In May, comic readers are in for a treat when Koyama Press releases Night Air, a whimsical fantasy adventure from the creative mind of artist and writer Ben Sears. The story of a boy and his robot, it follows a real smart-ass and his robot companion, the stars of Sears’ Double+ adventure stories (which you should read).
Sears’s work is a rare treat, at once hauntingly atmospheric and undeniably inviting, his stories are marked with an all-ages sensibility that makes for some truly engrossing arcs. And they appeal no matter how old you are. As the A.V. Club said, Sears’s work is marked by his expert use of “bold designs, immersive compositions, and atmospheric colors.”
We had the good fortune to talk to Sears about his new book, his inspiration, and what it means to write for all ages.
How did Night Air come about?
My book was a late addition to Koyama’s spring 2016 line, so I only had a few days to come up with a story. I had been reading Mizuki’s Kitaro and Toriyama’s Cowa, and really liked the light-hearted ghost and monster stories that those guys were telling.
I don’t think Night Air is very similar to them, but having those on the brain guided me.
Was there any specific visual or narrative inspiration for Night Air?
I like old superhero comics that had single-issue stories that weren’t oppressively dark or over-reliant on decades of continuity. Now that I think back, I remember watching this Three Stooges short where they go to Egypt and get chased by a mummy. That stuck with me for some reason, too.
The book is named after a Tortoise song that had been in my head for bit. It’s a really eerie atmospheric song that I had on repeat while drawing. That and John Lurie’s Down By Law soundtrack. It had the vibe I was looking for.
Night Air is described as “aimed at all-ages.” Is that your intention?
I realized sometime last year that all of the comics I want to make are all-ages by default. I like watching Argento movies and stuff like that, but when it comes to writing and drawing, I’m more interested in making something anyone can pick up. I don’t think of it in terms of aiming for an audience, I just make the comic and whatever it is is what it’ll be marketed to.
I guess if I were writing something explicitly for kids, it would be more like a picture book than a comic. I would like to do something that’s for younger kids, but I think I’d need to work on paring down my storytelling to the essentials before I do that.
Do you have any favorite illustrations in the book?
Whenever the characters are walking into a new place, or just silently exploring, that’s my favorite stuff to draw. I’m really proud of the panels of them running around town, walking into Apple Town at night, and coming up on the castle. If I had the time and financial backing, I would do a whole comic like that.
How do you see the state of comics at the moment?
Since I’ve started drawing full time, I don’t have as much time to keep up with all the current comics. There’s so many talented artists working right now, and they come from all over the place, so getting all these different perspectives is healthy for everyone.
What’s next for you? Working on anything else?
I’ve been working on a miniseries with my friend Chris Sebela that should be out sometime in 2017, and I’ve got a couple of Double+ side stories I want to work on later this year, but right now my main focus is the followup to Night Air.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.