The Horror of Not Knowing: An Interview with Jenny-Toons, Creator of “Our Universe”
The cosmic horror genre pits human existence against the universe. Human life seems no more than a speck when considering the infinite corners and possibilities beyond our solar system. Even the oceans contain undiscovered life and phenomena. Jenny-Toons’s webcomic Our Universe shows the horror of knowing every single thing about a loved one.
Our Universe, a cosmic horror romance webcomic, revolves around Brenda and her partner Christina, from their first meeting to their marriage. Christina has stars in her eyes and refuses to reveal her true name. But Brenda wants to know everything about her wife. Jenny-Toons excels in unraveling the consequences of Brenda’s decisions. Like with cosmic horror in general, the webcomic doesn’t resort to gore or shock value to get the point across. The “horror” in this story is the fact that we don’t know everything about our loved ones. Jenny-Toons shares her creative process and inspiration into creating Our Universe.
The Geekiary: So glad you’re here! Let’s start with introducing yourself.
Jenny-Toons: Thank you for having me! I’m just a gal from Chicago who has a love for story-telling. I’ve been working on comics since grade-school, but 2017 was the year I really dove into webcomics and decided to get serious. I really like to experiment with genres and visual art, though everything always falls back to horror. I dunno – it just speaks to me, you know?
TG: Our Universe has a fantastic premise, and I strongly believe that you’ve executed the story beautifully. I’m curious to know how this cosmic horror romance came about for you. What’s your creative process?
JT: Our Universe started as a short story.
I wanted to write about a woman with stars in her eyes and the romance she’d experience. The short story depicted a “summer romance”: but with more development, I decided to expand it into a comic – and thus make the romance long-term.
When I first started the comic, I had no script. I just had a couple of character designs and a rough storyboard. In my mind’s eyes, Our Universe was going to be as short as the written story. But over time, it developed bigger concepts, bigger themes, and I realized I had to develop the root story a bit more. So, after season 1 ended, I took a break and made scripts for seasons 2 and 3. I suppose that’s why season 1 is so short in comparison.
I will say it was a good learning process. As of now, I start all my comic ideas with scripts. I prefer 75% – 100% of the script done before starting on panels. It gives me more room to make buffer pages for updating, and it’s nice to refer back to notes.
TG: In Our Universe, Brenda strives to know everything about her partner, Christina, the woman with stars in her eyes. Christina warns her not to, but of course, Brenda does anyway. The story shows the consequences of knowing someone else’s secrets, even without their consent. In real life, we don’t know everyone and everything. Some people don’t mention their trauma, talk about their families, or reveal certain things about themselves. Some of these people take their secrets to the grave. It’s impossible to know everything about the ones we meet, know, or love. In most cases, it’s better to not know. How has Brenda’s character developed for you?
JT: This is such a great observation, and it’s one of the bigger points I strive to talk about. Because you’re right – we don’t know everything about the people we love, and we shouldn’t. People deserve their privacy, and we ought to respect that, even if we’re coming from a place of love.
For Brenda, I wanted to contrast that idea of “selfless love,” which we see a lot in romance stories. The kind of love that doesn’t leave room to care for yourself and caring a bit TOO much for your partner – to the point where it’s invasive. ‘Course, that doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person with horrible intent. But it can make it hard to let trust and individualism breathe. For Brenda, she wanted to know so much because she wanted to prove she loved “Christina” despite anything. She wanted to show that the comic horror would not make her run away.
But in the process, she nearly got killed, and we barely got to see the two of them as people. Season 2 was really focused on the relationship, rather than what they do on their own, and I wanted to make that point. Brenda was so focused on being good enough for her wife, she nearly forgot that “Christina” already knew this: she never had to prove anything.
I feel a lot of us are like Brenda.
Sometimes, we go to high lengths for our loved ones because we just care that much. But sometimes, that care is suffocating (for ourselves and them), and we forget to leave room to be separate people. Even more, we might end up giving too much of ourselves and leave little room to love ourselves. That’s why I wanted to end it with Brenda realizing she didn’t need to know everything. She has to trust “Christina” to know she loves her and just…appreciate what she has now.
Season 2 was about the relationship – but Season 3 will be about individualism within relationships. I want to focus more on Brenda and Christina as people, and what they love to do on their own.
TG: What are your favorite books, TV shows, movies, etc.? Anything that inspired Our Universe?
JT: A lot of ’80s media (both direct and inspired) helped with Our Universe. For the horror aspect, I pulled from John Carpenter’s two movies The Thing and Prince of Darkness. For the romance element, I listened to a lot of dream-pop (such as Beach House and Men I Trust) and 80s new-wave (such as The Cars).
But overall, Our Universe is a love letter to the following sub-genres: folk horror, cosmic horror, and Gothic horror. When you dig deeper, they have a big focus on Romanticism – how the search for knowledge and obsession go hand-in-hand and can be dangerous if you’re not careful.
I also like how these sub-genres show longing and desire in a way you don’t always see in romance. There’s a bit more spirituality to it, and while most of it isn’t shown to be romantic, I like how easily these depictions still fit with the romance genre.
TG: Are you working or planning anything else besides Our Universe?
JT: I currently have four other comics I see-saw between:
My Demon Valentine: A romantic comedy between a woman and a demon.
With Butterflies in Her Hair: A Gothic horror centered on regret, obsession, and the five stages of grief after a man murders his wife.
Juliet’s 24th Birthday: A Bluebeard inspired horror about a young woman discovering her new husband’s dark obsession.
Belief: A mythological thriller about a young warrior trying to save her people from a Nameless God.
As you can see, I really enjoy working with horror and the supernatural. I think most (if not all) of my comics will dive into these aspects. All five comics can be read on Webtoon for free (though I do post My Demon Valentine and Our Universe on Tapas)!
Our Universe is available to read on WebToon.
Webcomics that Jenny-Toons Recommends:
Swordid by Momojiji (Comedy/Fantasy)
Hidden Charm by MerkuryArt (Thriller/Supernatural)
Bropocalypse by ZAIF0N (Comedy/Post-Apocalyptic)
Amunito by Hambonous (Fantasy/Action/Mystery)
Sister Jack by M.Lang (Horror/Thriller)
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives! You can check out more about Black creators and their works on The Geekiary here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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