Anya Davidson is the actual rockstar of the comics world
We talked and she made a comic about the freaks of the future.
“It’s a death cult! That’s what Republicans are. They worship death, profit off of death,” Anya Davidson proclaims over the phone from her home on the Southwest side of Chicago. The artist and I are talking about the comic she made for The FADER’s spring issue, for which six cartoonists were asked to imagine a “future earth.” Anya’s piece is like trading cards for the 2045 election, and she’s envisioned a race between a sea creature, the general of the Human’s Resistance Army, a cryogenics CEO, his kill-bot underling, a rat-human hybrid, and a Bernie Sanders-like Professor Roland Fredericks, Leader of the Democratic Republic of New Hampshire. Beauregard Trask, CEO of Traskorp Cryogenics, is the Republican nominee. His tagline? “Life begins after death.” All in all, not too far off.
Anya is best known for her series Band For Life, which you may have spotted during its run on Vice.com but is also now a hefty collection. It’s a passionate and insightful ode to the grind of music-making and friendship, drawn in thick, vibrant marker. The story follows a disfunctional noise rock band called Guntit, led by flawed and compassionate neon-hued creature people Linda, Renato, Krang, Zot, and their capricious drummer Annimal, who often expound on philosophy and politics that arise during the drama of their everyday lives. Gary Panter once aptly described the series as “gutter punk Herculoids meets Josie and the Pussycats soap opera dripping soul and neglect.”
Not only does Anya truly rage at making comics, she also shreds as singer and guitarist in her band Lilac — their hefty “Women in Power” is an obvious favorite. She also recently started a rad podcast called Mind Killer, in which she interviews artists in her living room; she got super into CrossFit and is writing a comic about it. She is cooler than you and everyone you know and also probably more humble. Welcome to AnyaDavidsonHive.
Your comic is structured differently than the rest. Why did you decide to go with this format?
ANYA DAVIDSON: Without being able to see the other ones it’s hard for me to imagine how they’re different! How does the structure of mine differ radically from the other ones? I’m scared now.
Oh, duh. It’s not a bad thing!! I purposely chose different artists who I knew would give me different styles. Yours stands out because it is not narrative.
ANYA: I feel like some people are marathon runners, some are sprinters, and some are in between. As a cartoonist, I’m a marathonist. My normal format when I’m working on books, left to my own devices, is making longform works. When I’m asked to do shorter form work, for me the idea of putting a narrative on a single page is like, How would I even…? I love writing long dialogue. I’m kind of a maximalist, so the idea of trying to fit any kind of a narrative in that small of a space — I know it’s possible and there are people who do it beautifully — but how would I fit a story on a single page? It just seemed overwhelming. It made more sense to me to do… it’s obviously not a gag comic but it’s more of a… I don’t know!
It’s fun, it’s like a snapshot! I’ve been asking everyone: What’s your greatest fear for the future?
ANYA: [Laughs] I think nonstop about that. It was a real challenge to me to make a comic that wasn’t horrifying. I was like, OK, how do I make something that is entertaining and not just like a gruesome hellscape? Because, I mean my expectation — it’s not even a fear, it’s just my understanding of what’s happening currently — is that the planet is going to continue heating until it’s not livable for human beings. It’s kind of inevitable at this point. I’ve chosen not to have children. All of my thoughts for the future are just total annihilation. The last [male] white rhino alive? That’s fucking horrible. I have nothing but dark thoughts for the future. All I can do is to stay focused on my tiny life. To stay in the present and not be overwhelmed by like, horrible apocalyptic thoughts. I’m an advocate for imagining utopia, imagining a better world, and trying to manifest it while we’re on this planet. But in terms of a broad outlook, I just… I can’t imagine how we could reverse climate change at this point.
Speaking of focusing on your “tiny life” — you’re working on new stuff, right?
ANYA: Yeah! I’m working on a book for Breakdown Press right now called Smoky Places. It was supposed to be finished by Spring but there’s no way in hell that’s gonna happen. I’m looking optimistically at the Summer or Fall right now. But we’ll see. It’s all painted, which is kind of a different approach for me, so it’s taking some time. Before, I was just drawing hard black line and coloring it on a separate layer either by Photoshop or by hand with marker. With painting, you’re creating form with color, instead of using hard outlines on everything. I’m using a different part of my brain, which I really enjoy. I studied painting in college, and then dropped it to work on honing my cartooning chops. And now I’m getting back to it. It’s a cool mental gymnastics.
I’m doing a story for this new blog called Popula about my experience in this Cross Fit challenge. I got kind of fascinated with the cultural phenomenon of Cross Fit and then signed myself up for this insane 6-week challenge. So I’ve been keeping a diary and working on that. I’m in a band that’s been playing out more. Doing the podcast [Mind Killer].
I love the podcast. Why did you decide to start it?
ANYA: I had been doing some writing for The Comics Journal, and I really liked thinking critically about artwork. Then that kind of petered out, and I was like, well, I’d like an outlet for some sort of critical discourse, and I want to amplify the voices of people around me. There are a lot of people in my community who aren’t getting as much attention, or who kind of fly under the radar. I really wanted to have critical talks about art-making and music and amplify the voices of my friends who are all total rockstars.