Adventure Pack box 2

Adventure pack box dustjacket.inddIf there’s one thing the Adventure Pack needed, it was some effective and eye-catching packaging – and this is it! The symbol in the centre of the front panel is the mounting point for a genuine, working compass (an essential piece of kit for any aspiring explorer), which projects through a hole cut in the middle of the symbol; which was probably the most nerve-wracking circle I’ve ever had to cut out in my life, given that it had to be absolutely, totally perfect….

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20) Explorers Inc spreads16Get your bucket and spade and beach blanket ready…. ’cause we’ve reached the coast! And, incidentally, the end of our journey….

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19) Explorers Inc spreads15Based on some of the wonderful diagrams I saw in science-and-nature books when I was a kid, welcome to the second most time-consuming-but-fun spread in the story!

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18) Explorers Inc spreads14Everyone hop in your canoes, kayaks and inflatable rubber rafts…. ’cause we’re going on a river expedition! And no, if you get eaten by a giant fish monster or swept down the rapids, it’s not our fault – you remember all those forms you had to sign, right? The ones with the reeeeeeally samll fine print? Heh heh….

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….

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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


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17) Explorers Inc spreads13This was probably one of the most time-consming (but enjoyable) spreads to create for the whole book, given that it is 99% artwork and contains an epic amount of detail – but it was worth it. and look at all the nifty critters!

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16) Explorers Inc spreads12Here’s where being a science nerd at Uni pays off – being able to do funky diagrams like this one! Get educationed up, people!

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15) Explorers Inc spreads11Safely down at ground level, Explorers Inc. continues its epic voyage across the forest floor – bet Co-pilot and Tork are happy about that, huh?