Sarah Graley is an inspiring creator who’s paved the way for herself in comics. Her first published work was a collection of her webcomic, Our Super Adventure which was funded via Kickstarter and from there, she’s gone on to work on incredible other comics projects such as Rick and Morty: Lil’ Poopy Superstar and her creator-owned series from Oni Press, Kim Reaper.
We had a chance to ask Sarah some questions about her art and her works and to discuss important topics like diversity, pizza and Digimon. Check out our chat below:
You have a very distinct style to your work. How do you feel you developed it over the years? And what started you drawing in the first place?
Thanks – I come from an arty family, so I think getting the drawing bug was unavoidable! I grew up with Beano comics, but I didn’t really get back into the wonderful world of comics until someone showed me a copy of Scott Pilgrim when I was seventeen, and then my art became more comics-focused. (Scott Pilgrim and Kim Reaper both being published by Oni Press is quite a nice thing!!)
In regards to developing style, I feel like mine has been hugely influenced by cartoons. When trying to find my footing, I’d focus on what I like from a range of other cartoons and comics I adored, and then mash them together. I’d just play around and whatever felt good stuck!
What kind of things do you do to keep growing as an artist and creator (ie. take classes, read books like Stephen King’s “On Writing” etc.), if any?
I try to take a critical look at my work and figure out what’s working, and what might not be. This is a lot easier to do after six months or so, rather than in the moment! I also work alongside my partner, who gives me critique. It’s good to have another set of eyes on your work with someone who you trust to give you constructive and honest feedback. I also learn so much from my editor’s notes!
I feel like the next comic is always gonna be the best (hopefully!), so it’s good to reflect on finished work before starting the next project, so you can start that project strong.
I read that you used to dream about becoming a grim reaper and that’s where the inspiration for Kim Reaper came from (which I love as an origin story for the series). What other strange hobbies or notions were you prone to?
I thought that was a fun note, but it sort of feels very dorky now? But like, I was a pretty dorky kid so I guess that makes sense!! I don’t think I did anything else strange as a kid. I really wanted to be goth, and I really was not, so I guess me attempting that seemed strange to everybody else. I had long hair that was dyed black as a pre-teen, and got called ‘the thing from the Ring’ at school, which sucked, because I was actually terrified of that movie.
I was a pretty cool teen, though.
As a follow-up to the previous question, do you have any funny stories that stemmed from them that you’d like to share?
I was so scared of The Ring that I had to turn my tiny TV to face the wall every night before bed. I do not miss being twelve though!
Which character(s) from any series that you’ve worked on do you feel the biggest connection to?
Becka. But when I’m writing her I’m thinking, “What would I do if I was in this situation, but was also braver and louder and more honest?”
For something like Kim Reaper, did you contemplate handing off either the writing or art to another person to focus on one element or was it something you always wanted to tackle on your own?
I really love doing both! I was really excited about this comic, so splitting up the writing and art wasn’t something I had thought about. If I did split up the two though, I think I’d have to stick with writing. They’re my babies! And I’ve got too many goofy adventures in mind for them.
You’re asked a lot about the diversity portrayed within your comics, but what do you feel you want to see more in other people’s comics?
If comics featuring queer characters were more mainstream, that’d be pretty nice. I have a huge stack of unread comics I need to dive into, so I’m worried I’m not too up to date on the current comic scene! And I operate in a very good comics bubble, but I still get excited when it turns out a character is bisexual in comics and TV, because that still feels kinda rare. I’d like that to be less rare!
As a follow up, who are some other creators that you feel are helping make big changes in comics (the changes you want to be seeing everyone make)?
Some very excellent comic folks off the top of my head that I think everybody should check out are: Mildred Louis (artofmlouis.com), Julia Kaye (upandoutcomic.tumblr.com), Shan Murphy (shanmurphy.com), Pseudonym Jones (pseudonymjones.com), and Molly Ostertag (mollyostertag.com)!
Each book you’ve worked on (whether they’re creator owned or licensed) likely has a bunch of pros and cons. Can you discuss some of the rewards and challenges you’ve experienced on your various projects?
Working on each book is such a learning experience, but it’s exciting to see the improvements/those moments when you figure out how to do something better, which comes from drawing so much!
Other nice things include seeing your work collected together as a book (I am so incredibly excited to see the Kim Reaper: Grim Beginnings trade paperback!!) or meeting readers at shows. I swear the nicest and best people read my comics, they’re all so sweet!!
Do you have a favourite page or panel that you’ve EVER drawn so far? If yes, what makes it special to you?
Oh my gosh, this is a very good question but my favourite panel changes constantly!! I am so fickle, my fave changes daily, especially as I’m currently working on my graphic novel for Graphix/Scholastic UK. (I’ve been drawing a whole bunch of panels lately!!).
If the panel is goofy/funny/over the top, it’s probably been in my ‘favourite panel slot’.
A panel that has totally held the title for a long time though is the panel where Becka is standing on top of a bunch of zombies. I hope that’s not a Kim Reaper spoiler!! (If you haven’t read Kim Reaper yet, y’all don’t know what she’s doing up there so I think we’re good).
What has the comics fandom been like for you as someone who’s dabbled in a property as incredibly popular as Rick and Morty?
It’s been super interesting! It’s a show that I’ve loved so much from the start, so to be involved in any way with it has been wild and amazing. When Lil’ Poopy Superstar was coming out as a monthly in the UK, Rick and Morty wasn’t that well known over here, but everybody knows about it now!
Sometimes people see my Rick and Morty book and think I created the show though, and it’s like, nononono!! I created some dimension’s Mr.Poopybutthole’s backstory, but these are not MY children, I just got to look after them for a bit!
And finally… what would be on your dream pizza?
Oh man, um. I had a pizza with egg on it like, four or five years ago when I was visiting London and I still think about it a lot. I guess a more exciting and dreamier pizza would be one with a remastered version of Digimon World 1 as the topping, with better graphics and faster screen loading times. Maybe the sauce would also have a potion that would make my partner genuinely more enthusiastic about Digimon World, the greatest and best videogame all time? I’d like that pizza, please.