“It seems a whole bunch of people out there are silly in their relationships in the same way as me” Sarah Graley on the secrets of a good diary comic in Our Super Adventure, plus Kim Reaper, Rick and Morty and more!
With books like Our Super Adventure, Pizza Witch and Kim Reaper, writer/artist Sarah Graley has become one of the rising stars of the UK scene and a regular at conventions all over the world. With recent announcements that Oni Press will be republishing Our Super Adventure, along with a new Kim Reaper comic called Vampire Island, we caught up with Sarah at Leamington Comic Con 2018 to find out about what inspires her and the secret to a good diary comic!
What inspired you to get into comics in the first place? Did you grow up loving comics, or were you more into animation?
Sarah Graley: I had Sonic The Comic and the Beano growing up, but apart from that I didn’t really get ‘properly’ into comics until I was about seventeen. Before then, I really wanted to make videogames followed up by cartoons! I love making comics, but I’d love to also play in those spaces, too. Comics, videogames and cartoons are all such wonderful story telling avenues!
The brilliant diary comics Our Super Adventure is getting a new release next year via Oni Press – is there a particular secret to creating good diary comics? Do you have to be incredibly candid? And how do your friends and family feel about being the stars of your stories?
SG: For me, I just like making diary comics on moments that make me crack up, or feel special. They’re a good way to let me waffle on to everyone how cute my partner or cats are! Like, I could tell you fifty million stories about my goofy cats, but I think maybe reading comics about them at your own leisure might be nicer. I have a bit of a mental disconnect with these strips – I don’t tend to think of an audience reading them once I finish each strip and post them online – unless someone who isn’t me or my partner is starring in them! Hopefully they don’t mind featuring in the odd strip here and there!
You originally published it as a webcomic and then Kickstarted the collected edition? Why do think that method as become so popular and why did it work so well for you? Is it all about the creative freedom and opportunity to be in control of your own destiny?
SG: I did a few black and white small print collections of Our Super Adventure before turning to Kickstarter to print a big 200 full colour collection of new strips! It was something at the time I wouldn’t have been able to make on my own, and I’m so grateful to everyone who backed the project (or has bought the book since the Kickstarter ended many moons ago!).
I think people see a bit of themselves in the situations in the comics – I always thought it was just us being silly with each other, but it seems a whole bunch of people out there are silly in their relationships in the same sort of way!
In contrast to your self-published start you’ve also worked on Rick and Morty for Oni Press. Was it difficult to make the shift from a personal project where you had complete control, to working on a licensed title? Did you have much creative freedom and were you a fan of it before you started?
SG: I had quite a bit of creative freedom with Rick and Morty! I think what was more stressful for me was making sure that the book fit into this pre-existing universe. I love Rick and Morty and wanted to make sure that my comic sang true to the cartoon. Mr Poopybutthole was a fun character to write for – at the time that I was writing the comic, he’d only had about 2 minutes of actual dialogue in the show! I think they let us get away with a lot of stuff in the comic series as it’s in it’s own separate dimension to the main show.
I’ve been into Rick and Morty from the start – I’d been a big fan of Dan Harmon’s tv show Community, and his podcast ‘Harmontown‘ – so when I heard he had co-created a cartoon series with Justin Roiland, I was very excited for the first episode to come out!
You followed that up with Kim Reaper which does a great job of showcasing diversity in comics, was it important for you to create a diverse cast and do you think comics are getting better at showcasing different genders, races and sexualities?
SG: Thanks! I’m a queer person that still gets sooo excited whenever I see queer characters in any media. I feel this shouldn’t be the case but this representation still feels a little rare to see, so whenever it comes up it’s a big deal for me! And it’s exciting ‘cos it’s like, ah, THERE I AM. So it’s important to me that the media I create features marginalised folks that may not show up on the comic page as much as they should, because it’s important to see yourself represented!
Do you think that with books like yours which feature strong female characters help to encourage young female fans to get into comics?
SG: I hope so. I meet a lot of young fans at shows, and it means the world to me! They wanna read MY comics? Hell yeah. I think there’s been a big influx of girls getting into comics right now and that’s great! I’m making books now that I would’ve loved to have read when I was younger, and I’m seeing so many more comics coming out by other creators that I would have loved to have seen back then as well.
I just hope my books appeal to everyone and if they get people into comics – that’s amazing! I just wanna make fun stories where maybe a villain literally gets their butt kicked, maybe we learn a little something about ourselves, and maybe I definitely get to draw a couple of skeletons. I love drawing skeletons. There’s one inside of you right now, how neat is that.
We saw you do a panel at Leamington about Kickstarter with Susie Gander and Rachael Smith, and it was great to see that it was an all female panel who weren’t talking about ‘women in comics’. Do you think the balance of male and female creators is getting better in the comics scene at the moment?
SG: I think it’s starting to get better, but there’s still a long way to go. It makes me really happy to see the Bookscan Graphic Novel Sales Charts for the whole of 2017 and see graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier, Gale Galligan, Terri Libensen and Svetlana Chmakova dominating the top 20 with young adult aimed comic books – 15 titles out of the top 20 are by female creators which is awesome! It shows that there is easily a market out there getting into comics at an early age, and I hope we see more comics aimed at that generation as they get older for sure!
It’s a tricky thing to comment on – there are so many different areas of the overall comics scene, and they can be varied. Some areas of comics are getting better for sure! It would be nice to see more female creators as guests at UK comic events – we’ve just started going to shows in America and the gender split with guests is a lot more even. There are a few UK comic shows that are doing good at this, but it still needs to be better across the board.
You’re a regular on the convention circuit (as well as seeing you at Leamington you mentioned you had been to the States the week before for a Con), do you enjoy getting a chance to meet fans and do you find it is an important part of marketing your work to new readers? Is it still enjoyable to got to Cons or is it more like work? Did you go to many cons before you started making comics?
SG: I love going to comic conventions, meeting readers is wonderful and it’s why I always look forward to going!
I’m not sure what the split is between pre-existing readers and new readers at shows is, though. I think most new readers find my work online, and then they come to shows, which is neat! Most folks that visit us often know about my work beforehand.
My first ever comic show I shared a table with a pal – I hadn’t been to a comic convention before, and I think it was a bit of a last minute thing. The show was Thought Bubble (what a great introduction!) and it blew me away, and I left immediately planning my next convention. Doing comic conventions is such a fun and inspiring atmosphere to be in!
And finally, what projects are you working on at the moment and what can we look forward to from you next?
SG: I’m currently working on the second arc of Kim Reaper, titled Vampire Island! It’s another four issue instalment, with the first issue coming out on September 5th – ask your local comic shop to get this in for you! Pre-ordering helps a bunch and um, also, it’s gonna be real good. There’s going to be loads of bats and vampires and spooky shenanigans. There is an island full of vampires, after all!
I finished up a graphic novel for Scholastic Graphix called Glitch, which is about videogames and friendship! That’s due out early 2019.
Finally, I’m working on a few secret things, but one of those secrets I can now talk about! Oni Press are going to be publishing my previously-Kickstarted Our Super Adventure book under the new title Our Super Adventure: Press Start To Begin in March 2019! I’m super excited as Our Super Adventure has previously only really been available from me online or at comic shows, and from a handful of UK comic shops, but now it should be much more widely available! Oni Press have been a wonderful publisher to work for, so I’m more than happy to have them as a home for Our Super Adventure!
You can find out more about Sarah’s work at www.sarahgraley.com where you can read early pages of Kym Reaper and purchase copies of Our Super Adventure in it’s original form along with loads of other great books! Also make sure to follow Sarah on twitter and her Patreon.