Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos:Old School (2002) - part eight

Taking its name from the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel The Land That Time Forgot, the second story in Cosmos Comics #1 (The Fridge that Time Forgot,
obviously) was, in some ways, rather similar to Train of Thought - i.e, a character/s travels to a bizarre new reality and gets into trouble along the way.
In this case, however, the lucky dimensionaut was one Ax Maxwell (who more or less has to go it alone once underway), and the story has more of a build-up
before the weirdness kicks in; giving me - or rather, Crazy Jon, who gets the writing credit here - a chance to throw in a bit of extra preparatory plot stuff!
In fact, until mid-way through page four, you may not even realise the direction the story is taking.... or at least, I hope not. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Fridge clocks in at 14 pages, two more than Train of Thought (due to that pesky scene-setting, no doubt), and contains a lot more in the way of background
gags and incidental ‘Easter eggs’. This was the influence of Mad Magazine at work, especially the vintage stuff by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Wally Wood et.al,
which was rife with extra visual or written details unrelated to the main story - although I don’t think I went quite as nuts as they did at the height of their powers....



Above: Exactly what every good story needs - a nice, big, potentially-misleading splash page to make you sit up and take notice! And speaking of misleading....
‘Colours by Electric Ick’?! What Colours?!?



Above: It’s clear who wears the pants in this relationship, as Macy gives ax his marching orders in a much-feared household task: cleaning out the fridge.
Her on again / off again peace-symbol badge is also up to its usual tricks - not there on page one, back again on page two. Sigh. Macy probably
should have stuck around to supervise, though.... Ax’s ‘keep or heave’ criteria seem just the tiniest bit suspect.



Above: What, exactly, is Crispy Crud? Much like KFC’s ‘11 secret herbs and spices’, I have no idea - to this day, I have not specified the ingredients of
this mysterious foodstuff, what you do with it, or in fact whether it is solid, liquid or gaseous in composition. We can infer several things from its packaging, though:
1) it has a truly unappetising name, 2) it may (or may not) be tangentially connected to some sort of fruit, and 3) having a seal-top lid does not save it from
going horribly, horribly wrong. I’m not sure what Roll-o-Flod (panel 4) or Stuff in a Can (panel 6) are either, come to think of it. Oh, Cosmosian foodstuffs, you so crazy!



Above: Here’s where things start taking a turn for the odd, and not just because of the frozen carrot-thing - I’m guessing Ax was so preoccupied with tunneling
through through the geological strata of his fridge, he didn’t notice he has crossed into the whiteware equivalent of the Narnia wardrobe until it was too late.
Silly man! But aren’t his feet / hands getting cold, tromping around in all that freezer-frost?



Above: Voila! The big reveal! One thing I really enjoy is creating oddball alien ecosystems and populating them with strange creatures; such as the one in this story.
It seems to be Journey to the Centre of the Earth meets Dr. Seuss, complete with several more sight gags - there’s Opus the penguin from Berkley Breathes’
Bloom County (penguin >> cold >> makes sense), Thor’s hammer Mjolnir (no idea), a giant chilli pepper (even less idea); and a teletubbie frozen
inside an ice stalactite (because it had to be done, dammit! It. Had. To. Be. Done.)



Above: The Cosmos Monster Movie Mashtacular was actually going to be a real thing! Ax’s statement served as a potential teaser for a future issue of Cosmos
Comics, if I ever found time to do any more. I’m not entirely certain what would have gone into it - a new Genezilla story, at the very least - but since it never got
further than, well, Ax’s statement, I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is who’s making a cameo in panel three.... it’s Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur and
Moon Boy! Appropriate, given the whole prehistoric world thing goin’ on....



Above: Chief Ebirah - named after the giant crustacean kaiju from the Godzilla series - is this story’s expositon provider and plot clarifier; and rather
fourth wall-savvy to go with it, so it would seem. He’s clearly a charming, charismatic individual, but plainly without a single ounce of moral scruples;
shown by his obvious glee at having a new victim to hurl into his village’s Pit of Death! And is that R2D2 and C3PO in the last panel?
The Star Wars parodies are back in that direction, guys....

What Happens Next? Find out on Monday in the next installment of Cosmos: Old School!

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part seven

Last time on cosmos: Old School - Artie and Gene were bound for a Planet of the Apes Swap Meet, when the guy drawing the story got distracted....
and they found themselves in a prehistoric jungle! Aided (or maybe just hindered) by a map of the artist’s subconscious, the Boys found their way to the
hometown of the superhero Guardian Angel - and the villainous Enforcers!



Above: Only Artie and Gene could calmly deliver a lecture on the history of cartoon fight scenes while the real thing rages about five steps away from them....
let alone become thoroughly bored with it by the end of the page! Aside form this decidedly surreal commentary, the other gag here is that no matter how much the
Enforcers whale on Guardian Angel (who seems to be giving back as good as she’s getting), her glasses are not even so much as being knocked crooked!
Those must be some spectacles. These days, though, she’s swapped them out for a snazzy pair of goggles.... along with a completely new outfit....



Above: Ohhhh, GA does not look happy - I’m very glad the Boys fled when they did, because otherwise the rest of this story would have been significantly.... shorter.



Above: The ‘service elevator’ was not simply a shortcut for Artie and Gene, it was also an item of narrative convenience for me - rather than repeating the
‘wander around the Mental Badlands / find another random crossover opportunity / go there’ motif who knows how many times, I was able to shuttle the
pair through quite a few parallel worlds within the space of six panels; either visually or by inference. But did it deliver them to their destination?



Above: Nope! Obligatory Transformers reference!



Above: For Artie and Gene, the Fourth Wall is not so much a barrier as a gossamer thin veil that can be removed with one sharp tug. Yep, that is indeed
me in my richly-furnished ‘artists studio’, being given the stern words treatment by my loyal employees. Did I mention how much respect and reverence
I get from these guys? Yehhhh, about that much....



Above: I hate to say it, but panel four is about as true to life as it can get - I am frequently juggling several comic strip (or other) ideas at once, primarily
because Idea B shows up half way through drawing up Idea A, I remember I should have written down Idea C already while A and B are fighting it out;
and Idea D comes about as a result of waking up in a groggy and befuddled state, forcing me to get up and scribble down the random nonsense
that popped into my head before I could stop it! Oh, and that is one EXTENSIVELY researched straitjacket I’m wearing at the end....

Train of Thought is complete - Friday brings us the first half of The Fridge that Time Forgot!

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....​