I’m not sure if this comic has a formal chapter structure, so I’m not entirely sure how to label it. Nevertheless…
We open at some point during 2002! When this was published I was probably about ten years old.
This is pure black and white pixels, none of that antialiasing nonsense, kind of like many parts of MS Paint Adventures. Unlike MSPA, I don’t think this makes any use of sprites, and from the start it’s impressively detailed, making nice use of patterns to create tone.
Anyway there’s some kind of bubble thing. Someone says some Latin: “Deus iniqui infernus epastusaum super me” which Google translate helpfully renders as “God unrighteous hell epastusaum over me” and I cannot find any other use of of “epastusaum” except in a quotation on the Unicorn Jelly forums. The forum people seemed to view it as something about Earth already being hell? Classicists please help.
If you scroll up in that thread, by the way, you can see JDR getting involved in an online discussion on religion…
Moving on, we’re get a very pretty splash page. I don’t know what sort of drawing software was available back in 2002, but I know drawing even a small amount of grass with a mouse in GIMP is very tedious and fiddly. Plus conifers, and a detailed perspective drawing of a house. So props to the art here.
Oh yeah and the comic self-describes as a “A philosophical and metaphorical science fiction story with a definitive beginning and ending”.
Backgrounds stop happening on the next page.
Characters to begin with are the eponymous unicorn jelly and someone in a robe and anime hair carrying a staff.
The copyright has jumped back to 2000, and there’s a link to a retconned version of the strip where the human had a wizard hat. On that page we learn their names: Lupiko (human) and Uni(-corn jelly).
Some info about the lifecycle of unicorn jellies: they begin as puddles of slime, get pissed on by a unicorn, and eventually become unicorns themselves? And there is a hierarchy of ‘monsters’ of which Slimes/Oozes are the lowest rung, with Jellies just above them. Jellies have a city called Visco City.
For some reason there’s an AU side comic in which there’s a Jelly sex worker?
We can probably guess that given her email is on the domain otakuworld.com, JDR is something of a weaboo. Sure enough Lupiko casually drops Japanese words.
This feels like a trans girl narrative already.
“Normally, UNICORN JELLY is supposed to be a pure, Black-and-White, MangaStrip artform. However, once in a rare while, it is interesting to play with painting the purity of the Black & White medium” ……nerd
Speaking of nerd, apparently JDR wanted to issue DnD stats for the various jellies. Looking at it…
- it looks like 3.x DnD. Judging by the mention of subdual damage, which was renamed to nonlethal damage in 3.5, it must be 3.0.
- JDR takes alignments pretty seriously and has some kind of ranking of alignments from CE through to LG.
- some pretty fucked up “civilisation” stuff: “Rare variations with higher intelligence and an attraction to higher alignments may attempt to copy Human or Elvish civilization, even to the point of tool use, homes and castles, and weapons and armor.” …like damn that’s kinda even more awful than DnD’s fucked up colonialist-myths-by-way-of-‘monsters’ tropes?
- “The Bideokeemu are physically sexless, but have an internal gender moiety that may be male, female, or some combination, just as in humanoid species. This gender moiety is stable and permanent from the start, and affects the Bideokeemu’s behavior and affiliations.”
- I know JDR was pretty infamous for the COGIATI and everything. I presume ‘gender moiety’ is an early formulation of ‘gender identity’?
- …ok no it just basically means binary.
- “Special Attack: Annihilation Charge 1D20 per level of Unicorn Jelly. A successful attack that does more than 18 points damage will generate a purity shockwave that can shatter glass (1D6) or disrupt undead or evil (1D8) for a radius of ½ mile around the target. Annihilation Charge can only be used once per entire campaign, and only when the life of the Unicorn Jelly, or the life of a loved one is clearly in mortal danger. After any successful use of the Annihilation Charge a roll must be made to save versus instant death for the Unicorn Jelly, DC 18 A failure to make this Difficulty Class roll results in the total dispersion of the Jelly. Only a wish or similar power can restore the creature.”
- so a high powered heroic sacrifice attack. I am absolutely certain this will happen at some point in the campaign.
- “Unicorn Jellies, though alone in the world by construction, are by nature lonely, and desire close bonds and friendships, which they will honor with their very lives. Unicorn Jellies love to cuddle and snuggle, and are warm, dry, and soft to the touch (other than the horn, of course)” …awww
Like most DnD game design I feel like there’s a lot of unnecessary clutter… but that’s DnD.
I think Uni did the Annihilation Charge power right then, because the town just got nuked haha
The angry mob of slimes disagrees on what gender to assign Uni… again shades of what transmisogyny looks like haha
The Jelly sex worker, whose name is KayWai (usually rendered with the -Kun honorific but honestly) recurs in the AU strips, and is generally a very sympathetic character. An AU strip uses ‘he’ pronouns for KayWai and Uni but this may be because it’s a yaoi parody.
Lupiko finally shows up as a ‘witch’ in a party of DnD style adventurers.
Verdict so far: it comes across like a DnD parody comic, but I’m a lot more interested in this one than your average DnD comic, partly because I know it goes more interesting places.