09/24/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on Jason Robinson’s Death Tramp no. 1

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The premiere issue of Jason Robinson’s comic Death Tramp is a poetic fever dream of proliferating madness. The protagonist, whose sole companion is a raven not unlike Poe’s, plunges into a dark den of loneliness and destruction. Love has been lost, but the memory never leaves. The raven skrawws and our hero goes a step deeper into exile.

According to the issue’s liner notes, “Death Tramp is a comics anthology of the strips, stories, and works of Jason Robinson. Issue One features the comic Skraww in two parts.” The first part was drawn as his final project for thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers. Rendered, as are all the course’s student comics, in blue, red and yellow colored pencil with an emphasis on the fundamentals of comics. Mirroring pages on a spread, symbolic coloring as oppose to literal, “L” panel formations, maintaining character model, rhyming images, holding the “camera,” etc. A really great, stripped down student work that shows an understanding of how to compose comics.

The second part was made after the course was completed. Colored digitally with a similar palette but with more variety, and drawn with more confidence. Robinson takes what he’d learned from the course and cranked the dial up several notches. The backgrounds become more realistic and the narrative more nuanced and intricate. There is a more specific mood in the second part that gives prominence to the dark, foreboding downward spiral of the protagonist and the burden of the raven.

“Skraww” is a poetry leaning comic. The author embraces the timing and composition techniques taught in the correspondence course that is undeniable and emphasizes the more “melodic” aspects of comics making. Robinson’s focus is on the images. We don’t need the words, but the words extend an olive branch and offer a deeper insight into the protagonist’s thoughts. Still, the images and the composition of the 8-panel grid give the comic it’s meter and narrative drive (1234, 1234). I think a lot of cartoonists who consider their work “poetry comics” draw images to lay under their written poetry, but to me the driving force of a poetry comic must be the composition and patterning of images. Robinson achieves this coveted poetic way of cartooning, and I don’t even know if it was an entirely conscious consideration. Though the resemblance to Edgar Allen Poe’s famous narrative poem gives me reason to assume Robinson was at least aware what was happening in front of him.

Jason Robinson’s Death Tramp issue 1 is a success. Particularly in a formalistic aspect. This work shows an understanding of comics-making that most cartoonists take for granted, and takes advantage of the music of comics.

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09-24-2018 – by Niall Breen

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