Jeremy Baum’s comics imply other worlds. They imply secret worlds inside our heads and secret worlds inside our hearts. They imply totalitarian worlds where the generals rule and they imply pastoral worlds of magic, nymphs and mysterious mountains. They imply worlds of symbolism and specificity, and they imply doppelgängers and cats walking upside down on the comic page and strange duplicated trees. His comic work implies a whole complex panoply of a universe that sucks the reader in and doesn’t let them go.
I first read Dörfler about a month ago, and the book’s been haunting me ever since. On the surface, its plot is pretty straightforward but the way Baum presents it is thoroughly dreamlike. Baum is one of those creators who seems to work on multiple levels simultaneously, playing with his favorite recurring motifs and his absorbing eye for detail to create a graphic novel that feels like no other.
I keep coming back to Dörfler to try to interpret the meaning of different symbols in it. What is the meaning of the giant hands in the forest that have a hole in the palm and some sort of glyph around them? What is the relationship between all the different women in this book and are they all the same woman? What is the meaning of the horned Bacchus type creature and how is he related to the horny nymphs who are always having sex? Is the world of the elfin seeming people a commentary on the totalitarian world in which many of the characters live? Do characters cross in between worlds as they like? Is the ending a moment of transcendence or resignation?
All these questions trouble and haunt me, make me consider my relationship with Baum’s creation and its often wordless sequences. He depends on the reader to make connections, draw conclusion, determine how things are comprehended in your mind – then he throws in moments that confuse and intrigue. The more you think about it the more Dörfler comes together for a reader; the more you think about the story in this book, the more this haunts you as a reader.
Maybe what this book presents is some sort of subjective-objective storytelling. It’s subjective because it seems to present the world from inside one or two characters’ heads, with symbolic meaning and complex emotions. At the same time it’s objective because all elements of the book pull together to tell a story that’s not surreal as much as it’s defiantly multi-layered, with symbols and objects that act as guidepaths for the more empathetic.
I first read Dörfler last month and have been haunted by it ever since. Writing about it now just makes me want to dig in more and spend more time with it. It’s fascinating and haunting, and just what I love most about independent graphic novels by smart and interesting creators. Dörfler is erotic and eerie, mysterious and magnificent.