One thing that has always fascinated me is what the world will look like in the distant future – thousands, millions or even billions of years hence; when all those pesky humans are gone and the planet has altered itself beyond all recognition. And if any new sentient beings arose in our stead, what would they make of all the bits and pieces – sorry, ‘archaeological evidence’ – we’ve left behind? I decided to indulge my ‘What If?’ fixation with a little trip into the deep post-history of Cosmos, long after the time of Artie, Gene and co. (rather a scary thought, I have to admit); to see what I could see. And since I could not rely on my regular cast to tell the story – at least, not initially – a couple of new faces had to step up to the plate….
Above: What says ‘the future’ better than a couple of wacky robots? I’m not sure whether Umbar and Irwing are indigenous to Cosmos (being descended from robots built by the last organic Cosmosians), or have arrived from some other part of the galaxy; but they were so much fun to write, it doesn’t really matter. If memory serves, I came up with their designs on the fly, but still followed the standard Jon Kay Robot template – rounded body / antenna / ball joint shoulders and hips / bendy pipe limbs. And they argue like an old married couple! Ain’t they neat?
Top: part of the reason I started this story was the fact that it offered the perfect opportunity for some pithy social commentary, via the artifacts Umbar and Irwing were unearthing. This, I have to say, is one of the best SC strips I’ve ever done…. because no matter how distorted some of the ‘facts’ the pair are reeling off, they’ve pretty much hit it right on the nose!
Bottom: It’s fairly obvious that Irwing is the more experienced archaeologist of the two; although Umbar more than makes up for it in sheer enthusiasm. He’ll go a long way – provided he doesn’t keep almost killing himself in the process….
Above: Uh oh, you could see where this story was going, couldn’t you? It was only a matter of time before the robots of the future came across the characters of the past – and as far as links go, the lost citadel of, uh, ‘To-Mic-Pia’ is a pretty big one. At that point in time (2002, not 1 Bazillion AD), I hadn’t really defined the layout or exterior design of Tony’s Comic Utopia, so the store logo and internal set-up of the shop varied from story to story…. and sometimes strip to strip!
Top: You could almost consider the adventures of Umbar and Irwing and this ensuing ‘flashback sequence’ as two completely separate stories – well, almost, for reasons you’ll see later – as they have pretty much nothing to with one another plot-wise. At any rate, it’s business as usual at Tony’s, with the wonderful world of filk-songs making its welcome return…. although I never did expand ‘I’m a Little Red-shirt’ out into a full-length song at any point. Sigh. Can you name all four alien races featured in panels 2
and 3? I bet you can, you crazy nerds, you.
Bottom: When rival Warsies go head-to-head, you’d better have a good place to hide – especially when one of them is Eugene Ellis, staunch adherent to Latter-day Lucasfilmism! Tony’s realtively laid-back attitude to the escalating smackdown may seem strange, but given his long-term status as Pago Grande’s pop-culture guru, he’s probably seen a lot worse than this….
Top: The Star Wars wars continue! Believe it or not, something as arbitrary as the presence of a signature on a poster, or whether an action figure has a particular packaging detail or not can be a serious status symbol in geek circles; simply because such a feature marks said item as ‘rare’ or ‘unique’. Wow, you got one of the first-series Yoda figures with the mis-coloured arms, that they only made 500 0f before they sent it back to quality control for a better version? Dude, that is awesome!
Bottom: Cosplayers – missing the wood for the trees since ages ago.
Top: I hate to say it, but back in 2002, this guy was me – because there was an all-new Transformers comic series coming out (from Dreamwave Comics), that was the first proper TF comic since Marvel’s Transformers: Generation 2 folded in 1995. I suspect I did this strip to celebrate the fact that it was about to come out, or had just been released; I forget which. Of course, if I knew how much better the later comics by IDW Publishing were going to be, I probably wouldn’t have bothered….
Bottom: Superhero movies have a bit of a chequered history (especially during the 1990’s) – for every utterly fantastic super-flick (The Avengers, Hellboy, Iron Man), there have been many more truly dire examples of the craft…. yes, I’m looking at you, Halle Berry-version Catwoman; and you, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And yes, I’m not kidding, Roger corman did create a Fantastic Four Movie (during the early 1990’s), but it was so, well, not-fantastic, it was shelved – although I’m sure you can find it on Youtube if you look in the right place.
Top: Another filk-song! Which I have also failed to turn into a full-length version! Somebody slap me! I did briefly consider giving the girl in panel four the job Tony was offering, and making her part of the supporting cast; but I had so much other stuff going on in the strip that the idea got put on the back-burner…. and then forgotten about until, well, right now. I suppose she could have signed on between stories, and we simply never saw her, ‘cause she was always off-panel…. and then she got married, and moved to the other side of the world…. which we also never saw…. for some reason….Okay, never mind.
Bottom: Aaaaand the story comes full circle. Looking back on it now, I really wish I’d had a couple more Umbar and Irwing strips, and a couple less TCU strips; or intertwined the narratives a bit better – once To-Mic-Pia shows pu, the 1 Bazillion AD stuff just…. stops. If Cosmos had been published day-by-day in a newspaper, I’m guessing, by the time you reached this last strip you may well have forgotten who Umbar and Irwing even were! Still, at least I did bring them back (in a pretty clever way), so that’s something. Another thing of note: when I first drew the pencil art for this strip, the ‘Meanwhile, in 1 Bazillion AD’ text box fit into the existing height of panel four. Unfortunately, with that taking up X amount of space, and the dialogue pushed down even lower beneath that, there was literally no room to fit Umbar and Irwing into the frame properly! So, with no other option, I popped it up out of the top and made things fit that way….
Is it any surprise I prefer doing Cosmos with Photoshop and InDesign these days?
TO BE CONTINUED……