posted by @HeyItsKamo
ALF: Alien Life Form, 80’s icon, and enemy to felines the galaxy over.
America, especially the younger crowd, fucking LOVED Alf. I loved Alf (still do as a matter of fact), hence this quick post. From 1986 to 1990 (and even beyond), Alf made us his bitch. We couldn’t get enough of this goofy cat-devouring alien, eating up anything the network could think to plaster our favorite extraterrestrial all over. And believe me…there was a lot of stuff they used the Alf image and name for besides the 102 episodes of the live-action television show.
ALF: The Animated Series is a perfect example.
This cartoon show, which you could have watched Saturday mornings on NBC from 1987-1988 (or now if you had a time machine, but why would you want to go back in time just to watch a cartoon?), was technically a prequel to the live-action television program. The animated series followed Alf and his friends as they got into all kinds of weird situations on his home planet of Melmac before it was destroyed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very popular so it only lasted for a pair of seasons. Personally, I’ve only seen a few episodes, but the one’s I’ve managed to catch were pretty entertaining. The classic Alf humor was there in full form (corny jokes, cat eating, etc.), but the really interesting part was the subject matter for each episode- the series had story-lines geared toward a fairy tale of some sort, only it was replaced with Melmacians and set on Alf’s home world. Cinderella, Robin Hood, the Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan are just some of the classic stories featured on the cartoon.
Board game’s soon followed, as did the ALF video game (1989) for the Sega Master System. Anyone who’s been brave enough to play this title will tell you: the game wasn’t very good. That’s mostly in part to the jumbled mess of screens, no real direction, and the fact that you die fairly easily. You do get to collect cats though, so there’s that…
Then there was the confusing cross-promotion. Alf and the Hulkster teamed up to tell us about 10-10-220. Talking Alf robot toys were inevitable and pretty damn terrifying when they eventually hit store shelves. Of course there were t-shirts. In fact, the weirdness didn’t end, not even for Christmas.
My favorite Alf related venture, however, was the comic book. One of the series I’ve enjoyed the most, simply titled ALF, ran for over 100 issues from 1987-1990. The comic was supposed to run side-by-side with the live-action tv show, somewhat following the continuity that the program created. Mostly, it was a compilation of random short stories (issues only ran 30 pages or so) that followed Alf and the Tanner’s as they got into all kinds of ridiculous situations. The comic book was so popular and successful because, on top of the popularity of the television show and the comic book medium at the time, the comic allowed something the live-action show simply couldn’t: Alf became extremely mobile.
Seriously, think about it. Without the need for puppets, or midgets/children in Alf costumes, the comic book let the writers have free reign for what our dude was capable of doing- anything he wanted. No more hiding behind couches or kitchen windows- Alf could go trick-or-treating with Brian Tanner, get arrested for egging a house, or get chased around the kitchen by Willie. Anything the writers could think of, Alf could now do with no restrictions.
The cartoon was a prequel, so the Tanner family wasn’t involved, but in the comics the Tanner’s were just as essential a part as Alf was. Now, since no puppeteer was needed to control the protagonist, the Tanner/Alf stories from the tv show got a full range of motion. And if you were a fan of the sitcom story-line, the comics were all the better because there were no limitations on what could be done. If you’re wondering how the comics line up against the television show in terms of jokes, I can assure you that they’re just as cute and corny. Does Alf still want to eat cats? You bet. Does he like to dig through garbage? For sure. Does he still get Willie all riled up? Absolutely.
Some classic indiscretions that Alf gets himself into in the comic version of the show: Alf wants to go trick-or-treating with Brian, so he goes as himself, eats a bunch of trash, and gets arrested because the police think he egged a house (he wanted to eat the eggs). In another issue, Alf builds a transporter (a “Meleporter”) that sends him to the Australian Outback, where he is worshipped like a God- he and Lynn also end up getting transported to the Arctic before finally finding their way home. One of my favorite story-lines was when Alf found out Willie used to be a cheerleader. Long story short, Willie’s old team needs him and Alf becomes the new team mascot.
The comics are also interesting because of the retro advertisements, all late 80’s gems, that target the pre-teen to teen audience (in other words: video games, junk food, Oxy Clean, and ads for other comics). They all go hand in hand (especially the Trix and Chips Ahoy!/Oxy Clean ads…), and are actually a refreshing break from the constant full-page ads in current books. Nowadays, it seems like every two pages there is a full page add for other comics put out by each publisher, it sucks.
Another great feature in a few issues of Alf is the “Melmac Mail Sack” section, where Alf answers readers fan mail. Letters range from questions on Alf’s personal life back on Melmac, to his favorite recipes for cat burgers. A few letters actually border on the line of fan-fiction, with one writer giving a history of Alf’s samurai ancestor. The strange part about this section, as entertaining and goofy as it might be, is that the letters aren’t always answered by “Alf”. Instead, some of the responses are written as the character of Alf, while others are written as (what I’m assuming is) the editor of the comic book itself. It’s pretty strange, and some of the responses are comically rude- they don’t really thank the reader for writing in, and instead reply with short, rude comments (although this is funny in itself, and also most likely done to save on space so they can get as many viewer questions in the section as possible). -Be sure to check the pics below for a close-up shot of the letter to Alf requesting his recipe for cat burgers-
It’s sad to think that we’ll probably never seen another tv show like this come around- something that tested what was acceptable for tv, both humor-wise and oh-shit-it’s-a-puppet-that’s-the-star-of-the-show. What they did with Alf, albiet a bit overkill, was something special and I’m glad that I was able to have as a part of my early life.
If you have a chance, try and catch old episodes of Alf (I know the HUB has been playing some recently), or at least try and find a few of the comics- you won’t be disappointed.
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