The Three Stooges Slaptastic Special #1 Review: Doesn't Quite Deliver on the Laughs

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The Three Stooges return with this Slaptastic Special from American Mythology Productions. The comic comes in three parts. The first finds the Stooges going to a science fair and trying out a virtual reality machine. The second has them working a window-washing job on a skyscraper. The third is a reprint of an old strip with Moe, Larry, and Shemp looking for a nautical vacation and finding it on a gambling boat.

Three Stooges Slaptastic Special cover by Brendon and Brian Fraim
Three Stooges Slaptastic Special cover by Brendon and Brian Fraim

Watching the Three Stooges with my dad was a big part of my childhood, and it's something I still enjoy whenever the opportunity arises again. With that in mind, checking out the Slaptastic Special was something I wanted to do this week.

This comic doesn't impress, but it's not outright awful. The first entry is by far the weakest. It's called 'Ready Player Stooge', and I really didn't need a Three Stooges story making pop culture references to things like Matrix, Tron, and, of course, Ready Player One. The jokes fall flat, and the references are trite.

'Forty Story Stooge' is the second and strongest. Some of the jokes land well, and the premise is fairly true to an old Stooges serial. The slapstick isn't well realized, possibly due to the art aiming for realism over function. The ending aims for touching, but it's far from earned by the story.

The third entry, the reprint called 'Nautical Nitwits', is the funniest, but it's from 1954 and textual brevity wasn't really a thing yet in comics. It also runs longer than it should, and the story doesn't have flow. However, it still made me laugh more than the others.

I tipped my hand on this already, but Brendon and Brian Fraim's artwork looks good, but it doesn't lend itself to the slapstick of the Stooges. The old shorts were live action, but you had cartoonish sound effects to add to the presentation. Without the cartoon audio, it's up to exclusively the visuals to deliver on the slapstick fun. You still have the ability to write in "bonk," but it's not the same thing has hearing "bonk" while doughy man with a buzz cut gets slammed with a steel girder.

That's another oddity of the comic. The slapstick is oddly restrained. The violence is carried out more with bare hands instead of over-the-top weapons.

Going back to the art, Norman Maurer's art in 'Nautical Nitwits' is far more cartoonish, and it works better for the form. The slapstick gets a bit more creative too, even if it still comes off as too tame for its own good.

The Three Stooges Slaptastic Special #1 is an underwhelming send-up of the comedic trio. Pop culture references and restrained physical comedy aren't the hallmarks of a good Stooges story, and even the reprint is wordy beyond reason. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one. Give it a pass.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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