Hobo Fires an interview with Robert Sutter

Posted April 3, 2014 by Oscar Russell in Comic Books

Hobo Fires is a new graphic novel written and drawn by Robert Sutter, We The Nerdy got to interview him about the book as well as talk about some interesting drawing techniques……you can back the Kickstarter here, but be quick as it comes to an end on the 10th April 2014.

We The Nerdy: What is Hobo Fires?

Robert Sutter: Hobo Fires is a 300+ page science fiction graphic novel set in the year 2137 and follows the adventures of a young woman named Poenee who hits the road, traveling by hacking rides on robotic freight trains. She meets a travel companion named Raukkus with a court ordered monitoring chip implanted in his head. The two must go on the run from android law enforcement agents- non stop action! In the quiet moments hunkered down in abandoned buildings they share the stories of each others youth, talk about scientific theory,  and become good friends. They meet another traveling companion named Booska and the three quest to a city where a doctor can remove the chip from Raukkus’ brain. They achieve victory and redemption! The three celebrate their freedom by forming a band and going on tour, but the world still has surprises ahead for them. I don’t want to give out any spoilers now!

WTN: How much of the book is based on true events?

RS: The beginning of Hobo Fires was really inspired by a freight train ride I took with a friend from California to Iowa. There was nothing left for me to do in the Bay Area so I headed East! When I got off that train two years ago in Iowa and hitch hiked up to Minneapolis, I wouldn’t be getting back on another train until this graphic novel was complete! Two years later. I once received a fortune from a robotic typewriter at the Musee Mechanique in San Francisco that said, “You have a cast iron will of endurance.” It’s good to have endurance when traveling and also when working on a novel.

The second half of Hobo Fires was inspired by my experiences with the land and people living on the Mississippi River, including the city of Minneapolis. Some of my friends here were models for the characters I drew. The novel is set in the year 2137 though, so everything that happens in it may actually come true!

WTN: The art looks amazing, and seems a very unconventional way of laying out comic…what’s the process behind it?0070492d19ec026017ce93ddc2272fef_large

RS: I decided in the beginning that I wouldn’t use any straight edges in making Hobo Fires, to create a more fluid, dreamlike, street look. I’m a fan of the artist Hundertwasser who said, “The straight line is godless.” and what that means to me is, it’s a lot more fun to create something that has curves! Like the human figure itself. Another technique that seems to be unique to the way I am creating comics is the way I apply tone- my drawings are on a thin cardstock, I can put the inked drawing on top of a texture material and then do a precise rubbing with a Dixon lumber crayon. My favorite tones in Hobo Fires are from rubbings done on top of several different types of bug screen, the stuff you have on your window, nylon, metal, each has a different look. I think this also gave the pages a more gritty natural look. Its interesting too because these same types of lumber crayons are actually used by hobos to make markings on rail cars and other surfaces, writing their ‘Moniker’, or using a symbolic code to share important information. Railroad graffiti.

WTN: You drew and wrote the book? Do you harbor dreams of working with a co-creator?

RS: I would love to work with other artists and writers, but it seems hard to pry us loose from our solitary pursuits! I would be most excited to work with a colorist, watercolors. I love that look but I’m really not good at it. Brushwork! Having spent two years to create this 300+ page book I am much more enthusiastic about sharing the work duties at this point, because that was a really intense experience, every single day for many hours, ignoring all phone calls from friends until they gave up calling: just drawing, writing. I think something unique comes from being the sole creator, but a collaboration could be unique too!

WTN: I am seeing more and more black and white comics these days, what made you go down this road?

RS: I’ve always worked with black & white because that was the most economical to reproduce in the form of a self published zine. Color was expensive to reproduce! Color is much cheaper now, but it’s not my specialty! Unfortunately for Hobo Fires because I think the book could be well done in color, or partly in color, and the fact that the characters are of diverse racial mixes, a full color treatment would make Hobo Fires a whole different experience! Another Kickstarter campaign perhaps.

fb6a0cb8d9b214fe87cbef6290ef8e8b_largeWTN: Kickstarter is a great tool for new creators, why did you choose to use it to launch Hobo Fires?

RS: I decide to do Kickstarer because I knew people who had done successful campaigns to fund their comics on Kickstarter. It seemed to me like the best crowd funding platform for comics, and the all-or-nothing goal structure seemed like it would excite people to fund the project up to the goal required to publish this large graphic novel. Our goal is $6000, which is just enough to make a decent print run. We are also going to publish a paper-free PDF version.

WTN: Any inspirations, that have helped you in the way you tell a story?

RS: Ray Bradbury has inspired me, his simple way of learning, just going to the public library and finding something interesting and reading about it, learning it. Anybody can go into a library and learn something. During all my travels around the country I loved going into some little library somewhere I’d never been and taking a break from the road, kicking back with a book about the cosmos, letting my mind travel out where no one had ever actually traveled. I liked talking to the librarians or book obsessed wingnuts. The public library was Ray Bradbury’s school, self educated! I think that’s awesome. He told some good stories.

WTN: What more can you tell us about Poenee and the supporting crew?

RS: Poeenee grew up watching too much video, as a teen she rebelled and discovered a deep love for the outdoors, she studies health care of all kinds and is skilled in herbal and digital medicine, highly proficient at hacking robotic control systems, Poenee sings & plays stringed instruments, and is a tomboy for sure. Raukkus left home when his parents split up, he’s been riding the robot rails for many years, loves reading books about astronomy, cosmology, and space exploration, drinking green tea and therapeutic molecule vodka, Raukkus plays keyboards which he learned from his mother. Booska is fond of music and dancing, likes making friends and then 2b79b18368beb540a5bd10445fd96905_largecooking huge feasts for them, likes picking up friends and carrying them around, Booska plays the drums wildly. Estrella identifies as an activist and studies biology at University, she likes dressing up in high femme color sparkle fashion, likes to cut through the bullshit to get at the reality of a situation, and she does not ride freight trains but ‘rides the cushions’ on the MegaTrak luxury robot railroad line.

WTN: Any tips for aspiring artists and writers?

RS: I would say, have fun with it! If you’re not having fun with it, then why are you doing it? If you’re like many artists, probably not for the money! If you are enjoying making your art, then other people will probably enjoy participating in your art, and that is success as I define it. I used to think that making money off your art was a whole different animal, but the confidence this gives you, for someone to trade you something important for your art, that makes me inspired to keep making more of it. So go for it, put it out there and see what happens, don’t wait around for someone to discover you, discover yourself.

Remember to check out Hobo Fires on Kickstarter, the project ends on 10th April, We The Nerdy wishes Robert the best of luck

About the Author

Oscar Russell

Comics Editor for WTN, and co-host of the All New Comics Dash Podcast. I like comics and tabletop gaming!