'Have you ever been in love? There is nothing more agonizing...than falling in love with someone who will never love you back'
'The Doll Maker'
by Sarah Jones
Independently Published, 2011
This little comic by Sarah Jones was one of the first items I picked up at MCM Comic Con London 2017, the event that broke my bank balance! I have always had a passion of dark stories and in fact what first attracted me to the stall was Jones' painting of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham (from the Hannibal series). The Hannibal-Graham relationship is one of the best parts of the show, they are remarkably in tune with each other and possess an obsessive love for the other, a love we can only perceive but not wholly understand. I opted to take The Doll Maker, one of Jones' early works, because the illustration on the front spoke to me of a similar relationship we can perceive but not understand.
One day, a popular doll-maker receives an unexpected request from a young woman: to make her into a doll. When asked why, she states that she is being tormented by her heart, which has chosen someone she cannot have. The doll-maker falls in love with her but completes the task she has asked of him.
For me, The Doll Maker is about the human attempt to manage chaos. Chaos of the heart and the unbidden, uncalled emotions it torments us with. This chaos is clearly reflected in the art-style Jones has developed and which is visible in many of her other works (www.girlintherain.net). The colours spill out of the lines, refuse to obey a strict structure. An example can be seen here on the main cover (left) in the coat of the Doll Maker: the black smudges creep out like smoke, threatening to envelop the girl as it seeps through the white of her clothes and the Doll Maker apron.
Considering there are only two predominant colours in this short comic, black (absence of colour) and white (every colour), they are used to stunning effect. The high contrasts and this smoke-style art deepen our understanding of the character's turmoil by reacting to them. For example, after the Doll Maker has turned her into a doll, he falls to his knees and the darkness of his own grief creeps up from the floor (see bottom left). In the innocent white body of the girl, there is now a black hole where he took her heart out.
The panel work in this comic is beautifully varied, beginning with several standard three-tier pages before taking on more chaotic structures, such as multiple rectangular panels layered on top of a larger image. I found this aided in capturing the intimacies of the characters, as these small panels tended to focus on parts of them we might have otherwise overlooked: a cheek, the side of a mouth, a hand. Often I feel we are too focused on a character's face or their pose, overlooking details that are small but powerful. Jones achieves this with her gorgeous style and clever storytelling.
In terms of who these characters are, we are given very little as their past is not part of the story. It is their present that is the focal point. The girl is tormented and the doll-maker is lonely. No names are ever exchanged, only a kiss that the doll-maker demands as payment, his first kiss. There is an interesting trick played with the characters eyes. We never see the doll-makers, they are constantly shielded by goggles, perhaps protecting himself from emotions. The girl's eyes are very black when she enters the shop and remain so until she has become a dull, when they then turn into a hollow white, a simple switch that conveys the state of her internal state to great effect.
This was a very enjoyable comic and I recommend anyone who loves a good tragedy to buy it, even solely for the beautiful artistic merits. You can find out more about Sarah Jones' work on her website www.girlintherain.net, via Twitter @girlintherain_ as well as other social networking platforms.