Jennifer Diane Reitz creates some of the most fascinating and though-provoking comic book art around.
I started reading her wonderful pixel-drawn series Unicorn Jelly in late 2001, and the whole concept really gripped me. I found myself starting from the beginning and getting no work done. Apart from the fantastical characters and RPG-like faction– based infighting, she had created not just a universe, but a multiverse, along with a detailed universe classification system.
The universe in which the story of Unicorn Jelly takes place has its own very clearly defined physics, flora and fauna ( land– and sea-based), alphabet and history. These were built up and added to as the story went on, which made coming back to the site for the next instalment all the more interesting – “What will she think of next?”.
But that’s not the end of it. Pastel Defender Heliotrope takes place in a different universe (but the same multiverse, obviously) – most of the time. Reitz is now exploring what would happen if residents of one universe found a way to access another. That is deliberately, rather than being stranded when a bubble of your universe is dumped in another (I hope I haven’t given too much away…).
Rather than pixel-drawn, the new series is (digitally) painted in a lush colourful style, which gives the whole a nice cartoony feel. As the story progresses, it’s becoming clear that despite being set in a new universe, Unicorn Jelly and PDH have more than an author (Or should I say Creator?) in common. It’s full of strange machines, political intrigue, detailed backstory and interesting characters. I’ll be following closely.
Talking of characters, Jennifer Diane Reitz is quite a character herself. She was one of the founders of the great games website HappyPuppy.com (now sold and commercialised). She also co-wrote the Amiga and PC game Boppin’, which has some graphics and concepts in common with UJ and PDH, now I think of it – dimensional doorways, multi-universes, and so on. She is part of a group marriage with 3 spouses, created the Transsexual.org advice and support website, and is a self-confessed Otaku. Indeed, she co-runs Otaku World which is a great anime portal.
She has the transsexual angle in common with Dani Bunten, co-creator of the seminal Commodore 64 game M.U.L.E. a 4-player colonization sim, set on the space frontier. And let’s not forget Wendy Carlos, formerly Walter, who composed music for The Shining and Tron, and produced amazing electronic, vocoder-enhanced versions of classics for films like A Clockwork Orange.
What are we to conclude from this? Transsexuals make good games and music? Some form of link between change and creativity? I don’t know. The gender thing is irrelevant to me, apart from being a tenuous thread through a poorly thought-out article. Still, great comics, great games, great music. Cheers.