha! OK, anything else you’d like to say before we part G-Chat ways?
If you could just write that I update my website fartparty.org about three times a week with new comics, that’d be awesome. Thanks again for interviewing me! And for doing it G-Chat style. That way, I didn’t have to put pants on.
Wanna get seen with I Saw You…? Buy it here.