Cosmo The Merry Martian!

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Oh Cosmo…

Believe it or not, I get quite a few questions on Cosmo The Merry Martian. Mostly, these questions are from fans who are really, really paying attention and they’re usually in some form of “Who is that little guy you always sneak into your backgrounds?”

Cosmo The Merry Martian was a character written and drawn by Bob White who had a brief seven issue series way back in 1957 (I think!) Now I don’t go all the way back to that original run, but when I was a kid in the thick of my Archie-reading youth, Archie Comics reprinted Cosmo’s stories, which are serialized… (Keep in mind there were only seven issues of Cosmo so the Cosmo Library is not that extensive!)… in the pages of Laugh Digest. That was where I met the Merry Martian. Now I was always curious about the non-Archie stuff in Archie Comics. (Superduck would prove to be another favorite of mine!) and Cosmo was loaded with humor, adventure and sci-fi so it was teeming with all of my favorite elements. He became a favorite right away. I STILL have that very first digest where I first discovered Cosmo. The interesting thing about those reprints is that the original Cosmo stories were book-length and serialized and that was exactly how Laugh Digest reprinted them. For seven consecutive issues, Laugh reprinted the complete issues of Cosmo… which took up a good chunk of real estate inside that digest… and this was in the days when those digests were actually pretty thick! Now I didn’t get every one of those issues… (I was a kid at the mercy of newsstand distribution in the 70’s!) but I read enough for Cosmo to become a favorite forever. I’d read the complete Cosmo series as an adult drawing for Archie Comics when I had access to the company’s own hardcover minded collection of Cosmo.

 

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Now as an adult and a professional, I always knew Cosmo… with his almost nonexistent fanbase (I think it was just ME!) and his meager seven issues written and drawn forty years earlier… was a real long shot to ever turn up again anywhere much less in new stories or… God help us!… a new series. I still indulged in a little Cosmo fun by insetting the merry Martian into my backgrounds in the regular Archie stories. Usually Cosmo would be in the form of a stuffed doll or a slurpee cup (Being shaped like a bowling pin, Cosmo really lent himself to easily being a cup!) I indulged in Cosmo cameos so much that my fondness for the character started to become widely known throughout the Archie offices. Still, the Cosmo opportunities were very slim and in truth, I really expected none beyond my self-indulgent cameos. I even sneaked Cosmo into the Archie newspaper strip as often as I could!

 

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Then circa 2011, I was approached by an Archie editor to contribute to a Cosmo proposal. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and I drew up the sketches posted above. I tried to modernize and animate Cosmo more without getting away from Bob White’s classic model. After all, I still wanted to draw COSMO… not some new character they were going to call “Cosmo.” I submitted the above drawings. I’m pretty sure the pitch was made but as was often the case, I never heard anything again about it. Years later, I’d learn that other artists were asked to submit their own Cosmo art for consideration as well, so even though I didn’t realize it then, I was never the shoo-in for the Cosmo gig that I expected to be.

Sometime later, I was asked for more Cosmo sketches. This time they were going to be used in a book that would also include ALL of Archie’s other properties… Everything from Cosmo to Suzie to Sam Hill. This book was going to be sent around Hollywood agents and producers in the hopes of stirring up interest in some of Archie’s properties for movies, TV shows, cartoons, etc. I drew another batch of sketches. I have those too and I may post them later. I handed them in and once again, I never heard anything.

Eventually, I did get to work on Cosmo in the “Night At The Comic Shop” two-parter in Archie & Friends and a couple of other team-ups between Cosmo and the regular Archie characters.

 

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Then the Dark Times set in… In my final years, as I’ve stated elsewhere, Archie really started to peel the work away from me. The writing was very much on the wall but I was refusing to read it. By March 2015, I needed to make sure the management at Archie Comics was aware that my position at Archie was becoming untenable. I didn’t really expect them to do anything but I at least wanted to make the gesture to make them aware that things were bad for me. By this point, Life With Archie was gone, most of the Archie titles were gone or going away, and I was down to just doing a couple of digest five-page stories a month. Maybe a couple of covers too. I made my desperate appeal to the higher-ups at Archie. They responded, as expected, with the usual retort of how much I was loved both personally and professionally but that times were tough… (And I had no doubt that they were, but as I was starving to death I was watching good money about to be spent on these Archie reboots but that’s a whole other post…!) At the end of this meeting I was told “Cosmo is going to be our next big thing and that’s going to be all you!”

Now by this point in my tenure, I was seasoned enough to know that last statement was probably meaningless. Regardless, I responded enthusiastically, I gave my thank you’s, and I left. The outcome of that meeting is another conversation, but I can say that I never saw or heard anything more about Cosmo being “the next big thing.” 2015 proved to be my final year at Archie. I’d be cut loose in early 2016. In that last year, I did one more team-up between Archie and Cosmo for one of the digests. That would be it for me and Cosmo!

 

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10 comments on “Cosmo The Merry Martian!”

  1. Rob Reply

    I have to say my favourite Cosmo cameo was on the cover of B&V 256 where Betty’s using him for the pillowfight 🙂

  2. Dennis Reply

    Somebody in charge must have believed it for a while at least, and wasn’t just giving you lip service. If you ever get the chance, look in the back of the Night At The Comic Shop trade paperback. There are a bunch of profile pages summarizing the comics careers of the various characters who make guest appearances in the story, and on Cosmo’s page, a couple of the sketches you posted above appear, along with the promise to readers that Cosmo is slated to appear in his own forthcoming all-new graphic novel. Sam Hill was similarly touted on his profile page in a reboot of the original series as “coming soon”.

    • fernando Reply

      I’m sure Cosmo was kicked around in that way that Archie kicks EVERYTHING around without really acting on anything. Poor Sam Hill’s graphic novel was done completely YEARS ago! It was initially a mini-series and then it was decided it was going to be a graphic novel. Ultimately, the finished (and paid for!) pages ROTTED in a drawer until recently when Archie finally dumped it all as a digital product. I have no doubt that Cosmo is batted around with the intent of “someday” having “someone” do “something” with him.

      I found it utterly absurd that at a time when the classic Archie titles were being euthanized left and right, classic Archie creators were being let go left and right, and I’m begging Archie’s CEO for my life, he responds with “Cosmo is going to be our next big thing and that’s going to be all you.” I remember that quote so vividly word for word because some of us in the trenches still repeat it for laughs! Where do I even BEGIN to point out the absurdity of that statement?

  3. Dennis Reply

    Did they ever make that game app (I think it was supposed to be called “Cosmo’s Space Race”)? I used to see that ad for it all the time on Archie.com and in the digital comics, but since I never had an iPhone, I don’t know if it was ever a real app or just an idea “coming soon”). I can well imagine that your constant placement of in-story Cosmo merchandise (dolls, cups, etc.) might have served as inspiration that somehow got the gears turning with the CEO, and the chh-ccchinnggg!! dollar signs popped up on his eyeballs just like the old animated cartoons.

    If ACP could make a deal with a toy licensee like Mattel or Hasbro, then an animated series was almost a guarantee for tie-in and promotion of the merchandise. Even though Cosmo wasn’t a ‘name’ character, I can see the adaptability and appeal of the design to fit many different youth products.

    I don’t know if you knew, but Archie Digital at one time compiled a Digital Exclusive collection of the complete Cosmo the Merry Martian, and they used to give it away for free! (at least while Archie Digital was still part of iVerse Media’s platform).

    • fernando Reply

      Yes. They did make Cosmo’s Space Race. In fact, it mostly uses my artwork! I think it’s a free app. I know I have it on my phone. It’s a pretty simple Asteroids-style game.

      I always thought design-wise Cosmo had the same appeal and adaptability as Felix the Cat or vintage Mickey Mouse.

      I do have the Cosmo digital collection. It was given to me as reference at one point. Those issues are still great.

  4. Dennis Reply

    I do like the way you gave the characters a slight makeover, without losing the basic simple cartoon style of Bob White. White’s Cosmo was more of a Shmoo-like gourd-shaped figure, but your slightly smaller peanut-bodied Cosmo with larger legs and arms works well. Astra is the one that’s most of departure, but I really like what you did with her, making her appealing and cute. These would have made great toys. Stuffed, beanies, bendies, PVCs or what-have-you.

    I don’t know if you ever looked into getting work with one of the toy manufacturers (maybe not practical for you depending on where you live), but it seems like that’s a good option that plays to your strengths. Ditto for animation or video game design.

    Bob White never seems to get enough recognition among the Archie fans (probably because he only worked there for about a decade, so long ago now). Before I ever knew him as the creator of Cosmo, I was a great admirer of his work on LIFE WITH ARCHIE, during the phase that included Pureheart the Powerful, The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E., and the early Monkees-like 3-man combo version of The Archies. Also love all his many covers from that era.

    • fernando Reply

      I agree that Bob White is under-recognized. I love his stuff. I wish there were more of it.

  5. Link Hullar Reply

    !!! COSMO !!! ARCHIE 655 !!! GREAT COVERS !!! Cosmo is one of my favorites also . . . Betty, Hot Dog, & Cosmo 🙂

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