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Alf Annual #1

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

February 4, 2012

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.

Rating: 7/10

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Alf #7

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: Going Thru a Stage

CREDITS:

Writer: Michael Gallagher
Pencils:
Dave Manak
Inks:
Marie Severin
Colors:
Marie Severin
Letters:
Rick Parker
Editor:
Sid Jacobson
Cover Art:
Dave Manak
Publisher:
Marvel Comics/STAR Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Hey, I remember ALF! Loved this show – an alien lives with a human family. Who’d have thunk it? Well… except for Mork and Mindy. And My Favorite Martian. And…

IMPRESSIONS: We get three stories in this comic book. “Going Thru a Stage” is first – Lynn, the daughter of the Earth-family, is going to be the star of her high school production of Pygmalion, and Alf winds up as her drama coach. She does great, but her co-star gets a case of stage fright, so “Uncle Alfred” has to step in and save the day. We also get a “Melmac Flashback” called “Aloe Again, Naturally.” Alf reminisces about his adventures with Aloe Vera, a plant-based supervillain his scientist father accidentally created back on his home planet of Melmac. And in “Bounce Thy Neighbor,” a device from Alf’s spaceship winds up in the hands of the Tanner’s next-door neighbor, Trevor Ochmonek.

All three stories here are actually really funny – in fact, I suspect they’re probably funnier than the TV shows would be if I went back and watched them again. Michael Gallagher packs the pages with cheesy puns and groan-inducing gags that are all the better for their goofy nature. But he also works in some rather smart jokes – cracks about Salvador Dali, Audrey Hepburn, and other things that kids reading this comic very likely would have missed entirely. Dave Manak’s artwork, similarly, is full of little sight gags. The comic book also brings an energy and a scope to it that wasn’t really possible on the sitcom, where the camera was limited by the nature of the puppet star.

This is actually a really funny book. Cute, smart… I think even kids today, who’ve never heard of Alf, could read it and find it very enjoyable.

GRADE: B+

Star Comics: The All-Star Collection Vol. 1

November 4, 2011 Leave a comment

January 31, 2010

Star Comics All-Star Collection Vol. 1 (Marvel Comics)
By Lenny Herman, Stan Kay, Bob Bolling, Sid Jacobson, Warren Kremer & Howard Post

Back in the 80s, Harvey Comics went on one of several publishing hiatuses that would eventually lead to the demise of the company. Marvel, noticing the gap in kids’ comics, launched Star Comics to try to fill the void. Along with licensed properties like Heathcliff, Thundercats, and ALF, the line also included several original characters. With those Star heroes returning (kind of) in the recent X-Babies miniseries, Marvel has brought back their earliest adventures in this paperback. Having read many of these comics when I was a kid, I was reluctant to pick this book up — I was afraid it would be a case of the reality not living up to my memory. I was surprised to find that many of these books, even through the prism of 20-plus years experience, aren’t that bad. Lenny Herman and Warren Kremer were behind three of the four titles presented in this issue. First there are two issues of Planet Terry, a sort of kid version of Buck Rogers. Terry roams the galaxy searching for the parents that lost him in an accident when he was a baby. The two issues here show him meeting a new crew of friends and finding a lead to his parents. It’s not bad — there’s an ongoing storyline, which helps considerably, and while Terry is a little bland, the outer space setting allows for some creativity with the villains. The two Royal Roy issues, on the other hand, are total duds. Roy is who Harvey star Richie Rich would be if he was a prince. Seriously, there’s absolutely nothing else distinctive about him. He’s got rich parents, the poor girlfriend, the rich girl who wants him for herself — it’s virtually a carbon copy. Even the money jokes are the same. Top Dog was my favorite of these books as a child, and the three issues presented here are my favorite of this book as well. Young Joey Jordan has found a talking dog, Top Dog, and convinces him to come home with him and live in the comfort of a real family. Being a talking dog, of course, Top Dog gets into some trouble now and again. This was easily the best Star original. The characters were well-developed and had full personalities, and the mystery of Top Dog’s backstory was actually a great mystery. The book finished with Wally the Wizard, the first issue of which was done by legendary Little Archie creator Bob Bolling. Wally is the apprentice of the great wizard Marlin (you may have heard of his younger brother), but Wally isn’t that good at it. He finds himself having to use his wits to compliment his lesser magical powers. The second issue, by Sid Jacobson and Howard Post, isn’t quite as good, but it’s not bad. I’m actually surprised at how well most of these comics have held up. Except for Royal Roy, they’re still pretty funny, the art is timeless, and I think kids today would enjoy this book just as much as their parents who read these comics the first time around.
Rating: 7/10 (Would have been 8 except for Roy)

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Fraggle Rock (1985 Series) #4

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: The Doozer Who Wanted to Be a Fraggle

CREDITS:
Writer: Stan Kay
Art/Colors:
Marie Severin
Lettering:
Grace Kremer
Editor:
Sid Jacobson
Publisher:
Marvel Comics/Star Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Hey, Fraggle Rock! I loved this show when I was a kid! And now, as a result of reading the comic book, I’m going to have the theme song stuck in my head for days! Son of a bitch!

IMPRESSIONS: So this is the comic book that’s going to take me down to Fraggle Rock, eh? Let’s see, Red Fraggle wants to party, nothing unusual there. In the midst of her partying, though, she and Gobo smash up some Doozer constructions. Most of the story is actually about the Doozers and not the Fraggles, it seems. Cotterpin is a little Doozer girl who doesn’t want to build like the rest of them. She hears a legend about a Doozer who turned into a Fraggle once, sets out to do it herself, hilarity ensues.

Seems like I need to watch the show again – I don’t remember the Fraggles seeming like such jerks about the Doozer constructions. I remember they ate them, but man, they really come across as callous here. Of course, the Doozers actually like it that way – gives them the chance to keep building, and that’s all they want to do anyway. It’s a symbiotic thing, I guess.

The comic is cute enough, but not as sharp as the TV show was. It feels a little diluted, a little watered down. The artwork is kind of weird too – I’m so used to seeing the Muppet characters only from the waist-up that seeing them walking around with… y’know, legs and stuff is actually kind of weird. And Cotterpin walking around barefoot all the time really seems to hammer home the fact that – hey! The Doozers are naked! (Yes, and the Fraggles go around pantsless. AND barefoot. I don’t know why Cotterpin makes it weirder. I’m sure that if I discussed this with a therapist they’d find some sort of bizarre underpinning barefoot trauma that ties it all together. Come to think of it, I never take my socks off either. I’m rambling, aren’t I?)

Anyway, we all know the Fraggles. They’re cool, they’re fun, and this book lets us know everything we need to know about them and the Doozers. It’s good enough for a B.

GRADE: B (Told you.)

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Madballs #4

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: Meet the New Madballs & Anchors Away

Writer: Michael Gallagher
Penciller:
Howard Post
Inker:
Roberta Edelman
Letterer:
Rick Parker
Colorist:
George Roussos
Editor:
Sid Jacobson
Publisher:
Marvel Comics/Star Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: I remember these toys… basically gross toy balls, right? They made a comic book out of this?

IMPRESSIONS: The first story is “Meet the New Madballs.” We open up with what appears to be a standard mad scientist, “Doktor Frankenbeans,” mooning over a convenient role call poster of the Madballs and lamenting the fact that he’s never been able to control them. His dimwitted assistant suggests that they create some new Madballs of their own, which they promptly do, and send them into battle against the original. As one would expect, the new Madballs realize they have more in common with the originals than they do the good Doktor, and turn on their creator. It’s like Mary Shelley meets Hasbro. (Or whatever company made these toys.)

There’s a gag page full of movie-related puns before the second story, “Anchors Away.” Here the writer seems to have wisely decided to narrow down the cast, featuring only six of the 16 Madballs (in a group including members of both the original eight and the “new wave”). The Madballs and their human children friends, who apparently have no parents to keep tabs on them, are obsessed with the TV weather guy, who it turns out is trying to hypnotize the viewers to do his bidding as the evil Anchor Man. (Yes. Anchor. Man.) Fortunately, some of the Madballs escape the brainwashing and lead the offensive.

I am acutely aware, as I put this comic book down, that I’ve just read a toy commercial. I can practically envision the meeting where some guy from the toy company called up the comic book company and said, “We’ve got eight new balls to play with. Can you stick them in your comic book?” But despite that fact, I can’t deny that this is a very accessible comic book. The writer introduces all the characters in a very quick, clear way. He gives us a brief enough recap that we understand the backstory. Even in the second story, we get a role call of the characters, three of whom had made their first appearance just pages before. Anybody could read this comic with no comprehension problem, and young readers (especially boys) will enjoy the gross-out puns. It does the job.

GRADE: A