I admit it’s rare for me to discover a new present-day cartoonist I really like, so I was quite thrilled to stumble upon Ben Sears and the adventures of friendly robot Hank and goggles-sporting Plus Man. Sears’ style reminds me of claymation (one of my soft spots), and he is not afraid of bright colours or playfulness – such a contrast to the many ‘serious’, sepia-coloured comics that are just dull as dishwater (although apparently the latter is now an in-demand hair colour).
The four ‘A Double Adventure +’ comics Sears has given us so far (Night Air, 2016; Volcano Trash, 2017; The Ideal Copy, 2018; and House of the Black Spot, 2019), published by Koyama Press*, brim with interesting details – plants are everywhere, rooms are full of intriguing trinkets, and cats are perched on counters and rooftops. This is a world not devoid of danger (Hank and Plus Man keep getting pulled into murder mysteries, ominous conspiracies, hive-mind henchmen skirmishes, etc.), but there’s also an appealing domesticity about it, as we often get to visit their apartment or tag along as they hang out in a friends’ kitchen. The fight scenes are viscerally satisfying (who doesn’t want to see bad guys’ asses kicked in a most expedient manner?), but there is also clever team work, friendship, and occasionally a moral dilemma or two. My favourite of the four is House of the Black Spot, so things are clearly going in the right direction!
The Ideal Copy features a villainous gaggle of creepy white men, all eerily dressed in the same red sweater + beige pants-pulled-up-to-armpits** uniform:
Volcano Trash features some enjoyably fast-paced fight/daring escape scenes, but I think its heart lies in its quietly emotional sequences. Sears’ dialogue is perfectly functional, sometimes even fun, but he doesn’t over-clutter his pages with words, excelling at mute scenes in which body language says a’plenty. When looking through his website recently, I was happy to discover he has a few pantomine self-published comics (featuring a trash cleanup robot, a cat and a bird!) I’d never heard of. You can order them here.
Finally, here are some excerpts (or extracts, as the Brits would say) from House of the Black Spot, the lushest, latest installment of Hank & Plus Man’s adventures:
You can read an (otherwise unpublished, as far as I know) Double+ Adventure here.
I keep reading reviews in which comparisons are made between Sears’ work and Hergé’s Tintin, which supposed resemblance I admit I don’t see at all. On the other hand, I’ve never read a full Tintin album, and to be perfectly honest have no intention of ever undertaking such a tedious task.
* Toronto-based Koyama Press shut down its operations in 2021, so Ben Sears’ new book, Young Shadow, was published by Fantagraphics. I haven’t read it yet, but am looking forward to it, once I get my hands on a copy! You can read a review of it over at The Comics Journal.
** The question of why older men tend to wear their pants somewhere below their armpits still baffles me. Hypotheses have been made to the effect of beer-bellied folks having to decide whether the pant waistline lies above a bulging stomach or under it, and opting for the former option, but I have seen plenty of instances of pants being pulled up when the wearer had a relatively flat stomach…