As much as I hate to say it, Explorers Inc. are not easy fellows to write stories about. For one thing, they seem incapable of doing ‘small’: being adventurers, their lives are all about traveling the globe, braving dangerous wildernesses and bizarre creatures; or at the very least doing crazy, cool science stuff. That makes for extremely complex, detail-heavy stories (both art and dialogue-wise) which can be equally time-consuming to produce – so much so that I might not get any other Cosmos stuff done as a result. And ‘complex, detail-heavy’ is tricky to break down into four panel installments without a whole lot of recapping and / or exposition, meaning that comic book-style stories (rather than newspaper strip-style) may prove to be the only proper way to complete Explorers Inc. tales in the future…. if I can ever find the time.
At any rate, I did complete a (somewhat) long-form Explorers inc. story in 2002 – the last of its kind until, well, the New-School era – inspired by the big thing in my life at that point: gettin’ my geology on at University. Given the hill trekkin’, forest-mappin’ shenanigans we got up to during our field courses (such as to the Jurassic-tastic Port Waikato and the volcanic Mt. Ruapehu), it seemed a natural fit for Artimus Frink and co.; as being scientific all-rounders, that sort of thing would be right up their alley….
Top: Famous Explorers of Cosmos is a prestigious trading card series in which adventurers past and present are immortalised to inspire their successors in the future. By the looks of things, though, Artimus is beginning to wish he hadn’t been immortalised…. quite like that. But if that was the best take, I’d hate to think what the other 46 or so were like!
Bottom: a (very) rare example of a vertical cosmos strip, so oriented because this particular gag required lots of Up but far less…. along. Of course, being at odds with the other 99.9% of Cosmos strips that are horizontal, it had to be presented lying on its side to fit with the other comics in this series – so it does look rather out of place and hard to read. Ah, experimentation, we love ya!
Top: rather than have Artimus, Tork and Co-Pilot once again bickering at one another for three pages, I decided to bring in a pair of ‘point of view’ characters (named Zack and Libby, I’ve just decided) whom they could serve as mentors to on their latest scientific endeavour; interacting with them in ways they wouldn’t do with one another. Zack and Libby – eager Uni graduates both – are hanging out with Co-Pilot because he’s younger, a bit more approachable, and ‘cool’ compared to the old-fashioned and rather stuffy Artimus Frink; while Tork is still learning the ropes himself (under Artimus’ tutelage). And I’m sure Co-Pilot is enjoying spending time with people who don’t constantly give him stress headaches….
Bottom: Is Co-pilot channeling a bit too much of me in this strip? Frankly, I think he is – Artimus and Co-Pilot know they’re stuff, certainly, but they’re more well-read hobbyists with broad knowledge bases than university-trained experts with specific knowledge of geological minutiae. Zack (quite possibly an up-and-coming example of one of those experts) I can see reeling off all that fancy terminology, but Co-pilot? Not so much. Especially since the dialogue feels a bit ‘name-drop a whole bunch of stuff simply because I can’ rather than contributing to the story. But at least Zach’s progressively upscaling hammers was kind of funny, right?
Above: boy, that’s one thick pen I was using for the panel borders and titles here, wasn’t it? There definitely looks to be a clear dynamic between Zack and Libby in these strips – Zack has the more mature, by-the-book attitude; while Libby is more flighty, less observant, and primarily concerned with having fun. Perhaps that’s why she’s getting on so well with Artimus in the second strip! In a way, this is somewhat more their story than Explorers Inc’s, although I suspect it would be far less interesting if Artimus and co. weren’t there….
Top: If you’re a geologist, I’d imagine you’re either laughing your face off or groaning at the horrible pun right now – but if you’re not scientifically-inclined, Schist is a low-grade metamorphic rock with thin, wavy layering (called foliation), which contains over 50% ‘platy’ minerals (ones that crystallise into flakes or sheets) and layers of quartz and / or feldspar. And, of course, Schist sounds like…. well, you know…. as a play on the old saying ‘S**t Happens’. No? Guess you just had to be there, then.
Bottom: Oh, hey there, Jon’s ‘No Dinosaurs in Cosmos Rule’! How you doing? You’re slowly falling apart? From being constantly ignored for the last three-and-a-half years? And you expect the trend to continue for the foreseeable future? Well, that sounds great! See ya ‘round! This also interesting – it’s an Explorers inc. strip without a single member of Explorers inc. in it! As I said before, Zack and Libby are the main focus of the story, being the stand-in for the audience (as well as something new and different); so I suppose it was inevitable that they – and their differing personalities – would go solo eventually. If memory serves, several of the gags in this collection were generic geology / science jokes that I came up with during my field courses; and then re-purposed to fit into Cosmos. So perhaps that explains the dinosaur!
TO BE CONTINUED….