Alf Annual #1
Title: The Return of Rhonda and other stories
Writer: Michael Gallagher
Pencils: Dave Manak
Inks: Marie Severin
Letters: Rick Parker
Colors: Marie Severin
Cover Art: Dave Manak
Editor: Sid Jacobson
Publisher: Marvel Comics/STAR Comics
Ah, I love ALF. Not so much the TV show, although I was a big fan of that when I was a kid, but moreso of the comic book Marvel produced in the late 80s and early 90s. Michael Gallagher and Dave Manak, the primary creators on the book for most of the run, produced some wonderfully funny, entertaining and surprisingly smart comic books that are still entertaining now, over 20 years later. And occasionally, they even brushed up against the Marvel Universe proper, as in this annual.
But that’s later. In the opening story, “The Return of Rhonda,” Alf and the Tanner family, the humans who took him in after he crashed in the pilot episode of the TV show, are visted by Rhonda, Alf’s girlfriend from his home planet of Melmac. Rhonda, who also escaped the destruction of his planet, has come back to Earth to bring him to “New Melmac,” a planet she has found with his old friend Skip. As Alf tries to wrestle with the decision of whether to go, the Tanners go through a gamut of emotions.
Without spoiling it, it seems clear that what Alf’s decision is, or the rest of this issue would be somewhat different. In the second story, “Back to Human Nature,” the Tanners take Alf on a camping trip – the rare vacation where he can accompany them without fear of being seen by other people. Of course, wildlife is another story. And in “Safe at Home,” Willie Tanner gets passes to his company’s private Skybox at Dodger stadium, enabling Alf to see his first live baseball game. It’s interesting, in retrospect, just how many of the stories in this series revolved around the Tanners attempting to keep other people from seeing Alf or Alf carelessly placing himself in a situation where that would be almost unavoidable.
“You Give Me Fever” is next, and it only briefly brushes on that topic. In this one, Gallagher strikes upon a much more potentially serious idea – Alf gets a Melmacian disease, and the Tanners are afraid of how to treat him, with nobody on the planet being trained in Melmac Medicine. This being a kids’ comic, of course, the disease has a much more humorous result than you’d get in, say, an episode of ER, but the brief moment of drama is there.
Finally, in “A Campy Approach,” Alf is horrified when the Tanners ship Brian off to summer camp, suffering from a drastic misunderstanding of what camps on Earth are like. This is a weaker story than most of the others, but it’s notable for bringing Alf face-to-face with the High Evolutionary himself. In 1988, Marvel Comics did the first of what would become a summer tradition for many years – a crossover event that went through the annuals for its assorted titles. In The Evolutionary War, Marvel’s various superheroes had to battle the High Evolutionary, who was trying to jumpstart the evolution of life on Earth. In this sort-of crossover, Alf encounters ol’ H.E. himself, who is stunned to find a Melmacian on the planet. The whole thing is structured so as to allow it to be a dream sequence, but it’s still really funny for all that.
I’m glad I came across a cache of these old comics at a recent convention. I had a blast reading this old book again, and I look forward to getting back into the rest of them.