Alyssa Andrews

Alyssa Andrews is a comic artist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work is featured in the regular series OH, HEY! IT’S ALYSSA on autostraddle.com. Alyssa’s comics address themes of identity, relationships, and disability.

The Interview

ComicsVerse (CV): Your artwork and writing are exquisite. What made you interested in comics as a medium of self-expression? 

Alyssa Andrews (AA): Hey, thanks! I’ve always loved comics. Really, I just love storytelling. Comics kind of gave me this outlet to share stories that matter to me in a really cool and fun way. I think weaving visual elements and writing together creates a certain energy and dynamic to the work that I don’t think I could achieve any other way.

CV: OH, HEY! IT’S ALYSSA is very personal. And it deals with topics like queerness, disability, mental health, etc. How do you think the medium of comics adds to your ability to express these topics? Do you find any drawbacks?

AA: I think using comics to address personal or potentially vulnerable topics adds a certain level of approachability. It’s so easy to get lost in it all. I find using comics to open up these kinds of conversations brings a lightness to even the most difficult of topics. It also allows me to feel a bit more in control in terms of what and how I share things that are personal to me. 

Alyssa Andrews
Image Courtesy of Alyssa Andrews.

Alyssa Andrews’ Creative Process

CV: Can you elaborate on your creative process? How would you define your style?

AA: I tend to write down every thought or idea I have compulsively. When I’m drawn to a certain idea or it comes up a lot and I think it’d be cool to break down and talk about, I tend to write out a full summary or essay. Eventually I’ll break it down into pieces and sort of map out how I’d like to panel it. The rest just tends to sort itself. 

AA: My style is definitely line-based. I like drawing bodies with a good expressive quality to them. And I’ve always liked hiding little Easter eggs throughout. For example, I always draw my scar lines on my body. It’s definitely evolved over time but kept the same qualities that I think make it work. When I started OH, HEY! IT’S ALYSSA, it was really my first go at an ongoing comic series. And it was very much a learn-as-I-go kind of process. It’s been really fun to develop my style WITH my character and have that be a journey in and of itself. 

Alyssa Andrews
Image Courtesy of Alyssa Andrews.

 

CV: What are some of your main influences?

AA: Oh gosh, lots! My biggest influences are definitely my pals that are churning out really cool work just to be sure it’s out in the world. The zine kids illustrating excerpts from their journals, the self-publishers, and artists from all corners of the internet working to keep their art dynamic but accessible. As far as great published content, I’d definitely go way back to Julie Doucet’s DIRTY PLOTTE series, Ariel Schrag’s STUCK IN THE MIDDLE, Maggie Thrash’s HONOR GIRL, Mariko Tamaki, and Alison Bechdel’s DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR. Definitely tops.

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Disability And Queerness

CV: Your comic addresses aspects of identity that other media often ignores, such as queer and/or disabled bodies. Do you feel pressured to be a spokesperson? How do you maintain your own perspective? 

AA: I don’t feel pressured to be a spokesperson so much as I feel pressured to be authentic about who I am. It took me a long time to really get a grip on what my identity was and why that was important. I owe it to myself and others like me to allow those things to be discussed openly/honestly. It felt wrong to sit around waiting for others to talk about these sorts of things. Especially when I knew I had things to say.

AA: Maintaining my perspective has always felt like the easy part. I always want my work to be relatable, but I never want to speak for others. I think that’s a really important piece to it all. My way is not the way, just a way. Of course, I hope that people feel seen when reading my content. But I think there’s a ton of value in saying, “Hey, this is my experience,” and letting others choose to insert themselves into the greater dialogue to create something bigger. 

Alyssa Andrews
Image Courtesy of Alyssa Andrews.

CV: Do you see a connection between the LGBTQ+ and disabled communities? What role does this relationship play in your work? 

AA: Absolutely. That’s why it’s so disheartening when the two don’t mix! With LGBTQ+ and disabled identities, it’s hard enough to be either. When you’re navigating both and not only colliding with the world but facing challenges within the two, it’s such a tightrope walk. A lot of my work explores that sort of dance between identities and navigates my coming to terms with being both at the same time.

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Comics As Autobiography

CV: Your comics are primarily autobiographical and read a little bit like a diary. This gives your readers a very intimate look at your life. Many of the themes — body confidence, adulthood, relationships, the love of your adorable dog, etc. — are very relatable. Were you always comfortable sharing so much detail of your life in your art? How do you choose what subjects to address? 

AA: Believe it or not, I’m not much of a sharer in my general life. Writing autobio comics has really challenged me to confront and open up about things that I am often evading. I often question why I felt compelled to talk about myself. I think when it came down to it, I felt like I’d spent way too many years of my life hiding out while portraying myself as someone who was comfortable with who I was. Sharing became this way of making sense of all these things I think and feel. And finding ways to open up and be vulnerable in ways that feel controlled and useful.

AA: In regard to choosing subjects, I don’t really know. I try to have a healthy back and forth between the extraordinary subject matter and the everyday “I’m a boring anxiety-ridden human too” sort of content. I don’t ever want to sensationalize disability or queerness. Or put a pretty bow on difficult experiences or serve inspiration porn. In being authentic about life as a disabled queer, sometimes the story really is just about how boring and average one can be.

Alyssa Andrews
Image Courtesy of Alyssa Andrews.

Draw Everything

CV: The artwork you feature on Instagram (@alyssathrills) includes zines, fan art, and dog portraits. What drives you in these different directions? How do you pick your subjects? 

AA: Honestly, I just love to draw. I want to draw everything. All day. All the time. I like to sketch fan art and pets, and silly fun things just to keep myself drawing and to not lose myself in any one thing. In writing autobio comics, it can get daunting drawing myself and my experiences all the time. With zines and mini-comics, it’s great just to have new subject matter and challenges to work on. I love to write and to find more ways to put myself out there. 

CV: Do you ever write fictional comics or do you find some mixture of both in your work? (What comic artist Lynda Barry might call “autobifictionalography”). 

AA: I’m always dipping my toe into fictional work, though I do have some small personal projects in the works. I just launched the first issue of a sort of Autobifictionalography series with my pal, writer Scott Muska, called “Weird.” This series catalogues the most uncomfortable, embarrassing, and awkward life experiences, thoughts, and dreams we’ve ever had. While the stories each issue focuses on are real, the set-up, some of the in-between content is fictionalized and that’s been really fun to play with. I’m pretty eager to get some of my fictional stuff out there soon. 

Oh, Hey! It’s Autostraddle

CV: OH, HEY! IT’S ALYSSA appears regularly on Autostraddlea progressive feminist online news source for lesbian and bisexual women and other queer folks. What has it been like to work with such a multifaceted organization rather than a more comics-focused publisher? 

AA: Autostraddle 100% changed my life. It’s been really cool having such a great platform so willing to not only take me on, but give me the learning space, great feedback, and the opportunity to really take the work in my own direction. The viewership has been really special. I think folks with all kinds of interests tend to stumble into it and scope it out. Which they may not have if I was working specifically with a comics-focused publisher to start.

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CV: Your work is featured in Autostraddle, and has appeared in Glamour, Women’s Health, Bustle, and Medium. Where else can readers find your work?

AA: I’m currently working on a secret comic for a publication, but I don’t think I can tell you yet! OH, HEY! IT’S ALYSSA is new every other Wednesday at Autostraddle. And “Weird” and peeps at zines and other self-published content in the works live on my Patreon.

Alyssa Andrews
Image Courtesy of Alyssa Andrews.

CV: What’s next on your creative agenda?

AA: I’m working to find a publisher for a graphic memoir. So, hopefully soon, there will be some exciting work in print!

Find more of Alyssa Andrews’ work and upcoming projects at www.ohheyitsalyssa.com.

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