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The Best of the Three Stooges (book review)

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With the release of the Farrelly Brothers recent Three Stooges film, Papercutz has gathered together and released a hard-bound collection of classic Three Stooges comics from throughout the history of the group. The collected comics feature the works of Norman Maurer and Pete Alvarado. Maurer, as his wife Joan relates in the book’s introduction, is actually not only Moe Howard’s son-in-law but in addition to having written and illustrated many of their comics (rendering them in both 2- & 3-D), directed the Stooges final two feature-length films. The book also contains an afterwards by editor Jim Salicrup, who indicated that in addition to this collection Papercutz was issuing a new Stooges graphic novel illustrated by George Gladir and Stan Goldberg.

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The hardbound collection contains six stories (three with Shemp, and three with Curly) as well as a number of one pagers and covers from the various comics. For the most part, the comics all take the same tact; the well-meaning stooges get caught up in some ordinary event that, once they become involved, becomes extraordinarily convoluted, unnecessarily and hilariously violent, and often simply out-of-control goofy. Very often the stooges are odds with a con man named Benedict Bogus who is always looking out for the next scam he can perpetuate and he is always picking on the Stooges as being the easiest marks on the block. Interestingly enough (and unfortunate for Bogus), his plans and schemes not only never quite go the way he suspects that they will go, but very often go completely awry and wind up either costing him money or causing him pain and no small amount of discomfiture.

From 1949 to 1992 the Stooges have appeared on some 88 comics under nine different publishers. Like both their stage show and their various film appearances, the comics are replete with full-on slapstick Stooge hilarity as the boys stumble-and bumble their way through their various antics, always somehow coming out ahead of the game and (relatively) unscathed. While there is a silly sameness to these tales, they never pretend to be more than they are expected to be, just a continuation of the Stooge legacy that they themselves lived out on the screen.

Therefore we get to see the stooges, as race car drivers, the owners of a restaurant, treasure hunters, traveling to the circus, the wilds of Alaska, the distant regions of outer space, and into the past. The stories offer no real continuity save that they are always Stooges, doing Stooge things, and intersecting with the lives of the folks around them. If you are a long-time Stooge fan, or just discovered them from their new film, you will certainly enjoy this volume of their classic adventures.

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