Marvel NOW!’s “Divided We Stand” seems teetering on a generational divide within the Marvel U, but the next character getting his ongoing series is throwing that analogy around like a bull in a china shop.
Launching this fall, Slapstick brings the “hero who laughs” back to his first solo series since his 1992 debut – and doing it to break-up the newly-minted Deadpool & Mercs for Money team. Series co-writer/artist Reilly Brown describes Slapstick as a series for people who think Deadpool is “too highbrow,” and with co-writer Fred Van Lente he plans to double-down on the character’s cartoon-y nature.
Brown and Van Lente are looking to take advantageous of Slapstick’s ‘cartoon physics’ as the series will debut digitally as a Marvel Infinite comic before it’s print release, and Newsarama talked to the duo for more about this somewhat shocking new Marvel NOW! Star.
Newsarama: Reilly, Fred, what can you tell us about this new Slapstick ongoing?
Reilly Brown: If you've been reading Deadpool, and you feel like it's just a little bit too highbrow for your demented tastes, Slapstick is where it's at. The fun part about Slapstick is that he's essentially a Looney Tunes character, doing Looney Tunes, but when you drop an anvil on someone's head in the real world, it's a lot messier than it is in the cartoons. In the first issue he'll be teaming up with Spider-Man, and Spidey... well, let's just say that Spidey isn't wholly approving of Slapstick's particular brand of justice.
Him running into other established Marvel characters, good and evil, and seeing how they react to someone who's so different than the usual heroes will be part of the fun of the series.
Eventually he's going to run into other characters who are similarly cartoon-like, but based on other cartoon genres, and it will be interesting to see how he matches up to them.
Also, like some of the other comics I've been working on recently, this one is going to start off as an Infinite Comic. Every time I do another Infinite Comic, I figure out new things I can do with the medium, and I think Slapstick is a character who really lends himself to some cool digital storytelling possibilities. Expect a fun ride!
Fred Van Lente: It's kind of insane even by my own personal standards, and I was the writer of Eminem vs. Punisher, so that's saying something. It's not often Marvel can stump me on obscure characters, but when our editor Jordan White called me up about this project I was like "Wha-huh?" But once I read his first appearance and talked it over with Reilly, what I found was a terrific character with a great hook and power set, and I always jump at the chance to work with frequent drinking buddy Reilly as it often results in, you know, drinking.
Nrama: Slapstick just recently became part of Deadpool & Mercs for Money, why would he want to quit?
Brown: Deadpool's such a jerk! Hollywood's really gone to his head. Me and Slapstick were fed up with him, so we both decided to quit and do our own thing!
But seriously, he actually quits for pretty regular reasons. He felt undervalued, overworked, underpaid, passed up for that promotion, you know how it is in this economy. Sometimes you just have to strike out and do your own thing. You can check out current issues of Deadpool and Deadpool & Mercs For Money to learn more about that.
Van Lente: I think the very qualities that make Deadpool such a popular character would make you want to murder him if he was your boss. So Slapstick has kind of struck out on his own ... sort of? He's still using the Mercs for Money website to pretend to be them to get jobs because he's so hard up for cash, having spent it all spooning hookers, and this may lead to some conflict with Deadpool later on because he's "Catfishing" clients posing as him.
Brown: Plus, just imagine having Deadpool for a boss. No one needs that in their life.
Nrama: What do you enjoy about Slapstick as a character, from both the writingand the drawing sides?
Van Lente: He has the key trait of all great comedy characters, which is his ridiculous levels of commitment to his goals and self-image, no matter how moronic. What I love about Slapstick is he really sees himself as a badass mercenary. He desperately wants to be taken seriously, which absolutely no one does because he's a cartoon clown with no dingus.
His heart is in the right place, but he is super-insecure and maybe the worst listener of any main character I've worked on? I mean the guy has no idea what's going on at any given minute because he's just not paying attention, he is so absorbed into his own personal nonsense. And this is all compounded by the fact he's almost invulnerable in his toon form, he never has to suffer the consequences of his terrible, terrible, terrible life decisions. But everyone else around him does, including Spider-Man, and we all get to laugh very hard at all of this.
Brown: Over the past few years, Slapstick has mainly been used in smaller supporting roles, but even so, he's always stood out to me. Something about him is just so unique and fun, but at the same time, kind of twisted. Like I mentioned earlier, he approaches the usual superhero problems from a much different perspective than most characters, and visually, he always stands out. That's something that we plan on leaning into a bit more in this than usual, and really make him stand out visually as a cartoon character in the real world.
Nrama: This concept of him tracking down other former cartoons is interesting, and especially ripe with possibilities considering some of Marvel's cartoon and cartoony work in the past. Can you clue us in on what other characters to expect?
Van Lente: That would be maybe giving too much away, although it does involve how Slapstick got transformed into a living toon in the first place -- thus losing his oft-aforementioned dingus -- and A.R.M.O.R., the interdimensional division of S.H.I.E.L.D. we came up with in Marvel Zombies.
Brown: The other cartoon characters will be completely original, made up just for this story. If you think of Slapstick as a Looney Tunes character, his villains are going to be based on other Saturday morning cartoon genres.
Nrama: How are you balancing the cartoony nature of this with the more realistic aspects of Marvel's main universe?
Brown: The combination of those two styles is at the heart of this series, both in the stories and the visuals. We're treating him not just as a character who's cartoon-like, but actually a cartoon in the real world. Like Roger Rabbit.
Van Lente: We're kind of embracing this difference with all four (eight?) limbs, it's kind of the signature of the series -- these cartoon people invading the Marvel Universe don't quite get how the physics work. They're just as violent and invulnerable as Slapstick and are causing massive amounts of mayhem and destruction wherever they go, and that's why Slapstick has to track them down.
Nrama: This is coming as part of Marvel's "Marvel NOW!" initiative. How does Slapstick fit within this broader new status quo?
Brown: Well, most of this series will take place in New Jersey, at least in the first story arc. “Marvel Now”'s mainly about all the heroes ditching their expensive New York City rent and moving to the suburbs. That's what I hear anyway. I'm pretty sure that's it, right?
Van Lente: [laughs]
Brown: In the first issue he teams up with Spider-Man, and going forward we're going to try to pair him up with other characters from time to time.
Van Lente: I am fairly certain that Slapstick's quest to regain his dingus will soon become the most important storyline in the Marvel Universe. Look for The Infinity Dingus next summer.
Nrama: Reilly, this is your second time co-writing a book for Marvel, and also follows up on the Saint George series you did with Fred for Dark Horse Presents. How has it been, to be able to get more involved with the writing aspect?
Brown: It's a lot of fun. I've actually done a few co-writing gigs on and off over the years. First with a couple of issues of Cable & Deadpool some years back, recently with Deadpool & Cable: Split Second, I have a weekly web comic I do for Ghostek Products called Dash Hudson and a bunch of the Infinite comics I've worked on have been joint efforts between the writer providing lose plot descriptions, and me breaking down the actions and pacing. Honestly, I've always liked having a hand in the plotting of the story, so taking more control as a writer was a natural next step for me. Plus it's one more excuse to hang out with Fred at the bar and talk about comics, which is always a plus in my book!
Nrama: Big picture, what should fans look forward to with this ongoing series?
Van Lente: He's just a mercenary toon trying to win back his dingus in an all-too-real world where nobody understands him but his mallet.