Characters Appearing: Captain America, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Firestar, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Howard The Duck, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Justice, Mary Jane Watson, Mike Peterson, Mr. Fantastic, Namorita, Night Thrasher, Noble Kale, Nova (Rich Rider), Peggy Carter, Quasar, Silver Surfer, Slapstick, Speedball, Spider-Man, Thing, Thunderstrike, Uatu the Watcher, Vision
Issue(s): Slapstick #1, Slapstick #2, Slapstick #3, Slapstick #4
This series also has some legitimately funny moments and perfect art from James Fry, who handles styles ranging from Saturday morning cartoons to Silver Age pastiche equally well. Issue #1 is dedicated to "the continuing genius of Steve Ditko".
I came to this series with much skepticism, but here are some panels that caused me to warm up to it.
Follow that up with some Batman references.
And then of course the Evil Clowns from Dimension X.
I guess i should explain the origin. Steve Harmon, our "hero", is given detention because a classmate tattled on him when he arranged for a med school cadaver to be sent to his high school's faculty dinner. So Steve dresses up as a clown and follows his tattling classmate when he goes on a date to the circus, with plans to "get" him. But then the extra-dimensional clowns launch their invasion, and Steve falls through a funhouse mirror into their dimension and becomes Slapstick. In that dimension, a clown modeled after Groucho Marx gives Slapstick a pair of gloves, one of which lets him switch between human and cartoon form, and one of which summons his mallet.
Here are some heroes reacting to the clowns' attempted invasion.
And here's Slapstick.
The clown leader's plan feels like a reference to the bozos from Defenders #34 but that could just be a coincidence.
Slapstick stops the invasion and escapes home through the Ditkoverse.
Steve's friend Mike Peterson immediately figures out that Steve is Slapstick (and appropriates the "had an origin" joke from Damage Control, since they abused it). Mike helps Steve settle on the name Slapstick, since the Joker is "taken" and Jester is "dumb and taken".
Next up is the Overkiller, a Punisher parody...
...except that he hunts mutants. And why does he hate mutants? Because a newscast about them once pre-empted his TV show.
Steve and Mike and some friends are at the mall, and Steve gets annoyed by some kids having a birthday party, so he goes to harass them.
Overkiller has traced a mutant to the mall, and thinks that it's Slapstick. So they fight, Bugs Bunny style.
And we also get a cameo of sorts by the Micronauts, along with some other toys.
Peter Parker and Mary Jane happen to be in the mall as well, so Spidey gets involved. One thing that i thought was clever but maybe a bit wasted was Slapstick finding Peter's camera, webbed to a wall as usual so he can get some pics of himself to sell to the Bugle. It's something that i think has never happened in a real comic.
In the end, Slapstick just makes some funny faces in front of it. I was expecting something more obscene, actually.
Spidey gets knocked into a bargain bin full of his Webs book.
Slapstick doesn't think much of "old people" like Spider-Man, but he does like Mary Jane.
The real mutant that Overkiller was after was one of the kids at the birthday party, and at the end of issue #2 he responds to a Mad Thinker ad modeled after the ubiquitous Norman Rockwell ads from the 60s.
Issue #3 opens with Steve daydreaming about being a monster, spouting names of Silver Age Marvel monsters.
Later, Steve calls a girl that he likes and asks her for a date. She says that she's babysitting, but invites him to come over.
But when he gets there, she's making out with her boyfriend.
However, the boy that she's babysitting is the mutant kid. So he winds up having to change into Slapstick to fight that kid, and when he saves the girl, he gets some attention from her.
And you'll notice his attitude is that he can "capitalize" on that. He later tells Mike about it, but Mike notes a critical problem with his plan.
I think Steve and Mike represent Len Kaminski and James Fry, respectively.
Even though i found myself liking the jokes in this series better than i thought i would, things still drag when the issues get to the actual plots, whether it be the clown invasion, the Overkiller, or the mutant kid. But i can't help chuckle at the villain for the fourth issue. He's the Neutron Bum, and he explodes when people won't give him money for a cup of coffee.
His asking price increases with each explosion.
Slapstick initially doesn't want to get involved.
It takes the destruction of Tower Records for him to decide that it's important.
Other heroes get involved as well.
Speedball is one of the first responders, but we know that he doesn't learn any valuable lessons about exploding villains.
The arrival of the other heroes allows for a "bucket of water on Ghost Rider's head" moment.
The other heroes don't listen to Slapstick and they discuss their battle plans without him.
So Slapstick just goes off on his own and gives the Neutron Bum a cup of coffee, and then hits him with his mallet while he's distracted.
That doesn't endear him to the other heroes, though.
Overall, better than i expected. Some funny bits. And i do like that Slapstick is a pretty awful person, in both his civilian and super forms.
But it's probably largely an expectation game. I came in ready to hate this, and i ended up not hating it that much. But i still wouldn't have written in asking for more Slapstick.
Slapstick's appeal falls on deaf ears, and his next appearance is in a New Warriors story in Marvel Comics Presents by Fabian Nicieza, in 1994. And after that it's a long drought until Dan Slott brings him back in the 2000s for She-Hulk and then Avengers: Initiative.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This has cover dates of Nov 92 - Feb 93 but it's been pushed back in publication time for a number of reasons related to the guest appearances. Iron Man is replaced by War Machine in 1992 (circa IM #282) and Marvel Boy is arrested for the death of his father (New Warriors #20). Try to go forward too much from there and you run into the return of the real Thor or the scarring of the Thing's face by Wolverine. So we go backwards, and then we have to watch the fact that Marvel Boy has a broken arm after New Warriors #15-17 (it's mostly headshots of Marvel Boy in this story, but it's better if it goes prior to him wearing a cast) and the Thing has a broken arm after Fantastic Four #357-360. So i've placed this after Fantastic Four #356 (which seems to be the first meeting of the Fantastic Four and the New Warriors) and before those other issues. Based on this placement, the Silver Surfer is appearing during the last couple pages of Silver Surfer #60, before responding to the Collector (this is not his only appearance in that gap). The other heroes can appear in any gap for them.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
"Nightshade and Dark's Pandemonium Carnival" is a reference to Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Posted by: Tony Lewis | November 19, 2015 4:30 PM
I had issues 2 and 4 as a kid. I still really like this series for the funny gags and taking the piss out of 90s comics with Overkill and making fun of crossovers in the last issue. The Ghost Rider bit is hilarious.
It's also cool to see super-hero artists get to stretch their cartooning muscles when characters like Slapstick or Warlock are around. They don't get that opportunity much since super-hero books tend toward more illustrative house styles.
Posted by: Red Comet | November 19, 2015 5:19 PM
I think Slapstick ended up winning "Best New Character" in Marvel's yearly poll of its fans.
Posted by: Thanos6 | November 19, 2015 5:46 PM
Funny you mention the similarities between Madcap and Slapstick - they are both featured as "Deadpool substitutes" (along with Solo, Terror, and a few others) in the new, post-Secret Wars, Deadpool series. (Which I am, personally, enjoying immensely)
Posted by: cullen | November 19, 2015 6:30 PM
The Neutron Bum is very similar to the Atom Bum from one of the Fearless Fosdick sequences in the Li'l Abner comic strip.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 19, 2015 7:37 PM
This is some of the best art from James Fry that I've seen. Stylized, but very good.
The story doesn't seem too awful as long you don't consider it really in continuity. There should really be something else for books like this and Howard the Duck that invovles Marvel's characters, but isn't canonical.
Posted by: Chris | November 19, 2015 7:58 PM
I didn't have #2. That "Webs" gag is a good one. (I did have #4, and do remember enjoying the Ghost Rider bit)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | November 19, 2015 9:58 PM
Chris, it's likely that some of the stylization seen in this artwork is courtesy of Terry Austin's inking. He definitely works very well with Jim Fry here.
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Slapstick. It's an interesting and somewhat funny examination of what would happen if someone got weird superpowers and, instead of doing the expected thing and becoming either a an outright hero or a villain, just decided to be totally self-centered. Slapstick is neither trying to save the world nor take it over; he just wants to have a fun time and work things to his advantage, utterly regardless of the consequences. Obviously that is the sort of characterization that would not work too well on a broad scale in a large shared universe such as the one published by Marvel. But it's interesting to see it from time to time, especially in a comedy title.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 20, 2015 11:07 AM
The 2nd panel in "Legend of Slapstick" is a reference to Jack Kirby's cover to New Gods #1.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 20, 2015 4:53 PM
Its amazing looking at '91 that we have these "grim and grittiz" characters that were huge and popular, yet the same year also introduces the future army of weirdoes that we all know and love such as Deadpool, Squirrel Girl and, heck, even Slapstick. That Ghost Rider bit in particular reminds me actually of a joke from "Superhero Squad" regarding Falcon and Dormamu:
"HIS HEAD...IS ON FIRE!"
Posted by: Ataru320 | November 25, 2015 8:40 PM
Interesting little DC montage in the "origin" page. He's got Superman's logo and his Fortress of Solitude. But he's wearing Orion's weaponry in one panel. And the "Who he is and how he came to be" is directly pulled from the original Batman one-page origin in Detective #33.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 22, 2016 7:21 AM
New Warriors #15 begins with Nova taking his new old costume out for a test drive. Although I suppose you could just say that he was still ironing out the kinks. There's no outright statement that he hasn't worn it before that sequence (though in context, it is meant to be the "big debut" of it)
More troublesome is Namorita's costume. She was wearing her Atlantean armor at this point. In #15 (or maybe #16?) she laments that she will continue to wear the armor until she's fully healed. She's wearing that through to New Warriors #17 and then for the last time in Avengers #342. She's back in her regular duds by #18. But as you mentioned then you have the problem of Vance's injury. Although in #18, he is just wearing bandages wrapped around his arm (no sling), which could also be the case here.
Is there anything stopping this from taking place after Avengers #341-342 but before New Warriors #18? I don't see anything here that would stop that from being the case.
Posted by: AF | March 18, 2016 2:51 PM
Although having looked, the Namorita costume thing also affects placements of issues of Namor, FF #356 and Infinity Gauntlet #2, so I guess we're just gonna have to squint our eyes through the inconsistencies or the claim that she felt she "had" to wear the armor.
Posted by: AF | March 18, 2016 3:04 PM
Thanks for giving it some thought, AF, but i'm glad you talked yourself out of it since it looks like it would require a fair amount of shuffling. I think Nova's costume is no problem. With Namorita, i think we can say that she tried not wearing the armor a few times because it's so ugly but that just aggravated her injuries and she had to go back to it.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 18, 2016 4:09 PM
Okay, further problem with Namorita here: if this is after #14, then she shouldn't have a ponytail. Sea Urchin chopped it off and she will maintain not having a ponytail until... well the end of the omnibus (at least).
The Namor issues do reflect this, so that's good.
Fantastic Four #356, Infinity Gauntlet #2 and this do not. And it's impossible to resolve since Nova received his blue and yellow costume concurrently with Namorita's scalping. Meaning nothing can be moved around to accommodate it. At least in this one it's easy as hell to ignore the ponytail. The other two, it's usually pretty outrageously flailing around on panel.
Posted by: AF | March 19, 2016 2:39 PM
Are we even supposed to be taking this series as seriously as this? Slapstick is an extremely deranged, farcical comedy. I bet if Len Kaminski saw us twisting ourselves into knots attempting to find an exact chronological placement for this story based on the precise details of the costumes and hairstyles worn by the various guest stars he'd probably laugh himself silly.
Well, either that or Superboy Prime punched reality yet again, and that's why everyone's visual appearances don't line up properly :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 19, 2016 2:51 PM
Well, I'm mostly just using this as a dumping ground for a few inconsistencies with Namorita and Nova around this point because I clicked through to this series from New Warriors #15-17 because I was mostly curious and predicting them to screw up with their aesthetic changes somehow (and they did).
Posted by: AF | March 19, 2016 3:03 PM
It is the point of this project to address stuff like this, even when it happens in silly comics, and as AF notes it affects other books as well. So i do want to see if i can get things to line up better, but i may have to say that Namorita was using a clip-on ponytail to hide the fact that she was attacked for some reason. But let me take a look. It will be a couple of days.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 20, 2016 10:58 AM
Well, stuff can't really be moved about since there's literally no way around it. Nova can't be in his blue costume while Namorita still has her ponytail because both those changes happened in the same issue.
Fake hair it is!
Posted by: AF | March 20, 2016 12:04 PM
Just to close the loop, i'm agreeing with AF. I guess Namorita was trying to keep up appearances, maybe to hide from enemies the fact that she was injured, but eventually decided it wasn't worth it.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 25, 2016 8:50 AM
Don't remember this at all. I guess some of the jokes seem all right, but presumably Howard, She-Hulk and later Deadpool filled this niche without feeling quite so visually out-of-place in the universe...
Posted by: doctorcasino | April 20, 2018 9:59 PM
Comments are now closed.
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