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 being far too large, pushing their mouths and eyes way too far apart; 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: 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.
Bottom: 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….
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….