Welcome to the beginning of Cosmos’ third year! Okay, let’s recap, shall we? I have a donut-shaped planet, not one but two main casts, a town called pago Grandé (still
no idea where that name came from, sorry), an assortment of locations in which to wreak comedic havoc, and some of the most creatively demented jokes I think I’ve ever
created anywhere, ever. And there was no stopping the Cosmos juggernaut, apparently: I was all ready to launch into 2001 with the same verve I did during 1999 and 2000....
and looking back on the results now in 2017, I can definitely say I succeeded. You’re in for a wild ride, Cosmos fans....
Above: speaking of recaps, I thought I’d start off with an all-new, all-colour sunday strip, hosted by my by-now-official spokesman for Cosmos, Artie Deacon. Gene and
the others do their share of in-strip commentary, but Artie has the easy-going charm and wry humour needed to talk my audience through all the explain-y bits, as shown
here. The title banner, meanwhile, has the first in-strip appearance of Professor pod’s fellow scientific enquirers - Artimus Frink and Co-plot, of Explorers Inc!
Above: Is this Type-four Cosmosian Tony Corvell or Peter Anderson? Given that the two look very similar, and they were (at this point) still relatively new characters, it is
perhaps not surprising that I would forget who was supposed to be wearing what. Playing with a jack-in-the-box does seem to suggest a kid rather than an adult, which is a
tick in the ‘Peter Anderson’ column; but Mr. Mystery is wearing what is quite clearly Tony Corvell’s backward hat with antenna, so....? Well, I don’t know.
And once again, I’ve forgotten the headphone / ear-cover things!
Above: a selection of strips showcasing one of my more favourite things to do: messing around with the ‘rules’ of comic strip speech bubbles. Once you’re on a roll with
this sort of thing, there are an almost endless variety of ideas you can come up with on the theme. Because, quite frankly, they don’t even have to make sense! The first
two are probably more successful than the second two - the dialogue in the latter is a bit clunky, and the build up to the punchlines are pretty much identical - but they all
deliver some clever jokes, which is the main thing. And in the beach strip, the speech-bubble element is actually a second layer added onto the main thrust of the joke,
that came to me in a flash of last-minute inspiration while I was drawing it! Never, ever turn down one of those eureka moments when you have them - go with your gut,
and you can make a good joke even better....
TO BE CONTINUED....
Time for part two of our Old-School 2000 Christmas extravaganza! The strips in both part one and two, I note, are divided (even alternating) between the exploits of the
main cast -mostly Artie and / or Gene - and various random Cosmosians. I’m not sure why I chose this patternicity to proceeedings: I guess I just like things to have a
sense of order to them, even if it isn’t immmediately obvious (or even recognised as such) by my audience. But anyway, enough about my eccentricities....
Top: Artie Deacon, chief Christmas present wrapper for the Cosmos staff office Christmas tree - chosen partly for his attention to detail and artist-level gift-wrapping abilities,
no doubt. I’d imagine, though, that his heaps of cunningly-disguised presents are a constant lure to the curious and impatient.... in other words, consistently Gene.
Bottom: Is this where I got the idea for the novelty ‘unpoppable’ Christmas cracker that recently showed up in my current new-School Christams story? Possibly.
It’s also another sterling dialogue-free Cosmos strip..... Ahhh, I wish I still had the knack to do those properly....
Top: yes, that’s right - I invented an entire board game and developed an entire Cosmos strip around it just so I could spring an appallingly-bad pun on you at
the end. I’ve done it before, and I’m certainly going to do it again.... Deal with it.
Bottom: A bored Gene is a dangerous Gene. A bored Gene with access to sharp, pointy-ended objects? Well, that’s just asking for trouble.
Top: The hazards of writing a Christmas list are many varied - lack of item organisation, running out of ink (or terminally breaking your only pencil), the risk of asking
for too much - but this one’s a new one on me. And by the looks of things, I’m STILL forgetting to put the head phone / ear covers on my Type Four Cosmosians - perhaps
that’s why he’s covering the sides of his head in most of the panels, to hide his embarrassment....
Bottom: Gene and electronics.... well, they have a checkered history together. Either his attempts to ‘improve’ on what technology has given him result in something
so overly-complicated and / or impractical that merely turning it on is inviting disaster to pay a visit; or - in the case of Christmas displays, as shown here - his insistence on
‘just a little more power’ causes major headaches for his friends.... and neighbours.... and Pago Grande’s major electricity suppliers.... Oh, Gene.
COSMOS: OLD SCHOOL WILL RETURN IN JANUARY!
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?
TO BE CONTINUED.....
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!
TO BE CONTINUED....
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....