Imagine Your Story: RiverCon Interview with Karly West

RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” amazing local comic artists and authors from home! Each Thursday morning from now until July 2nd you can read a new interview right here on Read it Or Weep.

Our first RiverCon interview kicks off with Karly West! Karly is the author and artist of The Scholarly Banana: Fitcher’s Bird and a Rocky River native! Read more about Karly here.

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Karly: I have a lot of weird, varied interests that I stubbornly refuse to give up! As a kid, I wanted to be an artist, an author, and a teacher. College was the same story: I interviewed with the journalism department, the art department, and the education department, but I had the worst time making a decision. For whatever reason, even though I loved each of these subjects, none of these career paths felt like the right fit for me (note: I earned my degree in education, but I’ve worked as a professional artist since 2010). In 2016, I created The Scholarly Banana as my “dream project” that would enable me to do everything I loved in one fell swoop: Writing, Researching, Design, Sculpture, Photography, Photoshop, Teaching, and…being weird, I guess! I’m happy to say that this has been the most creatively satisfying (and challenging) thing I’ve ever done.


Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?

Karly: Fox Trot. Back in the 90s, I collected all the Fox Trot anthologies and spent countless hours drawing the Fox family. My honorable mention goes to Dilbert. Although I’ve never worked in a cubicle before, I think Scott Adams is hilarious. Side note: His nonfiction books are great, too.


Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?

Karly: Pictures are just another form of communication, so a well-designed, well-written, artistic book should be the best of both worlds, right? Graphic novels are incredibly cinematic. They’re like highly-polished storyboards! But unlike movies, graphic novels let us enjoy stories at our own pace, which is fantastic. I love to re-read my favorite books to analyze and admire all the subtle details. Graphic novels and well-designed picture books are great for that. 


How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work?

Karly: I’ve been a voracious folklore nerd since 2002! More than anything, I love learning about the history and analysis of these ancient, influential stories. My favorite fairy tale books tend to be research-focused, though I don’t always have the mental energy to read college-level texts anymore. I created The Scholarly Banana to solve this problem! The Banana showcases the most exciting facts about folklore studies in a casual, friendly, and irreverently joyful way. It’s like a quirky, artsy CliffsNotes. But with fairy tales. And a banana.

Photo courtesy of Karly West.


Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?

Karly: The Story Of Grandmother is the tale that first got me hooked on folklore studies. Haha, I know the title sounds lame, but this is one of the craziest stories I’ve ever read! It’s an old French version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” However, the girl in this story doesn’t have a red hood, she unwittingly eats her grandmother for lunch, and she arranges her escape by telling the wolf that she has to go outside to use the bathroom. No joke. That’s the story.


What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Karly: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. It’s beautifully creepy. Can I get some honorable mentions for this too? I’m a big fan of Reza Farazmand’s Poorly Drawn Lines (IG @poorlydrawnlines) as well as Patt Kelley’s single-paneled comics (@pattkelley). 

Thanks so much to Karly for participating in our blog interview! Keep your eyes peeled for her next Scholarly Banana book- The Juniper Tree!

2 thoughts on “Imagine Your Story: RiverCon Interview with Karly West

  1. Dori June 11, 2020 / 8:33 pm

    Foxtrot was one of my daughter’s favorites as a kid – thanks for sharing your inspiration and I look forward to reading your graphic novel!

    • Nicole June 15, 2020 / 1:18 pm

      Foxtrot is great- it was one of my childhood favorites as well!

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