Subjected to by Tia Doran
Catalog Number: (M-TD01-ST01)
If comics have any unique power, it is their ability to render the impossible, to make the invisible into the visible, the surreal into the real. Tia Doran’s mini comic Subjected to, deals heavily in the surreal realm. Presenting us with four stories of characters subjected to forces (natural and supernatural) beyond their control.
The book ending stories, “Waning” and “Yielding” are both stories of a couples facing rising flood waters. In both the waters rise above the roof of their houses and threaten to drown the couples. But it is also here that the stories diverge. In “Yielding” the male partner seeing his female counterpart sink beneath the tide, decides to join her in oblivion. While in “Waning”, the vaguely human couple is able to float to safety on their conjoined bed for a while, it eventually becomes split in two. And for all their efforts to repair this split, the couple finally chooses to float of in their own separate directions. We are never told the motivations for either couple’s decisions as the actions in “Yielding” are told without dialogue, and in “Waning” the dialogue is presented in an alien language that reveals far less than its character’s body language does. Even the meaning we are supposed to take away are unclear. Is it better to drown together, or to survive apart?
These strange moral questions continue in the comic’s second story “Potency”. Here the story’s protagonist Jordan (a facsimile of 1000 Band Names author Jordan Michael) is given the ability to “telepathically project other people’s dreams onto a wall.” His gift is immensely popular but comes at the price of him growing a third hand, a third eye and other appendages. When his friends discover that both the powers and the new growths are the result of Jordan’s possession by a demon, they exorcise said demon and place it in the body of Jordan’s cat, “Mr. Subpoena”. Thus ending Jordan lucrative dream projection business. The story ends without telling us if Jordan regrets this decision.
The ending of the third story “Visitor” is similarly vague. Even more so as the story is the most dreamlike of the four and takes place entirely in the first person (a rarity for comics). The whole of the action being a mysterious woman trying to enter the protagonists house during an ice storm and ask for help. The protagonist rebuff the strange woman, who admonishes the protagonist saying, “You’ll be sorry.” We are never told why the strange woman needs help or why the protagonist is afraid to let her in. Why is the protagonist on their knees when speaking to the mysterious woman? Why does the protagonist hear music or animal noises outside when the woman does not? We will never know.
All of this strangeness is aided by Doran’s style in drawing this comic. She has a very clean line with good sense of anatomy and functional grasp of setting. Her light shading in grey tone is highly developed and at times approaches a pleasing water colored look. The images and compositions can be at times flat or de-energized but they serve the narrative she is telling. Doran’s stories are not cartoonish (even if they are fantastical) so they don’t really require intense cartooning. This works to great effect in “Yielding” as it allows the reader to experience the actions in the same calm tone its protagonist do. Of special note is her character designs for the alien couple of “Waning”, without eyes or often times mouths, they are still able to convey a great of emotions. And this reduction of a heterosexual couple to not a specific man and woman, but the general sense of man and woman allows for a much large point of identification for the reader.
This is one of Doran’s first comics but she is already making some highly advanced work within the medium. Subjected to and her other mini comic Vanishing Twin are both in the Ditko! Zine library and well worth a read for anyone interested in an emerging comics talent.
- Robin Enrico