Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part six

Welcome back to the interior components of Cosmos Comics #1, my first proper foray into funny-book stories for the Cosmos-verse! The first tale featured in the
publication was ‘Train of Thought’, featuring the comedic stylings of Artie and Gene - since these two are all about kicking over the fourth wall and stomping it into
little itty-bitty pieces, I pondered the question ‘What would happen if I was drawing a Cosmos story and my mind started to.... wander?’ Hence the title of the story,
obviously; and the resultant mayhem unleashed on (and by) Mr. Deacon and Mr. Ellis. This is not a story I could have done anywhere near as effectively as a
series of four-panel strips (even with a few Sundays thrown in), as it would have ended up A) absurdly long, B) very stop-start with all the recaps I’d periodically
have to do, and C) very cramped and wordy in those undersized Old School comic strip panels (shades of 2001, part 16 and 17). Doing it as a comic book
story gave me the space - both figuratively and literally - to sprawl out across big panels, double-spreads and continuous narrative flow.... Lovely!



Above: The implication of the background detail in panel one, obviously, is that Artie and Gene are heading for the POTA swap meet (saves unnecessary exposition,
you see) - but there’d have to be an awful lot of people bringing an awful lot of merchandise / fan-made stuff for the event to be economically viable, right? Should have
said ‘club symposium’ or ‘convention’, methinks....



Above: Remember what I said about the all-Jon creative team in the previous installment? Here’s its first use in Cosmos, on this very page. Plus, the
continuing disregard of my ‘No Dinosaurs in Cosmos’ rule! What fun!



Above: I have a feeling every character I’ve ever created has a map like this for emergencies, given that bonking around inside my head is hardly a
walk in the (Jurassic) park on a good day. The ‘mental badlands’ are decorated with weird geometric patterns so Artie and Gene would actually have
something to react to - when I first drew up this page, the final panel was otherwise blank, meaning that the dynamic duo were gaping in horror at.... nothing.
(And yes, I know I misspelled ‘subconscious’.... Twice.... So sue me.)



Above: This is why its good to be working on a comic book page, rather than a four-panel comic strip - you can have expository dialogue AND an extended bout
of slapstick humour, all without compromising proper story pacing. Plus, you can just turn the page to find out what Gene’s flipping out over....



Above: Yes, Gene IS just hanging onto her leg, thank you very much.... Minds out of the gutter, people! The great thing about a story set in my head is
the potential for cameos and crossovers with other characters I’ve created - case in point, the lovely Guardian Angel from my superhero series The Toon Squad.
Lamentably, Mr. Ellis seems to be perpetuating the fine tradition of non-human male cartoon characters making goo-goo eyes at attractive humanoid
female cartoon characters.... as well as simultaneously displaying his ability to drive anyone nuts with his obnoxious enthusiasm!



Above: The Enforcers (Stiltor, Pinstripe, Red Devil and Inertia) are some of the oddball supervillains who inhabit the same reality as Guardian Angel -
and I have to say, since said universe also included Irving the Human Lobster and The 9th Dimensional Man, they’re probably somewhere on the low end of the
scale.... GA also seems to be rocking a Rocket-belt similar to the Avenger’s Wonder Man (source of the brainwave patterns of the Vision, trivia fans), whereas
these days she has propulsion units fitted into her boots, ala Iron Man!

Tune in Wednesday for the second half of the story!

TO BE CONTINUED....​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part five

During 2002, apparently not content with the demands of a regular newspaper-style comic strip, I decided to go whole hog and make a feature-length Cosmos
comic book; whose duration was measured not in panels but in pages. Ambitious, yes, but it was something I’d always wanted to do - and given that I also intended to
run off a few copies and use them as birthday presents for lucky friends / Cosmos fans, this was something worth spending the necessary amount of time on. As one-off
projects go, it forms a triumvirate with the Cosmos Cosmonopoly game (2000, part 19) and the Cosmos calendar (2001, part 15); but was probably more time-intensive
than either. Clocking in at 34 pages (counting the front and back covers, and the title page), Cosmos Comics #1 featured two 12 page comic stories - one starring Artie and
Gene, the other Ax and Macy - as well as a selection of the expected ‘add-ons’ in any such publication (ads, puzzles and so forth), given that postmodern satirical Cosmos
touch. I’ll deal with the covers and add-ons in this installment, followed by the stories in their own individual write-ups next week; as they all have their own,
shall we say, site-specific details to discuss....



1) What better place to start with than the front cover? Although I went through several improvised logo designs in the early years of Cosmos, the one featured here
was the longest lasting - even getting a vector art upgrade at the start of the ‘New-School’ era, in nifty shades of orange and yellow. The cover art itself is supposed
to represent a series of photos thumbtacked to a cork bulletin board, showing various characters from around the Cosmos-verse; from Professor Pod (top left) to
Captain Confusion (bottom right). Although quite why I also included a pineapple-shaped fridge magnet (far left, next to Macy), I have no idea.... Is cork even magnetic?



2) The title page marked the start of a bit of an in-joke exclusive to my comic book-style stories - the fact that since I was basically the entire artistic and editorial team
of Cosmos, I might as well make different versions of me to carry out the assorted tasks involved; and give them ‘credit’ for the contributions at the start of each story. 
Superjon Red and Superjon Blue (based on Superman Red and Superman Blue from DC comics) were in control, ably assisted by Crazy Jon
(for the REALLY loopy stories), Paranoid Jon (lettering and utterly obsessive record-keeping) and Evil Jon (‘cause you’ve got to have an evil twin, right?).
This page also contains the only ‘recycled’ element in the entire book: one of the Top 10 comics from 2000. Other than that, everything was new material!
Eat that, you lazy Cosmos 2001 calendar!



3) Probably based more on the similar inclusions in UK comic annuals than anything in an American comic, my Pointless Puzzle Psection is a
(mostly) genuine set of old-school word and image puzzles.... So feel free to give them a go!



4) Remember those cramped little pages of mail-order gags, gadgets and other assorted pieces of cheap junk they used to have in comic books?
Well, here’s my version of it, rebooted to hock an entire smorgasbord of comic and sci-fi related paraphenalia (or pop-cultural shout-outs, if you so prefer).
A Kree sentry for only $150? I’ll take six!



5) Another thing common to comics both old and new are hyperbolic and colour-saturated advertisements for equally hyperbolic and colour-saturated
breakfast cereals; usually hyped by a sugar-crazed cartoon mascot. As this was social commentary of the highest order, I was very careful to highlight the
nutritional content and obvious health benefits of such a wholesome food product....

TO BE CONTINUED....

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part four

Winter, for those of you who live in the mountains - or just the Northern Hemisphere, come to think of it - means you get to experience the lovely phenomenon of snow.
That cold, white stuff which is perfect for making snowmen, snow-angels, snow forts.... and having utterly epic snowball fights with your friends. Here in New Zealand,
I would very literally have to tromp up a mountain to see snow; but in the northern parts of the Cosmosian landmass of Tectonica (home of the B-Team cast), they are lucky
enough to have a ‘white winter’ once a year, most every year. The actual climatic logistics of Cosmos are too terrifying to even consider - the planet is shaped like a donut,
for Bob’s sake; and its moon does figure-of-eight loop-de-loops through the hole in the middle - but since Tectonica is the Cosmosian equivalent of England,
a winter snowfall they shall have....

I’m not sure what time of year Peter, Timmy and Jamie experience winter (it seems to show up on a basis of ‘whenever I remember to do it, if at all’), but they certainly look
forward to it; and enjoy it immensely when it arrives. Especially since there’s so many creative things you can do with cartoon snow:


Top: Is it just me, or do the snowmen (snow-Cosmosians?) in the first two panels have incredibly creepy eyes? One has to wonder what they’re made out of, considering
how big they are - unless someone has gone to the trouble of cutting and shaping huge hunks of coal, or something. And in panels three and four, we see the inevitable return
of Peter and Timmy’s structurally-implausible snow sculptures (Grimlock and omega supreme, respectively).... although this is one strip that would definitely benefit from being in colour, because it’s not immediately apparent that that’s what they are. How do you tell Grimlock is made out of snow when EVERYTHING is in black-and-white? Exactly.

Bottom: Peter doesn’t normally do much planning ahead - he’s more of a “Sure it’s gonna work!” kind of guy - but when it comes to an event as important as ‘Snow Wars’
(the stuff of which legends are made), then an ounce of preparation will save him from a ton of public humiliation tomorrow! It’s interesting to note that due to the cold
conditions, Peter has swapped out his standard Type-Four Cosmosian ‘ear covers’ (or whatever they are) for some actual ear muffs - so there must be something
underneath them that needs to be kept warm / protected. Sure wish I knew what it was....


Above: Hey hey! It’s the Tolstoy twins! Remember them from Cosmos: Old School (2000) - part 11? They were, technically speaking, the first members of the B-Team cast
to appear (even though I didn’t know there was going to BE a B-Team cast at that point); but this was only their third appearance in the strip, period.... and their first
interaction with Peter, Timmy and co. I added them in because A) they were wonderfully absurd characters, B) they wouldn’t really fit anywhere else, and C) I foresaw
immense potential in having these egotistical child prodigies aiding and abetting the fevered imaginings of Peter and Timmy. Plus, as shown in the second strip, they
have the ability to dethrone the terror of the schoolyard, Marco Zimmerman.... With Science!!


Top: Uh oh - Timmy seems to have given Peter another one of his ‘brilliant ideas’.... and with the Tolstoy Twins in residence, what was once laughably impractical might 
now have a chance of achieving actuality! I think Timmy has a bit of a steep learning curve ahead of him, figuring out the new status quo - a perfect example
of how adding new characters to a strip can open it out to so many new opportunities; to say nothing of shaking everything up....

Bottom: Normally, Jamie is the B-Team’s Voice of Common Sense, attempting to steer her friends away from the Rocks of Disaster. This time, ironically, she appears
to have made herself INTO the rocks; simply by showing up! Having the Tolstoy Twins become utterly smitten with Jamie was a wrinkle in the plot I couldn’t resist sticking
in there - not only does it completely derail their former stance on the moral high ground, but it also means they are now utterly subservient to Peter’s will
(Warning bells ahoy!); and represent - rather than a bulwark of scientific knowledge - just another source of frustration for poor Jamie. Oh dear.


Above: The dynamic between Peter and Timmy, the Tolstoy Twins and Jamie is very interesting in this story, as their personalities bounce off each other quite
nicely - Peter and Timmy are impulsive and easily swayed by their own hype, Warren and Tiberius are frighteningly intelligent but rather naive and self-absorbed; and
Jamie - while not quite the Tolstoy Twins intellectual equal - is probably wiser and more mature than all her friends put together. The Twins’ romantic designs on her
(they’re six, she’s ten - they must like older women), of course, is one thing guaranteed to rattle her composure.... but since both warren and Tiberius have a crush on her,
does that mean they are united in their wooing efforts, or have they been sneakily trying to undermine each other so only one will emerge victorious? Hard to say, really....
 Unfortunately, despite the various competing agendas, Peter is clearly the de facto project leader on-site; given that the Twins are deferring largely to him on all major
strategic decisions. And Mr. Anderson is hell-bent on capitalising on their recent triumph over one Marco Zimmerman by tipping the scales irrecoverably in their favour!
To arms, gentlemen! To arms! So, what happened next?

Er, well. Yes. Um.

As is common to the early Old School era,  this story is yet another ‘Unfinished Symphony’; a tale whose latter stages were visualised.... but then not actualised.
While ink was not put to paper for the third act of Project: Snow Cannon in terms of finished comics, I envisioned a Sunday strip (for a bit of necessary plot-exposition
and Peter-speechifying) followed by at least two further four-panelers for the denouement. And I can tell you exactly what happens in them - after sending Marco a note
(supposedly from one of this thuggish friends) designed to lure him out to a certain sports field, Peter and his motley crew install themselves on the periphery
with their cleverly camouflaged snow cannon. Mr. Anderson launches into his speech, alarming Jamie and Timmy but impressing the Tolstoy Twins (uh oh) with
his ‘leadership’. Suddenly, they fall silent as a shambling figure stomps onto the wintry landscape - Marco Zimmerman! He is none too happy about the ‘meeting’,
and is clearly only going to hang around long enough to determine whether or not someone is jerking him around. Scrambling into their positions, Peter and the others
ready the snow cannon, aim, and let fly - Marco only has time to hear a distant ‘thump’.... before he is buried by a mass of snow the size of a small car!
The snow cannon gang break into raucous celebration at the sight (even Jamie), certain that they’ve finally achieved ultimate revenge on their nemesis -
but perhaps they should have done it a bit more quietly....



Oops. Oh well. Perhaps it’s for the best I never finished the story, huh?

TO BE CONTINUED....​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part three




Hello, everyone! In earlier Cosmos stories (such as 1999, part 10; 2000, part 4; and 2000, part 18; according to Jon’s helpful record-keeping), Gene has made on
secret of his love of a good cup of coffee - although considering that many of his ‘personal blends’ were capable of devouring teaspoons whole and eating their way
through mugs, tablecloths and tables (!), one had to wonder what abuses he was subjecting himself to in the name of his traditional ‘Morning pick-me-up’. That was a
question I asked myself, so one day I decided to actually broach the subject:


Well, at least we got him to see sense on the issue.... once he’d stopped vibrating hard enough to travel through time. However, Macy and I both knew that all the fine
words and fancy speeches would count for nothing if Gene attempted to tackle the Twelve-step Program on his own. He’s not exactly known for his impulse-control
skills, after all.... which is why he had us to lend him a hand! Both sets of them, clamped hard enough to his various appendages to stop him from escaping
somewhere we couldn’t find him!


Macy and I, by necessity, adopted a strategy of ‘tough love’, i.e, treat Gene like a three-year old having a sugar-fueled temper tantrum, and refuse to cave in no
matter how much he screamed, flailed and carried on. And believe you me, there was a lot of that going on:


As I’m sure Jon has explained somewhere, Gene and Macy’s friendship is somewhat, shall we say, antagonistic. They’re always trying to rub each other up the wrong
way - a bit of ‘friendly competition’, so they tell me - but when Macy has unfair advantage (as above) she tends to get a bit.... nasty. I’m not sure whether ‘Psychological
Warfare 101’ was a compulsory course in art school, but Ms. Styles appears to have honed her skills to the proverbial razor’s edge! Once I’d (yet again....)
played peace-maker between the two of them, we all went back to the third innings of the Waiting Game:


All’s well that ends well, hmm? I mean, once we’d cured Gene’s addiction to coffee.... and then cured the second, even worse addiction we’d inadvertently created
by combating the first.... he was a new Cosmosian, all ready to turn over a new leaf! His current coffee intake is virtually nil - one cup, once a year, on his birthday;
or so he assures us - and Nut-i-O’s? Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Let’s just say there’s nothing a little inexpensive $4,000 regimen of hypnotherapy and cover-ups won’t do
for clearing up such a minor, inconsequential problem....

Which we no longer talk about.

For.... completely unrelated reasons.

And stuff.

TO BE CONTINUED....​

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....