I Used to Dream About Being a Grim Reaper: Sarah Graley on the Gothic Aesthetic of ‘Kim Reaper’ [Interview]
College student Becka thinks her fellow classmate Kim, described by Becka as "100% cutie with a booty," is basically an angel. And she is, sorta. Kim's an angel of death, a part-time grim reaper. Look, we all take odd jobs in college to make the ends meet.
ComicsAlliance spoke with Kim Reaper series creator Sarah Graley to chat about Becka and Kim's shenanigans, odd couples, and what it takes to be hired as a grim reaper.
ComicsAlliance: Where did the idea for Kim Reaper come from?
Sarah Graley: I used to totally dream about being a grim reaper when I was a wee baby goth, and I also totally feel pretty silly about it now but it gave me the idea for Kim Reaper! So shout out to baby goth me, for giving me the premise of this series. Then I just built from that base idea and here we are, with Kim Reaper!
CA: There are several neat recurring elements in your stories: assertive female leads, Gothic (but not in a gruesome way) aesthetic, and, my favorite for its specificity, cat-themed men. How did they come to be such a staple part of your work?
SG: Assertive female leads with Gothic aesthetics are my jam so it was about time I did a comic starring them. I'm not really interested in telling stories about dudes (unless they're cat dudes/it's a cool licensed property, somebody let me write a Community comic about Professor Ian Duncan already). I mean, I just make comics about what I love! I love women and I love Gothic stuff and I love cats so it makes sense.
CA: Your characters always have really stylish and modern designs, with this series’ Kim and Becka being no exception. Could you talk about what goes into the visual aspect of your character design?
SG: When designing characters, I like to mash together parts of fashion I personally love, while also thinking of the character's personality and what would be in their own particular wardrobe. I think high waisted clothing serves up some real cute looks, so a lot of my characters tend to wear it, ha ha.
CA: Likewise, could you introduce Becka and Kim and how you came to develop their individual personalities? Their “odd couple” personality differences make for an entertaining rapport.
SG: Becka and Kim are both students at a university taking the same course.
Becka is a really bright, honest and energetic character, but underneath her cute and bubbly vibe she's tough as heck and doesn't take anyone's nonsense --- whereas Kim is quite opposite. She has a very serious doom and gloom outward appearance, but she has insecurities and is a little awkward at times underneath it all. You can have this idea about someone but then you get to know them and find out they maybe don't line up to the image you have of them --- this can be both bad and good! But with Kim Reaper, I think the two different personalities slot together and make Kim and Becka a wonderful team.
CA: Even beyond just fashion choices, your characters also showcase a variety of body types and features that are often erased in visual media — Kim Reaper's Becka is rounder than most, RentQuest's Poppy had visible body hair, for example. As someone who writes a lot about mainstream superhero comics, I'm used to seeing artists sometimes get stuck with a very template approach to bodies. Why does that body diversity matter to you, and what do you do to combat getting stuck in a template body type?
SG: I think there tends to be a default of petite/athletic for body types in mainstream media, but that's not an image I personally relate to --- so although those body types crop up in my comics, they're not usually on my protagonists. It's exciting to see media that reflects you so I want my comics to be inclusive and reflect a range of body types. Also like, drawing the same frame for everyone feels like it would be pretty boring!? Drawing people of different sizes and shapes is really fun and can lend itself to more interesting design as well as more realistic characters, I think.
CA: I'm curious: Are you able to share what the qualifications for Kim's job as a grim reaper were? Does the hiring entity have a preferences for goth-styled folk and rhyming names? Do Tim's and Jim's have an advantage over Sarah's and Jon Erik's?
SG: That's funny you should mention that, because there is actually a Grim Reaper called Jim in the series. I called him Jim though because I thought it was a dumb name for a Grim Reaper and somehow totally glossed over that rhyming with Grim, like Kim's name does. Is that bad to admit?
As for Kim's qualification's, there's more to it than her goth credentials, but --- that's another story for another time!
CA: Is there anything you'd like to tease for the series going forward?
SG: If you're into haunted ghost ships, cute theme parks, awkward house parties and zombies, you've got a lot to look forward to!
Kim Reaper #1 comes out on April 5 from Oni Press.
Notice of Disclosure: One of the editors at ComicsAlliance has a working relationship with Oni Press. The editor had no participation in the commission or execution of this piece.