Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part three

Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more exciting, this installment of Cosmos: Old School is the second half of my extended run of 2003 Randoms and sundry Sunday strips! I know, my heart skipped a beat, too. Obviously, not everyone can handle a double dose of single-serve comic action, but I know that you – oh great and loyal audience – are made of sterner stuff (to quote Optimus Prime); and can therefore handle whatever this blog has to throw at you! So, without further adieu….

2003 3_1
Above: this is one of the very, very few Cosmos strips to have no background detail whatsoever; but such a minimalist look was an absolute necessity for this particular joke to work. With no other visual cues than Artie and Gene’s relative positions in the frame, the amorphous distinction between foreground and background is far more easily broken when Gene pulls out his ‘Neat Trick’ (and once again thumbs his nose at both logic and cartoon physics). I love the five panel lead-up to the ‘What the?!’ moment, as neither the audience nor Artie has a clue as to what Gene is planning until he flips the table over on everyone…. Very typical of Mr. Ellis, I must say. Oh, and the title bar is proof positive that I might as well dismantle my ‘No dinosaurs in Cosmos’ rule and stick it back in storage, for all the good it’s doing. My original idea for this title was to have Cosmosian-ised versions of the core cast of Jurassic Park facing down actual, scientifically-accurate dinosaurs; but then I thought “Hey! Why don’t I Cosmos-ify the dinos as well?” So I did, and it worked wonderfully….

2003 3_20001
Above: Blaaagh…. Exam nightmares. That’s one thing I’m glad I don’t suffer from anymore, having not done a proper exam since finishing university at the end of 2007. As if the stress involved in revising 7,530,52 assorted facts wasn’t bad enough, your subconscious has to cook up illogical worst-case scenarios when you’re trying to sleep? Mine usually involved trying to find the right room, but getting hopelessly lost in an increasingly elaborate maze of hallways, rooms and stairwells; or running to get to the room, but the faster I run the faster time flows, or the harder it is to get my legs to work properly; but I’m sure the scenarios in the above strip popped up as well (I particularly remember the one from panel four). Also being school students, I thought Peter and Timmy should experience the wonders of Examdreamophobia, to better prepare them for the harsh realities of later life – all for the greater good, of course!

2003 3_30001
Top: I imagine that this is what it would be like if I were to go fishing – mishaps, foul-ups and hopelessly tangled fishing lines. And don’t even get me started on where the buckets of worms would end up….

Bottom: making their only appearance for the whole of 2003 (and, in fact, the next few years following), it’s the return of Explorers inc.! As I’ve said before, I always regret not being able to do more with Artimus Frink and the gang, but as they require pretty elaborate ‘event’ stories to really work – and I don’t often have time to pull one off – I’ve had to take what opportunities I can get to stick them in. Poor Co-Pilot doesn’t seem to have the best luck when Explorers Inc. is out in the field, especially when he ends up serving as the ‘bait’ in an impromptu creature hunt! We feel your pain!

2003 3_40001
Top: Perhaps as revenge for the ‘Neat Trick Incident’ earlier on, Artie has managed – for once – to completely upend the former reigning champ of cartoon nonsense! Perhaps Gene was getting a little complacent in thinking that no-one could match him, or simply never considered that his friend might be quietly sitting there taking notes from the master…. Dark horse, that Artie.

Bottom: Uh oh, I seem to be on this kick again – after my first set of ‘Beware of the Dog’ strips in Cosmos’ opening season (1999, Part 10) turned out so well, and I’d actually come to a consensus decision on what constituted a ‘dog’ on Cosmos (a snaky, reptillian sea serpent looking thing – obvious when you think about it, right?); I thought I might be able to see what other ideas I squeeze out of the ol’ comedy grapefruit. Quite a few, as it turned out….

2003 3_50001
Top: It looks like Murph isn’t the only one wary of The Dog Next Door and his fin-eared brethren – Gene has his problems with them as well. Looking back at it now, this joke has a slightly clunky (over-explained?) set-up, but it works out well enough in the end…. for the joke, that is, not Gene.

Bottom: a simple gag with a simple premise – ‘let reality interpret the writing on signs very, very literally.’ It has the same basic set-up as the first strip in the series, but the punchline (as predicted by the sign) leads us somewhere very different indeed.

2003 3_60001
Top: at the opposite end of the spectrum we have this – a pretty complex set-up for what appears to be a gag with no connection at all to the overarching theme (the mailman is certainly as baffled as the audience should be during the first three panels)…. but then abruptly hits us with an ‘Oh, riiiiight….’ moment at the end, where we see it’s a ‘Beware of the dog’ joke after all. Cosmosians sure like their signage super-sized,
though, don’t they?

Bottom: the cycle reaches its natural end…. or nadir, if we side with Ax on the subject. I knew I couldn’t keep doing ‘Beware of the Dog’ strips indefinitely – and I didn’t want to, either – so I thought I’d acknowledge the finite lifespan of this series by letting Ax tell me to call it quits while I was still ahead. This turned it from yet another BOTD joke into a joke about the perception of BOTD jokes by those forced to participate in them. See? Very meta. Oh, but if only Ax hadn’t decided to get lippy….



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