Cosmos: Old School (2001) – part seven

Finally, after only two years, I decided to give the B-Team cast its own multi-part story! Up until now, Artie, Gene and the other A-Teamers had dominated any long-form Cosmos tales; with peter Anderson and co. (after their higgeldy piggeldy  coalescence into something resembling a cast) relegated to individual randoms, or – as we saw in the previous installment – the odd Sunday strip or so. But not anymore: Peter and Timmy were enough their own characters for me to give them a run at a more involved tale, which would help me to do a bit of world-building in their part of Cosmos. What I had so far was that A) they went to some sort of Primary school, B) they were Transformers nerds (surprise, surprise), C) their friend Jaime – already seen in the ‘Snow Wars’ sunday strip – was both their partner-in-crime and (in a similar fashion to Artie and / or Macy to Gene and Ax) an oft-ignored voice of reason. Not much, but I had to start somewhere….

2001-7_1
Above: I’m in two minds about this strip – despite the subject matter, and the nifty TF-themed title bar, the set-up for the story seems pretty contrived; especially since I’m basically having Peter and Timmy reel off facts and stats like a two-man wikipedia article. It certainly didn’t make anyone laugh when I first road-tested it: the most I got was a lukewarm ‘Hmmm’ from my friend Jeremy, as he passed it back after reading it. The last three panels are fine, but the rest is one big wory heap of exposition. Not one of my ‘Top Ten’ Cosmos comics….

2001-7_2
Top: every school yard clique needs a bully to pick on them, and peter and Timmy’s Transformers Book Club had one Marco Zimmerman; identifiable (somewhat) by his bandana and evil smiley-face belt buckle. Necessarily one-dimensional, he was based on every slope-browed oaf I ran afoul of in school – right down to the dull-witted surprise when you don’t laugh along with their ‘brilliant’ jokes….
Bottom: the number one unwritten rule of any school environment – never take your favourite new toy along unless you’re willing to lose it…. as Peter has just realised to his peril! I have no idea which Transformer it is, though; unusually, I’ve basically just drawn a generic-looking toy robot rather than any identifiable character.

2001-7_3
Above: I was clearly still getting to grips with drawing Type-four Cosmosians at this point, as shown by both the disproportionate ‘tall face’ look of Peter and his mother, Meg, in the first strip; and the fact that in the second, Peter has a completely different face in each successive panel! I like the dialogue in the first strip (aside from Meg’s line in panel four, which sounds really out of character), as it accurately reflects the good advice of every mother ever; but in the second strip, once again I’m in ‘name-dropping fan mode’, and Peter’s lines – while perfectly IN character – feel a bit clunky and self-serving.

2001-7_4
Above: Marco vs. Peter – Round One! Clearly, Mr. Zimmerman anticipated this showdown, judging by his smirk in panel one…. ‘Cause there’s nothing like an unfair fight. Here, Peter learns two more of the unwritten rules of school: firstly, those epic ‘I’m taking a stand!’ speeches sound so much better in your head than they do in person; and secondly (as shown in the bottom strip), bullies are pretty much invulnerable to logic. I have no idea who is saying ‘Ooh, he’s good….’ in the second strip: maybe it’s one of Marco’s acolytes commending his (inadvertant) mockery of Peter, one of Peter’s friends lamenting his failure; or just an random onlooker come to see the fight. Which? No idea – I never specified back then, and I still don’t know now….

2001-7_5
Top: Okay, see, now THIS is how you do a nerd-reference strip. I’m far happier with the dialogue here – it flows organically from start to finish, and the juxtaposition between Peter and Timmy’s utterly, utterly impractical plans (where exactly were they going to get an Omega-class battle droid?), and the absolute earnestness with which they are discussing them make it a step up – several steps up, in fact – from what came before.
And remember how I said Jaime was an oft-ignored voice of reason? Well, here’s a
perfect example.
Bottom: this one is based somewhat loosely on the ‘fantasy vs. reality’ strips of Calvin and Hobbes, wherein Calvin grandiosely narrates the epic adventures of a dinosaur / giant monster / famous explorer / colossal octopus (accompanied by stunning visuals by Bill Watterson)…. only to have reality kick in at the final panel, revealing that its just Calvin stomping around in his pyjamas going ‘Rhaaargh!’, or something. Thankfully, my interpretation definitely passed its laugh-test; as the Pseudo-Devastator – Timmy
playing the head, Jaime the arms and Peter the legs – is about as far from menacing
as can be imagined!

2001-7_6
Above: I felt the story needed a proper denouement – Peter deserved to get his Transformer back, and I could hardly let Marco (and his pal Joe) come out as victors – so I drew up this Sunday strip to finish things off. Ironically, given that this was the last comic in the sequence, only now do we learn the name of the story: ‘Cybertronian Graffiti’, a play on George Lucas’ American Graffiti (despite the fact that there wasn’t any graffiti in my story at all…. Oh, well.) This wouldn’t have worked as a four-panel strip, and certainly not spread over two four-panelers; but as it stands – like the ‘Matrix’ strip earlier – I’m not entirely sure it works. Jaime’s alarmingly-perceptive-for-a-ten-year-old deconstruction of Marco’s psyche is, frankly, something that every bully on the planet should be told To Their Faces, but the entire strip feels a bit heavy-handed, and the main spiel (the unweildy text-brick in panel three) probably should have been split across panel two AND three; with the setting-up-the-story stuff combined in panel one. That would have made it read better, flow better, look better and simply streamline the story for maximum efficiency. Again, maybe I’m overthinking it – but Peter did walk away happy, so that’s
the main thing….

TO BE CONTINUED….

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