Cat men, ghost portals, and scythes, oh my! KIM REAPER is a supernatural adventure that shatters stereotypes with its unique characters and story.

Most university students work to pay off school bills, but Kim’s part time position as a grim reaper is not a job most students have. The series may focus on her role as a guide for souls, but her blooming relationship with Becka (who’s head over heels for the reaper) is the real story as they navigate cats, zombies, and the underworld. Just remember the most important rule: only Kim touches the scythe.

The first issue for KIM REAPER will be released on April 5th, 2017, but you can pre-order it at Page 45 until March 13th. ComicsVerse talked to creator Sarah Graley about her inspirations for the story, how she chose the color palette of each panel, and stereotypical cat ladies.

Kim Reaper - 1 - Cover

ComicsVerse: The book takes such a unique approach to what it’s like to be a grim reaper. Working as a part-time grim reaper is certainly one way to pay for college! What inspired the story? 

Sarah Graley: Teen me used to dream about being a grim reaper (that sounds super morbid; it really wasn’t!), so I got the idea of Kim being a part time grim reaper from that, but it’s also fun to work on a story that focuses on a profession with many perks and downsides! Kim’s not amazing at her job and she’s kind of bumbling through it, but I think that’s more fun and relatable. I’ve certainly bumbled through retail jobs before I started working in comics, but Kim’s profession is a little more high stakes than customer service!

READ: We spoke to Sarah Graley, Marc Ellerby, and Mildred Louis about RICK & MORTY: LIL’ POOPY SUPERSTAR!

CV: None of the book’s characters are stereotypical. The cat owner, for example, is an incredibly macho (and frightening) subversion of a typical cat lady. How did you go about crafting the characters in the book?

SG: I guess I could’ve gone for a typical cat lady, but I think that’s a little stale! And it would’ve just been me bolstering the image of cat ladies being “crazy” with this particular character’s motives. I thought it’d be more fun to do a character who loves to pump iron as much as he loves his cats, and that’s how muscle man was born. Villains are a good excuse to get creative! I’m personally a little scared of Brock Lesnar (please don’t wrestle me, Brock Lesnar, you mountain of a man), so maybe that helped inspire this character design?

For designing other characters, they tend to become a mish-mash of things and fashions I love, along with their designs reflecting their character traits. Kim is pretty gothic because she has a gothic as heck job, but she also has an undercut and wears crop tops because I think both of those things are awesome! Becka’s style is pretty similar to my own; I feel like her wardrobe is comfy but cute. When Becka has a goal, she will focus on achieving it, but she does it while wearing something practical and adorable. This is what I also aim for when I’m going for my own goals.

Designing characters is a good excuse to browse style blogs! They’re also a good excuse to explore shapes outside the norm. Character designs that excite me are those that break the mold (I love a good Laika movie), so that’s something I want to do in my own work.

Kim Reaper - 1

CV: Why did you make Becka’s affection for Kim the entry point for the series instead of jumping into the action or showing off Kim’s job as a grim reaper?

SG: I think an interesting premise is important for stories, but I love storytelling through character dynamics! The comic is titled KIM REAPER, but to me, Becka is the main character, so it made sense to start the comic with Becka crushin’. Kim being a grim reaper is what steers the narrative, but the story is really about both of them!

READ: Love unconventional stories? Check out our interview with Kyle Starks on ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN!

CV: On that note, will Kim quickly develop feelings for her new partner in crime or will Becka have to continue chasing Kim, both literally and figuratively? Will there be an opportunity for Becka to become a grim reaper herself?

SG: There’s some initial friction, as Becka is not 100% onboard with the “grim reaper as a profession” aspect. Maybe somebody goofs up some stuff (spoilers!), but luckily they have four issues to figure it out.

I think Becka loves working at her bakery job too much to swap it for guiding souls. 

Kim Reaper - 1 - 2

CV: Becka is very open with her affection for Kim, even boldly calling her “my vampire queen” to her face. What made you take this approach instead of having Becka hide her feelings from Kim?

SG: Becka is an open book! She’s super honest (maybe too honest?) but that’s how she rolls. When I write Becka, I do tend to think “what would I like to do in this situation?” I probably wouldn’t be so bold as to call someone I’m crushing on my vampire queen, but I have Becka to live vicariously through so it’s okay! I like honesty and I like when people are forward and this bleeds into Becka’s character. 

READ: Learn what makes SARAH’S SCRIBBLES creator Sarah Andersen a beacon of hope.

CV: OUR SUPER ADVENTURE is based on your relationship, so it uses a very realistic color palette, whereas the color scheme in RICK & MORTY: LIL’ POOPY SUPERSTAR is that of the original RICK AND MORTY series. KIM REAPER, however, seems to use colors based on the personalities of each character, such as purples for Kim and oranges for Becka. How did you decide on the look of each panel?

SG: I think purples and Kim both give off a dramatic vibe, so it makes sense they synced up, haha! The colour choices I make tend to depend on the context of the panel. This may be more obvious with KIM REAPER than OUR SUPER ADVENTURE because there’s a huge lack of backgrounds in my diary comics. I used to totally be lazy with backgrounds in my own work, but when I started working with Oni Press I was like: “I gotta up my game!” which I am really happy about. I originally hated drawing backgrounds ’cause they can be difficult, but I’ve since realized that they provide great opportunities to slip something weird and goofy into a panel and can make a panel’s colour choices more dramatic when it’s a block of colour, rather than the usual backdrop scene.

Kim Reaper 1 - 3CV: The first issue ends before we get to see any real action between our heroines and the cat owner. Aside from incentivizing the reader to continue the story, how do you decide what you’re going to save for later issues?

SG: When I’m writing a series I think of the main plot points the story needs to cover, and then break those up into issues. With issue #1, the cat owner became part of the story at a later point in the writing process for me, even though they’re like… such a juicy part of that issue’s plot! I want each issue to be really action packed, but of course, there’s only so much you can fit into 22 pages and I also wanna keep everybody on their toes!

CV: I noticed you and Stef in the background of a classroom; will we get to see more cameos in future issues?

SG: Haha! We might also turn up at a house party in a later issue along with a bunch of our friends. Drawing pals into comics is definitely a cute perk of making comics!

This interview has been edited. 

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