KC artist finds inspiration, community in comics

Comic and caricature artist Arie Monroe, a Kansas City native, will be at Kansas City Comic Con from Friday to Sunday.
Comic and caricature artist Arie Monroe, a Kansas City native, will be at Kansas City Comic Con from Friday to Sunday.

For comic and caricature artist Arie Monroe, there’s no place like home. The 37-year-old Kansas City native and owner of Draw Like Crazy LLC is looking to re-establish herself in her hometown after moving back two years ago.

“It was like I dropped off the map,” Monroe says.

She didn’t — Monroe just moved around it for 11 years. Her journey included stops in New Jersey, Ohio and California.

Friday through Sunday, she’ll be at Bartle Hall for Kansas City Comic Con. Billed as Kansas City’s hometown comic convention, it’s an all-ages show that features vendors, cosplay, appearances by celebrities such as Jeremy Howard of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and artists such as Monroe.

Monroe’s signature comics are Mainasha and Big Booty Jane, but she’ll be focusing on caricatures at Kansas City Comic Con.

“I’ll be using my caricature work as a springboard for people to become familiar with what I do, see my work online,” she says. “It’s about networking, sitting down to draw and talking to folks.

“Hopefully they walk away happy.”

Draw like crazy

Monroe lived in California for several years trying to get into the animation industry. She worked as a caricature artist at Universal Studios and did a few jobs for Warner Bros. But her biggest professional challenge has been owning and operating her own business.

“It’s a lot of work,” she says, “but once you’ve put in the work upfront, it starts to snowball and build on itself.”

Still, balancing the business grind with personal projects can be a struggle.

“My personal stories are piling up in a corner in my house,” Monroe says.

Entrepreneurship suits her fine, but drawing has always been a passion for Monroe, who says she decided to become an artist at age 11.

She likes big butts

Monroe created her character Mainasha when she was a 16-year-old student at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. Enamored with “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Wiz,” Monroe writes stories with Mainasha “traveling back and forth to her own type of Oz.” The character exists in the comics “Quiet Storm” and “Tornado Alley,” with the latter being a nod toward Dorothy.

And Big Booty Jane? She’s Monroe’s plus-sized superhero.

“The idea is to create a positive image for women who are larger in size,” Monroe says. “She fights aliens in outer space, and she’s a super cop with bionic legs.”

Monroe is currently working on a Big Booty Jane pin-up calendar.

Both characters are black and female, and Monroe hopes that readers connect to them because of — and despite — that fact.

“Ever since I was in high school, I’ve always drawn things that reflect my life,” she says. “It’s not necessarily about diversity. … It’s about telling a story that I relate to.”

And she cannot lie

Monroe didn’t start reading comics until she was in her 20s. At first she bought comic books from the grocery store.

“It wasn’t until I was 22 or 23 that I was brave enough to walk into a comic book shop,” she says. “I always felt like: ‘This is for boys. Girls don’t go into places like this.’ 

Even after becoming a comic book shop regular, she didn’t always feel like she fit in.

“I had an experience where I walked into one, and it seemed like everybody turned around and looked at me like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” Monroe says.

That has since changed.

“One of my favorite shops is Elite Comics in Overland Park,” Monroe says. “It’s a very welcoming place. They cater to everyone: artists, women, kids.

“They even have a ladies night. We’ll do acting, paint fingernails and read comics.”

Kansas City Comic Con

Kansas City Comic Con is Friday to Sunday at Bartle Hall, 301 W. 13th St. Hours are 1-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Three-day passes cost $60, Friday passes cost $25, Saturday passes cost $35, and Sunday passes cost $30. Children younger than 10 are free; three-day passes for youths ages 11 to 16 are $20. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to