Discover Riana Dorsey’s captivating world in her webcomic Suihira: The City of Water, a story about a Princess named Wahira, who travels through the desert outside her kingdom to fulfill her goddess’s task. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dorsey about her ideas and Wahira’s narrative arc.
If you can’t tell already from my monthly roundups, I search and read SFF (sci-fi & fantasy) webcomics that explore themes of mental health. In Suihira, Wahira copes with depression through her devotion to an abandoned deity called Akia, the creator of Suihira. When Akia appears before Wahira and sets a task, Wahira doesn’t hesitate to forsake her life for this journey. My interview with Riana Dorsey discusses the structure and character development in this wonderful webcomic which I’ve listed in my April roundup post.
The Geekiary: Excited to talk to you! Let’s start with introducing yourself.
Riana Dorsey: I’m Riana, a comic artist and illustrator born, raised, and based in Southern California. Excited to talk to you, too!
TG: First off, I admire your execution of the world, story, and characters in Suihira. The imaginative worldbuilding and impressive character development are jaw-dropping. I’m curious to know how it all came about. Tell us about your creative process and how Suihira began for you.
Dorsey: Thank you very much! The world and characters are somewhat cumulative of everything I love and find fascinating. The characters came first, being reflections of myself and people around me. Then the world was born out of my love of desert landscapes and colors. The idea for a world without oceans came from a documentary I saw in a college geology class called Drain the Ocean, where the geology and geography of the ocean floor are explored through footage and computer-generated recreations. I thought a story taking place in a world without oceans due to some sort of disaster was the coolest idea. The city of “Suihira” itself was inspired by trips to Berchtesgaden in the German Alps where I visited family. The beautiful forests and the shimmering, turquoise glacial lake that was the Königsee was so fantastical to me as someone who grew up in a semi-arid region. Characters seeking a place like this in a harsh, oceanless world was an interesting contrast.
The subject of faith is inspired again by my upbringing in Southern California, where faith was diverse, even in my immediate family. I originally was shy about having it be central to the story, knowing that it’s a tough subject in many respects, but my friend and mentor A.M. Alecci had the idea of Wahida being religious. Suddenly, there was a story in the world I conjured in my head. On top of it all, it was a good means to explore my thoughts and feelings about faith in terms of what it means to different people and how it plays a role in society. Wahida’s character development is how encountering the world beyond the familiar is challenging her conceptions on life, including the faith in the water goddess Akia that she holds so dear. I feel it’s analogous to what we all go through navigating life in one way or another.
TG: Personally, Wahida’s character hits close to home. She’s coped with loneliness — her emotions and depression brushed aside by her family — through her devotion to the goddess Akia, a deity that rarely anyone in the present narrative worships anymore. The people of Iona insist that Akia had abandoned them long ago. Of course, Wahida believes otherwise and decides to travel through the desert to complete Akia’s request. Wahida is a complex and complicated character. I’d like to know how you’ve created and worked on her.
Dorsey: As I mentioned in the previous question, Wahida is a reflection of myself in a few respects. After I decided to make her religious as a means to drive the story forward, I thought to make her very religious. While I am religious/spiritual, I was never even close to being as passionate about faith as Wahida. What I was, however, was obsessive. If I was into something growing up, you would know about it. It was common for those around me to express exasperation over me constantly talking about my favorite things. It was pretty hurtful and alienating. I eventually grew out of it, finding relief in others with my interests online but also learning to be self-aware, critical and learning to work with my obsessive tendencies to be a productive person. Wahida’s character development is a reflection of all this, with faith as the obsession. I’m very interested in exploring her own journey where she finds other open and like-minded people but also learns to be critical and self-aware, even if it’s hard for her.
TG: What are your favorite movies, TV shows, books, etc.? Anything that inspired Suihira?
Dorsey: The traditionally animated Dreamworks films left a big impression on me growing up. I still feel that those films have some of the most incredible animation and art in cinema, and have definitely inspired Suihira a bit. That being said, I think Bambi might be my favorite movie. The expressionist interpretation of the forest through music and art is so magical and inspiring to me. I am also fascinated by the works of Osamu Tezuka, especially Jungle Emperor, Black Jack, and Buddha–be they the anime, manga, or feature animation. I’m especially fond of the Jungle Emperor film from 1997. I feel Tezuka’s works inspired me to touch upon more personal, mature themes in the narrative than what most expect paired with colorful and stylized cartoon art. Video games are also a huge inspiration for me as well. I love the fantasy and worldbuilding of games such as World of Warcraft and the Elder Scrolls Series. Red Dead Redemption was also an inspiration for Suihira in some respects.
TG: Aside from Suihira, are you working or planning anything else?
Dorsey: Besides Suihira, I’m working to get back into illustration and fine art. I’ve been studying traditional painting again and I’d like to sketch and paint outdoors and on-location.
Webcomics that Riana Dorsey Recommends:
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomic archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine, a reader for Bodega Magazine, a volunteer for the Queer SFF Book Database, and an intern for Entangled Publishing. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.
Location: DC Metro area
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