Hobo Mom: A Seamless Collaboration That Doesn’t Provide All The Answers
by Rachel Bellwoar
From the pens of Charles Forsman (The End of the Fxxxing World) and Max de Radiguès (Bastard), Hobo Mom is the story of a mom who left, but at the time the story begins, is back and wants to get to know her daughter better. A seamless collaboration between two creators who share writing and art duties, the premise is reminiscent of films like Paris, Texas, and more recently Leave No Trace, which looked at a father with PTSD who traveled with his daughter but couldn’t settle down in one place.
The idea of taking Sissy seems to cross Tasha’s mind, too, during a page where she and Sissy are walking in the woods together. But the bigger question is whether she can stay, and where both films mentioned focused on a father-child relationship (though in Paris, Texas the mother left, too, leaving their son with her brother-in-law), Hobo Mom‘s subject is more taboo, for having the mother be the one who’s leaving. When we meet Tasha, she’s dressed like a man for her own protection, and the need for that disguise comes across early on, but when Tasha dresses like a man she’s also making her absence more acceptable. Absentee fathers are a common trope. Mothers haven’t been allowed to leave since Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
Other details that set Hobo Mom apart from the films mentioned: Sissy isn’t told that Tasha is her mom. While the kids in Paris, Texas and Leave No Trace are given enough information to form their own opinions, Sissy isn’t given the chance to know, or confront, Tasha as her mom.
Tasha went to see Sissy on her own fruition. In Paris, Texas, Travis was initially reluctant to see his son. He wasn’t going to see him, he was found by his brother, but the relationship between Sissy’s parents is much more prominent in Hobo Mom. Travis and his wife separated because their relationship became unhealthy. The mother in Leave No Trace died. Tasha tells her ex that she’s there for her daughter, not him, but separating the two becomes more difficult.
Sissy’s dad works as a locksmith, and he wants Tasha to stay, but that’s what the domestic space feels like to Tasha, and while its ultimately a lock that’s unable to contain her, its effect is enough that she feels like she can’t stay. Her situation is compared to that of Sissy’s pet rabbit. When Tasha holds him there’s a moment where it feels like he’s trying to escape and Sissy responds by taking him back from her. A telling scene has Tasha talk about being happy, and Sissy asks if she ever broke. “Almost. But I’m better now.” Leaving was the right decision for Tasha. She doesn’t regret her choice.
Silence is different in a graphic novel, and while Paris, Texas is known for its silence as well, you have to sit with it more. Hobo Mom is capable of being a very fast read and the art is very cyclical and economical. Bookend scenes, like Sissy and her dad having breakfast, followed by Tasha joining them for a different meal, hit home the impact that her arrival has on their lives, while single, embedded boxes hint at the call of nature building again. A red, dot gradient is used for shadows, the red coloring making the shadows seem more combative than they’d usually be.
At one point, Sissy and Tasha are lying on a hammock when Sissy’s dad interrupts to ask Tasha to stay. The timing of the request, after what could be seen as a cruel act (spoiling their bonding), is a sharp reminder that this might not last. A lot is left unsaid in Hobo Mom, and there’s a danger of assuming or inferring too much, but that’s the secret of Forsman and Radiguès’ stripped down storytelling. You’re denied all the answers, so you have to interpret things for yourself.
Hobo Mom is available now from Fantagraphics.