Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part nine

Last time, on Cosmos: Old School - tasked with disposing of all the unwanted / expired / openly hostile leftovers in their fridge by his partner, Macy,
Ax Maxwell goes about his business with grim determination; ousting everything from fossilised cheese to the eponymous and mysterious Crispy Crud.
Too late, however, he realises he has crossed through a Narnia-like doorway.... into the frozen wilderness of the Fridge that Time Forgot!
Oh, and the Largely-Stereotyped Ick People are EXTREMELY happy to make his acquaintance....



Above: One thing I have to say about the Fridge that Time Forgot - everything is very clearly labeled. Perhaps its a tradition handed down from
people storing the primordial leftover ancestors of its inhabitants in plastic containers with ‘Beef stew’, ‘Auntie Flo’s fudge brownies’ and
‘Jim’s chicken curry - Do Not Touch’ written on them? I seem to remember the Walrus-dog from a page of critter sketches I did in the early days
of Cosmos (or even pre-Cosmos?), so he’s also a leftover of an entirely different kind, as well....



Above: Really, Ax? Too corny? In a story written by a guy who lives, breathes and occasionally sneezes Transformers? Frankly, I’m surprised the gag
didn’t show up half way through Train of Thought instead! At least it baffled Ax’s pursuer long enough for him to reach that suspiciously
well-placed elevator.... much to the chagrin of  Chief Ebirah and the Ick People.



Above: So that’s where Macy’s peace symbol badge goes when it mysteriously disappears - this crustaceous behemoth keeps stealing it for his
own personal use! See, I told you there was a logical explanation. Although, I’m not sure Mr. Snow Lobster’s
intentions are entirely going to reflect the values that badge espouses....



Above: I’m not sure why the Digimon Tentomon is hanging out with the Ick People (panel 2), or why in fact I even chose him to cameo in the story at all;
instead of, say, a snowman, Yeti or other theme-appropriate character. It was probably for the same reason I stuck R2D2 in a couple of pages earlier -
which was to give future versions of myself a reason to question my own sanity! And what is it with giant monsters and their need to smash
violently through the local topography? The Snow lobster did it, the guy above has done it twice now: maybe they just like to make a dramatic entrance?
The road sign in panel four is particularly apt, given the vintage sci-fi novel this story is homaging - Caprona is the setting for The Land that Time Forgot,
The People that Time Forgot and Out of Time’s Abyss; while Pellucidar is the subterranean world from At the Earth’s Core, Pellucidar, Tanar of pellucidar and others.



Above: Geek I may be, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, would induce me to sample the culinary delights of that officially-licensed meatloaf.
Weeeell, maybe if you paid me.... And bought me a new car....



Above: Several things to note, here - 1) Everything in panel one is tilted at a 30° angle, except for Macy; who seems to be completely horizontal....
and well above of the level of the floor. Is she standing on the panel border? 2) Also in panel one - Crispy Crud lives, and its on the loose! 3) Panel 3 thru 5 hosts
a flying cameo by Murph’s rodent pal Newton, whose precise anatomy 2002-Jon clearly hasn’t worked out yet: I’m looking at you, four-fingered hands and stripy tail.



Above: Much like Ax’s comments about the Cosmos Monster Movie Mashtacular, the front page story on the Pago Grande Tribune is another reference
to a proposed (but never actualised) Cosmos Comics story, Hopelessly stuck.... in Time Amok! I did actually plan out and do rough sketches of
all the pages - in order to prevent the destruction of his lab, Professor Pod travels back in time to stop his past self from activating his (their?)
new invention; only to get into a blazing row with himself - as you do - which results in the lab being annihilated anyway, for a completely
different reason. Putting aside their differences, the pair both time-jump to stop themselves from fighting.... and then things really get complicated.
Looking at the doodle-script now, I can see why it never got any further: it is a fair number of pages long (at least 18), with numerous
detailed action sequences; and the dialogue is far wordier and more exposition-heavy than it actually needs to be. Still, there’s nothing wrong
with the plot itself; and with a bit (okay, a lot) of streamlining, I could easily revive it and set it rolling anew!
Now if I could only find enough time to make it happen....

TO BE CONTINUED.... 

 

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....‚Äč

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....