Why Marvel’s strangest war involved ALF

Today we look at how one of Marvel’s sweeping Summer Annual crossover events somehow also involved … ALF ?!

This is “Can’t Cross Over”, a feature where I look at cases where comic book writers had to adapt their stories to deal with crossovers.

Comic book crossovers have apparently been a part of the comic book industry since the golden age, when MLJ’s Shield and Wizard first had a crossover between their respective comic book titles, but the ubiquity of crossovers did not really become a thing until the mid-1980s, when the sudden emergence of Commercial clothing stating that a cartoon was a connection to a major crossover became a big part of the industry, with both DCs Crisis on infinite lands (which was an unusual example where each DC title was forced to nominally commit to the then new event, even though it was as simple as the Monitor making a cameo or the sky turning red in the background, but after the sale numbers came in on the crossover, then suddenly every title was going out of their way to bind to Crisis) and secret wars II, with its corner box logo (which was so familiar with the Nabisco logo that fans came to refer to secret wars II tie-ins like Nabisco tie-ins), which takes control of so much of the comic book released on the market.


Once out of the way, and the dam was blown up, so to speak, sweeping enterprise-wide crossovers soon became a standard thing in comics, though Marvel initially tried to limit the idea to its one-year-old, with the 1988 crossover, Evolutionary War, becoming so crazy , that it involved at all ALF annually!

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WHAT WAS ALF?

ALF was a sitcom that aired on NBC from the fall of 1986 to the spring of 1990, about an alien (named Gordon Shumway) who crashed to Earth after his home planet Melmac was destroyed and taken over by an otherwise typical suburban family who hid ALF in their home to prevent him from being caught by the government and experimenting further. The name, ALF, stands for “Alien Life Form”. ALF was a puppet that was voiced and run by Paul Fusco, who was also the creator of the series (I recently researched a bit how many sitcom clichés ALF hit during his run).

ALF was so popular that NBC then launched one ALF cartoon in 1987 showing Gordon’s adventures before crashing to the ground …

THAT comic was so popular that he even had a SPINOFF comic (which was obviously extremely rare) called ALF Tales, where Gordon would star in stories based on famous fables and the like …

And of course, ALF was so popular that he even received his own Marvel cartoon in 1988 (according to the comic book tradition, there was not a cartoon until the fad had almost run out) …

The cartoon, written by Michael Gallagher and drawn by Dave Manak and Marie Severin, was a surprising hit, ran in 50 tracks and thus lasted a few years longer than the TV show it was based on!

WHAT WAS THE WAR OF EVOLUTION?

It was a crossover where the longtime Marvel villain / supporting character, High Evolutionary, decided he wanted to “evolve” humanity, whether he wanted to or not!

The High Evolutionary was a famous geneticist who became so fascinated by evolution that he literally created his own planet with mutated animals on it called Counter-Earth. But what he felt was his crowning achievement, was seen as just a cosmic curiosity by the cosmic beings out there as Beyonders. So the high-revolutionary went mad and tried to kill himself. He apparently survived, but reappeared during the evolutionary war crossover that was re-dedicated to his purpose of evolving humanity to the point where it was more powerful than even Beyonders!

His plans were widespread (so it could make sense with a variety of Marvel titles, as if there was a drug war element that got the Punisher involved, and there was a plot where the Evolutionary’s henchmen tried to deprive mutants of their powers to get X -Books to hang together), and all the titles appeared with the remarkable Evolutionary War trading dress on their front pages …

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HOW DID ALF BECOME THE DEVELOPMENT WAR?

Well, in 1988, ALF received its first cartoon annually, and quite rightly, it had the Evolutionary War Trade Dress on it!

In the fifth ALF story in the volume, the young boy in the family (ALF’s best friend), Brian, goes to camp. ALF mistakenly thinks it’s a bad place (he thinks it’s basically Stalag 17), so he tries to save the young Brian. On the way to camp (he has sent himself with a Fed-Ex like company) he is contacted by none other than High Evolutionary !!!

(Notice the joking reference that they are THREE Spider-Man Annuals. People really used to think it was exaggerated when there were three Spider-Man titles. Oh, how little they knew was coming).

High Evolutionary wants information from ALF, but he is obviously busy on his camp adventure, so he is able to get the Evolutionary to withdraw a bit and agree to contact him later …

Alf is then contacted again by High Evolutionary later in the year, as the Evolutionary is interested in the story of ALF’s home planet, Melmac, but he is sad to learn that the planet has been destroyed (Evolutionary automatically assumes it was Dark Phoenix who ruined it) …

He finally leaves ALF with a warning not to try to mess with human evolution while he’s here …

The story smartly suggests that it could have just been a dream, driven by ALF, that read all the many annual tie-ins, but it COULD have clearly happened as well (a later post in the official handbook confirmed that it actually happened).

Okay, folks, feel free to suggest ideas for a future Can’t Crossover to brianc@cbr.com!

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