Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part two

There is a good maxim in the cartooning biz (which I may or may not have just made up for the occasion):‘Don’t always expect all your stories to be gold.’
Just like every TV series has the odd dud episode, so too will the comic strip you’re working on - either because the premise you’ve come up with can’t
sustain its initial momentum, or your humour becomes clunky and bogged down with exposition; or you have nothing else to go with and you simply have to slog
through the story to make quota. The strips in this installment - comprising two short(ish) stories featuring our friend Peter Anderson - fit into at least one of the
above categories: they’re not total failures (certainly not the first), but for one reason or another they didn’t entirely live up to my expectations.
Here’s mini-story No.1:


At the time I did this story, I had achieved a windfall very similar to Peter’s - looking through the computer catalogue at the (now-vanished) Borders Books in
Auckland City, I saw they had the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack in stock! For only $15! On AUDIO CASSETTE!! I frantically ordered it, received it after
the requisite wait-of-agonising-ness.... Ohhhh, and it was good. So, I thought I’d share the joy with Peter through the medium of a mail order catalogue. In what
was supposed to be a much longer story, Peter would drive everyone around him insane with his griping and complaining about the wait involved in gaining his
geeky Holy Grail; before blasting the roof off with the soundtrack until his CD player breaks.... but the above two strips were as far as the story got. I don’t know why -
maybe I just got busy at Uni again (which is entirely possible), or I couldn’t decide where to take the story (Peter and Timmy actually trying to sue the mail order
company? General grumbling and complaining and checking of watches? Peter descending into obsession and paranoia?), but it got put on the back burner....
and that was it forevermore. I will assume Peter did eventually get the soundtrack, though - I’m not that cruel....

(Extra trivia note: the round object peter is tossing over his shoulder in panel four of the second strip is a folded-up Rock Lords action figure - this series was a
short-lived spin-off from Bandai’s Machine Robo / Gobots / Machine Men line; where the characters transformed from powerful warriors into.... er.... rocks. Trust
me, it’s at least 300% more awesome than it actually sounds. I even recognise which toy Peter has, based on how it’s folded up: it’s the heroic Rock Lord Nuggit,
voiced by Roddy McDowall in the GoBots / Rock Lords animated movie!)


The second story in our collection definitely belongs in the ‘misguided intentions’ category - I hit upon the idea of bringing back Peter’s salary-man ‘nemesis’,
The Monster-under-the-Bed, for a sequel; using the opportunity to flesh out his character a bit. The story started off well enough:


.... But then I sort of torpedoed it by throwing Pixar’s Monsters Inc. into the mix. Monsters Inc. is amazing, sublime, comedic perfection - but shackling it to
my po-dunk little comic strip did not a harmonious mashup make. The story now had to follow that premise, whether it worked or not; and the gags laboured
under the need to name-drop the movie every five seconds:


The concept that Mr. Monster worked for M.I, or that they have an ‘Offworld Exports Division’, or that he just happens to know Mike and Sulley out of all the employees
at the company, stretches credibility - and that ol’ suspension of disbelief - rather too far. He lurks under Peter’s bed, not in his closet (which you would think a
Monster’s Inc. guy would do, right?); is doing an absolutely terrible job of scaring Peter, let alone making him scream (Scare energy quota = zero, in other words); and
basically seems to have ‘gone native’, merrily chatting with his assigned victim like a boorish uncle. And why is he so out of touch with what’s going on in his own
company? I did plan to have a couple more strips following the ones above, where Peter and the Monster actually watch the movie.... but I never did them, because by
that point the story Just Wasn’t Working. It felt like a bolted-on cash-in - which it was - so I tried a different tack:


Better, and probably the direction I should have struck out on in the first place; without even needing to invoke Monsters Inc. at all. Having Mr. Monster detail the ‘secret history’ of
monster / sci-fi / horror movies (even if he was just making it up as he went along, or messing with Peter’s head for laughs) had much more potential as a story, since I could develop
some genuinely funny gags on the subject. As it was, though, it merely formed the final chapter in a tale I was already tired of: the above strips are so wordy and exposition-
heavy because they are - if memory serves - quite a few comics worth of ideas crammed into two. I knew that was going to be it for the story, so I simply tossed what I had into the mixer and
called it quits. The Monster Under the Bed never showed up again after that point (Sorry, Dude!).... a logistical nightmare he had become, and unless I A) retconned the conversation into a
cheesy ‘dream sequence’ solution, B) had Mr. Monster laugh “Ha! You didn’t believe all that stuff, did you?” the next time he showed up, or C) cut the story out of Cosmos
continuity altogether (something I didn’t want to do - it wasn’t entirely a train wreck); there was no way to bring him back without all that headache-inducing absurdity hanging over proceedings.
So, much like Macy’s maybe-relative ‘Jamie Styles’, Mail-X-Press, or the comedy spot-sneezing-off Kangaroocreature from Artie’s first appearance (from 2000, part two; 1999, part nine; and
1999, part three, respectively), I pensioned him off with a fat paycheck and told him to enjoy his retirement....

TO BE CONTINUED....

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part one

Who’d’a thunk it? Not only is Cosmos: Old School back for an all-new season, we’re onto a whole new year! In the dawning of 2002, I decided to kick off Cosmos’
fourth year by focussing on one subject, and one character - the artistic talents of one Macy Styles. I’d shown her doing art here and there in the past, but this was the
first time I centered an entire sequence around Macy’s sculptures, paintings and knowledge of the artistic oeuvre. Inspired (once again) by the social commentary of
Calvin and Hobbes, Macy allowed me to - a little heavy-handedly, perhaps - look into the eccentricities of modern art, and various aspects of it I found interesting /
amusing / baffling. Much of this was done without and specific research (I had yet to discover the wonderfully word-mangling language of ‘Art Criticism’, for example),
but in a general sense I knew enough to get by....


Top: Proof positive that if you call yourself a serious artist, and call what you create ART (which of course it is, dangit!), then there will be someone there to enthuse
over it, or, ultimately, buy it from you for obscene amount of money. Being a big name in the Pago Grandé art scene, Macy can - obviously - charge top dollar for her pieces!

Bottom: Macy pulls a nice bit of subversion / misdirection here, as at first we think she’s creating one type of sculptural masterpiece (i.e, something classic and conservative);
but then.... surprise! It’s actually something utterly ironic and social statement-y! She’s good at that, you know. I wonder if she’s ever considered doing it as a performance
piece in front of an audience? It’s strange that she sculpted a humanoid figure rather than a Cosmosian, though....


Top: Ax is, unsurprisingly, Macy’s number one fan. He helps promote all her work online, and always looks forward to seeing any new paintings or sculptures she does -
even if he doesn’t entirely understand them, as shown here. Unfortunately, Macy can easily tell when he’s simply stringing random artistic buzz-words together....
After all, she’s the one who taught him them in the first place!

Bottom: Pop quiz, hot shot - what are the art styles represented in the first three panels of this strip? I’ll give you five seconds.... C’mon, it’s not that hard.... aaaaaand stop!
From left to right, they are: 1) cubism, 2) pop art, and 3) 1960’s psychedelia. I’m in two minds about whether I should have been so specific in Artie’s comment in the
fourth panel - yes, Cosmos (somehow) has a wealth of Earth-type pop culture stuff, but surely their art galleries would be dominated by Cosmosian artists painting in those
styles (in which case, a general ‘some surrealism’ would have been just as effective as ‘Salvador Dali’), rather than actual Earth artists? I guess I put it in because it was a
painter most people would have at least heard of. For the above reasons, I also changed the first panel from my original rough sketch - it featured Artie and Macy all dolled
up in the style of Grant Wood's American Gothic, another overly-specific art reference.


Top: Macy’s peace symbol badge makes its usual erratic appearances in this sequence, but here’s something new - her glasses have joined in on the act, as well!
Why she is suddenly not wearing them in panel two, and panel two only, completely stumps me even now. Another thing to note, however: the hoverboards of Type-One
cosmosians can apparently have things attached to them around the band at the top (perhaps a magnetic strip?), allowing Macy to carry around her art supplies without
running out of hands - very useful!

Bottom: I know from personal experience, that any number of conversations Macy has had with Gene inevitably drifted WELL away from her intended target.... and this
is by no means the worst of them, people. You have to wonder where Gene’s train of thought goes sometimes, or whether it has simply derailed itself....


Top: This is definitely the best of the Macy Vs. Modern Art strips - primarily because it is not as dialogue-heavy as some of the others, always a good thing - but
also because it represents Gene at his most impulsive and anarchic: he just can’t resist doing the one thing no sane person would ever do, right in front of Macy!
Before, I might add, he’s even answered her question!

Bottom: Macy continues Ax’s fine arts education with a trip to the Pago Grandé Arts Centre (where she both displays her artwork and takes the odd art class). The
artwork they are looking at is unusual for more reasons than Ax’s pithy observation in panel four - if the pair are looking at it front-on, then both the frame and the title card
underneath are somehow performing a 90° bend around a corner in the passageway! I’m guessing I wanted to make it clear they were looking at something mounted on a
wall facing away from the audience (so you couldn’t see what they were looking at, which would have rather spoiled the joke).... But unless it’s a particularly avant-garde
piece (or simply defying the laws of physics!) I don’t think it would look like that....

TO BE CONTINUED....​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Animatronicus rex!

Another week, another intriguing discovery from the period known as the past! My father was looking
through a box of old photos recently, when he came across something I’d (somewhat) forgotten about -
a trip we took to a travelling dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT,
in Auckland), around - I think - 1992. And these weren’t simply fossils or mounted skeletons, no sir:
they were big, scary animatronic dinosaurs with the roaring and the stomping and the nifty scenic
backdrops! Hence the reason they were at a transport and technology museum, I guess....



My favourite Jurassic friend, the plated herbivore Stegosaurus stenops; accompanied (at far left) by her
bouncing baby boy. What I particularly love about this dinosaur - apart from how utterly bizarre it looks -
is that the paired spines on its tail (called a Thagomiser) gets its name from a Gary Larson comic!



No, not a Triceratops - it’s one of his earlier relatives, the spiky-frilled Chasmosaurus belli from late
Cretaceous North america (around 75 million years ago, people). And aiming to start a
Harryhausen-class dinosaur battle....



.... Is the 30-foot (9 metre) Albertosaurus sarcophagus, also from the late Cretaceous;
and the third-cousin-twice-removed of Tyrannosaurus rex. He comes equipped with a stylish
pair of brow horns, surely the du rigeur fashion item for any Mesozoic predator!



Thanks to the Jurassic Park series, you might recognise these fellows more now than when this exhibition
was on - they are prime examples of the head bangin’ Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis,
all geared up for a mating season jousting contest. Play nice, lads....



Yup, dat’s me! While touring the prehistoric petting zoo, my (rather over-exposed) younger self
had his photo taken in front of another rather famous Cretaceous herbivore - Maiasaura peeblesorum,

the famous ‘Good Mother Lizard’. This hadrosaur had nesting grounds in what is now Montana,
as shown by hundreds of fossilised nests, eggs, hatchlings, juveniles and bones of adults discovered in the 1970’s.
Look at dem wittle babies!

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Life among the back-issue bins....

Rummaging through a pile of old books and magazines the other day, I happened across this:



It’s a copy of the now-defunct comics / sci-fi / toys / trading cards magazine Wizard, from all the way back in February 1994! There’s all manner of crazy, brilliant
(or just eye-rollingly bad) stuff in it, giving a very intriguing insight into how different the geography of the pop-cultural landscape was all those eons ago....
twenty-three years ago, by my calculations! Since we know how fun pointless trivia is - and while I prepare the next season of Cosmos: Old School for your
delectation - I though I’d share with you the highlights of my dalliance into the wonderful world of Wizard:



* Green Lantern #50: Oh no! Hal Jordan has gone nuts, killed the Green Lantern Corps, absorbed all the energy from the Central Power Battery.... aaaaand flipped
the bird at 30 years of consistent characterisation and DC continuity. The full page ad proclaims ‘An era ends here!’.... Well, considering they’d already killed off
Superman, broken Batman’s back, and replaced Bats with a lunatic in Iron Man armour by that point, they ain’t far wrong....

* Marvel debuts yet another edgy ‘90’s character: Nightwatch! Uh, guys, you do realise he is clearly, blatantly and incontrovertibly a complete rip off of Todd
McFarlane’s Spawn? Changing the colour scheme and giving him high-tech gloves REALLY doesn’t make it any less obvious. Sorry, boys, try again.



* Kenner expands its new Aliens action Figure line with a whole menagerie of gimmicky zoological monstrosities: the Panther alien, Killer crab alien, Razorback alien,
Tarantula alien, Rhino alien, Mantis alien, Snake alien and the Queen face-hugger! What? No Screeching cockatoo alien? Bah. Slackers.

* The main comic companies extant in February 1994? AC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics (The Siiiimp-soooons.....), Caliber Press, Continuity comics,
Dark Horse Comics (Hellboy, Monkeyman and O’Brien, other awesome stuff), DC Comics, Defiant, Express Publications, Fantagraphics Books, Image Comics
(T n’ A capital of the universe, at that point, unfortunately), Kitchen Sink Press, Lightning Comics, Malibu Comics, Marvel Comics, Northstar (creators of Klownshock:
Freakshow
! Gotta get me a copy a’ that!), Now Comics, Rip-off Press, Topps Comics.... and Valiant. Phew. Quite a few of those companies are not around today....

* Out now on Genesis and Game Gear: Robocop 3! Now with SIX whole levels of side-scrolling action!

*What’s So Hot Right Now? #1/2 issues and Ashcans! What’s an ashcan, you may ask? Why, a black-and-white, larger-than-normal, autographed prototype
of an upcoming ‘in-demand’ comic. So name because of their generally disposable nature once the final retail version shows up-- No, no, wait! They’re supposed
to be collectible! Don’t-- Ah, geez. Too late.

* The cost, circa 1994, of a mint-condition copy of the very first Fantastic Four comic from the 1960’s? $9,800.



* Among the competitions in Wizard #30 was the above - wherein you could win Kevin Eastman’s 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, all done up with artwork by comic artist
Simon Bisley (It’s Death-metal Bumblebee!) I’d imagine there would have been quite a few entries for that....

* Behold the bleeding edge of trading card ‘technology’: UV coating, Spectra-etch (your guess is as good as mine), 3D holograms, Thermo-foil, uncut card sheets
and the all-powerful Chromium! Guaranteed to not become passé for, oh, I’d say about five minutes....



* The top ten ‘must have’ comics of early 1994 were.... 1) Moon Knight #56, 2) Daredevil #319, 3) Wolverine #75 (with hologram card! Woo hoo!), 4) Moon Knight #55,
5) Daredevil #320, 6) Daredevil: Man without fear #1 (wow, lots of DD in this list!), 7) Ninjak #1, 8) Prime #2, 9) Avengers West Coast #102 (‘When Avengers Collide!’,
the cover screams), and 10) Green Lantern #46. Would I actually read any of them today? Ehhh, probably not.​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2001) - part twenty-two

Welcome back to part two of the disgustingly-early (or repulsively-late?) Cosmos Christmas special! Last time, I dealt with the A-Team cast’s surprisingly brief
contribution to the yuletide melee, all confusing Sunday strips, mistletoe and defective exploding Christmas lights; and the first mini-story from the B-Team cast,
featuring a very unfortunate Mall-Santa who probably wishes he has never met Peter Anderson....
Now it’s all about the B-Team cast (specifically Peter, Jamie and Timmy), as they prepare for the festive season while pondering the driving issues of the day:



Top: This entire story is (very loosely) inspired by a Calvin and Hobbes comic wherein Calvin, having listened to ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’ for two panels,
turns off his radio and addresses the audience “Santa Claus: kindly old elf.... or CIA spook?” You know, I’m not entirely certain how the modern pop-cultural caché of
Christmas - complete with its iconic red-suited spokesperson - was transplanted to Cosmos in the first place.... or whether it’s some incredibly bizarre form of convergent
evolution. But as with most things of this sort, it may be better if we simply accept it and move on....

Bottom: Oh dear, the Terrible Twosome are attempting to pull a face one on Jamie, possibly the most alarmnigly-astute ten year old since Lisa Simpson - this will not
end well, mark my words. Peter also appears to be seriously mixing his geek metaphors (meta-metaphors?) in the fourth panel.... In for a penny, in for a pound, huh, Pete?



Top: Ahhh, Unicron! Welcome! Leave it up to Peter (and by extension, me) to deliberately cram a Transformers reference into an already contrived mash-up. Still,
when you need an entire planet destroyed in the most horrific fashion possible, who better to call? From what I remember, the implication in these strips was that
Kreepton (great name there, Peter) is populated solely by Type-two Cosmosians; being an ‘alien planet’ rather than Cosmos itself. How well this cultural statistic
comes across in the story, though, is open to debate.

Bottom: Chaos! Destruction! $50 million dollar visual effects! The great thing about comic strips is you are basically unencumbered by budgetary concerns -
if you can imagine it, and you can draw it, then you can do whatever you want for no money down!
In doing so, however, Peter really seems to be digging himself into a sizeable hole....



Top: The penny drops. With sufficient force to shatter concrete, by the looks of things. I’m not going to speculate on whether there actually are such things as
Snow elves (I think I’ve got enough types of Cosmosians to worry about already, thanks), but Peter’s story has been exposed as the sham it truly was -
a shame, really. It was just getting interesting!

Bottom: Smarty-pants she may be, but Jamie can’t resist rubbing it in when she knows she has the advantage - which, in the circumstances, is fair enough. 
Unfortunately, Peter - unable to not be a sulky eight year old - is equally determined to dig that hole he’s in just that little bit deeper, just on general principle....



Above: This is interesting - the story is about the B-Team cast, but the title bar is all A-Team cast, all the time! A very rare occurrence; and only a few small steps from
the two casts appearing in the same strip together! Could you actually call it a crossover if they did, though, given that they’re both in one comic anyway? Hmm. Anyway,
the story itself: Peter’s first Transformer toy (Mr. green, yellow and orange) is entirely made up, but Transformer no.2 - rather unintentionally - is a dead ringer for one of
the pre-1984, Takara Toys versions of Optimus prime in terms of colour scheme (sans the red accents); although at that point in time, I had no idea any such toy existed.
And Cosmos again sounds like it gets a whole bunch of TF stuff we never did - ‘Deluxe Protectobots’ only appeared on Earth in the recent Combiner wars toy series; and
there are (thus far) no such things as Mega-changer cannon mounts, Throttlebot car launchers (which would be awesome, given that the Throttlebots had nifty
pull-back-action friction drive rear wheels), or an Iacon Duo-mode battlestation playset. Dangit, Cosmos, what other secrets are you hiding from us?!

COSMOS: OLD SCHOOL WILL RETURN THE MINUTE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT!