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.
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!
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.
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!