christmas comic cavalcade: super-sized alf holiday special #2 (marvel comics)

This week, we’re going to be looking at one of my all time favorite comic book series ever made. No, I’m not kidding!

ALFcover

As fads of the 1980’s, ALF had a pretty good run. The titular Alien Life Form’s live action sitcom ran for four years and almost 100 episodes. The ALF brand extended across two animated series which ran for two seasons, a boatload of merchandise… and a Marvel Comics’ adaptation which ran for 50 issues and a half dozen oversized special issues.

As adaptations go, ALF (the comic book) didn’t necessarily have to be good… it just had to be good enough. In 1987, kids would have bought just about anything carrying the ALF logo. Trust me, I was one of those kids and I have the collection of ALF pencil erasers to prove it. No, the surprising thing about ALF’s comic was that it was startlingly well done. The series focused on ALF and his adoptive Earth family, the Tanners Instead of the straightforward storytelling that often accompanies comics aimed at children, Marvel did something different here. Special emphasis was given toward parody and satire.

Marvel did about three or four Christmas themed ALF comics, both in the regular series and in super-sized specials. I chose to write about this particular holiday special because I think it best exemplifies what I found to be great about ALF when I was a kid… and what still seems to stand the test of time today. I’ve been working for the past few years to find a complete run of ALF comics and I’m about halfway there.

ALF Super-Sized Holiday Special #2 clocks in at 64 pages contains six stories, all brought off by the same artist/writer team of Michael Gallagher and Dave Manak. Manak’s pencils are alternately inked by Jacqueline Roettcher and the legendary Marie Severin. It’s important to note that this is the same team that produced the monthly comic for almost every issue of the series. As a kid, I didn’t think much of the artistic continuity here but the fact that the same guys and gals were responsible for SO MUCH ALF over three years is an impressive feat.

Let’s look at the holiday themed ALF tales, then we’ll take a gander at some of the other stories included in this book. We’re going to go a little out of order, but there’s a purpose to my madness.

Don’t Toy with Me – Willie Tanner takes ALF on a car ride to the mall for some last minute Christmas shopping. ALF stays in the car when a guy tries to jack Willie’s vehicle and imparts some values and X-Mas cheer to the felon.

For Goodness’ Snakes – On New Year’s Eve, ALF announces it’s the “year of the MelMongoose” and brings a snake into the Tanner house. When the snake escapes, hilarity ensues.

Have Yourself a Melly Little Christmas – Santa Claus enlists ALF and his alien technology to help deliver presents when the reindeer come down with a case of lyme disease.

Let me point out a couple of things the quite appealed to me about ALF as a kid.

 1. References to back issues.

Editor’s notes about previous issues and the adventures therein were fairly common in Marvel Comics during this era. They served two purposes – filling in neophyte readers as to the hows and wheres of salient plot points… and promoting back issue reading. Someone who read the above panel would understand Kate Tanner’s referencing old adventures… and the editor had your back in telling you where to find those tales. This holiday special is honeycombed with editor’s notes and as a young reader, they made me feel as though what I was reading was important.

 2. Continuity

In that same vein, the ALF comics had a ridiculous amount of continuity, so much so that it would make your head spin a little if you were just jumping in fresh. In Melly Little Christmas, ALF is wearing his anti-gravity belt and dressed as his superheroic alter-ego, The Fantastic Fur. The Fantastic Fur appeared in ALF #4 and ALF #16 (and will appear in next month’s ALF #25, if you’re interested).

Someone “in the know” like myself would be able to appreciate the streamlined way in which plot points were introduced and expanded upon over the course of the series. You’d feel like you were a part of a larger world, reading these comics. Indeed, one of the comic stories included in this special is a sequel to a previous story told in the main ALF series wherein ALF acts as a sporting mascot called The Crazy Critter.

ALF8

This brings me to my third reason for loving the ALF comics: Parody! Before I was a regular reader of MAD Magazine, I was well-versed in the art of taking the piss out of popular genres and characters thanks to ALF comics. As you can probably tell by the cover here, there are several parody comics included in this issue which have nothing to do with Christmas.

The first is Mark My Words a mash-up parody of Conan the Barbarian (featuring Gornan the Barb-Q-Barian) shredding “the fabric of time” to meet…

The MelMarx Brothers, Oucho, Chippo, and Burp-o! Every smart person loves The Marx Brothers, but I feel lucky a lot of writers during my formative years felt an obligation to shoehorn that love into other media. I can safely say ALF comics made me curious about Groucho and company… Animaniacs made me even more curious… and here I am today, a huge fan of The Marx Brothers. Funny how that works.

For a lot of readers, the real draw of this Holiday Special was no doubt the second appearance of ALF’s answer to Marvel’s Uncanny X-MenThe Uncanned (you guessed it) X-Melmen in The Dark Kleenex Saga.

There’s nothing Marvel liked better than to navel-gaze, but this is a pretty accurate takedown of the overwrought excesses and intricacies of the X-Men universe at the time. As an added bonus, I bet there were a bunch of X-Men completists out there who bought this book just to have the parody in their collection.

This is a fun comic that straddles the line between being Christmassy and a good representation of what these creators were doing with the characters. ALF has become a bit of a punchline in recent years but I have a lot of fondness for the character. His smart-alek attitude and penchant for weirdness was something that well-prepared me for the type of comedy I still enjoy today.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: