When Nonsense Collides!


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (1999) - part four

For better or worse, our friend Eugene Carmichael Ellis usually headlines whatever story he appears in; being pretty much an unstoppable force when he sets his mind to it. Kind of ironic then, that he is merely a bit-player in this next series of Cosmos strips—and only co-originator of the Type Three Cosmosian body-form! As with the other main cast members, he had a fairly low-key start, serving as a sounding board for the ramblings of another (unnamed) character:

Ignoring the rather, um, low-brow tone of the strip (Please? Can you do that for me?), we can see that Gene is A) named, B) sort of kind of wearing his signature costume, and C) already fitted with his signature snark. Nevertheless, he seems somewhat more restrained than he ended up being; and definitely plays second-fiddle to his cartoonist friend—almost as if.... GASP!.... he wasn’t intended to go any further. And for the rest of the month, he didn’t. The Type Three Cosmosian was in town, though, and rapidly added to the variety of the ad-hoc species Cosmos sapiens....

As you can see, Artie also made a return performance, looking even more clearly defined as his own character; and again watching movies with his Type One companion. The Type Two and Three variants were easier to individualise than the Type Ones, as I could give the former a more complete wardrobe than, say, ‘add a hat’ or ‘put eye-lashes / hair on it’; which is obviously why I kept using them after I introduced them—variety, as well as flexibility. Could I have gone as far with Cosmos if I’d just stuck with the Type One guys? Hmm, probably not; especially since, in their raw state, one generic Cosmosian looks exactly the same as another. My strip had to expand beyond its initial ‘random guys and random jokes’ motif to have any sort of a future.... and what do you know? Now it did!



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (1999) - part three

The dating on my earliest Cosmos strips is rather inconsistent—for example, I don’t think I drew up EVERY strip marked ‘3/1/99’ on the 3rd of January, 1999, let alone coloured them in; simply that I came up with the ideas on that day—but I can at least put them in the right sort of order to chart their evolution over time. By February of 1999, for example, I had something of a stable formula going: the little green guys were Cosmosians, and they were distinguished from one another by differences in size and shape, as well as costume. Still no continuing characters, though.... Oh, wait, no, never mind:

The first was the inimitable Dr. Nitro: he’s shown up here and there in the strip since, occasionally running afoul of Gene and co., but never really got to ‘main character’ status. He is important, though, not only being well-defined right from the get-go, but also being the first Cosmos character to get an actual name! But as for the next ones....

There was another solo appearance by Proto-Artie, looking much more like his final form, three-fingered hands notwithstanding; but he is still anonymous:

While the protagonist in my first-ever multi-part Cosmos story (which, unfortunately, I never really finished) is clearly one Ax Maxwell, right? But in the four strips I did for the tale of the ‘Fanboy Mafia’—really need to bring those guys back—no-one ever refers to him by name either! I clearly liked his modified-Type-One design (and his stripy hat, which he seems to have stolen from Proto-Artie), given that I used him for four strips in a row; but as to who he was, no-one reading it would have a clue. Furthermore, in the fourth strip:

Who were these people? Why are they helping Ax? Where did they even come from? In one fell swoop, I introduced Macy, brought back Artie, and directly linked them to Ax (thereby creating most of the main cast, to boot).... and then proceeded to give no clue as to who anyone even was! Oh, 1999-Jon.... It also doesn’t help that the joke doesn’t particularly make sense (I’m not entirely sure where I was going with that—let’s take Artie’s sage advice and leave before it does, huh?); so such a landmark strip falls just a liiiitle flat. Still, it was a start....

But hang on, wasn’t there someone missing?



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (1999) - part two

Remember what I said about the melting-pot mentality of my creative process last time? I never know what idea is going to bear fruit, or even where something is going to go once I’ve slapped it onto the page—and the next two proto-strips I created are a case in point. Rather than Type One generics, I decided (for whatever reason) to draw a spotted kangaroo-looking thing with a clever party trick: he could sneeze his spots off in mildly-humorous fashion:

Okay, I hear you asking, so what? I never used the Kangaroo-guy again, and he definitely wears the label ‘one-trick pony’....
but look at the second strip! It’s an entirely new type of Cosmosian!

It’s Artie!

Not that I knew it at that point. He was just an add-on character, a comic foil for the ‘Roo to wreak havok upon; and aside from saying ‘Gezundheit’, he doesn’t
even get to do anything! I certainly didn’t think ‘Okay, I’m going to introduce the prototypical Type Two Cosmosian in this strip, and it’ll help me get more ideas’—
he was just a random doodle, along with everyone else. And speaking of one-off characters:

See? A humanoid grey alien! Wearing a sweater! I was mixing all sorts of other stuff in with the essential Type One generics, who, were, obviously, still the core component of my infant universe; and about the only consistent element so far. They still flippy-flopped between using speech and thought bubbles to talk, and had difficulty deciding whether they all had three- or four-fingered (or toed?) hand-feet.... but at least they were getting somewhere....

Then, of course, the Type One’s and Type Two’s started appearing together on-panel. Now there’s another landmark event for you! Although the Type Two’s merely served as a bit of variety in Type One crowd scenes, I had now clearly established both of these green alien forms as ‘Cosmosians’; distinct from any of the other random creatures that had shown up thus far. And that was something I could build on.... Not only that, I’d laid the foundations for two other elements in the strip—the fact that the characters attended comic conventions, with all their attendant in-jokes and pop-cultural asides; and a place called ‘Pago Grande’, wherever that was. No, I have no idea where the name came from (I do know it translates as ‘Big Money’, so at least it’s coherent), and I strongly suspect that I just stuck two words together because they sounded good; but that doesn’t matter. The Cosmos-verse was starting to come together!



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (1999) - part one

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?



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School - prologue

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....

Whoa, freaky.