When Nonsense Collides!


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2001) - part sixteen

It always fascinates me (terrifies me?) how close to the copyright boundary one can sail with a good parody or pop culture reference story, before you are actually
‘over the line’ - provided you aren’t appropriating someone else’s universe wholesale and passing it off as your own, you can pepper your comics with name-drops, cameos
and in-jokes from other franchises without being seen anything else but a devoted fan. The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Bill Amend’s Foxtrot, the novel
Ready player One.... let’s face it, pretty much any contemporary comic / cartoon / web / novel series worth five cents have done unofficial ‘crossovers’ with other universes,
on the sly. And Cosmos, as you’ve no doubt seen, is right in the thick of it. The following story, split over the next two blog installments, is by far the most ambitious
nudge-nudge-wink-wink faux-crossover I ever did in the classic era; packing quite a bit of fanon (fan canon) into the margins of quite a big-name franchise.
Which one? Read on.... 

(Oh, and as with several other collections of Old School strips, I’ve taken the liberty of retyping the original, hand-written dialogue in a custom typeface based -
appropriately enough - on my own handwriting: due to the amount of exposition in this story, quite a lot of my writing was cramped, disjointed or nigh-on-unreadable;
seriously detracting from the enjoyment of reading, and in some cases understanding, the story. I haven’t changed any of the dialogue, simply made it easier to read.)

Top: Artie has been friends with Gene long enough to recognise the signs of an impending adventure and / or cataclysm, and to plan accordingly for whatever happens
next. It’s a good thing Gene is so transparent about his crazy schemes - at the very least, everyone around him will have plenty of warning!

Bottom: Uh oh. You can see where this story is going, can’t you? Since I’d already tackled the original trilogy in the Tony Vs. Big Bob story (2001, Part 10 and 11), I thought
it would make sense - as it was the most recently released Star Wars film, and was available on DVD - to have Gene geeking out about Star Wars: Episode one instead.
Yes, yes, it wasn’t exactly the greatest movie ever, but this is Gene we’re talking about here - the guy who went through the senate scenes frame-by-frame looking for
hidden Cylons, Daleks and Xenomorphs in the backgrounds....

Top: I’m not sure what Gene did in that five hour period, but that is a LOT of hardware strapped to his TV.... and judging by Artie’s expression, ‘blown fuses’ are the
least of the things wrong with the set-up! Especially when Gene presses that fateful button....

Bottom: And now the adventure (and Star Wars nerd references) begins in earnest - not only are the Boys on Tatooine, they’re in Mos Espa: home of pod racing,
assorted scum and villainy, and one Anakin ‘Yippee!’ Skywalker, the most annoying slave-turned-Jedi-turned-Sith-lord in history! I turn on the cameo machine in panel two,
which has a Greedo-style Rodian (left), a pod racing poster with Sebulba on it (top right), and a Jawa (bottom right); all packed in around Artie and Gene. And Artie is perhaps justifiably displeased with Gene’s enthusiasm at being stranded in an alien universe, let alone their face-first exit from the cantina!

Top: What to do when you’re stuck in a sci-fi movie? Why, go on a grand tour of key plot locations, of course! Artie and Gene have found their way to Watto’s junk shop -
while Artie provides some handy exposition to Mr. Watto, Sir, himself (no doubt wondering why he even bothered to ask in the first place), Gene trips out on Star Wars props
off-panel. Again, I made with the shout-outs: aside from Watto, I’ve stuck in a Gonk droid (panel 1), as well as a Pit droid and the ‘What do you mean all my parts are showing?’ version of C3-PO (panel 2). The fact that he’s up and about suggest Artie and Gene have showed up sometime after the scene in which Anakin switches him on to show
Qui-Gon and the others. And speaking of which....

 Bottom: Now, I could get all highbrow here and claim that I based this story on the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, wherein two peripheral
characters in Hamlet accidentally bring about the events which make the original Shakespearian tale so famous.... but I can’t claim to be that brilliant. No, it’s more likely
inspired by my hearing about Tag and Bink are Dead, a Star Wars pastiche by Kevin Rubio; which basically does the same thing, but with A New Hope - soooo basically,
I ripped off a clever riff on something else, which is in turn an even more clever riff on something else again. Yay, Jon. Gene’s dialogue feels a bit gushy and name
dropper-y to me now, but I guess if you’re running around in one of your favourite movies, that’s how you’re going to talk....

Above: Well, if you really want to make a story set in someone else’s universe pick up the pace, you invent a completely new, copyright-exempt character to be the villain!
Something more than Artie and Gene sightseeing in Mos Espa need to happen, so I brought in Darth Morton; Sith Lord and living canonicity problem. Whether Morty is
actually a Sith or not is open to debate (especially given the ‘one master, one apprentice’ rule stated by Yoda) - his ‘uncanny insight’ into the Boys’ origins could be nothing
more than him seeing them appear out of nowhere in the cantina, and then eavesdropping on their subsequent exposition, after all. Interestingly, he appears to have a
robotic right hand in the first strip.... which then proceeds to disappear in every strip thereafter. Um. Yehhhhh.

Top: Okay, well, if Darth Morton doesn’t have some sort of a toehold in the Sith club (five bucks says he’s a janitor or a bus-boy), then he’s somehow absconded with
Gene’s Star Wars almanac and faking his insider knowledge REALLY well. But why are Artie and Gene still hanging out with him, anyway? Dark side mind control?
Or maybe they simply couldn’t get him to go away, and have resolved to just endure his presence.... The second panel of this strip seriously benefited from my
dialogue retyping, given the serious amount of exposition therein: the original version was a messy slab of awkward, crammed-in microtext, and just looked horrid.


Bottom: The problem with fitting each installment of this story into four panels is that you have to pack a lot of plot (both visually and written) into the available space.
And this is often to the detriment of its comprehensibility - the second panel, in particular, is very confusing. There’s several things going on at once in there: Morty is
(somehow) making handcuffs appear on Artie and Gene’s wrists; pushing the ‘rewind’ button on the Magic Remote; and sending them all back through time (the swirly
background). But having to jam it into one small box - sorry, no, half a box - means you can’t really follow what’s going on; least of all that they’re being displaced to another
time and place. The Neimoidian in panel three is supposed to be Square-dancing, by the way, if it’s not obvious.... I have not one clue why I decided on that idea; other than
probably being stuck for something to put in, and just drawing the first vaguely funny thing that popped into my head - never a good plan, in the circumstances....

Above: whoo-boy, do I wish I’d included Sunday strips in this story (or at least used bigger panels, or something) - because this strip would be a prime candidate
for some extra breathin’ space. As I said last time, these Old School panels only have so much space for so much dialogue and so much art.... and the results aren’t
always entirely.... balanced. Can you tell Artie, Gene and Darth Morton have ended up in the Tatooine desert, in a rocky canyon, right in the path of
Star Wars: Episode One’s much-hyped pod race? Before panel four? With all the words and the squeezed-in-around-the-edges ‘backgrounds’ in the first two
panels, no, Sir or Madam, you cannot.... and that really doesn’t make the strip any easier to follow. Sorry, everyone.

Will Artie and Gene escape the clutches of Darth Morton? Find out in part two!


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2001) - part fifteen

First, I showed you the ‘Officially-licensed Cosmos board game’ (2000, Part Nineteen).... so now it’s time
for its partner-in-crime: the Cosmos 2001 calendar! Although created - by obvious necessity -
in late 2000, the mere fact that it was intended for use in the following year means I can present it
now and still have it be relevant!


Oh, fine, be that way, then....

Things to note on the front cover: a Cosmosian critter peeking out from behind the logo; another rare
cameo by Dr. Nitro; Gene’s ludicrously-oversized feet - and whatever it is that’s going on with Professor
Pod’s arms; the fact that Murph has no stripes on his belly; and the rather anomalous presence of
stripes on Co-pilot’s nose (which were originally part of his design when I first drew him, but soon after
were removed because they were A) distracting and B) utterly ridiculous.)

It’s the inside front cover, featuring a very nice illustration of Tork from Explorers Inc. - although my
reasoning for putting name / address / phone / fax in the box on the left escapes me....
Given that I’ve never seen a calendar with that sort of information on it before...

The main title page (which calendars do actually have - I checked), with another potential
contender for my ‘Top 10 list of really good Cosmos strips’.

Do licensed comic strip calendars usually have laudatory pull-quotes about the comic they’re
merchandising for? I have no idea, but apparently in my reality they do - so there we go.

Unlike Cosmos Cosmonopoly, there are actually two copies of my calendar in existence - the original,
in my possession, and a minty-fresh copied-and-stapled version, which I gave to my friend Jeremy for
Christmas. Trust me, he gets ALL the good stuff. Based on other licensed calendars of the same ilk,
I structured my effort around the ‘something old, something new’ ethos: each monthly spread
incorporated a large piece of Cosmos art in the top half, and (accompanying the all-important calendar-y
stuff in the bottom half) a randomly-chosen four-panel strip. Six out of the twelve months featured a
reprinted Sunday strip from 1999 / 2000:

While the others were graced with an all-new A4 sized Cosmos scene:

1) Valentine’s day at Ax and Macy’s house

2) Explorers inc. adventuring in the Martarran highlands

3) Artie and Gene comic shopping at GrandeCon

4) The Cosmos gang at the beach

5) Cross-temporal confusion in Cosmos Trek

6) Christmas morning at Gene’s house

Being a pretty labour-intensive project - especially since I didn’t have the slightest comprehension
of Adobe InDesign at that point, and did everything by hand - this calendar was a
one-of-a-kind experiment in creative design which (thus far) has not been repeated.
Still, there’s nothing stopping me from reviving the idea....


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2001) - part fourteen

Peter Anderson, much like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and Charlie Brown from Peanuts, is not really a literal eight year-old. While he acts in normal childlike
(or childish) fashion with his friends, parents, teachers, his self-awareness, bredath of vocabulary and reasoning abilities are very much more like that of an adult -
albeit an immature and oft-times self-centred one. His friends are also uncannily life-aware: Timmy, although naive, has a well-developed (and well-reasoned) sense of
right and wrong; Jaime is earnets, reserved and clearly wiser than any ten year old would normally be; Wendell is a born hustler with a cunning, cynical outlook....
and the Tolstoy Twins? Child prodigies, if I ever saw them.

By this point in time, Peter, Timmy and Jaime’s personalities were fairly well-established, and I was actually giving them some variety in their adventures beyond
‘Hey, let’s talk about Transformers for five pages’. And where this aspect showed up, I figured I could be a little more creative with it:

Top: Come on, at some point in your lives, you must have experimented to see if you could fold yourself up into a car or a plane. Admit it. You did.

Bottom: Peter is being very much a typical eight year-old in this strip, I have to say - right down to the flailing and screaming temper tantrums! Both he and his mother are
still suffering from ‘Tall face Syndrome’, by the looks of things; but at least their eye / nose / mouth proportions have evened out enough that they don’t look TOO ridiculous.

Above: Ahhh, the Monster Under the Bed. I remember him. At the time, I thought this would be an interesting addition to Peter’s world - a thing-that-went-bump-in-the-night
who seemed threatening at first, but was really just a guy doing his 9-to-5 job to the best of his ability; and - once you got to know him - wasn’t actually so bad, despite his
tendency to leap out of the shadows with his Horror Face on. Unfortunately, I never really had that many opportunities to use him, and didn’t entirely make the best of his
character when he did show up.... so the idea didn’t gain any significant traction story ideas-wise. Sigh. Two other things of note in these strips, though: Peter looks to be
wearing an old-school nightcap with fluffy bobble to bed (no idea why, unless it’s somehow fashionable for Cosmosian kids to do so); and he’s missing the disc-shaped things
on the sides of his head - whatever they are, they’re clearly removable!

Above: proof positive that this story wasn’t 100% working for me - this is an unfinished strip (added in after I did the other two pages of this story) that didn’t even make it
past the pencil art stage, and never has. I’ve inked in the dialogue for its presentation in this blog, though, so you can actually read it: from what I can remember, I found said
dialogue, and the general concept of the strip (the monster only exists when Peter thinks of / is afraid of him) contradictory, tacked-on and kind of forced; hence my reason for
junking it. In fact, this was supposed to be the SECOND strip on the page.... but since the panels for strip no.1 are nothing but empty space, and I can’t find any rough sketches
of other unused ‘Monster under the bed’ ideas, this must be as far as the effort got!

Above: The Monster (I never did give him a proper name) elaborates on his modus operandi, perhaps rather undermining his ability to instill fear into Peter as he does so -
Anderson Jr. seems more frustrated and bored than terrified, I have to say. Still, Mr. Monster’s chattiness and dedication to his job stop him from being just another
two-dimensional bully like Marco Zimmerman (see 2001, Part Seven): he may be rather manipulative, as evidenced by the first strip, but he is somewhat relatable,
even likable.  I’m unsure whether giving him shapeshifting abilities was a good idea, though - if he’s already a scary monster, what’s the point of turning into other scary
monsters? I can see the benefits of, say, disguising himself as a box or a lamp in oder to catch Peter unawares (or hide from his parents during the daytime); but
monster-to-monster feels a leeeetle redundant....




by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2001) - part thirteen

The commercials are over, so we can plunge back into the second half of my social commentary salute to television, as filtered through the perceptions of a bunch
of funny little green people! As a medium of, um, thought-provocation, comic strips are one of the most efficient and effective: you can make a valid point without having to
wade into pages of intellectual puffery (either reading or writing it), the four panel format forces you to be concise and succinct; and if you do it properly, you get a clever little
joke out of it at the end! There’s also the ability to craftily reference things in a very.... oblique fashion - through, say, innuendo or allegory - that allows you to broach the
unbroachable without an angry mob turning up on your doorstep the next morning. Win win!

Top: it always annoys me that some movie franchises (not any good to begin with) simply don’t know when to die. Unless you’ve got a proper reason to crank

out all those sequels, and sequels of sequels, then why waste good celluloid? Oh, wait. Money. Never mind.

Bottom: I think if they did actually combine pro-wrestling with politics, all those mind-numbing bureaucratic disputes would be resolved and dealt with a lot, lot faster.
“I move that we invoke sub-clause C, paragraph 19-A--” BAM!!!!

Above: I hate to say it, but this entire Sunday strip was set up (all fourteen panels of it) simply to justify Peter’s apocalyptically-bad pun at the end. Sorry, everyone.
On the plus side, it does add one more character to the B-team cast: the seldom-seen Mindy Simmons, Peter’s adorable next door neighbour. Awakazam!

Above: Ah, informercials. Hype, unrealisitc promises, endlessly-repeated promo footage, and presenters who seem much, much too excited about that freakin’ nose
hair trimmer to not be acting for an obscene paycheck. And should I worried that the lady on the Bod-Muncher ad never seems to open her eyes? Like, ever?

Top: Necessity is the mother of invention.... but where Gene is concerned, those are some extremely odd children she’s raising....

Bottom: Artie has a very strange expression in the third panel - he’s clearly taking a moment to make sure he’s remembering correctly, but the fact that his eyeballs
appear to be slipping seriously out of alignment with one another makes it look as if he’s.... well.... spaced out on paint fumes. And why is he pointing? Oh, 2001-Jon. ‘Terror
of the Zygons’, by the way, is a fantastic classic Who story: it’s got the Loch Ness monster in it! And one of the few times they used stop-motion animation on the show!

Top: that must be one heck of a ‘basic kick’, is all I can say.

Bottom: I’m not entirely sure where I was going with this strip - if you’ve never played any games from the ‘Dead or Alive’ series ( I certainly haven’t bothered)
you won’t get the joke, such as it is; and the sound effects - necessarily limited to punches and kicks rather than, uhhh, bouncing noises - don’t have any connection to
why Artie and Gene are adopting such pained, squinty facial expressions.... not even by the fourth panel. And wouldn’t they have found a better game to play than that?
History (and logic) does not record....

Top: if I were creating a list of the top 10 / 50 / 100 Cosmos comics ever (hey, now there’s an idea), this one would definitely be in there somewhere. The interaction
between Ax and Macy is pitch-perfect, and Ax’s line in the last panel was my instant choice for his character profile pull-quote! So there you go.

Bottom: the interesting thing is, in all the years I’ve referenced the Cosmosian sport of Nodge-ball, or mentioned Ax’s passionate interest in it.... I’ve never once shown
anyone playing the sport itself. Really should do something about that....

Top: I’ve only just realised - the Acronym for ‘Kooper’s Kraft Korner’ seems to be.... KKK. Ooops. I want to see that ‘When Animals Attack’ special, though -
how a goldfish can 'rampage', I would very much like to find out!

Bottom: this strip feels a bit clunky to me.... There’s nothing wrong with the situation, or the joke, but the dialogue rather lays the point on with a trowel; and Artie’s reaction
in panel 3 feels unnecessarily over-the-top and violent. If I were doing it again today, I think I’d have Artie frantically douse Gene with his soft-drink, or something -
same result, but actually funny....


by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2001) - part twelve

When is Random not a Random? When it’s a Themed Random, of course! Sometimes - less often than regular Randoms, and perhaps even more infrequently than story
strips - I create (or just group together) collections of gag-a-day comics that all share the same theme or subject matter. In this case, it was a series about our old friend the
Idiot Box.... and it must have been a productive period for thinking up Cosmos ideas, because I ended up with a grand total of 14 pages (23 four-panelers, 1 one-paneler,
2 Sundays); the single longest Themed Random output in the strip’s history!

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to slog through them all in one go - just to make our respective jobs (you reading, me commentary-ing) a bit easier, they’ve been split
across the next two installments of Cosmos: Old School. So get some TV snacks, make yourself comfy on the couch, and have the remote handy....
‘cause here come the opening credits!

Top: one wonders how far all the big companies would get if they actually had to be completely transparent about the quality, practicality and even necessity
of their ‘must-have’ products - not far, I’d wager.

Bottom: No, no, Gene, the real question is, why exactly were YOU watching the show in the first place?

Top: one of the things I like most about Cosmos - and drawing comic strips in general - is the ability to not only make people laugh, but also make them think. Everything
these kids are saying (especially the last panel) is, for better or worse, completely true. I definitely learned a lot from Saturday morning TV, but I also bought rather a lot of
toys merely on their say-so....

Bottom: remember what I said a long time ago about my mistaken belief that I would never publish any of the Cosmos strips from early 1999? Well, here’s proof positive -
this is a blatant recycling of one of Artie’s first appearances, with Gene standing in for Artie’s unnamed Type One Cosmosian friend.... Their dialogue, and even the items
on the list, are virtually identical! Hmmmmm.

Top: I would actually like to see these three Cosmosian game shows, simply to understand how they even work! Then again, many real game shows
operate on equally implausible premises, so....

Bottom: Murph is famous for being able to hear a packet of food being opened from all the way across the house - and by the looks of this strip, it also applies
to advertising jingles as well. Bad kitty!

Top: On the other hand, being a cat, he clearly doesn’t understand the minutiae of televisions and other electronic devices; like the fact that the nice man on
the screen isn’t actually talking to you - and no, he won’t respond to physical threats, no matter how loudly you yell at him....

Bottom: How DO these shows get funding? If the mention of the Wogentak Jungle is any indication, we’ve been cheated out of a cameo appearance by Explorers Inc. -
if anyone would be running into ‘adventure and intrigue’ in that sort of environment, it would be them. For shame, Procrastination Theatre!

Top: I have no idea why I chose Saving Private Ryan for Macy’s guess as to Ax’s movie of choice - it doesn’t seem like something they’d play on Cosmosian TV,
to be honest. But Ax is right: Batman and Robin is indeed a mentally-scarring experience....

Bottom: This strip was particularly enjoyable to write, due to the convoluted spiel in panels two and three. I basically crammed in every Soap trope I could think of,
sprinkled in some Weekly World News-style weirdness, and then turned my cynicism dial up to 11! It’s still probably no more loopy than the plots
in actual daytime soap operas, though.... Panel four, however, annoys me - or, in particular, Ax’s book. I see what I was trying to do: make the book title text big enough
so you could read it clearly.... but no book in the history of publishing has said title sprawling across both the front AND back covers! It just looks wrong, 2001-Jon.
It just. Looks. Wrong.

Top: Whoop! Another recycled 1999 strip! In fact, the original version appeared on exactly the same page as the 1999 version of the ‘Sci-fi movie marathon’ strip from
earlier. I’ve got to say, though, comparing the different iterations of these strips, my artwork and layout skills have definitely improved between Point A and Point B....

Bottom: Yup, y’don’t get them there lynch mobs formin’ in the cabbage farmin’ business, son. Not even after a bad ol’ ‘Purple Delicious’ harvest. Still, you City-folk
think y’all know better....

Top: Wives, girlfriends, mothers and duaghters are all no doubt well aware of this deadly affliction. It goes by many names - TV Tunnel-vision, Channel-I-Can’t-Hear-You,
Big Game Blinkers - but once the lads are ‘in the zone’, conversations frequently get hair-tearingly.... surreal.

Bottom: One wonders how salty Sci-Fi level popcorn is in Ax’s grand scheme of things, to produce that sort of an effect on Artie - sticking with some fruit
might be a good idea there, Macy.