Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part thirteen

I’ve always wondered - as have, no doubt all his friends - what a behavioural psychologist would make of Mr. Eugene Carmichael Ellis.
While fundamentally a decent guy, his penchant for practical jokes and mind-games, boisterous (and dare I say alarming?) enthusiasm, and
devil-may-care attitude to his own personal safety makes one wonder what goes on in his head sometimes. He isn’t unique, as far as this sort of personality
is concerned - the Autobot Swerve from IDW’s fantastic series Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is unnervingly similar to Mr. Ellis; and a
snippet of dialogue from a story by comic artist Adam Warren (about one of his own characters) could - taken out of its original context -
just as well come from a doctor diagnosing Gene’s, well, Genes:

“.... You know, with too much Adrenoconticotropic hormone, too little Monoamine oxidase? Makes them obnoxious, aggressive, overexcitable....”

Our favourite sweater-wearing misanthrope, however, manages to go one better: while the A-team cast are all aware of their status as comic strip
characters, only Gene truly exploits the freedom this gives them; taking a perverse glee in pushing the laws of cartoon physics as far as they will go.
It’s almost as if he’s daring them to push back just as hard some day, putting him firmly back in his place.... or worse. Risk taker? Easily bored?
Defying his own mortality? Totally insane? Who knows - we’re just glad he’s on our side....



Above: No, Artie, I honestly don’t think there’s any rehearsal involved in Gene’s shenanigans - seriously, can anyone see him working to a script?
Or following the stage directions? That would just get in the way of his fun! If I tried to place limits on what Gene could or couldn’t do, I’m not sure
we’d get to see the majestic Chocolate-cream Jungle Donut going on its beastly rampage; and that would be a shame. On a different subject:
does everybody else suddenly have a hankering to watch Wheel of Salmon, just to find out how it actually works?



Top: Any time you hear the words “Wanna see a neat trick?” coming out of Gene’s mouth, you should be A) extremely wary, and
B) ready to flee at the earliest possible opportunity. Unfortunately, until you know precisely which boundaries of common sense he intends
to grossly mis-mangle, there may be no choice but to wait and see what happens!

Bottom: Ah, space restrictions, my old nemesis, we meet again. Panel four is yet another prime example of how very wordy, hand-written
dialogue can fill up so much of the panel that the artwork ends up crammed into the absurdly-small area that remains. And it’s particularly
unfortunate in this case: can you tell that the character is skydiving, plummeting through a vast expanse of open sky as
he attempts to decipher his parachute instructions? Well, no. Every bit of that dialogue was necessary (exaggeration = humour),
but so was making the character large enough in the frame so you could see his mounting horror - and with no way to change the font size
or shrink the text box (short of drawing the entire thing again), all I ended up with was a bad compromise....



Top: Gene really has a knack for messing up panel borders, doesn’t he? I’d classify this as a ‘slow burn’ gag - when you first look at the
overall composition, you have no idea what you’re supposed to be getting from it, let alone what it all means. But then you get to panel four,
read the dialogue, see what Gene is grasping in his angry little hand.... and you’re laughing your head off because, finally, two and two have
added up to make five. At least, that was how it worked with the people I showed it to, much to my satisfaction.

Bottom: On a hot day, many people seek short-term relief by standing in front of the fridge with the doors open.... But when you’ve reached the
level of ‘ingenuity’ Ax has attained, perhaps you’ve gone just a bit too far! Unless he was trying to pay another visit to the Fridge that Time Forgot
(2002, part 8 and 9) - in which case, I understand perfectly.



Top: once every so often, it seems, cartoon physics likes to get its own back on Mr. Ellis.... and this, dear reader, is most assuredly one of
those times. I’m not sure why he didn’t stick with his look in panel two, though - Batman, Gene! You passed up being Batman!

Bottom: Artie and Gene are Bad Movie aficionados par excellence - if it’s got shonky set design, laughable monsters or truly horrendous acting,
they will have watched it with all possible gusto! But the Cosmosian equivalent of videos and DVDs (at least during the Old School era)
somewhat confuse me: they look to be a wafer-thin tablet with the movie info on the front, and complex circuitry patterns on the back. Is this simply a
streamlined, high-tech case that the DVD fits into for storage; or does the entire thing slot into the DVD player like some oversized credit card?
I really must figure that out sometime....

TO BE CONTINUED..... ​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part twelve



Oh. Well. Finally. I actually get to do a blog entry this time, do I? Jon’s been posting up this ‘Old School’ series for quite a while now, and in that time
(the equivalent of three-and-a-bit years worth of Cosmos strips) Artie and Gene have each done several guest blogs, Ax has done a couple,
as have Professor Pod and Tony; and even Ax and freakin’ Newton have one under their belts. But me?

Noooooooooo.

Oh no, heavens no, I’m not bitter. I don’t feel cheated, or anything. Resentment? Ha. My self-esteem certainly hasn’t been shredded into a series of
tastefully-ragged strips, and re-sown into a mosaic of frustrated dreams destined to hang in the Gallery of Regret--

Okay, fine, I am a little bitter.

Shut up.

But now, here’s my chance! Back in 2002, Jon starring - of all people - myself, wherein I get exposed to all the pop-cultural tomfoolery that
normally shows up on our planet; and actually get to go on my very own wild adventure! Yes, when I’m with Ax and the Boys, you’ll normally see me steer
clear of all that craziness.... but only because those guys always insist on deliberately making the situation worse! “Ooh, let’s push this button marked
‘Instant searing death’! What could possibly go wrong?” Urrrgh. But unhindered by upside-down Man-logic, I can handle myself perfectly well, thank you....



Now hang on there, Mr. Axwell - I didn’t say I’d NEVER used a computer, merely that I didn’t know how. Back then, I was a very old-fashioned art-gal:
no digital art, no Photoshop, no fancy-pants third-party plug-ins; just me, my paintbrushes and canvases, and a whole lot of elbow grease. Ax basically
set up my art website for me, and was always so willing to keep it updated for me as per my instructions, I never had to touch anything more
advanced than a pocket calculator. But enough was enough - being a technophobe luddite was embarrassing! Now all I had to do was get up that steep learning curve....



*Sigh* Just because you’ve thrown a saddle on that horse, Ladies and Gents, doesn’t mean it’ll let you ride it. The first day figuring out Ax’s computer
(once Jon had re-drawn it for us after I, um, scared it) was one of the more nerve-wracking things I’ve had to do in my time - all those programs, and
icons, and keyboard shortcuts.... and ways to do something wrong and make the whole thing crash.... did not bear thinking about! Being naturally high-strung
(You’ve noticed that, right? The whole flying-off-the-handle thing? Don’t lie! You have!) , fear led to confusion, then to frustration, then to exhaustion....
and then things really got crazy.



Why is every world created by Jon always stocked with such utter goofballs? Well, to be fair on these guys, I guess they weren’t as nutty as I was initially
dreading - they turned out to be friendly and helpful robot-people, as accomodating as could be.... despite the whole ‘Hey! You’re suddenly the
Chosen One!’ thing. From what jon tells me, Chip and Tee-Vee first showed up as doodles in his high school computer class exercise book,
before getting the odd comic story here n’ there - so they could be excused for being so.... enthusiastic.... about a return performance so
many years later! If I ever get my hands on whoever wrote that stupid prophecy, though....



To say ‘up against impossible odds’ summed up my situation during that enforced trudge to the Monster’s lair, would be something of an
understatement - because you clearly forgot to add ‘insane’, ‘patently suicidal’ and ‘Why the bleep-bleeping bleepity-bleep are you not running
in the opposite direction, Woman?!’ Do I have to everything around here? Typical. Looking back now, though, I don’t think I could have opted
out even if I wanted to: there’s a strong sense of right and wrong under all my barbs and sarcasm, and it was screaming “Help the wacky robots,
you wuss!!” They were in dire straits - what else could I do? Besides, it was just one evil Demon-virus! How bad could it be?

Yehhhhh, okay.



My strategy, at this point, was basically ‘run, scream, hide, repeat’; because let’s face it, there weren’t exactly a wealth of options in front of me. This wasn’t a
job for Macy Raider, this was job for Genezilla! Or Artie-Kong! Or any of those other no-good, do-nothing slacker monsters who were very conveniently
NOT THERE TO HELP. Sure, I had my ‘high-powered super-weaponary’, but that meant next to nothing in the face of the implausibly powerful
(if charismatic) Digital Demon of the Depths. Pockmarks! That’s all I was making! Pockmarks! Still, there was that whole fated-by-destiny thing....



I’m sure if Jon were here, he’d be going on about “Duhh blah blah blah limitations of Old-School Cosmos strips blah blah blah not enough space derp derp”
in relation to the third panel in the second strip; and, since I agree with the opinions coming out of his hypothetical face, I’m going to do it for him.

What IS going on in that third panel, Jon?!?

Since I was there when it happened, I can tell you for a fact that A) I tripped over something and went flying, B) I smashed into a data-junction on
the wall, and C) that somehow triggered a deus ex machina power surge that somehow disintegrated the Digital Demon and his smug, condescending smirk.
But can you tell that from what Jon actually drew? Should’ve done this as a Sunday strip and spread it across several panels, Sunshine.



Man, that was a great party. It was just a shame that Ax came along and WOKE ME UP, right when they were about to launch into the speeches
and banquet, and everything - thanks, Darling. Much appreciated. Regardless of any evidence to the contrary, I’m not going to buy the old ‘Oh, it was
all just a dream’ nonsense on this one - I knew stuff I hadn’t learned, or even heard about, before I fell asleep! And I had battle-bruises in....
various.... places.... Ahem. Anytime one of us goes on one our ‘trippy little journeys’, it’s always far too real to be a cheap hallucination
(especially if more than one of us is along for the ride), and they occur far too often to pass them all off that easily.
Bring on the next one, Jon! We can take it!

TO BE CONTINUED....
  

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....