While I was at university, October and November were the time for studying for, and taking, our end-of-year exams - not so much for drawing comic strips. As a result,
that part of the year was a bit of a rest period for Cosmos: if I got any comics drawn up at all, it was usually during the brief periods when I took a break from revision, or
after finishing an exam. In 2000, I finished exactly zero comics during October, and a grand total of eight during November; one set of themed randoms on Gene’s drink
du jour of that time and a sort-of-story about a fun way to spend an idle Saturday afternoon....
Above: Oh, Gene. You do let yourself in for some frightful abuses at the hands of your beverages, don’t you? These strips continue Mr. Ellis’ inability to prepare coffee
that isn’t potentially-lethal to either himself or anyone around him - sure, you can make your coffee strong, but when it’s able to wrestle you to the ground and steal your car
(or simply eat through the table, alien-blood style), you know you’ve got a problem! I have to say, though, coming up with all these variations on one basic joke - and
thinking around corners that other cartoonists may not have ventured around before (perhaps for good reason?) - is something I derive enormous
enjoyment from: it’s a work-out for my brain!
Above: apparently, all you have to do to create an alien version of an Earth pastime is put ‘Astro’ or ‘Space’ in front of it..... interesting logic there, 2000-Jon. Ah, well, at
least Artie and Gene appear to be enjoying themselves; and giving me some decent strips in the bargain. The challenge with this story, if I remember correctly, was to
have enough variety in what was happening, given that the four strips basically boil down to ‘Artie or Gene take their turn hurling their ball down the lane’ - my solution
was to make the Astro-bowling pins just a little bit anthropomorphic, and actively resist the repetitive task of either being knocked over.... or not. Their reactions, and Artie
and Gene’s, well, reactions to their reactions, gave this story the necessary jolt of humour and save the individual strips being all samey-samey (or just dull).
And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
TO BE CONTINUED....
Let’s be honest here: Cosmos is weird, right? Odd characters, strange situations, utterly out-of-left-field ideas.... it was nothing like any comic book or strip I’d done before - partly because it, y’know, lasted more than two months - and allowed me to really cut my teeth on proper short-form story-telling. And speaking of weird comic strips....
Top: In the early days (and even up into the ‘New School’ iteration of Cosmos, it has to be admitted), I had the habit of writing very.... explain-y dialogue; which could in
many cases be severely clunky, and sound a bit like the over-enthusiastic oratory of an infomercial. This strip is (somewhat) guilty of this crime - if I were doing this strip
again now, Gene’s gushing testimony would be far more succinct. ‘If you can say it in five words, don’t say it in twenty’, should be the rule. Artie’s rejoinder
in panel 3, however, is perfectly-worded comedy gold. He does cut rather nicely to the heart of an issue, does Mr. Deacon....
Bottom: this is one of the reasons I am (sometimes) extremely glad I don’t exist in a cartoon universe - when even the value of pi cannot be relied upon,
then you know you’ve got problems!
Above: Never let it be said that I don’t try to educate and inform the cartoonists of the future.... even if at the same time I gleefuly subvert the rules
of how a ‘How to Draw’ tutorial is supposed to go! And it’s in colour, too, which makes it even better....
Above: another exploration into the tangibility and / or interactivity of the visual representations of thought and speech - I have no idea where this idea came from,
but if it’s like any of the other ones of its ilk, then perhaps that’s all for the best. And I do believe this might the very first official appearance of the one and only
Professor Pod in Cosmos! Even though he doesn’t get any dialogue, or have his name mentioned (a common theme for first appearances in this strip, I have to say),
his presence was yet another link in the evolving chain-work of the world of Cosmos....
TO BE CONTINUED....
Cosmos is all about experimentation: new formats, new ideas, new characters; and, in many cases, entirely new spins on old jokes. This installment has a bit of all
of the above in it - not all of them entirely successful, mind you, but that’s the nature of an experiment, isn’t it? Figuring out exactly what is going to work....
Above: here we go, as promised in previous installments - the emergence of the B-team cast! These two strips introduced us to the Anderson family: Roger, Meg and
their rather ‘80’s obsessed son Peter (any reference to the cast of Family Guy here is entirely coincidental, honest; I came up with their names before I even knew the
show existed). They follow the same pattern seen in previous Cosmosian types - the first appearance of the original archetype (in this case, Tony Corvell) followed by the
arrival of further characters based on the same body form; although the Type four took rather a while to work itself out. The first problem was their facial proportions: if I wasn’t
careful, their noses ended up too low down, and / or their eyes far too large; and in turn giving them faces / heads that were waaaaay too long for
their bodies (which ended up looking all squashed up, in contrast). As a result, these early type fours (Peter’s parents in these strips, in particular) just looked plain wrong.
The second problem was those baffling headphone things on the sides of their heads.... or, in Roger and Meg’s case, the lack thereof. Back in those days, I frequently forgot
to draw them in; and with the whole ‘long face’ phenomenon I had going on, it made an off-model character design even worse. I don’t know what they are, or what they’re for,
but a Type Four without them offends my sense of visual aesthetics something awful....
Above: this was the first in what I hoped would be a series of full-page ‘Identify that nerd’ guides, packed full of in-jokes and shout-outs to the sort of things that only
fellow pop-culture fanatics would be able to properly pinpoint. And, of course - surprise of surprises - I started with a Transformers geek, referencing everything from the
1980’s S.T.A.R.S Transfomers club to Transmetals Rattrap. Perhaps because preparing these pages would have been a pretty time-consuming endeavour, what with all the
detail and reference research I would have to invest (I was at university at the point, remember), I never continued the series beyond this inital sample.... but I did later revive
the basic idea in 2002, for a set of somewhat (only somewhat) more modest ‘Comic Con Spotters Guides’ that formed part of a full-length GrandeCon story.
Top: What’s weirder than Gene operating on normal baseline parameters? Gene dosed up on his (at the point in time) default beverage of choice - coffee.
He has since kicked the habit (not that it’s made him any less oddball), but at this stage it made quite a few appearances in the strip....
Bottom: Murph returns! This strip serves to make light of the fact that while he is the Cosmosian equivalent of a ‘cat’, you can’t simply apply all the aspects of
Earthly felines to him.... in particular, pet supplies that simply don’t transfer to an animal with no limbs - oh, Gene.
Top: I’m in two minds about the joke contained herein - it has an effective build-up (the guy ramping up his partner’s hopes with what sounds like a fabulous surprise vacation;
only to completely flummox her in the final panel) and is, technically speaking, a good scenario.... I’m just not sure if the punchline is actually funny. It didn’t really do it for me
then, and it still doesn’t now. Is being deported by the IRS to an ice planet a sufficiently hilarious situation, or is it just kind of lame? I honestly don’t know. What do you think?
Bottom: From the potentially-ridiculous to the humorously-sublime.... a much, much better gag from later-2000 Jon. Again, playing with the fact that Cosmos is, inextricably,
a comic strip (that, and jamming a horrendously bad pun into the works) is a formula that delivers consistent and robust results; which is why I would be utterly
mad to ever abandon it....
TO BE CONTINUED....
TO BE CONTINUED....