Designing 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 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….
At 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….
Back 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….
Unpredictability. In the construction of a set of Cosmos strips – especially Randoms – that is one of the watchwords I adhere to (along with ‘quirky’, ‘unexpected’, ‘clever’ and ‘Mu hu ha ha ha haaaa! Pathetic fools!’): if there’s a unique angle that I can approach a gag from one that will stop it from being Yet Another Joke About <fill in subject here>, then I am a very silly cartoonist if I don’t pursue it. The trick with comic strips is to make each one fresh and different, so the audience is pleasantly surprised (rather than, say, terminally bored) by what they see – even if they are variations around the same theme, for example. The following comics, however, are as idiosyncratic as they come….
Top: want to turn a hoary old cliche into a viable story? Then interpret it as literally as its possible for the human mind to do so – and add an extra 15% on top just to be on the safe side. Not only does it create a truly groan-worthy pun (and the louder the expression of disgust, the better), but there;s fun to be had in expressing it visually, as well. One baffling thing, though: both of the characters are Type-four Cosmosians (still with the mis-proportioned ‘tall face’ look, I notice), but they don’t have the regulation ear-disc things on the sides of their heads! Makes ‘em look even weirder, frankly….
Bottom: you’d think I’d run out of things to do with the ‘treat speech bubbles as physical objects’ genre, but nope, there’s life in the old dog yet! By this point in time, I’d 99% switched from enclosed speech bubbles to open, ‘invisible’ ones; but the mechanics of this gag required a momentary return to the previous pattern, as it simply wouldn’t work otherwise.
Above: this is a sketch page I drew up and coloured during some downtime at one of my Uni field courses; after one of my classmates wanted to know about Cosmos, and – not having any strips handy – I drew the A-team cast by way of explanation. The rest of the page may seem completely unrelated to my Old School musings, but there is a tangential connection: the lovely ladies (awaiting the luckiest pizza delivery boy ever) are from the superhero universe that showed up in ‘Train of Thought’ from Cosmos Comics #1 (2002, part 6 and 7); and Ray – on the left – is the civilian identity of the glamorous Guardian Angel! Did the dinosaur escape from the prehistoric jungle Artie and Gene ended up in at the start of said story? Could be.
Top: what goes perfectly well with a family day at the beach? Um, Japanese monster movies, apparently. I’m guessing the fun of stomping on sandcastles like a giant rampaging monster inspired this strip – although I don’t think I ever considered dressing in full kaiju cosplay when doing so, as these ambitious lads look to have done!
Bottom: Peter’s purpose in life, it sometimes appears, is to serve as a litmus test for what NOT to do when goofing around – when an idea sounds utterly brilliant in his head, it’s a sure sign that things are about to go very, very wrong. At least he has Timmy to steer him onto the right track…. even if it’s more often than not after the fact!
TO BE CONTINUED….
You can blame 1999-Jon for this one: back in the day, I did a Star Trek parody strip that featured the above appalingly-bad, *incredibly* well-researched pun as its punchline. When the theme ‘assimilated by the Borg’ came up for a weekly drawing exercise on Comic Fury, I decided to give the dusty old joke a facelift, and revamp it for a second go-around! Yehh, it’s not any better the second time around, is it? Sorry.
Professional photoshoots, eat your heart out – here’s my own personal ‘hero shot’ of the Cosmos DVD set, all opened up and ready for your delectation!
Once I had a basic idea of what I might want to do for my DVD set, it was time to get into it and figure out how the freakin’ thing had to go together – not just in terms of the layout and design, but how I was going to put together a print out n’ fold up packaging template!
During 2002, apparently not content with the demands of a regular newspaper-style comic strip, I decided to go whole hog and make a feature-length Cosmos comic book; whose duration was measured not in panels but in pages. Ambitious, yes, but it was something I’d always wanted to do – and given that I also intended to run off a few copies and use them as birthday presents for lucky friends / Cosmos fans, this was something worth spending the necessary amount of time on. As one-off projects go, it forms a triumvirate with the Cosmos Cosmonopoly game (2000, part 19) and the Cosmos calendar (2001, part 15); but was probably more time-intensive than either. Clocking in at 34 pages (counting the front and back covers, and the title page), Cosmos Comics #1 featured two 12 page comic stories – one starring Artie and Gene, the other Ax and Macy – as well as a selection of the expected ‘add-ons’ in any such publication (ads, puzzles and so forth), given that postmodern satirical Cosmos touch. I’ll deal with the covers and add-ons in this installment, followed by the stories in their own individual write-ups next week; as they all have their own, shall we say, site-specific details to discuss….
1) What better place to start with than the front cover? Although I went through several improvised logo designs in the early years of Cosmos, the one featured here was the longest lasting – even getting a vector art upgrade at the start of the ‘New-School’ era, in nifty shades of orange and yellow. The cover art itself is supposed to represent a series of photos thumbtacked to a cork bulletin board, showing various characters from around the Cosmos-verse; from Professor Pod (top left) to Captain Confusion (bottom right). Although quite why I also included a pineapple-shaped fridge magnet (far left, next to Macy), I have no idea…. Is cork even magnetic?
2) The title page marked the start of a bit of an in-joke exclusive to my comic book-style stories – the fact that since I was basically the entire artistic and editorial team of Cosmos, I might as well make different versions of me to carry out the assorted tasks involved; and give them ‘credit’ for the contributions at the start of each story. Superjon Red and Superjon Blue (based on Superman Red and Superman Blue from DC comics) were in control, ably assisted by Crazy Jon (for the REALLY loopy stories), Paranoid Jon (lettering and utterly obsessive record-keeping) and Evil Jon (‘cause you’ve got to have an evil twin, right?). This page also contains the only ‘recycled’ element in the entire book: one of the Top 10 comics from 2000. Other than that, everything was new material! Eat that, you lazy Cosmos 2001 calendar!
3) Probably based more on the similar inclusions in UK comic annuals than anything in an American comic, my Pointless Puzzle Psection is a (mostly) genuine set of old-school word and image puzzles…. So feel free to give them a go!
4) Remember those cramped little pages of mail-order gags, gadgets and other assorted pieces of cheap junk they used to have in comic books? Well, here’s my version of it, rebooted to hock an entire smorgasbord of comic and sci-fi related paraphenalia (or pop-cultural shout-outs, if you so prefer). A Kree sentry for only $150? I’ll take six!
5) Another thing common to comics both old and new are hyperbolic and colour-saturated advertisements for equally hyperbolic and colour-saturated breakfast cereals; usually hyped by a sugar-crazed cartoon mascot. As this was social commentary of the highest order, I was very careful to highlight the nutritional content and obvious health benefits of such a wholesome food product….
TO BE CONTINUED….
One final thing I did with my logo design (the Gene iteration, anyway) was work up a series of concepts for my illustration / graphic design / cartooning CV and portfolio – incorporating either the full logo, the speech bubble, or the ‘Jon Kay!’ typography as an essential part of the layout….