K. Thor Jensen’s book Red Eye, Black Eye reminds me of some of the episodes you’d hear on This American Life. The difference is I’m not sure the protagonist of this book learns anything by the end, one of the requirements for inclusion on the Chicago Public Radio show.
Jensen’s book relates his two-month, cross-country Greyhound bus trip, staying with folk most of whom he’s met only through the Internet. His hosts are a mixed bunch, as you might expect, and none live a luxurious life.
Jensen’s drawings here are intentionally spare, and the characters don’t say much as the panels are small. But each host is given space to tell Thor an allegedly true story — brief and invariably weird. The funniest is Jeff’s, about a Boston neighborhood kid who’d demand people repeat odd phrases, all of which began with “smeeny knucklehead,” such as, “Say smeeny knucklehead Batman’s better then Superman.” Jeff ends his tale with “I heard rumors that he later wound up in juvie for something, but I dunno what.” The picture shows the boy, slightly older, behind bars and shouting, “Guard! Hey, guard! Say smeeny knucklehead ….”
Thor early on declares one of his goals on his “hobo trip” is to get a black eye. Given how he behaves, particularly in a Columbus, Ohio, bar, I’m surprised he doesn’t end up with one, and a fat lip, too.
Must be hobo luck, as Thor might say.