Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Waitaminute, those guys aren't little at all! 

Was this a cartoon? You can tell me if it was a cartoon I’d just never heard of before. I won’t be embarrassed, honestly. I mean, I already knew about the Robonic Stooges, so I’m sure I’ve already got cred.

I only ask because The Little Stooges – billed on the cover of their debut 1972 issue as “The Wild, Wacky Sons of the Three Stooges in their First Adventure!” – had all the hallmarks of a Saturday morning cartoon. Besides the three titular stars of the story (their names will be easy to remember. Despite being a whole new generation of “Stooges” and the offspring of the original three, the Little Stooges not only appear to be effectively identical to their assorted faddas but also share their names – Mo, Larry and Curly Joe), the cast is also made up of a trio of perfectly matched female equivalents to the boy Stooges, plus a wisecracking dog, and an antagonistic kid about their own age – Benedict Bogus, the “con-kid,” whose old man is also some kind of evil schemer who presumably bedevils the elder Stooges  - whose role is to set up schemes which complicate the Little Stooges’ lives. Wait, did I just coin the phrase “The Elder Stooges?” I’d like to see a terrifying novel written under that title immediately, please.

I hated that dog, but luckily so did the writer, because it just
basically vanishes after page five.
The Little Stooges also cast-off their collective poppas’ proclivity for swatting each other in the face with open palms, or at least they avoid doing it while the camera’s on them. Tooling around in the colorful threads of the young generation, in a flower-painted jeep adorned with “LOVE” graffiti, these kinder and gentler Stooges saved their nose-pulling and eye-gouging for off-camera antics. Even their pops had seemingly renounced their formerly violent ways – when we meet the old-school Stooges, they’re gently encouraging a swarm of tomato-eating caterpillars to relocate to a second tomato patch they’ve planted just for them. Boy, that’s some … that’s some fine slapstick comedy, there.

It’s weird, because the original Three Stooges didn’t build their reputations on the strength of their narrative craft. No one ever watched a Three Stooges short for the story, they didn‘t have Faulkner cranking out a script for three bumbling movers who knock down a chandelier, you know. In its way, the Three Stooges are like porn – if you had any say in it, you’d skip all the talking and fast-forward to the part where the clam squirts the one guy right in the face*.

Speaking of porn, one of the more unsettling components of the Little Stooges is that it confronts you with the idea that the original Stooges must have procreated at some point. Once you have that mental image in your brain, it basically will be with you until you die. Welcome to the last thing you will see before the semi jumps the divider and smashes your Escalade flatter’n hammered shit: Larry Fine doing it doggy style.

The sound of adult Stooges having sex.
Story is what the Little Stooges choose to offer, though. Rather than the short, self-contained comedy set piece loaded with physical comedy and implicit inversions of class hierarchy in which their predecessors specialized, the Little Stooges comics are adventures dripping with exterior menace. In this, their debut issue, the trio takes it upon themselves to foil a ring of house burglars who are menacing their pleasant, Southern California town, ultimately exposing a massive criminal conspiracy on behalf of a wealthy local citizen. This was also the plot of Terriers.

The weirdest part of this arc is how much attention is deliberately drawn to the cheap television owned by the Little Stooges, which possesses a screwed-up vertical hold and picks up “strange foreign broadcasts.” Ultimately – SPOILERS – the weird reception on the television makes for an important plot point, as Curly verifies that a showroom television in the store owned by a local businessman is indeed the same one owned by the Stooges, and which had previously been stolen. What’s never clarified is the “strange foreign broadcasts,” which SEEMS like it’s implying another plot point, but is instead either some sort of red herring or just thoughtless addition to the story.

 The Little Stooges, despite everything, managed to pull out a healthy seven-issue run, which is pretty significant considering that they never had a direct tie-in material except the loose association with the source material and also because of that implied mental image of Larry Fine plowing some broad from the back. Enjoy!

*So, so very ashamed of myself right now.

Meanwhile here's the lost three panels from Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work


Michael Hoskin said...

"No admittance" the stairwell?

BillyWitchDoctor said...

No, this was never a cartoon, but it's easy to see that it was at some prior point a pitch for one; mystery-solving teens with wacky gizmos and talking/semi-talking pets coping with the generational gap with famous fathers? One quick re-draft and it's The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.

The television thing reminds me of that weird TV-studio gimmick used in The Three Stooges in Orbit to "transform" Larry, Moe and Curly Joe into cartoons.

Perhaps Moe had a hand in inserting it into the comic, for it turns out that gimmick was "Cinemagic," developed by comic artist Norman Maurer--Moe’s son-in-law--and used in a few low-budget sci-fi movies. According to Cartoon Research, Disney animators tested (but rejected) the process for 101 Dalmatians.

Let us all give thanks that the proposed Baby Stooges toon never saw light of day. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?! I love me some Stooges, but I'd take a baseball bat to whomever dreamed up that.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Ba'aaah, I forgot! Benedict Bogus' father was the nemesis of the Elder Stooges in their comic book by Norman Maurer.

...And now you know that Moe Howard had children. It's far from perfect, but you really should watch the 2000 TV biopic The Three Stooges, with Michael Chiklis, sometime. (Have tissues on hand.)

Calamity Jon said...

Man Billy, I never thanked you for this information, it's fascinating! Thanks!

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