Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part two

I seem to have followed an interesting pattern when doing single-serve strips (otherwise known as Randoms) in 2003 – complete a set, bookend them with a pair of Sunday strips, follow it up with the next set, add two more Sunday – all based around the premise of doing everything in multiples of two. This is a practice I’ve followed as often as I can, throughout Cosmos’ history: partly due to me being totally OCD about the whole thing, having an even number of strips per story / Randoms set meant that each one starts on a left-hand page and finishes on a right when I compile them in my archives; so all the pages occur in neat little pairs. Well, most of the time – some of my early Cosmos stories (especially in 1999 and 2000) had odd numbers of pages (either because there were unfinished strips, or the story had simply ended up with 3 or 5 or 7 pages anyway)…. which meant the end of one story would butt up against the start of another on the same spread; very distressing to my sense of visual aesthetics. Thankfully, there were also plenty of pieces of one-off art or sketches from the relevant time period, that I could stick in to fill the odd pages out….

But enough behind-the-scenes nonsense from me, onto the comic strips!

2003 2_1
Above: once again, Peter demonstrates his amazing ability to come up with oh-so-clever-ideas…. but then torpedo them by either not thinking them through or spending too much time talking, and not enough paying attention! He was right on one thing, though: even after all his personal sabotage, Jamie never did work out what he was holding in his hands….

2003 2_20001
Top: even in 2003, I was still at it – if this strip seems familiar, it’s because its another reworked idea from 1999! The original showed up in 1999, Part Five, to be precise; so even five years later I guess I still didn’t consider those earliest strips to be a going concern. Comparing them, though, I think the first version had an elegant simplicity (in terms of dialogue) that this ‘improved’ version lacks….

Bottom: Hotel min-bars are a very cunning trap for the uninitiated, in my opinion – “Ooh, look at that! A little fridge with chocolate, chips and drinks in it, all for me! *OM NOM NOM NOM*– What do you mean they cost $3.50 each?!” And if some hotel, somewhere, has gone to the extremes shown in the above strip, I shall be supremely unsurprised….

2003 2_30001
Above: when Cosmos gets its Meta on, the results are typically bizarre. Gene, of course, is the master of shoving vigorously on the Fourth Wall (and affording me *Ever So Much* respect); so this is pretty much business as usual for him – but still setting a nigh-on unattainable standard for self-aware cartoon characters everywhere (raise your A-game, everyone!). The first strip is also – unexpectedly – the first stage in the slow reveal of Gene’s full name: much like I’m called ‘Jon’ but my proper name is Jonathan, Gene’s full first name is actually Eugene! Interesting…. In the second strip, meanwhile, Ax and Macy are having a go at cartoon existentialism; being blindsided by the traditional (in Cosmos, anyway) ‘comic panels are physical objects’ gag. While Gene goes out of his way to deliberately fold, spindle and mutilate the elements that constrain their two-dimensional world, the other characters (perhaps not so willfully rebellious) generally only do it by accident…. Wherein the humour trades off a whole bunch of unintended consequences.

2003 2_40001
Top: Eww, adhesive pillow-face. The essence of good comedy is exaggeration, as the more over-the-top something is, the further you push it past what is likely to what could never conceivably happen, the funnier the whole thing will be (and sometimes, rather counter-intuitively, more recognisable). Everyone’s woken up on some unremarkable morning and realised “Yurrrgh, I drooled on my pillow….”; but only Gene could empty the entire saliva content of his mouth in his sleep and not notice….

Bottom: This explains so much. That’s all I’m going to say here: It. Explains. So. Much.

2003 2_50001
Above: without a doubt, this is one of the best Sunday strips I’ve ever done; and a shoo-in for a spot in ‘The Top Ten Cosmos strips of All Time’. Why? Because it’s based on real life – in 2003, my friend Jeremy and I were watching bad sci-fi movies (on actual, old-school VCR); when the copyright notice at the start of one of the films set us off on one of our comedy duologues. Video piracy? There be…. Video Pirates? YAARRRGH!! Within about ten seconds, much as with Artie and Gene, the situation had spiralled so vastly out of control it was impossible to reign it back in – at least, until we’d laughed ourselves into submission and unpaused the video again. I’m not sure how much of the dialogue in this strip is cribbed directly from our demented ramblings (I’d guess rather a lot), but when you get presented with comedic gold of that magnitude, you’d have to be a crazy person to let it pass you by….

TO BE CONTINUED….

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