A Universe of Her Own: How One Girl Creates More Worlds than Anyone Knew Existed

By Carly Loken

Carly Loken
Jessica Armendariz Gallardo, a junior at Loy Norrix, draws a cartoon dragon circling through the surface of the water. By practicing cartooning, she hopes to refine her skills so that one day she will be able to translate her drawings to a T.V. screen. Photo Credit, Carly Loken

One of the best parts about rewatching movies or T.V. shows from your childhood is being able to put the goggles clouded by childhood innocence back on and simply enjoy watching a world unfold before your eyes. It’s a method of ultrafast transportation into a different universe, full of stories, adventures, and novelties. Jessica Armendariz Gallardo soaks up all of these stories, learns from them, lives in them, and then creates her own, in hopes that one day, she’ll be able to share them.
Jessica is a junior at Loy Norrix and has lived in Kalamazoo her entire life. She went to Milwood Elementary and Milwood Magnet Middle School. Although she’s been in this community throughout her life, Jessica has a unique exposure and understanding of a culture other than the one that immediately surrounds her, as both of her parents are from Mexico.
Jessica’s mother moved to the U.S. when she was 18 and her father moved here when he was 12. With them, they brought a vast knowledge of a world that is very different from ours. Jessica received this knowledge with a curious glint in her eye and a desire to explore whatever worlds and cultures she could, even if it was from the comfort of her own living room. Additionally, her knowledge about multiple cultures has developed into a special appreciation for the exploration of different cultures through art and stories.
“When I think of stories, I think of all of the possibilities,” Jessica explained with a passionate glint in her eyes.
Jessica is a lover of cartoons, shows, movies, and anything else that can tell a tale of adventure and a universe far from what she already knows. One of her favorite places to visit after a long day is the Transformer universe. Although normally a quiet person, when she talks about her love of such a creative and large universe of stories and characters, she speaks with vivid details and obvious excitement that show her passion and knowledge of Transformers and the creation of stories.
According to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), between 1984 and 2018, there have been over 40 different remakes and reboots that have contributed to expanding the Transformers universe. They are in a variety of formats including movies, T.V. shows, and video games.
Jessica loves the different generations of Transformers and will readily debate the cartoon version versus the live action movies. But mostly, she feels nostalgic for her childhood when she would immerse herself in the various stories from that universe.
“I think a cartoon should grow up with you,” she said while discussing how the Transformers world is still being added to. She loves that the series has had reboots. Although it’s the same characters that she adored as a child, the story is still growing.
In addition to enjoying consuming stories, Jessica loves creating them too. Being an artist herself, and possessing a vivid imagination, Jessica has the enviable ability to create worlds of her own. She loves to draw cartoons and started developing her art as a child, using inspiration from her favorite shows. Jessica has the rare ability and persistence needed to create a brand new world and infuse it with the personalities of the characters she creates.
“When I make characters, I like to think of them in their own little universe. Like a snow globe,” Jessica said.
In her own stories, she likes to use different environments, characters, and cultures. She loves adding variety in her own work because she feels networks such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are missing that aspect and have a limited span of show topics now.
Unlike many people who choose to criticize a situation, Jessica actually has a plan to change the wrongs she sees in the world. When she’s older, she wants to create cartoons and fix the lack of variety in television.
“In their golden ages, they had a variety of shows,…, if I didn’t like one thing, I could watch another,” Jessica said, clearly aware of the difference between the shows from her childhood, and the shows of modern television.
In the “Livestrong” article “How Much T.V. Does the Average Child Watch Each Day” by Kay Uzoma, they found that children ages eight to eighteen watch an average of four and a half hours of T.V. a day. The many different types of viewers are going to be interested in multiple different things. With four hours to spend consuming media, they need a lot of different options to stay engaged. Jessica wants to cater to this large audience full of different types of people and is sure that producing shows with people and characters from all different backgrounds with unique stories will give anyone who watches cartoons something to connect with.
In preparation for her future career which normally requires a bachelor’s degree in either animation, graphic design, or fine arts according to “Study.com,” Jessica is currently taking basic design and plans to take water color and cartooning classes while she is still in high school. Jessica draws daily, whether it’s doodling in class or something to pass the time when she gets bored at home. She already has multiple ideas for cartoons she wants to produce in the future.
One of the ideas she is most excited about is creating a crossover of characters from different universes that all end up having connections one way or another.
In contrast to many other creators, Jessica’s process for coming up with stories starts uniquely, “Most people develop a story and then make the characters, but I like to draw the character and then come up with the story.” Jessica continued, “When you see them, you can tell sorta what their story is.”
Jessica takes the drawings that she creates in-between writing government notes and doing chemistry problems and turns them into complex characters that have interesting stories which take place in alternate universes.
While the rest of us sit at desks and allow the fake wood to trap our ambitions and constrict our imagination, Jessica uses their metal legs and sturdy surface to hold up the worlds that she draws, a universe to fit all her characters.