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….
Crossover crisis 1
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!

Adventure Pack book concepts 1

3) Book concepts 1Designing the core component of the Explorers Inc. Adventure Pack – namely, the ‘Rainforest, Ho!’ storybook – was a whole bunch a’ fun; not only because I got to research and write a story somewhat on the fly, but also because I got to draw up lots n’ lots of nifty page layouts….

The Explorers Inc. logo!

2) logo conceptsThe first thing I figured out for my Explorers Inc. project was the logo, since it had to go on pretty much everything – my main criteria were that it had to A) have a retro-vintage, somewhat Victorian look, B) evoke a feeling of voyaging and discovery (hence the compass, and the arrows hidden in the ‘E’), and C) be visually distinctive. By the looks of things, I definitely met the brief on that one….

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!

2002 22_70001
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?

2002 22_1
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.

2002 22_20001
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!

2002 22_30001
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….

2002 22_40001
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.

2002 22_50001
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….

2002 22_60001
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….


The Explorers Inc. Adventure Pack!

1) Explorers displayAt the end of our first year of design school (2012), we were given the opportunity to go absolutely nuts for our final assignment – and thus was conceived the Explorers inc. Adventure Pack, an ambitious project combining packaging design, book design, illustration and a healthy dose of science and discovery; all headed by the efferevescent adventurers of Explorers Inc.! Want to see how it all came about? Stay tuned….

Free-form comic page!

Sketchbook storyThis is a sketch page I drew up while helping man the Yoobee Design School table at the Armageddon comic con one year – I have no idea how the crazy situation detailed in high-impact pencil came about, but doesn’t it look awesome?

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!

2002 21_1
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!

2002 21_2
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….

2002 21_30001
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….

2002 21_40001
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….


Character Design, part two

Gene 3D modelTHIS was the real prize for those that entered the Yoobee character design contest – their character rendered out in full-contact 3D! Mounted on a snazzy base! With a name tag! There was such a gap between the end of the contest and actually recieving anything for it, we pretty much expected that it had been shuffled into a closet and forgotten about…. but nope! We all got our very own model, every single one of us!

Cosmos: Old School (2002) – part twenty

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What’s my favourite time of the year? GrandéCon season. Although I attend several conventions and events during my average business year, the biggest – and the best – is the one that takes place in my very own home town, Pago Grandé. I’ve been associated with GrandéCon since the very beginning, when it was just a bunch of tables in the local community hall: despite the flurry of activity and organisation I have to cram in leading up to the event, I love it. It’s a fantastic opportunity to interact with my pop-cultural brethren – fans, fellow business owners, industry professionals, comic artists and graphic designers, celebrity guests….

Yes, yes, and and make zillions of dollars from the impulse purchases of hordes of rabid, common sense-exempt geek-jobs. Thanks, MOM.

By 2002, thankfully, I wasn’t having to handle things alone: one Arthur Deacon (Artie to his friends)was on tap to help me sort, stock, sell and generally strategise (very good at tasks beginning with ‘S’, is Artie) at the Tony’s Comic Utopia booth…. and such fun we had on that long weekend in mid-Octember!

2002 20_1
Top: you’ve got to hand it to the hard-working folks at the Pago Grandé Convention Centre – they do their jobs, and they do them exceedingly well. We business owners have to do a fair bit of schedule-juggling to get our booths ready, sure, but these guys? They’ve got to organise the entire CONVENTION! While also keeping track of all the other events showing up in and around ours…. So you can perhaps forgive them
for being a bit freaked out….

Bottom: since Artie and his pals enjoy geeking out at gigs such as this, I thought it would be a nice treat (just for once) if they didn’t have to pay $8 a head to get in. Fair enough, right? Well, I may have reckoned without Gene: he knows a good thing when he sees it, and getting a free pass was such a giddy thrill, he is now made an annual tradition of (unsuccessfully, for the most part) attempting to wheedle one out of me every single year! Means fair or foul, subtlety, sneakiness, reverse-psychology, begging and grovelling or out-and-out emotional blackmail…. You can’t blame him for trying –
buuuuuut I frequently do.

2002 20_2
Above: for some people, working the ticket queues gives them a bizarre feeling of power – hundreds of geeks stand in your queue, all ready to enter GrandéCon; and YOU have the authority to take their money, issue their tickets and decide whether or not they get a fully-stocked showbag! A few, however – like the guy above – take their power-trip a bit too far, and start acting like a oafish bouncer at a nightclub, turning away any who do not meet their arbitrary and impossible-to-satisfy ‘standards’. Needless to say,
people like him are also lynch mob magnets….

2002 20_3
Top: although there is a lot of crossover between different ‘types’ of geek – Animé fans can still collect X-Men action figures, for example, and that Lord of the Rings nerd is perfectly entitled to also love Star Trek – Jon thought it would be fun to craft this set of four ‘Spotters guides’ for some of the main ‘Con archetypes you might spot down at your local geek-fest. And is that me posing for the sword n’ sorcery guy illustration?…. My answer is a definite, unqualified Maybe.

Bottom: Ah, showbags – the essential ‘starter set’ for anyone set on amassing a laudable hoardable of convention swag on their day out. Depending on the ‘Con you’re attending, your showbag will be either a cornucopia of free comics, vouchers, gift items and snacks (such as at GrandéCon), kind of average (most places)…. or three random brochures and a half-crushed lollypop (wastes of your time, frankly). And even if you don’t buy anything else – but Gundam model kits are 30% off! Aren’t you looking? – at least you can say “I went to GrandéCon! See, I got awesome free stuff! In a bag!”

2002 20_4
Top: this seemed like such a good idea when we started out – although I was reminded that I might have to call it something other than ‘Trivial Pursuit’ (getting sued is not a sound business strategy, kids!), our game prototype went off like Thunderbird Three launching from Tracy Island! Unfortunately, everyone who tried it out had a ‘helpful suggestion’ of something to add, or some obscure piece of nerd trivia that we just had to use in our list of questions, or yet another way to organise the rules…. By the end of the ‘Con, it was all a giant unwieldy mess! Broth + far too many cooks = sigh.

Bottom: in the pop-culture biz, these guys are our bread and butter – the regular subscribers, the complete set collectors, the “Hey, this Indie comic is neat! I’m adding it to my reading list!” sayers. Whether it’s comic books, action figures or associated merch, they are proudly omnivorous….

2002 20_5
Above: does this look familiar to you? It should – this is a full-bore remake of the Sunday strip which graced Jon’s first GrandéCon story (1999, part 7) back in our inaugural year! Taking advantage of his more-evolved art style and new, larger Sunday panels (the original art is A3-size), he decided to pack in a whole bunch of new character cameos that weren’t in the 1999 version – namely (deep breath): She-Hulk, H.E.R.B.I.E, The Mole Man and his Moloids, Annihilus and Doctor Doom (title bar); R2-D2, C3PO, Yoda, the Silver Surfer, the Scarlet Spider and the Green Goblin (panel 3); Green Lantern, a Gundam mech and the Legion of Superheroes (panel 4); Cyclops, Wolverine and Beast from the X-Men (panel 5); some Doom-bots (panel 6); and a bonus
obligatory Dalek (panel 7)! Phew.

GrandéCon part 1 is done! Stay tuned for part 2!


Character design, part one

Characterart finalBack in 2012, while at Yoobee Design School, I entered this funky Cosmos character model sheet in a character design contest – and Gene and I scored ourselves second prize for our efforts! Sweet! We knew there was a prize of *some sort* in our futures, but we figured it would be, oh, a book voucher or something. Little di we know….