Otaku Creatrix Plus X Zero

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 factionbased 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?”.

Unicorn Jelly came to an end on March 7, 2003, with an Epilogue running until 14 April. The saga, along with all the extra materials, is now available as two books.

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.