Anya Davidson’s new graphic novel, Night and Dana, is being released on September 12 by Graphic Universe. It’s a coming-of-age story about horror-obsessed teens that also involves environmental activism. Davidson (no relation to the interviewer) spoke to Cemetery Dance about her long interest in horror, her influences, and how horror tales can tackle real-world issues.
(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)
CEMETERY DANCE: You’ve said you caught the horror bug in early adolescence. Can you tell us more about that?
ANYA DAVIDSON: The first horror film I ever loved, I saw when I was about 10. A friend’s older brother played it for us, and it was Return of The Living Dead. I grew up genderfluid before I had a term for it, and was raised Jewish in a pretty remote area, so I felt pretty isolated. I related to the punks and the zombies. 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. When the story begins, she and her friend are faking a bloody car accident. I was thinking specifically about two films I’m obsessed with, Harold and Maude and Ginger Snaps, when I wrote that opening.
What horror works have been influential to you?
This is impossible to answer because there are so many, but George Romero is my #1 all-time favorite horror director. Night of the Living Dead is a perfect film, but I love everything he’s touched, including his lesser-known stuff like Season of the Witch and The Crazies. I love British Folk horror from the ’70s, stuff like the Wicker Man (1973, dir Robin Hardy) and The Stone Tape. Psychomania (1973, dir Don Sharp) overtly influenced this book, as did the 1979 film Prophecy, directed by John Frankenheimer. John Gardner’s Grendel is my favorite book. It may not technically be a work of horror fiction but it features a fascinating, multi-dimensional monster.
Why do you think comics are a good medium for telling horror stories?
You can represent the most outrageous, impossible scenarios with the stroke of a pencil. My favorite comics of all time are EC horror comics, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, etc…and I have a decent collection of the reprints. I love the form and content of those stories. Anyone who thinks fusing horror and social justice is a new trend needs to read those comics from the 1950s.
Night and Dana combines characters who are interested in horror with the real-world issues of climate change and environmentalism. How did you combine the two?
Climate change is a literal horror that we’re experiencing in real time. Part of the reason we’ve had so much trouble rallying collectively to fight climate change is that it’s not tangible. Protesters sometimes use gruesome imagery or theatrics to try to shock people out of complacency, and so do horror directors.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
If I were better-organized, my website would be up-to date. It needs a major makeover, but you can still go to anyadavidson.com if you want to contact me or see other projects I’ve done. You can get my book Band for Life (Fantagraphics, 2016) at most places that sell comics. You can hear my noise rock band at lilacchicago.bandcamp.com. You can find me sometimes eating a black bean burger and tater tots at the Skylark on the corner of Cermak and Halsted.