Cosmos: Old School (2002) – part thirteen

I’ve always wondered – as have, no doubt all his friends – what a behavioural psychologist would make of Mr. Eugene Carmichael Ellis. While fundamentally a decent guy, his penchant for practical jokes and mind-games, boisterous (and dare I say alarming?) enthusiasm, and devil-may-care attitude to his own personal safety makes one wonder what goes on in his head sometimes. He isn’t unique, as far as this sort of personality is concerned – the Autobot Swerve from IDW’s fantastic series Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is unnervingly similar to Mr. Ellis; and a snippet of dialogue from a story by comic artist Adam Warren (about one of his own characters) could – taken out of its original context – just as well come from a
doctor analysing Gene’s, well, Genes:

“…. You know, with too much Adrenoconticotropic hormone, too little Monoamine oxidase? Makes them obnoxious, aggressive, overexcitable….”

Our favourite sweater-wearing misanthrope, however, manages to go one better: while the A-team cast are all aware of their status as comic strip characters, only Gene truly exploits the freedom this gives them; taking a perverse glee in pushing the laws of cartoon physics as far as they will go. It’s almost as if he’s daring them to push back just as hard some day, putting him firmly back in his place…. or worse. Risk taker? Easily bored? Defying his own mortality? Totally insane? Who knows –
we’re just glad he’s on our side….

2002 13_1
Above: No, Artie, I honestly don’t think there’s any rehearsal involved in Gene’s shenanigans – seriously, can anyone see him working to a script? Or following the stage directions? That would just get in the way of his fun! If I tried to place limits on what Gene could or couldn’t do, I’m not sure we’d get to see the majestic Chocolate-cream Jungle Donut going on its beastly rampage; and that would be a shame. On a different subject: does everybody else suddenly have a hankering to watch Wheel of Salmon, just to find out how it actually works?

2002 13_20001
Top: Any time you hear the words “Wanna see a neat trick?” coming out of Gene’s mouth, you should be A) extremely wary, and B) ready to flee at the earliest possible opportunity. Unfortunately, until you know precisely which boundaries of common sense he intends to grossly mis-mangle, there may be no choice but
to wait and see what happens!

Bottom: Ah, space restrictions, my old nemesis, we meet again. Panel four is yet another prime example of how very wordy, hand-written dialogue can fill up so much of the panel that the artwork ends up crammed into the absurdly-small area that remains. And it’s particularly unfortunate in this case: can you tell that the character is skydiving, plummeting through a vast expanse of open sky as he attempts to decipher his parachute instructions? Well, no. Every bit of that dialogue was necessary (exaggeration = humour), but so was making the character large enough in the frame so you could see his mounting horror – and with no way to change the font size or shrink the text box (short of drawing the entire thing again), all I ended up with was a bad compromise….

2002 13_30001
Top: Gene really has a knack for messing up panel borders, doesn’t he? I’d classify this as a ‘slow burn’ gag – when you first look at the overall composition, you have no idea what you’re supposed to be getting from it, let alone what it all means. But then you get to panel four, read the dialogue, see what Gene is grasping in his angry little hand…. and you’re laughing your head off because, finally, two and two have added up to make five. At least, that was how it worked with the people I showed it to, much to my satisfaction.

Bottom: On a hot day, many people seek short-term relief by standing in front of the fridge with the doors open…. But when you’ve reached the level of ‘ingenuity’ Ax has attained, perhaps you’ve gone just a bit too far! Unless he was trying to pay another visit to the Fridge that Time Forgot (2002, part 8 and 9) – in which case, I understand perfectly.

2002 13_40001
Top: once every so often, it seems, cartoon physics likes to get its own back on Mr. Ellis…. and this, dear reader, is most assuredly one of those times. I’m not sure why he didn’t stick with his look in panel two, though – Batman, Gene! You passed up being Batman!

Bottom: Artie and Gene are Bad Movie aficionados par excellence – if it’s got shonky set design, laughable monsters or truly horrendous acting, they will have watched it with all possible gusto! But the Cosmosian equivalent of videos and DVDs (at least during the Old School era) somewhat confuse me: they look to be a wafer-thin tablet with the movie info on the front, and complex circuitry patterns on the back. Is this simply a streamlined, high-tech case that the DVD fits into for storage; or does the entire thing slot into the DVD player like some oversized credit card? I really must figure that out sometime….

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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