Book Review: Hobo Fires by Robert Earl Sutter III

Hobo Fires

by Robert Earl Sutter III

3332 18th Ave. South Apt#1 Minneapolis, MN 55407 336 pages Retail $30

Review by Egg-Nog-shush!

Shit –- people get old. Rob Noxious is now Robert Earl Sutter…the III. At least his life as an anarchist artist hasn’t matured into as stuffy confines as the name has. Expanded and gotten deeper it has, rich with moods, idealism and friendship. It is a life that sips at the narcotic freedom to be found just outside of society’s cage.

There is a lot going on here to be encapsulated — if it could be a pill I’d suggest you’d grab something to wash it down. I’m going to cheese dick this review. This new graphic novel was sent a couple months ago to our collective and no one read it. When I noticed it wasn’t handled I started to entreat the well intentioned usual gang of volunteers loitering around our car wreck of a project to review it. I was given as much acknowledgment as a Green Party Voters guide at an anarchist book fair. So in an effort not to give similar treatment to old Rob I found a spot under a tree and read about half of the book – just in case.

For those who don’t know Rob he chronicles the things dear to him in comic book form. Living on the fringes of mainstream society by train hopping, squatting, playing DIY/punk music, pursuing Queer love and other advancements of living in current radical life. This recent comic does that but the twist is that it is set in the future — where people use technology to get the low down on what train to ride, where robots patrol no man’s land and activists make islands from recycled plastic bottles. There’s enough familiar things going on to capture you in the present age. Chance romantic encounters, people sharing music and drink, conversations speculating on reality, observations of nature ruling supreme. Oogles. The sci-fi part of it didn’t grab me and shake me until I picked it up recently and finished reading the story. The most impressive feat to find is that someone is actually sitting around thinking about the future. And not just how they’re going to make money or bullshit to prolong capitalism. It is a waking dream of a mutated reality carefully re-imaged on paper for anyone caring to look. Some dystopian aspects play strong. One of the main characters was busted by the pigs and lugs around a police state monitoring device…in his head. The story follows this character trying to remove the tracker.

There is a lot to be found while on the journey – and that better future is really the present day radical community. People meeting each other and discovering their dimensions is a consistent throughout the drama. There are conversations I didn’t catch onto like the philosophical and technical ramblings of science. It reflects the kinds of things people ponder when not leaded down by capitalism’s distractions. Though I rushed reading through these segments I found them accurate to conversations I’ve had in this scene.

Even if not all aspects of the narrative grabbed me, I did find it important that someone is thinking ahead. When so many people who look at the problems of the world today meet that knowledge and drown in alcohol, dwell on thoughts of suicide or go on shooting sprees. One character to be found in Hobo Fires had that last impulse until they found the radical DIY community. It is a community that make and share books like this one, or a boat to float down the Mississippi, or a collectively run house or cafe. It is what many people in the world desperately need today; some human made gift that isn’t ultimately going to (non-consensually) fuck you or rip you off. In this respect Hobo Fires acts as a magnifying glass to today’s struggling Utopias.

The art in Hobo Fires hasn’t progressed much from Rob’s output from the past ten years. I assume that the inner child is the boss when it comes time to make a comic. The characters and their world rendered in black pencil may strike some people as being crude. Many of the pictures have the quality of someone drawing during math class. He hasn’t grown into a serious artist as he dropped the “Noxious” from his name, unless you consider his crafting of narrative. He does spend enormous time drawing in the sheer number of the pictures to be found. Clocking in at 336 pages it will be interesting to see the people attracted to a pirate punk lifestyle spend the $35 necessary for such an endeavor. The story often stops to give images of an open vista that is common to a life tramping across rural America. Some pages are even ruled by negative space depicting the lack of artificial light to be found outside urban areas. These segments emphasize the sounds that become so vivid when you can’t see.

There are many pages here that Rob attempt’s to capture the divine—in nature and human endeavor. Realism of image is forsaken for the spirit of the moment being conveyed. Lots of the pages are worthy of just awe. I bet if you ever see the originals in their full size with the hours of finger work smeared over the page you’d shit your pants. But I don’t think you want that so it’s better if you go back to checking your phone. I think you missed a text – it was real important.