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!


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….


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….


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….


Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part one

2003! Cosmos’ fifth year! You know you’re onto a good thing as a cartoonist when you’ve got half a decade of comic strips under your belt, with no sign of burnout or even slowing down. That said, I seem to have done fewer stories and far fewer strips overall in 2003 than I did in the each of the preceding years (not counting 1999) – this may be because I was particularly busy at Uni that year, but also because I was working on a collaborative project with my friends: the sci-fi saga New Century Starship Synergy. Commenced in late 2002, this comic featured my aforementioned friends as the crew of the Enterprise-style starship Synergy, interacting with a motley crew of other characters devised by myself; including – perhaps unsurprisingly – junior science officers Artie and Gene! Their presence was initially unexplained (no-one was complaining, certainly; and I made sure they remained firmly in the supporting cast, rather than taking the whole thing over), but a link between Cosmos and Synergy now existed by default, if nothing else. And it wasn’t long before I decided to explore it further….

2003 1_1Above: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Gene has an extremely cavalier attitude to his own existence as a two-dimensional doodle. If we were to apply an (admittedly outdated) Freudian analysis to his personality, we might find an unhealthy contribution coming from his Id: when that little voice in his head yells ‘Do it!’, he barely pauses before indulging whatever impulse has excited him, never mind any sort of logic. Tearing a hole in the fabric of reality? Sure, why not! When I first drew these two strips, the ‘extra-dimensional space’ beyond the fourth wall was blank; but since Cosmos is (usually) in black-and-white, I needed something to distinguish the panel background from what you could see through the hole Gene ripped in it; hence the manic dot pattern. Still, perhaps some cross-hatching would have looked neater….

2003 1_20001
Above: Artie seems to be operating on a mindset of ‘Let Gene go make his own mistakes’ here, perhaps as a result of their experiences in the story Train of Thought (2002, part 6 and 7) – he knows Gene can handle himself, and will probably come away from his adventure smelling like a rose; but he’s also not shy about drawing a line that Gene can’t get him to cross. Fair enough. The comic panels fading out and disappearing is a bit of visual shorthand to show that Gene is – technically speaking – not in a comic strip anymore, but instead is…. somewhere else. This reality is evidently defined by a completely new set of rules…. which Gene has already found a way to take advantage of! But where did he get the fire hose?

2003 1_30001
Above: And here the strengthening of the Cosmos / Synergy link begins – never mind that this new comic is called Galaxy Gals, or is done by a guy called ‘Ron Grey’ (Ho ho, very clever, 2003-Jon); this is definitely another starship crew from the Synergy-verse! In particular, it’s the USF Alexis, an older-model vessel with an all-female crew…. although I didn’t explicitly state this at the time, partly to avoid having to bodge together a bunch of unnecessary Synergy-continuity exposition. It was simply another comic strip (which, if I were doing this story today, I would have got someone else to draw), and that was that. Of course, once Gene gate-crashes the party,
you knows things are never going to be the same!

2003 1_40001
Above: Is Mr. Ellis capable of going anywhere without making a mess and / or making everyone in a five-mile radius want to lynch him? As an ambassador for Cosmos, he’s doing a terrible job encouraging cross-universal relations! Still, when you dump him in a futuristic control room with panel upon panel of lovely shiny buttons and switches to push, what do you think is going to happen? The final panel in the first strip is yet another example of the unfortunate constraints placed upon my artwork by the small size (65mm x 85mm) of my Old-school Cosmos panels – there simply wasn’t enough space to adequately depict what had happened (the bridge had self-destructed because…. reasons, embedding everyone in the walls), so I had to fudge it. And, obviously, it didn’t work. Gah. By the end of the second strip, however, Gene is once again traveling on…. just not in the direction he intended.

2003 1_50001Above: while I was planning this story, I did originally consider having Gene drop out of this first strip right into another one, for some more crossover mayhem – and perhaps I should have, looking back at it now – but for one reason or another I decided not to; instead deciding to focus on the unfortunate fact that Gene was now, to all intents and purposes, plummeting through infinity! From memory, I based this part of the tale on one of a couple of Calvin and Hobbes stories; either one where he is falling out of the sky, monologuing to himself, or one where he is continually growing and eventually topples off the (now marble-sized) Earth into space. These clever sequences went on for quite a few strips, but I was only able to manage two – should’ve given Gene a second comic to run around in, methinks.

2003 1_60001
Above: Back home again! There’s only one place in the multiverse Gene truly belongs, and I’m glad that place is right here with us. (Just quietly, I imagine the rest of the multiverse is equally glad he belongs with us as well, but that’s another story!)Cosmos’ resident physician, Dr. Nitro, stops by for another of his flying visits in the second strip – not that he gets any dialogue, or anything – suggesting that the A-team cast has him on speed-dial for Gene-related emergencies (‘He’s glued what to his head? In what quantity? Fine, I’ll be right over….’) I hope he gets paid overtime for house calls, is all I can say.

Remember how I said I didn’t explicitly state the connection of Galaxy Gals to Synergy at the time I did this story? Well, about a year later, I figured out a Synergy story that retconned a solution: Artie and Gene sneak into a ‘senior staff only’ banquet on a starbase while the Synergy is in dry-dock, accidentally running into the captain of the USF Alexis in the process. She (understandably) freaks out upon learning that Gene is a science officer on board the Synergy – pressed for an explanation by Artie, Gene launches into an flashback…. otherwise known as the strips presented in this blog! Long continuity short, after accidentally colliding with the Synergy-verse in Cosmos, I kindly gave Artie and Gene a free pass to go back – by signing them up as part of the crew of the NCSS Synergy! Conveniently ignoring both Galaxy Gals and ‘Ron Grey’ in the process, but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?


The Cosmos Crossover Crisis, part two!

As shown in my previous blog, Cosmos has taken to the abundance of crossover opportunities on the webcomics site Comic Fury with a will; especially since the practice is not only encouraged, but is deliberately organised as a site-wide social activity! While the first Crossover Exchange I contributed to was centred around Valentine’s Day, the second coincided with the Northern Hemisphere summer – meaning we had to include picnics, ice creams, board-shorts, beach volleyball or any of the other paraphernalia associated with that time of year! And the series I had to crossover with this time around was the real world-inspired superhero series We are the Wyrecats, by one Neil Kapit; which you can read here:

Although I snapped up my series-out-of-a-hat without a single complaint, I was at first a bit stuck as to what to do with it. Cosmos is a fun, light-hearted cartoony romp; whereas Wyrecats is pretty grim and gritty (even the rose-tinted flashback sequences have a bitter edge) – how to meld them together in one seamless whole? But then it hit me: the Wyrecats supersuits would make pretty awesome action figures, and kids sometimes take their toys to the beach, so….

Crossover crisis 2

Seeing how the A-team cast (and their supporting cast entourage) were all over the Curse Quest crossover, I thought it was only fair that Peter, Timmy and the B-teamers headlined this one – since I could definitely see them both buying and playing with Wyrecats action figures, given the chance. The crossover went down a treat on the Exchange page as well, with people commenting that it was a very clever and creative way to combine the combine the two universes. Can’t argue with compliments like that, now can I?

The Cosmos Crossover Crisis, part one!

Being part of the wider webcomics community is absolutely fantastic, for any number of reasons. As a member of the comics hosting site Comic Fury, I can not only display my new-school Cosmos comics (and Cosmos: Old School blog) to an audience of like-minded artists and writers; but also connect with the other people on the site via the forums it offers. And there are all sorts of things to participate in: you can get critiques, sign on as a co-artist / writer on an in-development strip, do guest art / fan art for comics that are planning a hiatus, take part in collaborative works (such as a pass-the-parcel style arrangement where person one draws the first page and then hands it on to person two, who draws the second page, and so on); and – this is something I never thought I’d ever get the chance to do, ever – engage in full-on crossovers with other people’s comics!

Every year there are a series of themed ‘Crossover Exchanges’, wherein everyone who puts their name down gets assigned (relatively randomly) someone else’s comic strip; and has to create a scene / comic strip / story with your characters colliding head-long with their characters, in as peaceful or chaotic a mash-up as you see fit!
I’ve done several of these exchanges in my time at Comic Fury, and in the first I was assigned an utterly hilarious sword-and-sorcery strip called Curse Quest, by Dan Vanegas and David Faz. I strongly urge you to check it out here:

The theme for this exchange was Valentine’s Day, and (after coming up with a bunch of random gags and plot points) worked out a fairly epic three-page story that would unite the entire main cast of Cosmos with that of Curse Quest in an impromptu Valentine’s celebration – especially since the cast of Curse Quest had no idea it had even been scheduled! Here’s how it went down….
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Seriously, I love crossovers, especially when the respective comics / universes that are intersecting are very different from one another – this makes for a very fun challenge getting them to work together (or not, as the case may be; which can be even more fun!), and figuring out a plot that allows everyone to be themselves without completely undermining the coherence of the story. Roll on the next one!

From the archives: Operation – Photography!

Back in my first year at Yoobee Design school, we were tasked with a photography assignment wherein we had to take a series of photos, subject matter of our choice, that demonstrated one or more visual principles (symmetry, perspective, proximity, contrast, texture etc.); and then present them to the class. Well, me being me, I couldn’t simply take a bunch of random photos: nope, I was going to craft a little story out of them, with a cast of characters; and focus my attentions on a particular location – the rocky volcanic foreshore of Takapuna Beach. With a bit of imagination, the hummocky basaltic terrain became the surface of an alien planet being explored by a group of four specially-selected Transformers action figures, appropriately dubbed ‘Team Crimson’. Coming across it the other day, I remembered how fun it was to both photograph and write (and how hard people were laughing when I presented it); so I thought I might share it with you lovely folks as well….

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Cosmos: Old School (2002) – part twenty-two

Has everyone heard the expression ‘Mid-winter Christmas’? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am afraid I will have to interpret that very literally today – for it is the middle of June, significantly into the winter season here in the Southern hemisphere; and the next Old-school Cosmos story on my checklist…. is the Christmas 2002 special. Sure, I could put it off until December when it fits better – but then you wouldn’t have any more Cosmos: Old School blogs to read for, y’know, six freakin’ months. So accuracy be damned! We’re turning the electronic singing Santa on way ahead of schedule!

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As in the previous year’s serving of yuletide strips (2001, part 21 and 22), both the A-team and B-team casts got in on the fun; but this time around Artie, Gene and co. largely dominated proceedings – with eight comics to the B-teamers four. And aside from a two-strip micro-story (starring Peter Anderson), all the comics are single-serve gags rather than being part of a larger narrative. But we won’t hold that against them, right?

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Top: It’s back! Which means it’s now officially a running gag – the Annual Obligatory Christmas Junk Mail Joke! Sorry, Artie, it had to pounce on someone,
and you were closest, so….

Bottom: speaking of things making a return appearance, remember the unfortunate shopping mall Santa who had to suffer the horrors of the B-team cast (namely Mindy, Peter and the Tolstoy Twins)? He’s certainly a resilient soul, as his experiences the previous year clearly haven’t dissuaded him from spreading the festive joy…. Riiiiiight up until he runs into his nemesis. That third panel still cracks me up even now – Peter says a grand total of one word, and happy time is Just Over.

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Top: what is a Peter strip without one of his implausibly-long Christmas wish lists? He seems to have outdone himself this time, though: one wonders how anyone is expected to find enough time to read said list AND secure even a fraction of the items before December the 25th! Santa’s good, kid, but he ain’t that good….

Bottom: when it comes to the culinary arts, Artie is a hard act to beat – if it has ingredients, and is in any way edible, Mr. Deacon will have wrangled and tamed it like a belligerent Brahma bull! Despite Gene’s (clearly manufactured) indifference, even he will admit that his friend has impressive skills; controversial icing or not!

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Top: there are some things some people Simply Should not Do, and for Gene that definitely includes anything combining high places, high voltage and Christmas decorations. You may inadvertently provide your neighbours with an annual
‘What not to do’ safety demonstration, Mr. ellis, but don’t you think
you should just hire someone to do it for you?

Bottom: it is entirely possible to overindulge on the buffet-style cornucopia at Christmas dinner (especially when Artie is one of the chefs!) – but given that Gene considers ‘self-restraint’ and ‘moderation’ as entirely mythical concepts, there might not even be enough to underindulge in after he’s visited the table….

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Top: why is it that Cosmos gets all the cool toys? While we had to wait until 2016 to get a new rendition of the mighty Fortress Maximus (which looks utterly fantastic…. in robot more, anyway), Peter and co. got one in 2002! And considering it comes with a full-on extension set, the Cosmos version might even outdo both the Titans Return one AND the original from 1987! Lucky, lucky, lucky Cosmosians….

Bottom: ever bought a brand-new set of Christmas lights in pristine condition one year, but then come back the next to discover they’ve somehow twisted themselves into a tangled mess that even a trained escapologist would be afraid to become ensnared in? Well, Roger Anderson can feel your pain. Big time.

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Top: Gene, seriously, what did say about you and electrically-powered
Christmas decorations?! Seek Professional Help!

Bottom: the parallels between Earth culture and Cosmosian culture are convenient for social commentary purposes, but in other ways they can be rather baffling – why DO both planets have the same holidays? Are they truly examples of parallel (or even convergent) cultural evolution, and it’s all one huge coincidence? Or did Cosmos simply adopt them after some historic contact with Earth? And do they have the same cultural – and even religious – context on Cosmos as they do on Earth? It’s those sorts of questions that keep OCD cartoonists like myself awake at night….

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Top: what many people don’t realise about Gene is (especially back in the early days), although he is a goofy, fun-loving kind of guy; on occasion he really can be an absolute jerk. Especially when you’re supposedly keeping secrets from him – ‘Mr. Greedy’ mode? Methinks that’s the least we can call you, buster.

Bottom: if someone hasn’t actually made a neo-cubist Christmas tree somewhere, sometime in the history of our species, then I shall be very, very disappointed. It is unsurprising, however, that Macy would find such a creative way to celebrate the festive season, given her talent for artistic interpretation, recontextualisation and lateral thought! Anyone can have a normal Christmas tree, but in the Maxwell-Styles household, that just ain’t good enough….


Cosmos: Old School (2002) – part twenty-one

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Welcome back! For those of you just joining us, we are currently hip-deep in the highlights of the 2002 GrandéCon pop-culture convention; as attended by myself (Tony Corvell) and my able-bodied employee, Artie Deacon! His friends Gene, Ax and Macy – emboldened by the free passes I gifted them in the previous installment – have waded into the fray, encountering everything from power-hungry ticket queue minders to the wonders of ‘Fanboy Trivial Pursuit’! That was GrandéCon part one; now it’s time to meet part two!

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Top: boy oh boy oh boy, was The Red Iceberg one atrocious TV show – just be thankful you didn’t get it on Earth TV. Saddled with formulaic plots and typically 1970’s SFX budgets, I am frankly amazed it even made it through one-and-a-half seasons! Seeing it utterly jump the shark in the pilot episode should have been all the evidence the TV company needed to can it, but no! Sci-fi / police procedural mash-ups were in that year, so it was all hands to the pumps. Didn’t stop it from sinking, though…. (It also didn’t help that Zip Finklemore was a pay-rise grubbing glory hog from day one, but that’s a story for another day!)

Bottom: Gah! Speculators! The pop-cultural equivalent of that humourless, OCD buzz-kill at the office Christmas party – on both Cosmos and Earth, they were the bane of the comics and collectables market. I mean, geez, why actually enjoy your hobby when you can instead obsessively collect every single variant cover, limited edition set, collector’s club exclusive and ‘hot’ action figure simply for their investment value; and act as if everyone else is just something to be trampled all over on your quest for greatness? Read your comics! Play with your toys! Have some FUN for a change!

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Top: I have to say, I’ve sold more copies of that dictionary to ‘Con newbies than the cast of Jurassic Park had fingers and toes – if you need to understand all the high-falutin’ language being spouted by the alpha-nerds in your troupe (rather than, say, becoming hopelessly lost), then this book is a must….

Bottom: Macy was on a steep learning curve here, this being her first GrandéCon…. and, in fact, her first convention of any sort. She had some small grounding in geekery (not willingly, mind you) from Artie, Gene and Ax; but I’m guessing nothing prepared her for the wonderful world of Cosplay: where you not only dress up like your favourite characters, but have catre-blanche to act like them, too! Two to beam up, Mr. Scott….

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Top: want to know who played Captain lee Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea? Need ideas for a Star Wars-themed birthday party? Looking for the best source of machine parts to finish your home-made robot butler? Then perhaps you should get in touch with this guy – just be sure to butter him up with some TARDIS-shaped
gingerbread cookies first, though.

Bottom: remember what I was saying about speculators earlier? This yahoo is a perfect example of why they are so utterly, utterly insufferable. I congratulate Artie on his decisive handling of this situation – nobody likes Mr. holier-than-thou-know-it-all, especially not when he’s throwing his weight around like that….

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Top: back-issue bins – the goldmines of the comic convention world. Since you don’t know what you’re going to find in there, there’s every chance you’re going to stumble across some absolute gems. Classic comics, trade paperbacks, weird comics, Indie comics; a series you’ve never heard of, a new favourite artist / writer, that missing issue you couldn’t find anywhere else – who knows what might turn up? Plus, for $1 a pop, you can do a bit of smorgasbord binge-reading!

Bottom: wow, those are some committed animation fans, right there…. The ‘Video room’ is a good place to go if you want a more laid-back GrandéCon experience. Just bring along some snacks, sit yourself down, and watch as many cartoons, movies and fan-made music videos as you want! Don’t O.D on the couch potato thing though – as these two prove, it’s not a pretty sight.

There you have it: an entire long weekend of fun, frivolity and guys dressed up in Stormtrooper costumes! The next time you’re in Pago Grandé, in the month of Octember, why not swing by the Tony’s Comic Utopia booth at GrandéCon?
We’ll be happy to see you….