Sometimes dark, sometimes comic, but always well-observed, illustrator Luke Pearson’s new comic Everything We Miss tells the bleak tale of a disintegrating relationship.
The portrayal of domestic disharmony is coupled with an snapshot into the little events – some real, some fantastic – that happen while we are preoccupied with our own lives. In Pearson’s comic, dark ghosts enter the body unnoticed forcing characters to utter hateful words, crucial reconciliation emails slip into the junkmail and trees uproot themselves and dance sinisterly while no-one is looking.
Pearson says, ‘The characters are dealing with paranoia, confusion and other dark, uncomfortable thoughts, so I see the surreal elements as giving a visual presence to those feelings while creating a general atmosphere of strangeness and unease.’
The book is dramatically different to Pearson’s first publication with Nobrow, Hildafolk, which came about after Pearson won a competition with the London-based publisher in his last year of university. Early on when working on Hildafolk, Nobrow commissioned the illustrator to follow up with a comic more adult in tone, and Everything We Miss started to evolve.
Pearson says, ‘In my earliest ideas the book was more a series of vignettes about missed things, both physically overlooked and longed for, but this break-up story naturally began to weave its way through them and ended up dominating.
‘There’s very little exposition in the book and I haven’t gone into the details of their relationship, so the characters are very much who the readers want them to be. I guess I’m hoping this makes it easy for readers to see themselves in there.’
Pearson’s process begins with formulating a narrative, pinning it down to a timeline, then working out how much space to give each plot element. By this point he’s 90 per cent sure everything’s going to fit comfortably, so he sketches each page, adding the dialogue right at the end.
‘I find [adding the words last] useful because you can see what the images aren’t saying and only include what’s appropriate,’ Pearson says. ‘It also encourages you to have less text, simply because you realise how little room you actually have for it and how a lot of the time you don’t even need it. Overwriting is a mistake a lot of people make, in my opinion.’
As well creating a darkly comic, moving and well-observed narrative, Pearson’s drawing style is sometimes familiar and cute but at others deeply unsettling.
He says, ‘I got it into my head that it would create an interesting atmosphere if the whole comic was lit by something other than normal daylight (headlights, TV screens, the moon etc) so my first idea was for the whole thing to be an eerie night time blue. But when I was walking home at night one time, I realised that because of the street lights, night time is actually orange. Everything was orange.’
‘It doesn’t make any literal sense because almost nothing in the comic is actually lit by a street light, but hopefully that sense of unnatural night time light comes across. If it doesn’t it at least gave me a distinctive colour scheme.’
Everything We Miss by Luke Pearson is published by Nobrow, priced at £12.