The Webcomic Overlook #235: Hobo Lobo of Hamelin
Ladies and gentlemen: how do we know we’re in the future? Is it when we get flying cars? Is it when we can replace our arms with cyborg parts? If comic pundits will have you believe, it’s when webcomics realize their full potential and embrace the infinite canvas. No more being restrained to the rigid static confines of a piece of paper, developed hundreds of years ago! Why live within those archaic limitations? We’re living in the future, son!
And just like how flying cars and prosthetic limbs exist in real life, so too are there examples of these futuristic comics. Some do nothing more than scroll in one direction for a long time. Others contain significantly more bells and whistles by incorporating sound and simple animation.
A relatively recent effort is Stevan Živadinović’s Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. And by “relatively recent,” I mean that it began in 2011 and was updated as recently as September 2013. I actually mentioned this comic when it first came out and had hoped to review it when more became available. It looks like not much progress has been made in the intervening two-and-a-half years, though. Note to pundits who still lean on the “motion comic” approach to webcomics: if you’re doing one by your lonesome, they’re a massive time sink.
So here’s the nifty thing about Hobo Lobo. It employs the infinite canvas by being one of those comics that you scroll to the left. However, there is basically just one panel. The long panel stretches like a changing landscape. Živadinović uses pop-up animation quite liberally and to good effect. Sometimes there’s text at the bottom, which reads like passages from a children’s story. Sometimes the images in the panel change. Our characters can flit around the panorama or zoom in and out to dramatic effect.
Can it be a little gimmicky? A little, but most of that can be chalked up to Živadinović playing around with the limitations of the medium. Most of it is pulled off rather nicely and adds to the story rather than detracts from it. In my original write-up, I mentioned a lovely a wordless sequence that evokes the environment of a dark woodland forest through sounds and changing scenery. It’s very evocative.
So the story is about a wolf named Hobo Lobo who is both a wolf and a hobo. A dangerous combination indeed. The story is an adaptation of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. It’s a story that should be familiar to all fans of children’s fairy tales. The town of Hamelin is overrun by rats. Or, as Hobo Lobo of Hamelin says, “coked-up rats running around the place, freaking everybody out.”
So our mayor, whose name is Dick Mayor (subtle), decides he needs to do something about the problem. After all, “his progressive Fascist-Calvinist coalition government was being challenged from the right.” (Um….) Enter Hobo Lobo, a charming animal-headed fellow who’s been thrown off the train into the town. He describes himself as “a mover, a shaker, a fraternal boilermaker, a mender of loose ends, a doer of deeds, and a sometimes indoctrinator of youth! If you have a Gordian knot that is blowing your mind, bring it here for the untying—I’ll even draw you a complimentary diagram!” So the guy’s a little bit of an old-timey snake oil salesman, and a whole lot of burned out hippie.
So for whatever reason, Dick Mayor — maintaining a facade of evangelical religion — decides that Hobo Lobo is the guy for the job. “He explained how the rats were destroying the livelihoods of the taxpayers and that it was of paramount importance—not merely for national security, but the preservation of the Western society as they knew it—for Hamelin to be cleansed of the rat menace.” Hobo Lobo agrees, but he says that he needs to be paid for the job.
So after ridding Hamelin of its rats in the aforementioned woodland sequence, Hobo Lobo returns… only to find that Dick Mayor has taken credit for all his hard work and has even gone on
The Fourth Estate Fox News. So, after several sequences lampooning right-wing pundits, Hobo Lobo stalks off somewhere like a disgruntled Vietnam vet to do … something.
You know, like stealing the children. Or exposing kids to mind-altering drugs, man. Something contemporary like that to blow the minds of all these Fascist-Calvinists.
So… wait… was this comic ALWAYS like this? Back in 2011, when Hobo Lobo was first making the rounds on Reddit and the like, I really didn’t remember all the political editorialism being in there. Did I just ignore them at first because I was in awe of the animated infinite-canvas-breaking mastery? Or did this stuff get added in later after Stevan Živadinović decided to change his mind about what he wanted Hobo Lobo of Hamelin to be?
Let’s go back to the wordless woodland panel, for example. For some reason, I remember that ending with Hobo Lobo leading the rats out of Hamelin. Then, right on the last segment of the panel, the screen turns blood red and a Grim Reaper’s scythe appears in Hobo Lobo’s hand. You’d been lulled previously by the bayou music and the cricket noises, and the sudden musical transition to a somber tune was incredibly memorable.
Now when I pull up that same screen, there’s something added afterward. The screen remains red, and now a collage of random garbage pops up and swirls around. Including … a topless Lady Liberty. it’s about as art school as you can get, and nowhere near as effective as I remember it being. I had so many questions. Was the original in an unfinished state? Was Živadinović dissatisfied with merely telling the story of the Pied Piper and he needed to add a political element? or maybe I’d remembered it wrong. Maybe I hadn’t scrolled far enough to the left the first time around and I missed the art collage? Maybe I was going through an early stage of dementia?
Because seriously, Hobo Lobo, if this is what you want to be — an editorial cartoon — I have to say it’s an incredibly clunky one. Now, can the Pied Piper of Hamelin be retold as a political fairy tale? Sure it can. It has the right framework. Unrecognized hero, unappreciative community, corruption of youth… it’s got all that Flannery O’Connor crap. I mean, geez, Little Red Riding Hood has been retold as a female empowerment fable several times. Why not politicize the Pied Piper?
However, when you put words in Dick Mayor’s mouth like “Under my watchful eye, Hamelin may have persevered against one pest, but the un-Hamelinian forces never sleep—they’re plotting right now, biding their time, and —WHAMMO!— before we know what hit us, jackbooted hippies curb-stomping taxpayers everywhere!”, expect me to be rolling my eyes over here. It’s somehow less subtle than a newspaper political cartoon… and those dudes stick labels on everything just to make things extra clear. This is like getting ten times as many labels in the span of one dialog caption.
It’s a shame, too. After all, when anyone ever talks about Hobo Lobo, do they talk about how trenchant the political observations were … or do they talk about the animation? In a direct inversion as to how these things usually go, this time the bells and whistles do a lot for Hobo Lobo of Hamelin … while the super-shallow political observations add zero is truthfully a little distracting.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Posted on January 3, 2014, in 3 Stars, adult webcomic, comedy webcomic, funny animal webcomic, motion comic, pop culture caricatures, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged WPLongform. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.