The 3rd of January, 1999. Mark that date in your calendars, people, because—for me, at least—it’s a significant day in the annals of history: the day I drew my very first Cosmos strip.
At the point in time, I was sitting awkwardly between the end of my animation school year and (unbeknownst to me then) a far more lucrative science degree at university; and, quite frankly, I needed something to do. So, I set myself the task of creating a four-panel newspaper-type strip—I had concocted other characters and stories in the past, but they’d never really gone anywhere.... now, however, I knew the rudiments of effective comedy and comic strip construction, so my nascent creation actually had a chance of survival. I’m not sure how I came up with the name ‘Cosmos’, or where the design for the characters came from (probably I just made them up on the spot), but within a short period of time, I had a couple of comic strips:
These little green aliens—the prototypes for what today I call ‘Type One Cosmosians’—are clearly inspired by Jim Davis’ Garfield, my primary reference at the time: they (for the most part) talk in thought bubbles, and have their eye lids at half-mast; giving them a default facial expression of ‘bored’. They had no names, all looked the same; and existed in an ambiguously-defined environment. The entire strip itself, in fact, was a blank slate.... Nevertheless, I guess I felt I was onto a good thing, since I kept right on rolling:
I like to call this stage in the development of any project the ‘flailing around in the dark’ phase—without any clear direction to go in, I try anything and everything, in as many different directions as possible; until things start to link up and form into coherent patterns. What results is a whole wealth of ideas (some good, some awful) that give me any number of options to pursue; which in turn may spark off other things later on. And that’s certainly the case with Cosmos: all of these early strips, at least, are unique; and despite no real guiding principle behind them (aside from pop-cultural silliness, of course) I’m clearly having fun coming up with random little jokes. And that’s the important thing, right?
TO BE CONTINUED....
Call him the original Cosmosian.
Although, when he first popped into my subconscious, he wasn’t actually a Cosmosian at all—since Cosmos, as a distinct entity, did not spring into being until
six months afterwards, in January of 1999. But, if we are to be absolutely, scrupulously honest here, to say nothing of adhering to chronological accuracy....
Professor Phineas Percival Pod did indeed come first.
One idle 1998 lunchtime during my one and only year at animation school (otherwise known as ‘too-far-too-soon-after-high-school’), I was fiddling around with a bunch of random doodles when I hit upon a character I felt had a certain spark: a roly-poly, floating bean-shaped creature with a stern expression and giant nerd-glasses. Based on my original sketch of him—or rather, a hastily rubbed out and re-written name tag on said sketch—his name was originally going to be ‘Prof. Head’ (make of that what you will)! But clearly, that name offended my sense of iambic pentameter (or something), so I changed it to Professor Pod.... and a star was born.
He looked considerably different back then: his nose was far smaller, he had a protruding lower lip, and—foreshadowing the evolution of the Cosmosians that were to come—only had three fingers per hand. I did a selection of character expressions and poses to establish his character, and then a single-panel comic strip (which established his street-cred as a Mad Scientist, with a cyborg monkey sidekick called Zeek); which I presumably saw as leading on to bigger and better things.....
And then I completely forgot about him.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and the grand melting pot of ideas that is Cosmos was in full swing—I’d already incorporated several other old creature and prop doodles into the strip by that time (resulting in Murph and Newton, among other things), and one day I came across my Professor pod stuff. I thought “Oh, yeh.... this guy!” and made plans to incorporate him into the strip. Conveniently, I’d once coloured the Good Professor in the exact same shade of aqua-green as the Cosmosians ended up being, and he therefore was a shoo-in for inclusion. Without much more than a few cosmetic changes, he was instated as the strip’s resident super-genius, showing up whenever Artie and Gene needed to annoy someone with more expensive and dangerous stuff. Was it fate? Had Professor Pod been pre-destined to occupy his future role?
Or perhaps he’d been living on Cosmos all along, and by creating him I’d actually created Cosmos itself without even realising it, six months
before I made the first actual Cosmos strip....
TO BE CONTINUED....
If you've ever thought "Hey, PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair) sounds like a cool name for a cartoon character".... You're too late! The Fight Squad Project has beaten you to it! Bet you wish you hadn't spent all day sleeping in NOW, huh?
Well, if there's one thing I enjoy, at least as much as drawing, it's writin' me up a filksong! I'm not sure how I got into it - I suspect that the mad stylings of Mad Magazine parody songs and Weird Al Yankovic are to blame - and I certainly don't have any formal training writing songs or singing; but I seem to be developing the art quite nicely. I've done at least a dozen filk-things thus far, and there's quite a few others (in embryonic form) floating around in my subconscious: here's the latest two in the set, for your maximum enjoyment!
Okay, so, this arrived the other day:
To say “I would have waited an eternity for this moment” is neither a gratuitous (if highly appropriate) in-joke, nor an understatement: I really did
not expect to have this sucker in my possession. Ever. Although I do have the original 1986 Transformers movie soundtrack—on old-school
cassette tape, no less—this is an entirely different animal.... A complete collection of every bit of instrumental music composed for the film, by one
Vince Di Cola! Part of what made Transformers: The movie so unbearably awesome was Mr. Di Cola’s 80’s-tastic synth-rock anthems; which covered everything from epic battles to somber death scenes (spoiler alert: Prime doesn’t make it). But aside from legally-iffy recordings on Youtube and limited-editions-of-whoops-we’ve-sold-outalready compilations released at transformers conventions, how was I supposed to get my hands on some pure, unadulterated Vince-ness?
Well, thank you, intrada.com, I finally have my answer.
The CD has some lovely packaging, with the original movie poster on the cover (which also doubles as a pull-out booklet); and some screenshots
of Megatron being x-rayed / Galvatronicised, and the swirly ‘technovortex’ from the opening credits on the inside. The booklet itself presents a
potted history of the Transformers brand and 1986 movie, but more importantly tells you everything you need to know about Mr. Di Cola, his
contribution to the project (especially how he tailored his musical compositions to the different sequences in the story), and all the stuff he’s
been up to since. A good deal of this stuff i did not know before, which is an added bonus....
There are places, however, where I wonder how carefully the author fact-checked his Transformers info before sending it off to print:
1) he states that many characters were trashed to ‘make way for a shiny new toyline’, but then provides the Insecticons, Dinobots and Constructicons
(who had all been around since midway-through season 1 of the TV show, and were hardly ‘new’ by 1986) as examples,
2) the Insecticons are called ‘Insectoids’ and the Junkions ‘Junkticons’ (what, did they switch sides or something?),
3) the Matrix of Leadership is referred to as ‘the hope-giving Energon crystals’, and
4) love-him-or-hate-him human companion Daniel Witwicky is described as ‘the spunky human kid Kevin.’
Who the flip-flopping flippity-flop is Kevin?!
Ah, you can but laugh.
The CD—obviously, the meat in this Transformers sandwich of Awesome—contains a whopping 25 music tracks (nearly 75 minutes worth),
all as originally composed and recorded; which were then fitted around the seven other equally-epic rock hits making up the aforementioned
soundtrack (such as ‘The Touch’ by Stan Bush and ‘Dare to be Stupid’ by Weird Al Yankovic). Listening to the unadulterated musical score—
several times, on high rotation, I will admit—it was interesting to note that even though the tracks are presented in ‘chronological order’, i.e,
matched to each major sequence in the film from start to finish, by Vince; in the final film several of them were either edited down,
shifted to a different scene, or swapped out for one of the soundtrack songs.
An example here is track 3, ‘Space Attack’—intended, if my story sequence / music progression idea is accurate, for when Megatron hijacks the
Autobot shuttle; but is replaced instead by NRG’s ‘Instruments of Destruction’ in the movie. However, all is not lost: track 19, ‘Decepticon attack’,
contains a variant of track three’s bombastic tune, and shows up (in full) during the Junkion sequence, where Galvatron and co. ambush
Ultra Magnus’ crew while they repair their crashed spacecraft.
One track that was definitely not in the movie is the last on the CD, ‘Legacy’—but if anything, it may be the most important of the lot: as it is the original
musical ‘proof of concept’ that Vince Di cola created to get himself the Transformers movie gig in the first place! It’s a brilliant piece of music in every
sense of the word, but this track holds an extra, special relevance for me personally.... I posted a YouTube link to it on my Yoobee film class
Facebook page, and everyone found it particularly inspiring: especially our tutor, who could henceforth be heard whistling the main ‘hero theme’
as he strolled down the corridors; played the entire thing as a musical accompaniment to a presentation later in the year; and then used it as the
theme song for our big1980’s-influenced end-of-course student film exhibition!