Cosmos

When Nonsense Collides!

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by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part twenty



What’s my favourite time of the year? GrandéCon season. Although I attend several conventions and events during my average business year, the biggest -
and the best - is the one that takes place in my very own home town, Pago Grandé. I’ve been associated with GrandéCon since the very beginning, when
it was just a bunch of tables in the local community hall: despite the flurry of activity and organisation I have to cram in leading up to the event, I love it.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to interact with my pop-cultural brethren - fans, fellow business owners, industry professionals,
comic artists and graphic designers, celebrity guests....

Yes, yes, and and make zillions of dollars from the impulse purchases of hordes of rabid, common sense-exempt geek-jobs. Thanks, MOM.

By 2002, thankfully, I wasn’t having to handle things alone: one Arthur Deacon (Artie to his friends)was on tap to help me sort, stock, sell and
generally strategise (very good at tasks beginning with ‘S’, is Artie) at the Tony’s Comic Utopia booth.... and such fun we had on that long weekend in mid-Octember!



Top: you’ve got to hand it to the hard-working folks at the Pago Grandé Convention Centre - they do their jobs, and they do them exceedingly well.
We business owners have to do a fair bit of schedule-juggling to get our booths ready, sure, but these guys? They’ve got to organise the entire CONVENTION!
While also keeping track of all the other events showing up in and around ours.... So you can perhaps forgive them for being a bit freaked out....

Bottom: since Artie and his pals enjoy geeking out at gigs such as this, I thought it would be a nice treat (just for once) if they didn’t have to pay $8 a head to
get in. Fair enough, right? Well, I may have reckoned without Gene: he knows a good thing when he sees it, and getting a free pass was such a giddy thrill, he
is now made an annual tradition of (unsuccessfully, for the most part) attempting to wheedle one out of me every single year! Means fair or foul,
subtlety, sneakiness, reverse-psychology, begging and grovelling or out-and-out emotional blackmail....
You can’t blame him for trying - buuuuuut I frequently do.



Above: for some people, working the ticket queues gives them a bizarre feeling of power - hundreds of geeks stand in your queue, all ready to enter GrandéCon;
and YOU have the authority to take their money, issue their tickets and decide whether or not they get a fully-stocked showbag! A few, however - like the
guy above - take their power-trip a bit too far, and start acting like a oafish bouncer at a nightclub, turning away any who do not meet their
arbitrary and impossible-to-satisfy ‘standards’. Needless to say, people like him are also lynch mob magnets....



Top: although there is a lot of crossover between different ‘types’ of geek - Animé fans can still collect X-Men action figures, for example, and that
Lord of the Rings nerd is perfectly entitled to also love Star Trek - Jon thought it would be fun to craft this set of four ‘Spotters guides’ for some of the main ‘Con
archetypes you might spot down at your local geek-fest. And is that me posing for the sword n’ sorcery guy illustration?.... My answer is a definite, unqualified Maybe.

Bottom: Ah, showbags - the essential ‘starter set’ for anyone set on amassing a laudable hoardable of convention swag on their day out. Depending
on the ‘Con you’re attending, your showbag will be either a cornucopia of free comics, vouchers, gift items and snacks (such as at GrandéCon), kind of
average (most places).... or three random brochures and a half-crushed lollypop (wastes of your time, frankly). And even if you don’t buy anything else -
but Gundam model kits are 30% off! Aren’t you looking? - at least you can say “I went to GrandéCon! See, I got awesome free stuff! In a bag!”



Top: this seemed like such a good idea when we started out - although I was reminded that I might have to call it something other than ‘Trivial Pursuit’
(getting sued is not a sound business strategy, kids!), our game prototype went off like Thunderbird Three launching from Tracy Island! Unfortunately,
everyone who tried it out had a ‘helpful suggestion’ of something to add, or some obscure piece of nerd trivia that we just had to use in our list of
questions, or yet another way to organise the rules.... By the end of the ‘Con, it was all a giant unwieldy mess! Broth + far too many cooks = sigh.

Bottom: in the pop-culture biz, these guys are our bread and butter - the regular subscribers, the complete set collectors, the “Hey, this Indie comic is
neat! I’m adding it to my reading list!” sayers. Whether it’s comic books, action figures or associated merch, they are proudly omnivorous....



Above: does this look familiar to you? It should - this is a full-bore remake of the Sunday strip which graced Jon’s first GrandéCon story (1999, part 7)
back in our inaugural year! Taking advantage of his more-evolved art style and new, larger Sunday panels (the original art is A3-size), he decided to pack
in a whole bunch of new character cameos that weren’t in the 1999 version - namely (deep breath): She-Hulk, H.E.R.B.I.E, The Mole Man and his Moloids,
Annihilus and Doctor Doom (title bar); R2-D2, C3PO, Yoda, the Silver Surfer, the Scarlet Spider and the Green Goblin (panel 3); Green Lantern,
a Gundam mech and the Legion of Superheroes (panel 4); Cyclops, Wolverine and Beast from the X-Men (panel 5); some Doom-bots
(panel 6); and a bonus obligatory Dalek (panel 7)! Phew.

GrandéCon part 1 is done! Stay tuned for part 2!

TO BE CONTINUED....

 

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part nineteen

Unpredictability. In the construction of a set of Cosmos strips - especially Randoms - that is one of the watchwords I adhere to (along with ‘quirky’, ‘unexpected’,
‘clever’ and ‘Mu hu ha ha ha haaaa! Pathetic fools!’): if there’s a unique angle that I can approach a gag from one that will stop it from being
Yet Another Joke About <fill in subject here>, then I am a very silly cartoonist if I don’t pursue it. The trick with comic strips is to make each one
fresh and different, so the audience is pleasantly surprised (rather than, say, terminally bored) by what they see - even if they are variations
around the same theme, for example. The following comics, however, are as idiosyncratic as they come....



Top: want to turn a hoary old cliche into a viable story? Then interpret it as literally as its possible for the human mind to do so - and add an
extra 15% on top just to be on the safe side. Not only does it create a truly groan-worthy pun (and the louder the expression of disgust, the better),
but there;s fun to be had in expressing it visually, as well. One baffling thing, though: both of the characters are Type-four Cosmosians (still with the
mis-proportioned ‘tall face’ look, I notice), but they don’t have the regulation ear-disc things on the sides of their heads! Makes ‘em look even weirder, frankly....

Bottom: you’d think I’d run out of things to do with the ‘treat speech bubbles as physical objects’ genre, but nope, there’s life in the old dog yet! By this
point in time, I’d 99% switched from enclosed speech bubbles to open, ‘invisible’ ones; but the mechanics of this gag required a
momentary return to the previous pattern, as it simply wouldn’t work otherwise.



Above: this is a sketch page I drew up and coloured during some downtime at one of my Uni field courses; after one of my classmates
wanted to know about Cosmos, and - not having any strips handy - I drew the A-team cast by way of explanation. The rest of the page may seem
completely unrelated to my Old School musings, but there is a tangential connection: the lovely ladies (awaiting the luckiest pizza delivery boy ever)
are from the superhero universe that showed up in ‘Train of Thought’ from Cosmos Comics #1 (2002, part 6 and 7); and Ray - on the left - is the civilian identity
of the glamorous Guardian Angel! Did the dinosaur escape from the prehistoric jungle Artie and Gene ended up in at the start of said story? Could be.



Top: what goes perfectly well with a family day at the beach? Um, Japanese monster movies, apparently. I’m guessing the fun of stomping
on sandcastles like a giant rampaging monster inspired this strip - although I don’t think I ever considered dressing in full kaiju cosplay when doing
so, as these ambitious lads look to have done!

Bottom: Peter’s purpose in life, it sometimes appears, is to serve as a litmus test for what NOT to do when goofing around - when an idea sounds utterly
brilliant in his head, it’s a sure sign that things are about to go very, very wrong. At least he has Timmy to steer
him onto the right track.... even if it’s more often than not after the fact!

TO BE CONTINUED....

 

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part eighteen



Jobs? Yeh, I’ve had a few - a paper route in high school, A/V guru-for-hire at Uni, my freelance inventor phase, that (very short-lived) internship at
the Cosmosian World News (1999, part six - see, Jon? I’ve acknowledged it! You don’t need to retcon it out of existence! Geez!).... and, finally,
my current 9 to 5, livin’ the dream career at the Pago Grande Mega-mall! What exactly does that involve, I’m hearin’ you ask? You wanna know? Huh? Huh? Do ya?

Okay, Sit up.... Roll over.... Beg... Good Dog! Who’s a Good Doggie, then? Yes, you are!

.....

Wow, you guys really are desperate for entertainment, aren’t you? Humans, I dunno. Anyway, now that you’ve stopped makin’ fools of yourselves....



Above: welcome to the wonderful world of retail! What I don’t know about all things electronic and / or mechanical, ladies and gents, it ain’t worth knowin’!
(Well, apart from what my gal Jenny’s friend Myra knows about computers - but that’s a whole ‘nother story!) Oh, and the customers, those
wonderful, frustrating customers: always willing to utterly astound me with their frightening grasp (or lack thereof) of what they think they’re under
the mistaken impression that they know! Worth the price of admission every time....



Top: man oh man, do I hate those stupid Zeebles. You Earthians have your Furbies and your Teletubbies; we have these neon-soaked abominations -
they sing, they dance, they come in a wide range of designer colours.... and everyone in every department (ESPECIALLY the toy department) wants to
Kill Them With Fire. But the higher-ups love the money they bring in from Joe Public, so we hafta keep stockin’ them; what’s a self-respecting wage-slave to do?
Oh, yehhhh. Void a few warranties....

Bottom: this is Margaret Miller, who, along with her partner in crime Darcy Fenton, rule the roost in the perfume and cosmetics department.
She’s pretty cool, in my book - while she doesn’t get the same caliber of nut jobs we do in the electronics department, the stories
she does share with us in the lunch room are pretty.... interesting.... 



Top: these guys - Rob n’ Jed from Menswear - aren’t short of horror stories from their own deaprtment, either. They instantly know
what looks good on a customer from a distance of fifty paces, and what fashion items should never, ever be worn in tandem.... or, in fact,
at all. Mr. Colour Co-or-dee-nated here was what they refer to as a ‘worst-case scenario’: Nurse! Get that man 10 CC’s of common-sense - stat!

Bottom: working in the electronics department is the coolest - not only do we get to play with all the latest techno Doo-dads and Whim-whams
(both on sale this week for 30% off: don’t miss out!), but we can also use them for our own nefarious ends! Freakin’ out the squares, baby, freakin’ out the squares.... 



Top: ah, yes, the stunning majesty of yours truly in full sales mode - neither rain, nor sleet, nor the fact that they weren’t
actually going to buy anything will stay me from my daily rounds!

Bottom: Jacob Pendelton-Smythe Jr., trust-fund baby and inheritor of the Stuff-U-Like empire from his equally-loaded father Mr. Pendelton-Smythe Sr.,
is our seldom seen but always ominously-looming boss. He likes to make periodic ‘pep talk’ announcements to his loyal head counts / minions / playthings,
to remind us that he ‘cares’ and is all chummy-chummy with us; but frankly, I’m not sure he’s actually listening to anything that’s coming
out of his own mouth! Thankfully, he was kidding about us being fired that time - ‘If we arent; carrying you out on a stretcher, you’re not
working enough unpaid overtime’, is his motto. So I am still gainfully employed to this very day!

Uh oh, did I just see them unloading a truckload of Work-o-Droids© out the back?

TO BE CONTINUED....

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part seventeen

It must be interesting for Gene to have a pet like Murph running around his house. For one thing, Cat-snakes are fairly sizable creatures,
with bodies longer than the average Cosmosian is tall; and the ability to rear up and look them straight in the eye. As such, fully-grown individuals have
quite a bit of weight to throw around, to say nothing of their snake-like flexibility and ability to constrict; or their feline temperament and sharp teeth!
I imagine it would be like living with a big, furry Boa constrictor with designs on being a tiger....

Being a cartoon animal, Murph is also demonstrably sentient, capable of complex (if somewhat self-centered)  reasoning and intelligent cross-species
communication - he can go toe-to-toe with Gene mentally, and possesses sufficient cunning to get what he wants in ways the average real-life cat could not.
Today the kitchen, tomorrow the world!



Top: when it comes to securing food - his own or someone else’s - Murph is perfectly willing to suspend his moral scruples to trick Gene
into letting down his guard. Good thing he’s such a pushover, huh, Murph?

Bottom: the practice of giving cats baths, quite frankly, baffles me. One, they hate water. Two, they have a series of extremely sharp cat-weapons
they can deploy, if they take exception to your ‘helpful suggestion’. And three, they’re perfectly capable of cleaning themselves with their own tongues!
Giving a dog a bath I can understand (they love it!), but a cat? I suspect similar strips in Jim Davis’ Garfield inspired this story - and Gene
is clearly enough of a traditionalist to consider it a good idea, as well....



Top: this strip highlights a contentious issue in Cosmos - if characters like Murph and Newton ‘talk’ using thought bubbles, can the other
characters (who talk normally) actually understand them? In the first bath time strip, Gene is unsure whether he’s being made fun of,
suggesting that although he can see Murph’s histrionics, he isn’t privy to the ‘vocal’ component; but in the second he responds directly to Murph’s
assertions that he needs his rubber ducky, suggesting that - in this case, at least - he can hear every word the erstwhile feline has said! Aaaaagh, continuity headache....

Bottom: the act of a cat arching its back to look threatening is very much accentuated in the long, bendy spinal columns of Cat-snakes, as seen here.
But also, clearly, is the risk of throwing your back out when you arch a bit too enthusiastically - Ouch.



Top: yes, Newton does have a mouth; you just can’t see it unless he’s A) eating something, or B) yelling / laughing his head off. And like all rodents,
he loves to gnaw on things - whether it’s actually safe to do so or not! He leaves himself open to the most frightful abuses, does Newton.

Bottom: Do not disturb Kitty-witty when he is trying to sleepy-weepy.... Whoops, too late.



Top: This is precisely why the scientific name for the Cosmosian Cat-snake is Felis constrictus - their idea of a ‘friendly hug’ may be a bit more....
painful than you were expecting. Like I said before: Furry. Boa. Constrictor.

Bottom: although the venerable scratching post may be a redundant item for Cosmosian felines, other pet supplies - such as the dreaded jingly,
jangly bell collar - are all too familiar to them; much to their shame and embarrassment. Murph certainly seems to be making a convincing
argument for ‘Banning the Bell’, especially in panel four....



Top: sneaking past your arch-nemesis is plainly impossible, when you have.... a traitor in the ranks!

Bottom: Here’s another example to muddy the waters of the ‘Can Gene understand what Murph is saying?’ debate - once again, he seems
utterly oblivious to Murph’s utter glee at the destruction of his unwanted new fashion item; and less aware still of Mr. Catt’s hardly-overjoyed reaction to
the revelation that there’s an entire box of them lurking in the closet. Even Murph’s body language seems to be slipping Gene by.... so who knows what’s going on here?



Top: like the old saying tells us, ‘Don’t get mad, get even.’ And when Murph has an axe to grind, doesn’t do anything by halves:
Subtlety? Tact? Ha. Blunt-force trauma will do him nicely, thanks.

Bottom: the idea for this strip came from a generic cat / dog gag I sketched out prior to 2002, but then never developed further; wherein the
Dog-Next-Door was played, appropriately enough, by a stumpy-legged weiner dog. Much like the fill-in-the-blank feline in the original doodle,
Murph seems to have forgotten that if your low-slung enemy can rear up just effectively as you can, being in an elevated position means absolutely jack-diddly squat!

TO BE CONTINUED....​

by Cartoonist_at_Large

Cosmos: Old School (2002) - part sixteen

As much as I hate to say it, Explorers Inc. are not easy fellows to write stories about. For one thing, they seem incapable of doing ‘small’: being
adventurers, their lives are all about traveling the globe, braving dangerous wildernesses and bizarre creatures; or at the very least doing crazy,
cool science stuff. That makes for extremely complex, detail-heavy stories (both art and dialogue-wise) which can be equally time-consuming to
produce - so much so that I might not get any other Cosmos stuff done as a result. And ‘complex, detail-heavy’ is tricky to break down into four
panel installments without a whole lot of recapping and / or exposition, meaning that comic book-style stories (rather than newspaper strip-style)
may prove to be the only proper way to complete Explorers Inc. tales in the future.... if I can ever find the time.

At any rate, I did complete a (somewhat) long-form Explorers inc. story in 2002 - the last of its kind until, well, the New-School era - inspired by the big thing
in my life at that point: gettin’ my geology on at University. Given the hill trekkin’, forest-mappin’ shenanigans we got up to during our field courses
(such as to the Jurassic-tastic Port Waikato and the volcanic Mt. Ruapehu), it seemed a natural fit for Artimus Frink and co.;
as being scientific all-rounders, that sort of thing would be right up their alley....



Top: Famous Explorers of Cosmos is a prestigious trading card series in which adventurers past and present are immortalised to inspire their successors
in the future. By the looks of things, though, Artimus is beginning to wish he hadn’t been immortalised.... quite like that. But if that was the best take,
I’d hate to think what the other 46 or so were like!

Bottom: a (very) rare example of a vertical cosmos strip, so oriented because this particular gag required lots of Up but far less.... along.
Of course, being at odds with the other 99.9% of Cosmos strips that are horizontal, it had to be presented lying on its side to fit with the other comics in this
series - so it does look rather out of place and hard to read. Ah, experimentation, we love ya!



Top: rather than have Artimus, Tork and Co-Pilot once again bickering at one another for three pages, I decided to bring in a pair of ‘point of view’
characters (named Zack and Libby, I’ve just decided) whom they could serve as mentors to on their latest scientific endeavour; interacting with them
in ways they wouldn’t do with one another. Zack and Libby - eager Uni graduates both - are hanging out with Co-Pilot because he’s younger,
a bit more approachable, and ‘cool’ compared to the old-fashioned and rather stuffy Artimus Frink; while Tork is still learning the ropes himself
(under Artimus’ tutelage). And I’m sure Co-Pilot is enjoying spending time with people who don’t constantly give him stress headaches....

Bottom: Is Co-pilot channeling a bit too much of me in this strip? Frankly, I think he is - Artimus and Co-Pilot know they’re stuff, certainly, but they’re more
well-read hobbyists with broad knowledge bases than university-trained experts with specific knowledge of geological minutiae. Zack (quite possibly an
up-and-coming example of one of those experts) I can see reeling off all that fancy terminology, but Co-pilot? Not so much. Especially since the dialogue
feels a bit ‘name-drop a whole bunch of stuff simply because I can’ rather than contributing to the story.
But at least Zach’s progressively upscaling hammers was kind of funny, right?



Above: boy, that’s one thick pen I was using for the panel borders and titles here, wasn’t it? There definitely looks to be a clear dynamic
between Zack and Libby in these strips - Zack has the more mature, by-the-book attitude; while Libby is more flighty, less observant, and
primarily concerned with having fun. Perhaps that’s why she’s getting on so well with Artimus in the second strip! In a way, this is
somewhat more their story than Explorers Inc’s, although I suspect it would be far less interesting if Artimus and co. weren’t there....



Top: If you’re a geologist, I’d imagine you’re either laughing your face off or groaning at the horrible pun right now - but if you’re not scientifically-inclined,
Schist is a low-grade metamorphic rock with thin, wavy layering (called foliation), which contains over 50% ‘platy’ minerals (ones that  crystallise
into flakes or sheets) and layers of quartz and / or feldspar. And, of course, Schist sounds like.... well, you know.... as a play on the old saying ‘S**t Happens’.
No? Guess you just had to be there, then.

Bottom: Oh, hey there, Jon’s ‘No Dinosaurs in Cosmos Rule’! How you doing? You’re slowly falling apart? From being constantly ignored for the last
three-and-a-half years? And you expect the trend to continue for the foreseeable future? Well, that sounds great! See ya ‘round! This also interesting -
it’s an Explorers inc. strip without a single member of Explorers inc. in it! As I said before, Zack and Libby are the main focus of the story, being the
stand-in for the audience (as well as something new and different); so I suppose it was inevitable that they - and their differing personalities -
would go solo eventually. If memory serves, several of the gags in this collection were generic geology / science jokes that I came up with
during my field courses; and then re-purposed to fit into Cosmos. So perhaps that explains the dinosaur!

TO BE CONTINUED....​