When Nonsense Collides!


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part nine

I can’t always hit out of the park. Every cartoonist will have strips they just don’t like, ones that sounded good in principle but landed with a dull thud upon delivery;
much to their ever-lasting dismay. The first strip in this collection holds, for me, the title of  (adopt Comic Book Guy from ‘The Simpsons’ voice, here) “Worst.... Strip.... Ever!”
Have a look, and I will explain why:

Above: yehhhh - that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? This joke could have worked, it should have worked; but perhaps due to the clunkiness of both the dialogue
(especially in the last panel) and the situation itself (Why is Artie suddenly wearing a singlet?!) , it just doesn’t. Or maybe it’s the fact that in said last panel, Artie and Gene
look like they are genuinely, painfully injured and in psychological distress.... it just feels, I don’t know, uncomfortable. Like I placed them in a situation where they really got
hurt. If (and that’s a big if) I was doing the joke again today, I would definitely rewrite the dialogue - especially Artie’s non sequitur rejoinder at the end, which has all the
hallmarks of ‘I have no idea what else to write, so I’ll just stick something absurd in there’ - and keep the specifics of Gene’s rough handling ‘off-panel’: perhaps by simply
having his voice coming out of a bucket (amping up the comedic value while minimising the body horror), and making him irate rather than inches-from-death (“My theory
still stands, dangit!”) But anyway, on a lighter note:

Above: Thaaaaat’s better. Getting the cognitive disconnect between panel three and panel four right this time, not having the foggiest idea why Gene being proven wrong
about an old adage causes THAT to happen, makes this situation 120,000% more funny than ‘explaining it’ and having it ‘make sense’ - one of the big no-no’s in comic strip
humour, as I’ve no doubt said in the past.

Top: Yes, I set up that entire scenario, a fictional company, and three panels of build-up, just so I could plunk down an inexorably-awful pun. You’re welcome. Sometimes
the worst jokes are the best jokes.... And I would assume that Artie’s expression in the last panel perfectly replicates yours at this precise moment, right?
Bottom: Oh, and the groan-worthy puns keep coming! I was on fire that day! Also of note: what is clearly an INCREDIBLY well-researched ‘70’s Disco suit
on the afflicted Cosmosian....

Above: Finally, my first proper on-screen (on-panel?) appearance, again interacting with the other cast members in a fourth-wall push-over-ing display of self-effacing
humour. Aside from the highly-accurate depiction of my iron grip on the world of industrialised comic strip production (well, minus the hover-lounger.... and the multi-million
dollar testing facility.... and the glamorous fiancée.... and pretty much everything else, really), we get a good size comparison between the average Cosmosian - at the most,
just under three feet tall - and the average human being, i.e, me. I try to keep this scaling consistent across all of the appearances of humans in the Cosmosian world: if I draw
one or the other too large or too small at the pencils stage, it is immediately apparent (and it just offends my sense of aesthetics), and get changed post-haste....


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part eight

By this stage of the game - being firmly entrenched at Auckland University, and with assignments of all sorts demanding their fair share of time - Cosmos was
primarily being presented in black-and-white, with only the odd Sunday strip making with the CMYK spectrum, when I had the time to break out the coloured pencils.
Not that there was anything wrong with the other stuff, of course:

Above: It’s the first appearance of.... Me! Not that you could tell, of course, given my burial beneath the rubble of that dislodged Cosmos logo. Still, this was
my continuation of a tradition common to many comic strips over the years: having cartoon versions of the creator/s show up in their own strip, interacting with / being
pestered by their characters. I don’t draw myself into proceedings that often, though, because - of course - my ego isn’t THAT huge. There’s Macy’s peace badge
back again, but.... What’s with the Angelina Jolie lips?! Freaky.

Top: The best-laid plans of Gene.... 10/10 for originality, 1/10 for execution, old chap.
Bottom: Want to smell like an old-school newspaper comic strip section, or a silver age comic book? Ax Maxwell, chemist extraordinaire has you covered.
No idea how many bottles of the stuff he sold, but I imagine his profit margins would have been.... considerable.

Top: Ironically, Cosmos is probably 900% more eco-friendly than Earth is, and likely wouldn’t even HAVE any ozone hole problems, but....
oh well. I wanted to do social commentary, I guess.
Bottom: The Big Bob corporate empire returns! It’s scary to wonder just how many fingers he has in how many pies, given that he seems to have
a portfolio for just about every conceivable consumer business out there....

Top: Wow, Gene doesn’t even have to say anything to be hilarious - here’s one facet of comic strip physics on display....
Bottom: And here is another! This is certainly a.... creative solution to extorting movie tickets out of your parents, I have to say. One has to wonder exactly what
cartoon characters are made out of  to allow their anatomy to be dismantled / altered / mangled / rearranged in such a fashion - bring on my next masters thesis!



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part seven

The Cosmosian comics onslaught continues, with another tasty assortment of strips!

Top: I’m not sure whether Gene is vain, exactly, but he certainly seems to have a high opinion of himself; perhaps as he is (one of) the protoypes for the
Type Three Cosmosian. Good thing Artie and his dry wit are there to give him a much-needed bit of perspective....
Bottom: Wow, Gene really not showing himself in a good light in these strips, is he? Especially in these early days, he could be rather.... what’s the word
I’m looking for here?.... childish. Clearly, Artie and Ax are making an effort to broaden his horizons about Star Trek here, but nope, Gene ain’t budging....

Above: Another good example of a strip that would only be ruined with the addition of ‘helpful explanation’ - it’s far funnier not knowing what precisely is going on until
you hit the last panel, when Artie’s amazed exclamation abruptly makes the preceding bizzarre goings-on make sense (at which point, everyone who I showed this trip
to laughed their heads off, a good sign). Gene’s silent and furious glare at Artie (perhaps being deliberately naive?) in that final panel also sells the joke.

Top: Gene just doesn’t know when to stop. Being able to break the fourth wall, and as a result knowing he is a cartoon character, gives Mr. Ellis a bit of an ego when
it comes to dictating what goes on in Cosmos. Up to and including, apparently, smack-talking the ‘artist’ - i.e, me. Dangerous ground there, my son....
Bottom: perhaps foreshadowing Pixar’s ‘Monsters Inc.’ , this strip posits the question ‘What if your daughter said there was a monster in her closet.... and she
wasn’t imagining things?’ The fact that both Dad and the Monster look equally baffled in the third panel adds another level to the joke, I think.

Above: These strips were supposed to be the first part of a much longer sequence in which Artie, Gene and co. would attempt (and hilariously fail) to create their own
Japanese monster movie; riffing on everything from bad dubbing to plastic tanks and shonky cardboard-box buildings. Unfortunately, either because I couldn’t think of
where to go next, or I just got busy with other things (I was at Uni by this stage), it never got any further - but never fear! In 2001, I delivered a full-length Tohoscope
spectacular in the form of ‘Genezilla: King of the Cosmonsters!’



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part six

Early in the year 2000, I seem to have come to a radical conclusion: given their rough-around-the-edges state, nobody was ever going to want to read any of my very first comics from 1999. Back then, of course, I had no idea I would one day be presenting this blog, nor that Cosmos would still be going umpteen dozen years later; so it is perhaps understandable that I thought that those early efforts were nigh on unprintable. Certainly, much of the dialogue was cramped, messy and often unreadable (I have, in fact, retyped the dialogue in many of my 1999 strips using a typeface based on my own handwriting for this blog; it was that bad), and the art was admittedly pretty scruffy. Not being aware of Photoshop and Indesign at that point, however, I decided on a typical Jon doing-it-the-hard-way-is-easier-than-doing-it-the-easy-way plan: I would recreate the best of the 1999 proto-strips with my new artistic ability (as shown below), thereby ensuring the jokes contained therein would not go to waste:

I’m not sure how far I intended to go with this - I vaguely remember wanting to add the ‘Cos-Tastic Four’ strip to this roster, and considering revamping Cosmos Trek with the ‘lost scenes’ incorporated into the story - but only five strips actually got the Special Edition treatment; the four above during 2000 and the last (the ‘What are you in here for?’ space prison one) during 2004. Continuity nightmare though they are (did Dr. Nitro really diagnose the same guy with an acute case of Neo-Cubism two times in a row?), the revamps do clearly show just how much my artwork and layout skills had improved in the space of just one year, when they and the originals are shown side-by-side!



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part five

I enjoy making cartoons about Murph - while he does act like a typical feline (egotistical, self-centred, vain and borderline sociopathic), his anthropomorphic nature
allows me to blend a whole range of both human-like and cat-like behaviours into his personality; which in turn makes him a very interesting and fun character to write.
Being more cunning and creative than a normal (i.e, non-cartoon) animal, his interactions with Gene can be oftentimes rather dramatic:

Above: clearly, like any sane cat, Murph abhors the concept of baths; especially when he is the one who has to take them. Gene’s preparations in the
first strip may seem over the top, but an angry Murph is rather unpredictable.....

Above: Murph’s first Sunday strip! Looking at it now, I’ve noticed some rather baffling set continuity issues - Panel one: spotted table cloth, Panel two:
checkerboard tablecloth; Panel three: spotted tablecloth;  Panels four thru seven: checkerboard tablecloth / Panel two: checkerboard neckerchief; Panel four:
plain neckerchief; Panel five thru seven: no neckerchief at all! 2000 Jon, what the hey?!

Top: Ah, vanity colliding with ill-concieved decision-making.... the building blocks of comedy. Note the cameo appearance of Dr. Nitro in the final panel;
he seems to be the default medical professional in Pago Grande.
Bottom: a one-shot sequel to my earlier (1999) ‘Beware of the dog’ strips; and the first Cosmos cartoon I actually had published anywhere (the Auckland University
student magazine ‘Craccum’). I seem to have - partly - learned my lesson from the first series: the dog is at least somewhat alien in appearance, with his little
antenna-ears and tail. It is still, however, nothing like the Cosmosian ‘dog’ ended up being later on. Oh well....

Above: more golfing humour, and another appearance by Dr. Nitro; moonlighting as a psychiatric specialist! That fellow either has a wide range of skills, or
Pago Grande is particularly short of qualified doctors....