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Have Mallet – Will Travel: The Totally Insane Story of Marvel’s Slapstick

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
Have Mallet – Will Travel: The Totally Insane Story of Marvel’s Slapstick

Spinning out of the pages of “Deadpool: Mercs for Money”, Slapstick’s own ongoing series debuts this week, written by Reilly Brown and Fred Van Lente with artwork by Diego Orlotegui (over breakdowns by Brown). While Slapstick might not be all that familiar to readers outside of his “Mercs for Money” appearances, Slapstick has actually been around for over twenty years! We’ll give you the lowdown on this cartoon hero, just in time for you to go pick up “Slapstick” #1!

RELATED: Slapstick Battles Marvel’s Marauding ‘Toons with Van Lente & Brown

Slapstick debuted in his own mini-series back in 1992, created by writer Len Kaminski and artist James Fry III. “Slapstick” #1 was by Kaminski and Fry, with inks by Terry Austin. Right from the opening page of his first issue, you could tell that Slapstick was not going to be like a typical Marvel comic book.

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Steve Harmon was always a difficult child. Even his birth involved 96 hours of labor for his poor mother! By the time he was a teenager, he regularly committed all number of pranks. When he was ratted out by his nemesis, Don Winston, for one of the pranks, Steve decided he would get his revenge on Winston at the local carnival by dressing up like a clown and attacking him with a pie. Once there, though, Steve saw that Winston and Winston’s date were kidnapped by alien clowns from another dimension, who traveled to Earth in a special Funhouse mirror. Steve tried to follow them, but as he traveled through the portal, his molecules were sent to thousands of different dimensions at once. This released so much energy that the whole Marvel Universe seemed to notice it…

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In the end, it turned out that Steve’s body was basically transformed into living unstable molecules. He was in, effect, a living cartoon while in his Slapstick form. Luckily, he could turn back to being human. Steve’s best friend, the comic book obsessed Mike, figured out his secret. Steve decided he would become a superhero.

In “Slapstick” #2 (by Kaminski, Fry III and Austin), he took down a mutant-killing Punisher knock-off called the Overkiller. Slapstick met Spider-Man and Mary Jane (his reaction to Mary Jane was very appropriate).

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In “Slapstick” #3 (by Kaminski, Fry III and Austin), Slapstick defeated a young evil genius and found a girl who was crazy about Slapstick. Later, when Steve was celebrating this turn of events with Mike, Mike explained something that would become a major issue in the future. When Steve is in his Slapstick form, he is basically a cartoon character, and as a cartoon character, Slapstick…well, he does not have any sexual organs…

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In the final issue of his original series, Slapstick met up with the various assembled heroes of New York City as they took on Neutron Bum, an atomic powered guy who was going crazy over how expensive coffee was nowadays and he was destroying New York City in his rage. Slapstick ended up saving the day by cutting to the chase – he gave the guy a cup of coffee…

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Slapstick then went into character limbo, although he did pop up for a team-up with the New Warriors in “Marvel Comics Presents” #159-163 (by Fabian Nicieza, Robert Walker and Scott Koblish)…

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He apparently joined the New Warriors off panel between the time that their series ended and Justice and Firestar left the team to join the Avengers. We know this because when he later joined the Initiative, he was one of a number of former members of the New Warriors on the team and he stuck closely with his friends. As you might imagine, the New Warriors were not popular in the world of the Initiative, as a New Warriors team was involved in the fight that led to the explosion in Stamford, Connecticut that brought the Superhuman Registration Act into existence. Thus, Gauntlet, the drill sergeant of the heroes being trained at the Initiative, gave the former New Warriors an extra hard time.

This led to “Avengers: The Initiative” #6 (by Dan Slott and Steve Uy) where Slapstick brutally assaulted Gauntlet, and managed to get away with it, as well.

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This was the first sign that something was not right with Steve. In “Avengers: The Initiative” #12 (by Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Steve Uy), we learned what was likely causing this change in Steve’s personality. As it turned out, he was no longer able to change out of his Slapstick form.

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After they broke free from the rest of the Initiative, Slapstick continued to serve with the New Warriors for the rest of the “Avengers: The Initiative” series. However, his personality problems continued to persist. His moods were all over the place, happy at one moment and enraged at another. As noted earlier, Steve’s Slapstick form is not human, thus there is no real way of understanding just what it is doing to his brain to remain in this form for as long as he has. Plus, of course, the whole “no sexual organs” thing, which has to be quite a psychological drag on him.

Recently, he joined up with Deadpool’s team of mercenaries, but he was disgruntled the entire time, as his lack of humanity was continuing to drag on his personality. He naturally was particularly sensitive to comments about his missing sexual organs. When a villain unknowingly commented whether Slapstick had “enough balls” to do something, he viciously attacked the villain. However, earlier in the story, he himself was making jokes about it (joking about how he was the only one who had the testicular fortitude for a particular mission). This just highlights the unstable nature of his personality. Slapstick grew to feel that Deadpool was taking advantage of them and he eventually turned his rage on Deadpool himself and very recently decided to quit working for Deadpool (although continuing to use Deadpool’s account to take on solo mercenary jobs for himself).

Steve has been forced to move back home and has rekindled his friendship with Mike, who is now a comic book artist. This current series will address even further what it means when a guy who was not always the nicest guys when he was still fully human, acts when he becomes pretty much divorced from his humanity. It should be fascinating to see.

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