When Nonsense Collides!


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part twenty

You know your comic strip has ‘made it’ when you’re producing a second consecutive set of Christmas strips for a second festive season, and you don’t even feel as if
you’re running out of steam. That is an eventuality I never would have even imagined when I first started Cosmos back in January of 1999; but here we are! Given that it is
(very conveniently) mid-December when I’m typing this up, I’m splitting Cosmos’ Christmas 2000 AD into a double-feature; just so we can savour the deranged
holiday humour a bit longer....

Top: A watched pot may never boil - but Gene has never been one to stand down in the face of common sense! This is another of my ‘the point of the whole strip only
becomes clear in the final panel’ situations - despite the rather obvious decorations in the background, we don’t actually know what Gene is even doing until he reveals it
to us at the end..... at which point, it all makes sense. Well, from his perspective, anyway....
Bottom: One wonders how many times this scenario played out in real life - I’m guessing quite frequently, based on the general inability of the male gender to
pick up unbelievably, mind-bogglingly obvious hints. But lady, seriously! That other guy might’ve been a fantastic kisser! Did you even give him a chance?

Top: the first appearance of what has become a bit of an annual Christmas tradition - my obligatory ‘Holiday Sale Junk Mail’ joke, based on my observation that -
as stated above - the sheer volume of junk mail one gets at this time of year is frankly.... obscene. It’s not always easy to stop this gag from becoming a one-trick pony,
but I think I’ve managed successfully so far....
Bottom: Is Gene seriously that greedy, or is he just messing with everyone’s heads? A little from column A, a little from column B, sadly.

Above: a pair of Christmas tree jokes; one trading on my experiences in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas comes during the summer months
(I know! Crazy!), and the second.... well, hats off to Gene for raising the bizzarro-factor of proceedings for the third strip in a row. He does have a point though:
how exactly do you properly display a Christmas tree in a comic strip panel that’s far wider than it is tall?



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part nineteen

Here we go! Here’s something special! It’s an item that goes by many names : like The Project That Time Forgot, or Merchandise Item #00001.... or Mr. Potential Lawsuit.
Toward the end of 2000, I began to consider what applications Cosmos had beyond a simple comic strip - so, just because I felt like it, I created the one-and-only
prototype of an ‘Officially-licensed Cosmos board game’:

Cosmos Cosmonopoly was a, uh, loving homage to another well-known board game, set (obviously) in the Cosmos universe. For this project, I needed to greatly
elaborate the framework of characters and localities that the game could draw from; as Cosmos, at that point in time, was a bit sparse. Several places that have since
appeared  in the strip actually got their start in Cosmos Cosmonopoly; and numerous characters (including unused concepts) made their first appearance here also.
In addition to the main cast (recently added to by Tony Corvell and Professor Pod), there was also Macy’s one-shot wonder maybe-relative Jamie Styles (down by the
‘Chance’ card box); Professor pod’s Explorers Inc colleagues Artimus Frink, Co-Pilot and Tork; The Dog Next Door; Peter Anderson’s mother Meg; the members of the
ill-fated rock band ‘Fuzzy Dice’ (Fancy Dan, Alexis Rhodes - making love hearts at Artie, D’Jon Mayo and his guitar, and Captain Catfish); The Big Boss and Rufus T. Maxx,
astro-truckers; and dozens of Cosmosian critters....

As in M*N*P*LY, the outer ring of the game board featured a range of different properties, most sufficiently adapted for Cosmosian sensibilities - while ‘Chance’,
‘Tax’ and ‘Community Chest’ were unchanged, the Waterworks became ‘Hydro-stations’, and train stations and airports became ‘Hoverboard Depots’. Of course,
there were also the obligatory ‘Collect $200’ and ‘Go to jail / In jail / Only visiting’ corner boxes as well - I certainly liked flirting with copyright infringement, didn’t I?

Sadly, this was as far as I got: I never got around to creating any Cosmonopoly money, cards or playing pieces - I blame either university exams, or post-exam burn out....
either that, or the potential of being sued - so the gameboard is the only result of the entire project. Still, in terms of expanding the scope of the Cosmos-verse, and actually
designing something different with my characters, it couldn’t have gone better!



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part eighteen

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?


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part seventeen

Heading into the tail-end of 2000, I really seem to have hit my stride in making Cosmos consistently good - there were the occasional dud jokes (and there still are now,
I’m sure), but for the most part, I delivered strips that have more than held their own against anything I produced after that point. Many of these - especially the ones in
this collection - have an elegance and comedic simplicity that I’m not sure I could outdo today!

Above: these are, without doubt, two of the best Cosmos comics I have created.... ever. Both in terms of how they are structured, and in terms of the dialogue (or lack thereof),
there is not a single thing I would change about them in 2016. The first is an example of the ‘five minutes later’ principle, where the transition between the third and fourth panels represents a jump-cut from a moment of major significance to its (usually hilariously-catastrophic) aftermath; with no real clue as to what happened during the intervening period.
But that’s just the point: the cognitive disconnect between point A and point B is so jarring, that your immediate reaction is to laugh; because “How the expletive-deleted did THAT happen?!” To say nothing of the fact that even after being mangled, our loud-mouthed friend appears to have learned nothing from the experience....
The second strip is another thought-bubble-as-object concept - but probably the best out of all of them. It doesn’t need dialogue, it doesn’t need a lengthy build-up, it
doesn’t need any in-depth explanation of how it all works.... it’s just pure, stream-of-consciousness demented-ness, all delivered in the space of four panels.

Above: the re-appearance of both Murph, and full-colour Sunday strips! To call Murph pampered would be an understatement - he knows Gene will bend over
backwards to make sure he’s happy, and isn’t afraid to remind his ‘owner’ of how much control he can exert to get what he wants. Ever had your cat throw a
hissy-fit at you when you try and have some you-time? Yeh, well, with Murph, it’s worse.

Above: Ah, what would a Cosmos comic collection be without further proof that Gene is his own worst enemy; to say nothing of anyone who happens to be in the
immediate vicinity? Not thinking things through properly appears to be one of his defining character traits - which I’m sure Artie and Ax are constantly trying (and failing) to
dissuade him from doing every time he comes up with another of his ‘It sounded better in my head’ masterpieces! One wonders, though: what exactly would Gene’s
apocalyptic concoction actually taste like? Aw, geez, now he’s got me wanting to try it out....

Top: Dr. Nitro returns! One wonders how many of the emergency calls to his office either directly or indirectly involve one Eugene Carmichael Ellis..... at a guess,
I would say ‘the majority of them’. I’m not sure what Gene was doing to get himself into that state, but ultimately (as with the other strips in this installment) imagining
it is far funnier than being shown it.
Bottom: ever been stuck with a flatmate or partner that, no matter how hard they try, simply cannot cook to save themselves?
Just be thankful you’re not stuck with this guy doing the catering....



by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part sixteen

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....