Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

I Call Shotgun

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 11th, 2012

Hobo With a Shotgun #1
Writers: Dave Howlett, André Myette, Josh Rodgers, Shawn McLeod & Jay Arnold
Artists: Mike Holmes, Andy Cotnam, André Myette, Patrick Burgomaster, Josh Rodgers, Shawn McLeod, Mike Campbell & Jay Arnold
Colors: Nathan Boone, André Myette, Patrick Burgomaster, Josh Rodgers & Shawn McLeod
Cover artist: James White
Publisher: Yer Dead Productions
Price: $2.99 US

Like the uber-violent B-movie of the same name, this comic book is regionally produced. Starring Rutger Hauer, Hobo With a Shotgun is a little known film that was shot and produced in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the material in this anthology comic inspired by the flick was also crafted by Halifax creators and those from surrounding regions. Several of the creators boast a strong connection to award-winning comic shop Strange Adventures, and this comic was made available at my local Strange Adventures store as well. Despite having not seen the movie, I decided to give this comic a glance, in part to support independent and local comics talent. Like many anthologies, Hobo With a Shotgun is a mixed bag, boasting some strong, professional material and some that pales in comparison. Given the fact I was generally unfamiliar with the source material, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed some key stories. And given the strength of those stories, I was surprised by the inclusion of far more crude and amateurish efforts as well.

Howlett/Holmes storyThe opening story — featuring the fate of an elderly man struggling to keep a neighborhood small business alive — was wisely chosen as the first piece in the book, as it’s the strongest. Mike Holmes’s solid cartooning occasionally reminds me of a cross between the styles of Ty Templeton and Scott Chantler here, with a dash of Jamie Hewlett. The art doesn’t shy away from the violence, but it portrays it in a slightly comical way, making it far more palatable. Dave Howlett’s script doesn’t require the reader to be familiar with the title concept beyond what the title itself conveys. It tells a concise and compelling story. The video store’s plight is something with which we’re all familiar, and the resolution even offers a poignant bit of social criticism despite the overall positive tone of the ending.

Howlett’s followup — “Two-Player” — is a little harsher in tone thanks to the black-and-white, manga-inspired artwork of Andy Cotnam. But it’s an effective story as well. Howlett juxtaposes innocuous speech with the violent realities of an urban landscape overrun by maniacs, and the short nature of the story keeps the shtick from getting old. I couldn’t help but notice the subject matter of both of Howlett’s stories revolve around facets of entertainment that have fallen out of fashion or otherwise have faded thanks to developments in home-entertainment technology. Though his two pieces are visually as different as they could be, they’re linked through that common bond.

Burgomaster artAndré Myette’s depiction of another scene of corruption and violence is confusing. The last panel in the previous story depicts a videogame called “The Plague,” and Myette’s story seems to be set in that world. I suspect there’s a reference from the movie I’m missing that would explain things. Myette’s art boasts a rudimentary look; its simple tone is quite cartoonish. As a result, the grindhouse violence of the property just doesn’t mesh well. The gore feels out of place, and as a result, it’s unsettling and unenjoyable. Patrick Burgomaster’s artwork for Howlett’s adaptation of part of the movie fails to convey the action clearly at all. If one hasn’t seen the movie, it’s almost impossible to discern what’s going on. The artwork is crude and murkily dark, and it looks as though it’s been lettered awkward in MS Paint.

Josh Rodgers’s two-page piece about the title hobo shooting a criminal in the face is played up for laughs, but it’s gory and gruesome in nature. Furthermore, the tone and colors are muted and dark, and that tempers the intended humor of the short story. It’s a more polished effort than some other material in the book, fortunately, and I suspect much overall indifference to the segment might stem from my disinterest in the grindhouse genre. Shawn McLeod’s one-page story at the end of the book is a thoroughly Canadian affair, and as someone who grew up watching The Littlest Hobo on occasion (think of Murder She Wrote starring a gentle German shepherd instead of Angela Lansbury), the artist’s distortion of the innocence of that TV brought a smile to my face. But despite the title character’s appearance in a single panel, this spoof really has nothing to do with Hobo With a Shotgun. They’re linked only by a single word.

The inside front cover boasts a four-panel comic strip featuring the title character’s encounter with the Occupy movement, and despite its brevity, I felt compelled to discuss it — for a couple of reasons. First of all, the strip was done by a couple of friends of mine — Jay Arnold and Mike Campbell — but more importantly, it hints at the potential of such an indy effort in a themed anthology. Arnold and Campbell take the over-the-top violence of the anti-hero and plunk into another only a slightly different medium, but a completely different genre. The tone of the strip is much lighter than the rest of the book. Instead of the bloody, B-movie riff that dominates the rest of the comic, it takes a far more cartoony (as in Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry) approach. These artists present an Itchy and Scratchy short starring a hobo with a shotgun, and the effect brings some much-needed diversity to the book. I only wish there’d been more such material. 5/10

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3 Responses to “I Call Shotgun”

  1. Patrick Burgomaster Says:

    You didn’t include the Hobo Code in your review ! What are your thoughts ?

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    I didn’t get into that because it wasn’t really a story, per se. And I don’t have my copy handy right now to refresh my memory.

  3. Patrick Burgomaster Says:

    I did make it too dark, dammit. But there’s parts I’m really proud of, the cat smoking the J for example. I agree with you on the point that people will understand the comic better if they’ve seen the movie first, but keep in mind my story is a “deleted scene” which was never filmed, so I would recommend watching the movie first.

    The look of the lettering was intentional! I made it pixely to look like a video game — an aesthetic mistake maybe?

    I dunno, dude, it’s far from perfect but I’m still proud of myself and looking forward to making more comics. Check out my political cartoons if you’re interested. I’d be interested to hear your opinion.