The Castaways

 CAS5   (Absence of Ink, 2003, 2007)

™ and © Absence of Ink Comic Press

Writer Rob Vollmar drew inspiration for this story in part from a documentary about migrant workers during the Great Depression and the extremes they endured to find work, wherever it might have been. More importantly, though, he drew many elements of this story from a source who lived through this difficult time: his own grandmother, whose memories and anecdotes give this comic book a warm and special kind of authenticity.

Vollmar’s tale focuses on Tucker Freeman, a 13-year-old who runs away from his Missouri home believing that his presence there is nothing more than a burden to his poor, struggling mother. Nearly broke and looking for his own pot of gold, or at least his next meal, Tucker stows away aboard an empty boxcar and journeys across the countryside. Lonely and homesick, he encounters an older fellow vagrant named Elijah, who briefly takes him into his care but ultimately shows him a better way to face life than running away from it.

And through this short experience, Tucker becomes a better person. Vollmar’s characters and kind-spirited story, combined with the softened lines and gray tones of artist Pablo G. Callejo, make for a relative rarity: a nice-looking, feel-good comic book that never gets uncharacteristically dark or excessively sentimental. And by embracing his grandmother’s remembrances, Vollmar not only learns about the past, but shares this knowledge, as well.

— Jim Johnson

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 Rob VollmarPablo G. Callejo

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