Time for part two of our Old-School 2000 Christmas extravaganza! The strips in both part one and two, I note, are divided (even alternating) between the exploits of the
main cast -mostly Artie and / or Gene - and various random Cosmosians. I’m not sure why I chose this patternicity to proceeedings: I guess I just like things to have a
sense of order to them, even if it isn’t immmediately obvious (or even recognised as such) by my audience. But anyway, enough about my eccentricities....
Top: Artie Deacon, chief Christmas present wrapper for the Cosmos staff office Christmas tree - chosen partly for his attention to detail and artist-level gift-wrapping abilities,
no doubt. I’d imagine, though, that his heaps of cunningly-disguised presents are a constant lure to the curious and impatient.... in other words, consistently Gene.
Bottom: Is this where I got the idea for the novelty ‘unpoppable’ Christmas cracker that recently showed up in my current new-School Christams story? Possibly.
It’s also another sterling dialogue-free Cosmos strip..... Ahhh, I wish I still had the knack to do those properly....
Top: yes, that’s right - I invented an entire board game and developed an entire Cosmos strip around it just so I could spring an appallingly-bad pun on you at
the end. I’ve done it before, and I’m certainly going to do it again.... Deal with it.
Bottom: A bored Gene is a dangerous Gene. A bored Gene with access to sharp, pointy-ended objects? Well, that’s just asking for trouble.
Top: The hazards of writing a Christmas list are many varied - lack of item organisation, running out of ink (or terminally breaking your only pencil), the risk of asking
for too much - but this one’s a new one on me. And by the looks of things, I’m STILL forgetting to put the head phone / ear covers on my Type Four Cosmosians - perhaps
that’s why he’s covering the sides of his head in most of the panels, to hide his embarrassment....
Bottom: Gene and electronics.... well, they have a checkered history together. Either his attempts to ‘improve’ on what technology has given him result in something
so overly-complicated and / or impractical that merely turning it on is inviting disaster to pay a visit; or - in the case of Christmas displays, as shown here - his insistence on
‘just a little more power’ causes major headaches for his friends.... and neighbours.... and Pago Grande’s major electricity suppliers.... Oh, Gene.
COSMOS: OLD SCHOOL WILL RETURN IN JANUARY!
You know your comic strip has ‘made it’ when you’re producing a second consecutive set of Christmas strips for a second festive season, and you don’t even feel as if
you’re running out of steam. That is an eventuality I never would have even imagined when I first started Cosmos back in January of 1999; but here we are! Given that it is
(very conveniently) mid-December when I’m typing this up, I’m splitting Cosmos’ Christmas 2000 AD into a double-feature; just so we can savour the deranged
holiday humour a bit longer....
Top: A watched pot may never boil - but Gene has never been one to stand down in the face of common sense! This is another of my ‘the point of the whole strip only
becomes clear in the final panel’ situations - despite the rather obvious decorations in the background, we don’t actually know what Gene is even doing until he reveals it
to us at the end..... at which point, it all makes sense. Well, from his perspective, anyway....
Bottom: One wonders how many times this scenario played out in real life - I’m guessing quite frequently, based on the general inability of the male gender to
pick up unbelievably, mind-bogglingly obvious hints. But lady, seriously! That other guy might’ve been a fantastic kisser! Did you even give him a chance?
Top: the first appearance of what has become a bit of an annual Christmas tradition - my obligatory ‘Holiday Sale Junk Mail’ joke, based on my observation that -
as stated above - the sheer volume of junk mail one gets at this time of year is frankly.... obscene. It’s not always easy to stop this gag from becoming a one-trick pony,
but I think I’ve managed successfully so far....
Bottom: Is Gene seriously that greedy, or is he just messing with everyone’s heads? A little from column A, a little from column B, sadly.
Above: a pair of Christmas tree jokes; one trading on my experiences in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas comes during the summer months
(I know! Crazy!), and the second.... well, hats off to Gene for raising the bizzarro-factor of proceedings for the third strip in a row. He does have a point though:
how exactly do you properly display a Christmas tree in a comic strip panel that’s far wider than it is tall?
TO BE CONTINUED.....
Here we go! Here’s something special! It’s an item that goes by many names : like The Project That Time Forgot, or Merchandise Item #00001.... or Mr. Potential Lawsuit.
Toward the end of 2000, I began to consider what applications Cosmos had beyond a simple comic strip - so, just because I felt like it, I created the one-and-only
prototype of an ‘Officially-licensed Cosmos board game’:
Cosmos Cosmonopoly was a, uh, loving homage to another well-known board game, set (obviously) in the Cosmos universe. For this project, I needed to greatly
elaborate the framework of characters and localities that the game could draw from; as Cosmos, at that point in time, was a bit sparse. Several places that have since
appeared in the strip actually got their start in Cosmos Cosmonopoly; and numerous characters (including unused concepts) made their first appearance here also.
In addition to the main cast (recently added to by Tony Corvell and Professor Pod), there was also Macy’s one-shot wonder maybe-relative Jamie Styles (down by the
‘Chance’ card box); Professor pod’s Explorers Inc colleagues Artimus Frink, Co-Pilot and Tork; The Dog Next Door; Peter Anderson’s mother Meg; the members of the
ill-fated rock band ‘Fuzzy Dice’ (Fancy Dan, Alexis Rhodes - making love hearts at Artie, D’Jon Mayo and his guitar, and Captain Catfish); The Big Boss and Rufus T. Maxx,
astro-truckers; and dozens of Cosmosian critters....
As in M*N*P*LY, the outer ring of the game board featured a range of different properties, most sufficiently adapted for Cosmosian sensibilities - while ‘Chance’,
‘Tax’ and ‘Community Chest’ were unchanged, the Waterworks became ‘Hydro-stations’, and train stations and airports became ‘Hoverboard Depots’. Of course,
there were also the obligatory ‘Collect $200’ and ‘Go to jail / In jail / Only visiting’ corner boxes as well - I certainly liked flirting with copyright infringement, didn’t I?
Sadly, this was as far as I got: I never got around to creating any Cosmonopoly money, cards or playing pieces - I blame either university exams, or post-exam burn out....
either that, or the potential of being sued - so the gameboard is the only result of the entire project. Still, in terms of expanding the scope of the Cosmos-verse, and actually
designing something different with my characters, it couldn’t have gone better!
TO BE CONTINUED....
While I was at university, October and November were the time for studying for, and taking, our end-of-year exams - not so much for drawing comic strips. As a result,
that part of the year was a bit of a rest period for Cosmos: if I got any comics drawn up at all, it was usually during the brief periods when I took a break from revision, or
after finishing an exam. In 2000, I finished exactly zero comics during October, and a grand total of eight during November; one set of themed randoms on Gene’s drink
du jour of that time and a sort-of-story about a fun way to spend an idle Saturday afternoon....
Above: Oh, Gene. You do let yourself in for some frightful abuses at the hands of your beverages, don’t you? These strips continue Mr. Ellis’ inability to prepare coffee
that isn’t potentially-lethal to either himself or anyone around him - sure, you can make your coffee strong, but when it’s able to wrestle you to the ground and steal your car
(or simply eat through the table, alien-blood style), you know you’ve got a problem! I have to say, though, coming up with all these variations on one basic joke - and
thinking around corners that other cartoonists may not have ventured around before (perhaps for good reason?) - is something I derive enormous
enjoyment from: it’s a work-out for my brain!
Above: apparently, all you have to do to create an alien version of an Earth pastime is put ‘Astro’ or ‘Space’ in front of it..... interesting logic there, 2000-Jon. Ah, well, at
least Artie and Gene appear to be enjoying themselves; and giving me some decent strips in the bargain. The challenge with this story, if I remember correctly, was to
have enough variety in what was happening, given that the four strips basically boil down to ‘Artie or Gene take their turn hurling their ball down the lane’ - my solution
was to make the Astro-bowling pins just a little bit anthropomorphic, and actively resist the repetitive task of either being knocked over.... or not. Their reactions, and Artie
and Gene’s, well, reactions to their reactions, gave this story the necessary jolt of humour and save the individual strips being all samey-samey (or just dull).
And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
TO BE CONTINUED....
Let’s be honest here: Cosmos is weird, right? Odd characters, strange situations, utterly out-of-left-field ideas.... it was nothing like any comic book or strip I’d done before - partly because it, y’know, lasted more than two months - and allowed me to really cut my teeth on proper short-form story-telling. And speaking of weird comic strips....
Top: In the early days (and even up into the ‘New School’ iteration of Cosmos, it has to be admitted), I had the habit of writing very.... explain-y dialogue; which could in
many cases be severely clunky, and sound a bit like the over-enthusiastic oratory of an infomercial. This strip is (somewhat) guilty of this crime - if I were doing this strip
again now, Gene’s gushing testimony would be far more succinct. ‘If you can say it in five words, don’t say it in twenty’, should be the rule. Artie’s rejoinder
in panel 3, however, is perfectly-worded comedy gold. He does cut rather nicely to the heart of an issue, does Mr. Deacon....
Bottom: this is one of the reasons I am (sometimes) extremely glad I don’t exist in a cartoon universe - when even the value of pi cannot be relied upon,
then you know you’ve got problems!
Above: Never let it be said that I don’t try to educate and inform the cartoonists of the future.... even if at the same time I gleefuly subvert the rules
of how a ‘How to Draw’ tutorial is supposed to go! And it’s in colour, too, which makes it even better....
Above: another exploration into the tangibility and / or interactivity of the visual representations of thought and speech - I have no idea where this idea came from,
but if it’s like any of the other ones of its ilk, then perhaps that’s all for the best. And I do believe this might the very first official appearance of the one and only
Professor Pod in Cosmos! Even though he doesn’t get any dialogue, or have his name mentioned (a common theme for first appearances in this strip, I have to say),
his presence was yet another link in the evolving chain-work of the world of Cosmos....
TO BE CONTINUED....
Cosmos is all about experimentation: new formats, new ideas, new characters; and, in many cases, entirely new spins on old jokes. This installment has a bit of all
of the above in it - not all of them entirely successful, mind you, but that’s the nature of an experiment, isn’t it? Figuring out exactly what is going to work....
Above: here we go, as promised in previous installments - the emergence of the B-team cast! These two strips introduced us to the Anderson family: Roger, Meg and
their rather ‘80’s obsessed son Peter (any reference to the cast of Family Guy here is entirely coincidental, honest; I came up with their names before I even knew the
show existed). They follow the same pattern seen in previous Cosmosian types - the first appearance of the original archetype (in this case, Tony Corvell) followed by the
arrival of further characters based on the same body form; although the Type four took rather a while to work itself out. The first problem was their facial proportions: if I wasn’t
careful, their noses ended up too low down, and / or their eyes far too large; and in turn giving them faces / heads that were waaaaay too long for
their bodies (which ended up looking all squashed up, in contrast). As a result, these early type fours (Peter’s parents in these strips, in particular) just looked plain wrong.
The second problem was those baffling headphone things on the sides of their heads.... or, in Roger and Meg’s case, the lack thereof. Back in those days, I frequently forgot
to draw them in; and with the whole ‘long face’ phenomenon I had going on, it made an off-model character design even worse. I don’t know what they are, or what they’re for,
but a Type Four without them offends my sense of visual aesthetics something awful....
Above: this was the first in what I hoped would be a series of full-page ‘Identify that nerd’ guides, packed full of in-jokes and shout-outs to the sort of things that only
fellow pop-culture fanatics would be able to properly pinpoint. And, of course - surprise of surprises - I started with a Transformers geek, referencing everything from the
1980’s S.T.A.R.S Transfomers club to Transmetals Rattrap. Perhaps because preparing these pages would have been a pretty time-consuming endeavour, what with all the
detail and reference research I would have to invest (I was at university at the point, remember), I never continued the series beyond this inital sample.... but I did later revive
the basic idea in 2002, for a set of somewhat (only somewhat) more modest ‘Comic Con Spotters Guides’ that formed part of a full-length GrandeCon story.
Top: What’s weirder than Gene operating on normal baseline parameters? Gene dosed up on his (at the point in time) default beverage of choice - coffee.
He has since kicked the habit (not that it’s made him any less oddball), but at this stage it made quite a few appearances in the strip....
Bottom: Murph returns! This strip serves to make light of the fact that while he is the Cosmosian equivalent of a ‘cat’, you can’t simply apply all the aspects of
Earthly felines to him.... in particular, pet supplies that simply don’t transfer to an animal with no limbs - oh, Gene.
Top: I’m in two minds about the joke contained herein - it has an effective build-up (the guy ramping up his partner’s hopes with what sounds like a fabulous surprise vacation;
only to completely flummox her in the final panel) and is, technically speaking, a good scenario.... I’m just not sure if the punchline is actually funny. It didn’t really do it for me
then, and it still doesn’t now. Is being deported by the IRS to an ice planet a sufficiently hilarious situation, or is it just kind of lame? I honestly don’t know. What do you think?
Bottom: From the potentially-ridiculous to the humorously-sublime.... a much, much better gag from later-2000 Jon. Again, playing with the fact that Cosmos is, inextricably,
a comic strip (that, and jamming a horrendously bad pun into the works) is a formula that delivers consistent and robust results; which is why I would be utterly
mad to ever abandon it....
TO BE CONTINUED....
TO BE CONTINUED....