Queer Goth Romance: An Interview With Sarah Graley

Kim Reaper #1: written by Sarah Graley, art by Sarah Graley, lettering by Crank!

Sarah Graley—of being Sarah Graley fame—is writing and drawing Kim Reaper, a queer romance comic about a girl named Kim, who is a part-time grim reaper, and Becka, who thinks Kim is really cute. Oni Press, of publishing Kim Reaper fame, gave this writer the chance to ask Graley the important questions.

Annie Blitzen: First off, I need to gush about how much I love this book. It’s adorable and cute, and it’s got some bite to it. From what I’ve read of your other work, that seems to be a recurring theme: cuteness and fun wrapped around an idea that’s pretty heavy. So let’s start with your influences. I’m guessing you didn’t grow up reading a lot of superhero comics. What are some of your favorite or most memorable comics you’ve read?

Sarah Graley: Aw, thanks for the kind words! Scott Pilgrim definitely got me back into comics as a teen, so that’s a pretty important series for me. This One Summer (Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki) was so great it made me cry so much, The Anime Club (KC Green) is just so perfect, and the Adventure Time Fiona and Cake comic (Natasha Allegri) has so many things going on that I adore in that book! They’re just a couple of my favourite comics.

What are some current comics/webcomics you’re enjoying?

Anything Miranda Harmon does is gold—her diary comics are so wonderful and honest! I’m also a big fan of Lucie Ebrey, Timothy Winchester and Shan Murphy, so whenever they update is a good good day.

Kim is clearly very goth, and as Becka points out early in the comic, you can’t always tell how goth someone is just by looking. Do you consider yourself goth? If so, just how goth are you?

Hmm, I’m not sure. I’m a wannabe goth at best! I very much wanted to be goth as a teen but I kind of just ended up wearing black shirts with red ties and looked like a small and weird Gerard Way. (Which I guess is actually pretty goth.)

Kim Reaper #1: written by Sarah Graley, art by Sarah Graley, lettering by Crank!
Kim Reaper #1: written by Sarah Graley, art by Sarah Graley, lettering by Crank!

Kim, Becka, and the grim reaper CEO would look great on some Hot Topic shirts. Do y’all have any plans for merch?

I make my own merch, but if Hot Topic wanted to make Kim Reaper merch I wouldn’t be opposed, call me HT!

Your characters navigate some complex stuff like boundary issues, respecting other people’s life choices, and just queer dating in general. It all fits into the story very smoothly, and it’s simplified in ways that seem accessible and appropriate for younger readers. Did you have any difficulty with navigating any of the issues that are part of the story?

A lot of my writing is influenced by personal experience, and in my experience dating isn’t always a smooth experience. Especially when you’re nineteen, you’ve got all this new found freedom and you’re pretty sure you know it all, just like Becka and Kim. I wanted to include some hiccups, because these are things that happen! Despite Kim being a grim reaper, I think the main story is Kim and Becka’s relationship. Even though they’re kicking butt in the underworld and hanging out on haunted ships, it’s important their relationship feels real and they navigate these issues together.

You’ve been speaking up on some important issues this year. It’s a while back now, but what’s your take on the situation with Lakes International Comic Art Festival and Zainab Akhtar and/or the diversity of the UK comics scene in general?

The Lakes reacted poorly and unprofessionally to Zainab pointing out the lack of diversity in their guest line up, and I believe that led to the further harassment Zainab received. It was really disappointing to see a prominent UK comic festival act in that way and disregard valid and important criticism.

My most pressing question, really, is when will I get to read more? Is this going to continue as an ongoing at Oni, or do you have a different publication schedule planned?

There’s going to be more Kim Reaper! I’m currently writing it and in my very biased opinion it is GREAT. I believe it’s scheduled for fall 2018!

There are hints of a larger plot looming in the background throughout this first volume. How long do you plan the story to be?

One million years long!!

I have a lot of fun ideas and adventures lined up for Kim and Becka, so everyone please pick up the comic so the wonderful folks at Oni Press ask me to keep making ‘em!! The book collecting the first four issues (along with some neat bonus content!) is out on Valentine’s Day which is very exciting, pick it up y’all!

Do you have any other projects on the horizon you’d like to tell us about?

Alongside working on the second arc of Kim Reaper, I’m also working on my graphic novel for Scholastic’s imprint, Graphix! It’s called Glitch and it’s about a girl who can hang out inside a video game.

Annie Blitzen

Annie Blitzen

Columnist. Trans mom. Got married in a Captain Marvel dress to a lady in a Wonder Woman dress.