Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part eleven

As with every other cartoonist on the planet, I tend to flinch (and grimace internally) when someone pulls out the hoary old chestnut “Wow! Where do you get all
your ideas from?” The simple answer to that question is, well, anywhere. Everywhere. Somewhere. Nowhere. I never know when (or where) my muse
will suddenly give me an Uppercut of Divine Intervention; but when it happens, it always comes from a completely random source. For example, just yesterday
I was strolling through town when - cued by a sign for a gym, I think - an image of a guy holding out a plate to a jogger and smirking ‘Cake?’
popped into my head, and within seconds.... Pow! I had a new joke all ready to go. Its always been this way, and the strips in this installment
are perfect examples of the sheer unpredictability of my creative process....



Above: Whoo-boy, them’s one whole bunch a’ characters. This rather open-plan Sunday strip came about as I thought about all the other (non-Cosmos)
stuff that’s rattling around in my head, and how it often competes with Cosmos for my attention. So what, I pondered, if one of those things managed to
drag me off course in mid-stream, and completely took over? Not for no reason are Artie and Gene relegated to the bottom right hand corner in this one!
All those characters heroes and villains are from the same universe as the lovely Guardian Angel, seen in Cosmos Comics #1 (2002, part 6 and 7); and....
yeh, I can’t even remember half their names anymore, there’s that many of them.



Above: These strips, by contrast, come directly from the ‘slice of life’ file. Back in 2002, I was hanging out with my pal Jeremy when we happened
across a webcomic on the internets - an utterly, utterly hilarious one. So hilarious, in fact, we had great difficulty tearing ourselves away from it; let alone
going full-bore cold turkey. Afterward, it seemed the simplest possible step to swap me and Jeremy for Artie and Gene (the similarities, I hate to say it, a
re terrifying); and let the magic happen. What surprised me while creating the mini-story was that GENE is the one urging restraint throughout,
while ARTIE (normally the paragon of sensibility) is the one who ends up turning into the brainwashed interweb zombie! Dark horse, that one. But that’s
why it works so well: because its unexpected. The other way around, we merely would have had ‘business as usual’ - which I did in the
‘Gene vs. Coffee’ story earlier in the year, anyway - and things wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting. The final panel of strip four,
by the way, is another one of my ‘speech bubbles as physical objects’ explorations: if Artie’s speech bubble is tethered to his head, and he tips over,
would it tip over with him? Given that this is a strip written by me, the answer is visible from about a mile away....



Above: Every now and then, I like to mix things up with a Sunday strip that doesn’t adhere to the normal template of Eight-Panels-with-Title-Bar-at-the-top.
And this one needed all 13 panels I handed to it - cats (and Cosmosian cat-snakes) are notoriously fussy eaters, frequently turning their noses up at
the meal you’ve lovingly prepared for them because it’s not what you normally serve.... or it’s too hot.... or too cold.... or doesn’t smell right....
or is absolutely, totally perfect in every conceivable way, and therefore not what they wanted at all. Possibly inspired by Garfield’s creative
criticisms at dinnertime, I attempted to give Murph the most overblown, disproportionate, ludicrous and whacked-out reaction possible; all from the
smallest nibble of the suspicious-looking new menu item. And I’d say I’ve succeeded -  the mallet-head panel still cracks me up when I look at it!
The only thing that worries me, though: in the last panel, there seems to be an awful lot more cat food splattered all over the walls
(and Gene) than could actually fit in Murph’s bowl....

TO BE CONTINUED....   ​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part ten

World building - when I first started Cosmos back in January of 1999, that was the last thing I envisaged I would be doing. It was an unproven
commodity, with about as much chance of success as anything else I’d ever done: no actual characters, no locations, and certainly nothing resembling a
sense of what ‘Cosmos’ even was in terms of planetary geography. But, as is my wont, bits and pieces of things - doodles in my sketchbook, elements
within the strip itself, real world (and fictional world) environments that sparked my interest - coalesced together in a mish-mash of potentiality
that was just begging (well, angrily threatening, by that point) to be slotted into some sort of framework. And so I did:



The continents may have shifted around a bit between my first and second draft sketches, but one thing was consistent: as far as planets go,
Cosmos was anything but.... conventional. Quite where the donut-and-hole thing came from, I have no idea - not Larry Niven’s Ringworld,
I don’t think; and probably not Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, although it probably helped - but I was definitely aiming for the quirkiest world you could imagine.
It doesn’t rotate around its central point like a wheel, as you might expect.... Oh no, this was a stretched donut standing on end, with pointed tips
that serve as the north and south poles; and the planet rotates around the axis of these instead, like Earth does. Not only that, it has a very small,
egg-shaped moon (later called Obb, for whatever reason) that performs a complicated figure-of-eight orbit, causing it to loop in and out of Cosmos’
central ‘hole’ (the Circum-central Ocean); thus driving the tides.

I love making things easy for myself, don’t I?



On the final map, the continents and islands are based - somewhat - on equivalent landmasses on Earth (although the placement of all the deserts,
in particular, is something I may change if I ever do an updated version - I’m not sure they’re even in the right places to BE deserts!) Kranicia, home of
Artie, Gene, Professor Pod and the rest of the A-team cast, is comparable to North America, but with bits of Europe and New Zealand thrown in for
good measure; while Tectonica (where Peter and the B-team cast hang out) and Albaria are basically England, Scotland and Ireland smooshed together
with some leftover Europe pieces. Demozonia stands in for South America, Martaris for Africa, Rondwana for Australia; and Zyterra
(and to some extent Microzonia) for Asia. The Maagar Islands - birthplace of Explorers Inc’s Tork - are a Madagascar / Galapagos / Komodo mash-up;
while the Hedrian Islands and Norwegia contain elements of Norway, Sweden, the South Island of New Zealand and various sub-Antarctic islands.
Both the north and south poles have Antarctica-like landmasses dumped on them, Frigidia and Glacius respectively....

Don’t even get me started on how plate tectonics is supposed to work on this planet.

No, seriously, don’t.

TO BE CONTINUED....​

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!