Call him the original Cosmosian.
Although, when he first popped into my subconscious, he wasn’t actually a Cosmosian at all—since Cosmos, as a distinct entity, did not spring into being until six months afterwards, in January of 1999. But, if we are to be absolutely, scrupulously honest here, to say nothing of adhering to chronological accuracy…. Professor Phineas Percival Pod did indeed come first.
One idle 1998 lunchtime during my one and only year at animation school (otherwise known as ‘too-far-too-soon-after-high-school’), I was fiddling around with a bunch of random doodles when I hit upon a character I felt had a certain spark: a roly-poly, floating bean-shaped creature with a stern expression and giant nerd-glasses. Based on my original sketch of him—or rather, a hastily rubbed out and re-written name tag on said sketch—his name was originally going to be ‘Prof. Head’ (make of that what you will)! But clearly, that name offended my sense of iambic pentameter (or something), so I changed it to Professor Pod…. and a star was born.
He looked considerably different back then: his nose was far smaller, he had a protruding lower lip, and—foreshadowing the evolution of the Cosmosians that were to come—only had three fingers per hand. I did a selection of character expressions and poses to establish his character, and then a single-panel comic strip (which established his street-cred as a Mad Scientist, with a cyborg monkey sidekick called Zeek); which I presumably saw as leading on to bigger and better things…..
And then I completely forgot about him.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and the grand melting pot of ideas that is Cosmos was in full swing—I’d already incorporated several other old creature and prop doodles into the strip by that time (resulting in Murph and Newton, among other things), and one day I came across my Professor pod stuff. I thought “Oh, yeh…. this guy!” and made plans to incorporate him into the strip. Conveniently, I’d once coloured the Good Professor in the exact same shade of aqua-green as the Cosmosians ended up being, and he therefore was a shoo-in for inclusion. Without much more than a few cosmetic changes, he was instated as the strip’s resident super-genius, showing up whenever Artie and Gene needed to annoy someone with more expensive and dangerous stuff. Was it fate? Had Professor Pod been pre-destined to occupy his future role?
Or perhaps he’d been living on Cosmos all along, and by creating him I’d actually created Cosmos itself without even realising it, six months before I made the first actual strip….
TO BE CONTINUED….