With the release of Night and Dana tomorrow from Graphic Universe, we are delighted to be joined by cartoonist Anya Davidson.
Hi Anya, it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a cartoonist, musician and printmaker living in Chicago.
I’ve been making comics for about 20 years. I started out self-publishing, and I wouldn’t have stuck with it if it weren’t for the incredible, brilliant and supportive comics community here in this city. I’ve made a few graphic novels for adults, including School Spirits (2014), from Picturebox Inc, a beloved and now-defunct publisher of art-comics, and Band For Life, published in 2016 by Fantagraphics Books.
Can you tell us about the origins of Night and Dana?
I went to a climate rally here in Chicago, where I heard some members of the Sunrise Movement, a climate justice organization for young people, speak, and I was inspired to tell a story that features a young activist, but I also wanted to infuse the story with my love of horror films and filmmaking. Night and Dana follows Dana, a horror-obsessed teenager in a fictional South-Florida town as she discovers climate activism and grapples with some major life changes. Some people mistakenly conflate horror with nihilism, but the most compelling horror stories have always addressed social justice issues.
How would you describe Night and Dana?
I’d say it’s a work of metafiction-a story about storytelling. It’s a love-letter to horror obsessives, oddballs and outsiders. It’s a call to action. I was born and spent part of my childhood in South Florida, and the ecological impact of ocean warming in that region has been devastating.
Did you write a full script for Night and Dana?
Yes, and I wrote several drafts! I had a very strong grasp on the characters and setting right out of the gate, but I struggled with the plot, especially the third act. Greg Hunter, my editor, helped tremendously, and so did my partner Lane Milburn, who’s an amazing cartoonist and overall brilliant dude (everyone go check out his 2021 book Lure from Fantagraphics Books! This is a shameless plug.)
What can you tell us about Dana Drucker?
She’s 17. She’s passionate, opinionated and very, very stubborn, (the most important quality for an artist, I think.) She thinks she has her post-graduate life-planned out, but when her plans fall through she has no back-up. She realizes that she’s been living her best friend’s dreams and hasn’t really staked out her own path.
You are creating all of the art for the graphic novel. What part of that process do you enjoy the most?
That’s a tough question…Every part of the process feels new and scary, no matter how many times I’ve done it before. Each has its unique challenges. I like the mental gymnastics of figuring out page layouts, but I also like the more mechanical inking stage. I draw with pen and ink, and I love the feeling of pen on paper.
What has it been like working with Graphic Universe?
Delightful! Everyone I’ve met there, from the editors to the folks in marketing to my fellow authors, have been lovely. They’re talented, dedicated professionals who care about storytelling, and they care about fostering diverse stories by diverse authors.
How did Graphic Universe get involved with Night and Dana?
Greg Hunter, a former editor there, invited me to pitch to them. I pitched a few ideas, very informally, and we settled on that one. I drafted a more formal pitch, and that was presented to their acquisitions team. I feel very grateful the pitch was picked up.
Is there a particular character from Night and Dana; that you enjoy writing or illustrating?
I try to make the characters as distinctive as possible, both visually and in their speech patterns, so each character had unique challenges and unique pleasures, both in the writing and the drawing. Drawing hats is tough for me, but I wanted Lily, who dresses pretty trad goth, to have a giant hat in one scene. I enjoyed drawing her batwing sunglasses and her beach outfits.
How much of your own real-life experiences are seen in the pages of Night and Dana?
My experience of making fiction is taking my own experiences, the experiences of friends, acquaintances, loved ones and strangers, putting them in a blender with my values and my curiosity, and watching a story come out. I’m a horror nerd who cares deeply about animal liberation and the environment, and I try to live in a way that reflects my values. This is entirely a work of fiction, but it is deeply informed by my life.
Night and Dana is a coming-of-age story. When you started the graphic novel, what was your goal?
To entertain people. To help self-identified weird kids, and folks who are concerned about climate justice, feel less alone. To spend my time during the pandemic in a meaningful way.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
Your productivity does not determine your worth.
We would like to say thank you to Anya for chatting with us. We would like to wish her the best of luck with Night and Dana.