The Cosmos Crossover crisis, part four!

Okay, so, a week back, this happened:

Prologue 2
On the wondrous website Comic Fury, it was Crossover Exchange time again – but this time around, things were a little more complicated. The premise was that of a ‘Character Exchange’, i.e, due to a bit of multiversal jiggery-pokery, the main character/s from different webcomics abruptly swapped places; causing no amount of confusion, antagonism and general hilarity as they attempted to adjust to worlds (and, frequently, genres) utterly alien to them. Slice-of-life characters found themselves in fantasy comics. Fantasy characters ended up facing down science fiction. Superheroes battled unfamiliar foes, or found new allies. Oh, what fun!

Gene, for example, vanished from Cosmos; only to be replaced by a very large, very blue and very devout alien crusader (‘The Knight’) from the comic Arkian, by a very talented fellow called Aran Frogatt:

http://arkian.thecomicseries.com/

Given how very different Cosmos and Arkian were (happy-go-lucky hijinks vs. far-flung sci-fi drama), I decided to present the story from The Knight’s perspective, as he attempts to wrap his head around both his profoundly-changed circumstances and the relentlessly-cheerful creatures he finds himself amongst….

Arkian Page 1Arkian Page 2Arkian Page 3
Being of a religious bent, he interprets his experience as a test or trial set by the deity (Triberius) his culture venerates aboard the colossal starship known as The Ark; attempting to ‘do unto others’ as his training as a warrior, diplomat and keeper-of-the-faith would have him do – no matter how perplexing the actions of the local inhabitants may seem to him. Artie, Jenny and the others, meanwhile, deal with the cosmic switcheroo in truly commendable fashion: although understandably freaked out by Gene’s disappearance, and the arrival of a relative giant in their midst (Cosmosians are only about three feet tall, of course), they make every effort to to welcome him into the fold and figure out a way to return him home; and even remain respectful of his religious beliefs and general philosophy, despite their far more secular upbringing – perhaps not something that would have happened if he’d ended up somewhere else. I felt that after so many years of hard slog in his own universe, where enemies were everywhere, The Knight deserved a bit of a chance to unwind!

But what about Gene? Confounding Artie and Co’s expectations, the character exchanges were far more random than Person A swapping directly with Person B (and I’m sure The Knight was very happy about that) – there was actually quite a bit of shuffling going on in mid-teleport. Well, with a bit of help from Professor Pod, Artie was able to mount a rescue mission, and track his erstwhile friend down:

http://crossoverexchange.thecomicseries.com/comics/712/

 

Advertisements

The Cosmos Crossover Crisis, part 3!

As you may have noticed, Comic Fury’s Crossover Exchanges generally conform to a seasonal theme – the usual inclusions being Easter, Summer, Halloween and Christmas, with a few wild-card entries thrown in to spice things up (*cough cough* as you’ll see in the next installment massive spoiler *cough cough*). For the Easter 2017 Crossover Exchange, I was served up the semi-autobiographical, partly social-commentary and sometimes risque comic XCP, short for ‘Xailenrath Comics Presents’:

http://xcp.thecomicseries.com/archive/

While mostly serving as a repository for random comics the artist – Octavius – can’t fit into his other webcomics (and he’s done a fair few, just sayin’), the majority are the pithy observations of a cartoon version of himself, sometimes joined by an equally cartoony version of his partner Lucy; so I decided to have the pair – the closest thing the series has to main characters – meet up with the Cosmos gang for some ‘slightly left of centre’ Easter fun. And what fun it was!

Easter crossover comic
In a bit of a departure from my usual working process, I decide to draw all the characters in the final panel individually and lay them over the top of a vector art background created in Adobe Illustrator – this allowed me to A) give the high-tech looking room nice, clean-edged shapes, B) reposition the floor / walls / balcony (all on separate layers) so everything was at the right height relative to the characters and props, C) allow me to scale each character so they were all in proportion to one another, and D) create the ‘holographic keypads’ Gene and Octavius were using to play video games and easily slot them in between them and the other foreground elements when I did the final page assembly. A bit fiddly, but definitely a system I’d use again….

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part nine

First there was one half of Cosmos’ Christmas 2003 comic strips – and now, as logic demands of us, here is the equal and matching other half! If there was any theme to the first selection (2003, part eight), it would be ‘general festive preparations and other assorted hi-jinks’: this time, however, there’s a definite ‘Christmas shopping’ focus (and even a loose sort of story, as 6 out of the 8 strips are set at the Stuff-U-Like department store in Pago Grandé) to proceedings. So make room in the car boot and prepare your bank account for some serious buyer’s remorse, ‘cause we’re heading for the mall!

2003 9_1
Top: Peter and Timmy have plenty of enthusiasm when it comes to the spirit of giving, but sadly, beyond the standard clichés of novelty ties and decorative soaps, they’re a little out of their depth when it comes to buying gifts for their respective parents – especially when other people aren’t into action figures, comic books and all of the awesome things that ‘normal’ folks want for Christmas. Still, keep trying, lads!

Bottom: I’m sure people working in department stores view the sea of customers pressed up against the doors at 8:59am, mid-December, with a mounting sense of dread – in the same way that one would facing down a revving line-up of Indy-cars or a herd of enraged cattle of the cusp of a massive stampede. Sure, you’re receiving double hazard-pay, but being gored and trampled is still being gored and trampled!

2003 9_2
Top: I think this guy fits into the category marked ‘way too much free time on his hands’, don’t you? Oh, but for your information, SIR, you are currently sitting in an
ARMCHAIR, not a COUCH. Check, and mate.

Bottom: remember these two? Gene introduced us to them in the original Stuff-U-Like story (2002, part 18) – it’s Meg and Darcy, queens of the Cosmetics Department! Darcy clearly has an abiding affection for all things nostalgically-Christmas-y…. as well as a certain Elf-hunk from Lord of the Rings. That begs the question, though: why do the majority of Christmas elves bear more resemblance to Yuletide-themed garden gnomes than proper, fantasy-novel elves? Are they different species, or something? Or does working in the Arctic simply stunt their growth? Someone launch a
scientific study on that, please….

2003 9_3
Top: I’m sure there are those out there who can totally relate to the situation this guy found himself in – dealing with irate, illogical and borderline-homicidal customers (especially in stereo) must be a nightmare scenario no amount of training can prepare you for! But hang on: one of the angry women is clearly wearing flat-soled shoes (if panel 3 is any indication), and the other – being a Type-one Cosmosian – isn’t wearing shoes at all. So where in Bob’s name did that High heel come from?

Bottom: also mentioned in Gene’s 2002 story was this fellow – current Stuff-U-Like head honcho Jacob Pendelton-Smythe Jr.; seen here with his sycophantic (if morally conflicted) lieutenant-come-minion Bradley. I highly doubt whether Bradley exerts any sort of regulating – or even stabilising – effect on his boss’ avaricious excesses (he’s certainly not having any luck here!)…. But, bless him, I’m sure he tries.

2003 9_4
Top: Ahh, ‘Last-minute gift anxiety’…. another one of those First-world problems exacerbated by the holiday season, right up there with ‘Greeting card text nit-pickery’ and ‘Action figure set completion-obsession’. Ain’t contemporary society wonderful?

Bottom: you had one job, you two. One. Job.

COSMOS: OLD SCHOOL WILL RETURN…. IN ONE OF TWENTY-THREE
RANDOMLY-SELECTED PROVINCES!

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part eight

What?! Christmas already?! Well, I did tell you 2003 was a rather brisk year for Cosmos – what with New Century Starship Synergy, university work and everything else that was vying for my attention – so it’s no surprise we’ve reached the festive season more abruptly than in previous collections. Which is not to say this year’s Christmas strips (split into two installments for easy consumption) were in any way inferior to any of the others before or since…. Far from it! Both the A-team and B-team casts get in on the action, leaving no festive cliché unturned….

2003 8_1
Above: if we include the title bar in the equation, ‘The unwritten rules of Christmas’ (in colour, no less!) is actually eight quick-fire gags for the price of one! Each panel is its own little story focusing on a different character/s – some from the A-team cast (title bar, panels 2, 7 and 8), some from the B-team cast (panels 4 and 5), and couple form the wider Cosmos community (panels 3 and 6) – in different situations related to the overall theme. And, of course, tradition dictates that one of them has to be the Annual Obligatory Christmas Junk Mail Joke!

2003 8_2
Top: somewhere out there, I’m sure there is some lazy, sorry, ‘efficiently creative’ individual who has seriously contemplated doing this, regardless of how out-of-place their house will look for the other 11 months of the year. But it’s all in the name of making things easier, isn’t it? Right? Anyone?

Bottom: what is it with house-pets (especially cats) and Christmas trees? Sure, your owners have suddenly erected this mysterious, towering obelisk of pine-smelling vegetation that clearly must be climbed; and covered it in a tantalising, array of memserising things that dangle, sparkle and shine, all of which call to you in an irresistible Siren’s song; and when you can take it no more, and rampage after them through the branches, and the entire thing crashes down in a cataclysmic shower of–
Oh, okay. Never mind. I get it now.

2003 8_3
Top: I think Gene’s problem is that he honestly believed a stern telling-off was going to diminish Murph’s tree-lust one iota…. especially when he then leaves said tree unattended, and Murph completely unrestrained! Silly boy….

Bottom: ever pulled the ‘let go of the Christmas cracker at the last possible second’ trick on someone? Or had it pulled on you? Given the rather elastic nature of both Cosmosian crackers and cartoon physics, I’m sure peter wishes the prank hadn’t existed in the first place! ‘My hands slipped’, indeed.

2003 8_4
Top: lack of self-control? Check. Gluttony run amok? Also check. Complete disregard for the presence of anyone else in the buffet queue? Check a third and additional time. When Gene reaps what he sows, the results tend to be…. disturbing.

Bottom: Gene also appears to be prone to ‘It seemed like such a good idea on paper’ syndrome (but we already knew that, right?) A revolving Christmas tree linked to a hand-held controller? Marvellous. Giving it the power to spin so fast that it flings decorations off hard enough to impale them several inches deep in the wall? Should have given it a few more test runs before you unveiled it to Ax and the gang, methinks.

TO BE CONTINUED….

 

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part seven

Macy title

Last time on Cosmos: Old School – Eugene Carmichael Ellis fell in love!

2003 7_1
I know, I know, it sounded impossible when I said it in the last installment, and it still sounds equally crazy now – but it’s true! After a fateful meeting in the Pago Grandé Mega-Mall, Gene and his new lady-friend Jenny Masters (who, even more alarmingly, appears perfectly suited for Captain Nutjob) are going steady. As far as Artie, Ax and I could tell, this was a match made in Cosmos-Heaven, and nothing could go wrong….

2003 7_1b
Unfortunately, Gene forgot the cornerstone of any good relationship: honesty! As in, if you’re not totally open with your Significant Other, at some point – governed solely by Murphy’s Law – you will screw up, and they will find out! Ax knows this (from long and occasionally very literally painful experience – sorry, Darling!), so he comes clean to me with things pretty quickly. But seriously, Gene?! You expected to magically conceal your geek-boy-ness from Jenny forever, and have her never, ever find out?! My Grod, you were a relationship noob, weren’t you….

2003 7_2
Personally, I think Jenny may have fled their romantic evening less because she realised Gene was a colossal nerd…. than because her dining companion had a freakin’ nervous breakdown five inches away from her face! Not exactly how you expect your dinner date to go, you know what I’m saying? But things were only about to get worse:

2003 7_3
Wow. Geez. This part of the story is sort of hard to write about – I wasn’t there when Gene got back to his house, but when Ax told me what had happened…. well, it was like being punched with a truck. Sure, Gene can be annoying, and he rubs me up the wrong way a lot of the time, but…. I wouldn’t have wished anything like that on him, ever! Honestly, none of us knew what to do: as Artie said later on, “He just lost it – in all the time I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him fall apart like that! He was always the one who could handle any crazy situation and come away laughing…. But this?
He seems to have just…. broken….”

2003 7_4
Jon actually had a couple more strips planned for this story – Gene doing some self-recrimination, us trying to coax him out of his room – but ultimately, he thought they would be just too grim; and just felt uncomfortable about putting everyone through the emotional wringer like that. So, he let us deal with all that off-panel, and instead jumped to the chase and gave us our mojo back (Thanks, Jon!):

2003 7_5
Hooray! Now that’s what I call a happy ending! If there’s anything Cosmos doesn’t want too much of, it’s heavy-duty emotional stuff. It’s good for character development, sure (and boy, did we get some of it here!), but our strip is all about the crazy fun, right? There’s another statement I never thought I’d willingly endorse, but anyway…. Jon originally had a different plan for the end of the story, though – Gene would cut his losses, he and Jenny would go their separate ways, and – everyone a little wiser for the experience – we’d pick up our lives and move on. All very poignant and all, but in story-telling terms…. I call cop-out, jon! With only the strips he’d actually done, the story would have basically just…. stopped; and all of Jenny’s character building would have gone to waste (because that would be it for her). Besides, she – and Candice, for that matter – were so much fun, Jon would have been insane to throw them out! But he didn’t, and Gene and Jenny got their second chance….

Wow, that sounded all so happy-clappy touchy-feely. Can I have something less emotional next time?

TO BE CONTINUED….

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part six

Macy title

Oh ho! Once again, my name has been drawn out to present one of these crazy blog entries – and this time, it’s a two-parter! Seriously, do I not have enough to do around here? Not only am I juggling umpteen-dozen exhibitions, commissioned pieces and my own sculptures and paintings; I also have to make sure Artie, Gene and Ax don’t create absolute chaos with one of their ‘clever ideas’! Fine, I suppose it’ll make a nice change of pace…. What have we got? A bunch of Randoms? Some concept sketches?

Oh.

Oh, wow.

You want ME to write up this story? Seriously?

….Well, okay then. At this point in 2003, Cosmos had itself a nice little status quo going. There was me, Ax, Artie, Gene, Murph and Newton (plus Tony, Professor pod and Dr. Nitro, of course), all living happily in Pago Grandé. We got up to hijinks – well, the others did, anyway…. Not Me!!! – and we went through Randoms, Stories and Sundays like an old-married-couple-with-extended-family who didn’t see much reason to change. However….

2003 6_1Allow me to introduce Jenny and Candice, the first properly new characters we’d had in Cosmos for quite a while! Since they’d already had three whole strips to themselves (which were clearly part of an ongoing story), it was obvious something important was going on. Apart from the fact that Jenny was in ‘Smash up the Furninture Looooove’ (What’s that, Ax? They’re failing what? The ‘Bechdel Test’? No idea what that is, Darling), there was the small issue of Ms. Masters’ mystery suitor. Who was he? Why was Jon making such a big deal out of it? I didn’t know, Candice clearly didn’t either, so….
Why all the secrecy?

2003 6_2
Yehhhhh…. As plot twists go…. that was definitely one of them. Gene?!? The crazy, mentally-questionable ball of impulsive insanity had actually been earmarked by someone as boyfriend potential? And he’d actually reciprocated?! Given that Gene normally has the attention span of a sugar-drenched eight year old, and treats reality as his own personal amusement park, the concept was almost incomprehensible. So much so, the rest of us had a hard time wrapping our heads around it:

2003 6_3
Well, sorry, Gene – if you’re going to blindside us with a truckload of well-overdue character development, you’ve got to expect a side-order of backlash with your breakfast cereal! (Wow, where did THAT come from? Uggh, I have been hanging out with crazy people for too long….) For once, we were the ones causing Gene aggravation, rather than the other way around: I would say it was karmic retribution, but, yeh…. We probably did go a bit overboard attempting to debunk the unbelievable….

2003 6_4
I have to say, Gene was acting a lot more mature in those last two strips (certainly more than Artie and I were doing, just quietly) – so maybe he’s actually able to pull some common sense out of somewhere when it’s needed, huh? And I’m one to talk: before I met Ax, I was Little Miss Self-absorbed Sociophobe Pants! Jenny was good match for, and a good influence on, Mr. Ellis: she smoothed off his rough edges, toned down his manic impulses just by being around him, and gave him something to focus on other than himself! Perhaps this relationship was just meant to be….

2003 6_4b
Uh oh.

DEFINITELY TO BE CONTINUED!

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part five

I’ve just realised something – few, if any, of the scenarios I’ve come up with for Murph stories have been inspired by my experiences with actual cats! I love kitty-cats, and I’ve befriended any number of furry felines in my time…. but the adventures of Murph T. Catt seem to have arisen in spite of their presence, rather than because of them. I can certainly credit Jim Davis’ Garfield for his influence, in terms of anthropomorphic animals and snappy dialogue; but Murph’s personality and interaction with the rest of the A-team cast (especially Gene and Newton) appears to be the main well of inspiration for his strips, rather than cats per se. Not that he doesn’t face the same driving issues as Earthly felines, of course….

2003 5_1
Top: wow, if I had a time machine right now, I’d go back to 2003…. and make myself think of a better punchline for this joke. It was supposed to be a hilarious misunderstanding by Murph of what Gene was talking about, but it just seems so…. contrived. To say nothing of the clunkiness of the dialogue, which also doesn’t help. The only problem is: what to replace it with? ‘Shots’ as in tequila? ‘Shots’ as in photos?
Some other, completely different reaction? I have a feeling
I wrote myself into a corner on this one….

Bottom: the ‘Can Gene understand what Murph is saying’ debate rages on! You would imagine that since Murph is ‘think-talking’ ala Garfield, his owner would not be able to hear any of it (and in earlier strips, that certainly seems to be the case) – but in panel four, Gene is responding directly to Murph’s question! Oh well, maybe in between Point A and Point B, Gene simply learned how to speak ‘Cat’…. Yeh, let’s go with that one.

2003 5_2
Top: when I originally sketched out the idea for this strip, Artie and Gene’s roles were reversed; and it was Mr. Deacon’s fate to be constricted. However, it occurred to me that A) Artie doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment, B) Murph would be more likely to latch onto Gene in such a stressful situation, and C) it was far funnier if Gene was the one in dire straits, as it continued the pattern from the previous strips. Murph had hardly made reaching the vet a pleasant experience for his owner, so why would he stop heaping frustration on him once they got there?

Bottom: I think we can all agree that waiting to get an injection is just as terrifying as the moment they jam it in, right? It’s the whole ‘anticipation anxiety’ thing – why do we have to sit there waiting for so long? Does stewing in our fear-sweat for twenty minutes somehow make the vaccine work better, or something? And why on earth do they think saying ‘Don’t worry, it won’t hurt a bit’ will make it any less worse? You are inserting a razor-sharp sliver of metal Into Our Flesh!! We feel your pain, Murph.

2003 5_3
Top: I’m not sure where Jim Davis got the idea for ‘cats singing on the fence at night’ from (regardless of how many creative ideas he’s got from it) – any time I’ve heard cats caterwauling at midnight, they haven’t been singing, or howling at the moon…. they’ve been about to beat seven shades of spit out of one another for being on someone else’s turf! Still, Murph is content to follow the grand Garfield-ian tradition,
so I suppose I can’t complain….

Bottom: pop quiz, Cosmos fans – how many fingers is Newton supposed to have? If you answered ‘three’, then you’re clearly more knowledgeable than I was when I drew these strips! Of all the characters in the A-team cast, Newton has probably had the most inconsistencies in his design over time: he’s had three-toed and two-toed feet, a stripy and non-stripy belly, four-fingered and three-fingered hands; and a tail that’s been thick and banded on the underside (like Murph’s), thin and stripy and thin and non-stripy. Poor guy.

2003 5_4
Top: Murph is always ready to take advantage of unexpected circumstances when attempting to secure extra food at mealtimes – even if it’s a resource as ephemeral as a sneeze. Oh, sorry, were you going to eat that? Ugh, well, you won’t want to eat it now, will you? Still, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands….

Bottom: what does Newton do when he’s not hanging out with Murph? He indulges his passion for Packratology, of course! I wanted to expand Newton’s CV beyond ‘hapless comedy sidekick’, so I gave him a hobby that comes naturally from his nosy, inquisitive nature: rooting around in junk yards and trash heaps for nifty-looking artefacts to add to his collection (mostly stored under the shed in Artie’s back yard). He has an almost savant-like ability to find rare and unique items without even trying – which came in handy in later years, hunting down raw materials for Macy’s junk sculptures!

2003 5_5
Top: sticking their pets in hideously-embarrassing ‘outfits’ may be fine for some pet owners (including Gene, apparently), but both Murph and I clearly agree that the practice is frankly shameful – especially since said pets rarely get a say in whether they want to wear these ‘fashionable’ items or not! A cat-sweater for Murph, by the looks of things, basically amounts to a giant neon-coloured tube sock…. hardly surprising, then, that he doesn’t want to be seen in public with it.

Bottom: on the other hand, there are clear advantages to living with Gene – namely, you have access to the best electronics and audio equipment money can buy! The other neighbourhood cats simply can’t compete….

2003 5_6
Top: the firm friendship between Murph and Newton is one of the wonderfully counterintuitive things about Cosmos – in any other universe, they’d either be chasing each other around with cartoon mallets and dynamite; or Murph would be on an obsessive quest to turn Newton (and Newton alone) into lunch. But not here, though! Nonetheless, they are both aware of their ‘expected’ roles in nature, and Murph is clearly not above giving Newton’s gullibility a tweak now and again. He’s just funnin’ you, dude!

Bottom: you nkow that condescending look your cat gives you when you serve him up the same el cheapo cat food for the third night in a row, right before that turn their nose up and swagger off? Well, just be thankful you don’t have Murph to look after – being somewhat more sentient than the average house cat, he’s turned impromptu dining critiques into an art form!

TO BE CONTINUED….

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part four

Ax banner
Boy oh boy, do Artie and Gene love their movies. As long as I’ve known them – Artie since childhood, and Gene since he moved to Pago Grandé in early 1999 – the Dynamic Duo have always been keen followers of the latest cinematic releases; whether superhero,
sci-fi, fantasy or horror. Back in the Old School days, Jon tired his best to follow along with the big movies of the year, crafting several stories focused around our experiences with a specific release: such as Star Wars : Episode One (2001, part 16 and 17), and Jurassic Park 3 (2001, part 20). And in 2003, we got to get our Marvel on….

2003 4_1
Top: the guys are quoting directly from the blurb of the Incredible Hulk comics of the 1990’s (especially during the stellar run by Peter David!) here, much to Macy’s dismay. Given that they couldn’t possibly find a better way to introduce the story, they decided to go for it, copyright infringement or not!

Bottom: given that this was one of the earlier Marvel movies of the 21st century, and 99% of the characters in previous films were played by actual people, the prospect of a CG hulk was still a big deal at the time – so stop laughing! Yeh, it’s as common as muck now, but back then, simply not cheaping out on a guy in green body paint was a revelation. Oh, and a note from Jon – he came up with the ideas for most of these strips before he’d seen the movie; but after watching it, he changed the scene in panel four from a generic ‘guy tries to mug Bruce Banner in an alley’ to an actual scene from the film: Bryan Talbot beating up Bruce while he’s in captivity in the underground military facility. But shouldn’t Talbot have a moustache, Jon?

2003 4_2
Top: ahh, spoilers – both the best thing and the worst thing to happen to movie nerds in the electronic age. Isn’t it crazy that movies can be pre-judged (and often pre-rejected) before they’ve even been released; based solely on a teaser trailer and some concept art? Quite a few have been justifiably trashed, I have to say – but that’s a whole ‘nother story! Artie and Gene, though, will take all the info they can get….

Bottom: I swear, it took several days for Macy to stop giggling over Gene’s ‘Hulk hands’ incident – every time she so much as glanced at him, she’d collapse in fits of laughter. I hate to say this, Gene, but I have to thank the guy at the toyshop: that was the best mood Macy had been in all month!

2003 4_3
Above: Macy described the situation to me thus – “Having assembled some disturbing shrine of Hulk merchandise they’d bought over the past week, Artie and Gene tasked me – for some dumb reason – to dash off and get a couple of magazines they Had To Have Right Now, so they’d be free to pre-book their movie tickets. Following their wonderfully micro-managed instructions (‘Make sure it’s a first printing, with the metallic-green Hulk logo, not plain matte….’), I returned only to find they’d both turned into crazy fighting monsters and were smashing holes in Artie’s house! See?! This is why I’ve resisted Geekism for so long – the deeper you go, the crazier the stuff that happens to you! I don’t want to become an orange rock-monster, you know?” Aw, but you’d look adorable….

2003 4_4
Top: the big ‘Vs.’ matches of the Marvel Universe are always great fun – Hulk vs. Thing, Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, Angaar the Screamer vs….. uh…. Frog-man…. So why not go whole-hog with them here? I think we went through most of our monthly sound effects budget with this story, though – but it was worth it!

Bottom: enter – Me! When Macy rang me up with the special call-sign Bad Moon Rising (code for ‘Artie and Gene are doing something stupid and possibly catastrophic for national security’), I knew it was time to make for Casa del Artie with all due haste. What I had not expected, however, was to walk in on a live-action reenactment of Fantastic Four #25 when I got there! And to answer your question in panel four, Macy:
yes, my dear, I’m very much afraid that you are….

2003 4_5
Above: uh oh – if there’s one thing a large-scale super-slugfest is sure to attract, it’s a star-studded range of guest stars…. at which point (especially in a throw-everything-in-and-run Jon Kay story), it’s pretty much a slippery slope into Crossover County. And where did all these off-brand nutcases come from, anyway? Was there a cosplay convention in town we somehow didn’t know about? The interesting thing is, they’re all from Marvel movies that accompanied Ang Lee’s Hulk film into cinemas: the X-men, Spiderman, Daredevil and Elektra. I think Jon was trying to cash in on multiple movies
for the price of one here, don’t you?

2003 4_6
Top: Chaos! Madness! Optic blasts! Punching! I think there’s enough superhero battle action going on in the first two panels to fill an olympic-size swimming pool! (Yeh, that’s right, Daring-devil; take on Storm. That’s not going to end horribly for you, or anything.) Hang on, why am I yelling “Briiiiiing!!” in panel three? Bring? Bring what?
Oh, wait, I see what’s going on….

Bottom: seriously, Jon, the old ‘It was a Dream’ cliché?! Really, I must say I thought you had more writerly creativity than that – even back in 2003! And if Macy dreamed the whole thing (for a non-geek, she sure seems to go on a fair few pop culture-themed vision quests, doesn’t she?), does that mean I wasn’t actually in the story at all? How does this affect my pay? Does it count as overtime, or is there some clause that’s going to cheat me out of an extra five bucks an hour? Ugh, Cartoon Class is hard….

TO BE CONTINUED….

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….

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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….