Kramden/Albano Team Up ‘88

July 8th, 2009 by | Tags: ,

Some people believe I always go out of my way to search for weird comics. Not always. The truth is that most of the time, weird comics go out of their way to find me.

For instance, one day I’m flipping through some back issues, when I find a batch of issues for a Honeymooners comic from the mid-80’s. I didn’t even know there was a Honeymooners series. I’m still not certain why there was one in the 80’s, considering the show was long dead and gone for decades. Now that I think about it, it does give me hope for one day reading Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Perfect Strangers.

Okay. So now we have an old sitcom re-imagined into a comic years after the fact. That’s a good start. I looked through the covers and found one that completely stood out. It’s the kind of comic that makes you question the industry and reality itself for allowing such a thing to exist. Ralph Kramden in a comic book? I guess I could buy that.

Ralph Kramden in a comic book, wrestling alongside Captain Lou Albano?! Welcome to flavor country.

Much like the epic battle of Superman and Muhammad Ali, there are plenty of cameos in that crowd. I notice Frankenstein’s monster, Gumby, White Spy, Groucho Marx (obviously not amused by rest-hold spots), Alfred E. Newman and Gorbechaf.

Also note the top right corner. Not only is this issue #7, but it’s #7 of 24. That’s… odd. I guess Triad must have had a two-year contract and decided to flaunt it. Though from what I’ve found, the series didn’t make it past the twelfth issue. No other wrestler cameos, from what I’ve gathered.

The writers for this epic comic were Thomas Edward West and Norman Abramoff. Neither did all that much outside of this series. Art was done by Win Mortimer, a Schuster Award-winning artist who had done piles and piles of comics for DC and Marvel over the years. This series was the last of his comic work. The fact that he worked on it makes enough sense to me, as the art in this comic is really great.

The story begins with Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton in the front row of a wrestling match, watching Turk the Terrible, an obvious Iron Shiek homage, beating the stuffing out of… Guy Gardner, I guess.

Turk bullies around Ralph and makes an announcement. Next week he will make an open challenge. Anyone who can beat him will get a thousand dollars. He then puts his opponent in a leg lock and suggests he’ll do the same to Ralph, causing the overweight bus driver to pass out in Norton’s arms.

Cut to the next day as Ralph saves a kid Tommy from being run over on his street. Ralph then tumbles into a pool of cement, which quickly dries into a one-inch layer around him, except for his eyes and mouth. As Norton chisels him free, Ralph tells young Tommy that the streets are too dangerous to play in. He decides to lie to the kid’s face and says that he’s going to rent out an empty lot and turn it into a safe place for children to play in. Then Norton comically misses with his hammer and hits Ralph hard in the shin.

When Alice yells at Ralph and asks how he could promise something so expensive, he reacts the way you’d expect.

Yes, they beat that line into the ground. His other catchphrase about punching Alice to the moon probably didn’t go over well for an 80’s comic for kids.

Ralph and Norton later help out Tommy’s grateful mother and unclog her sink. It’s there that Ralph notices a photo of Mrs. Manicotti’s nephew Captain Lou. Wow. The dude was in his mid-50’s by this time and Mrs. Manicotti’s son is like ten. Then again, does this take place in the present or the 50’s? Pretty sure Captain Lou didn’t wear his trademark rubber bands and Hawaiian shirt back then. I’m confused.

Our two bumbling heroes go find Captain Lou’s wrestling gym. There are photos of other, older wrestlers on the wall in the background. It’s cool that they listed real names, such as Gorgeous George, but I doubt Tor “Swedish Angel” Johnson of Ed Wood movie fame ever had long, blond hair and a goatee.

Ralph tells Captain Lou about his situation and Lou offers to lend him some money. Ralph declines and instead asks to be trained as a wrestler.

Ralph begs him to help and upon namedropping Turk the Terrible, Lou snaps. That bum has been giving wrestlers a bad name, so Lou agrees to train Ralph. We see Lou putting Ralph through harsh exercises while giving Norton orders to keep Ralph on a good diet. As Ralph’s training gets more intense, we see him slug a heavy bag with a picture of Turk on it as hard as possible. A moment later, he screams out in regards to his aching fist.

When I turn the next page, there’s a little scene where Ralph gets home, makes up an excuse to Alice and passes out on the floor. Unfortunately, I’m distracted and horrified by getting this image from the neighboring page shoved into my face.

Gah! Just a whole page of that out of nowhere.

For the next three pages, we take a break from the comic and get an interview with Captain Lou, who discusses his love for Jackie Gleason, his friendship with Cyndi Lauper, his acting career and his involvement with using his name to help fight against multiple sclerosis. When discussing why the Honeymooners TV show was so successful, Lou brings up Gleason’s character acting and how it wasn’t about the jokes, but the mannerisms of the brilliant cast. In other words, he’s saying that it was things that can’t be replicated so easily in comic book form. Oops.

Ralph continues his training and soon Lou is teaching him various holds. Lou suggests that Ralph practice them whenever possible. While at his bus driving job, Ralph reflects on that advice as a loudmouthed guy behind him yells for a transfer. The loudmouth puts his hands on Ralph, causing Ralph to unconsciously take him down. Shock of all shocks, it’s Turk the Terrible, who promises that if he ever sees Ralph again, he’ll turn him into sausages. No wonder Captain Lou says the guy gives wrestlers a bad name. His promos are terrible.

Ralph is now scared as hell. How can he face Turk in the ring now, when the guy wants to kill him twice over? Norton figures that Ralph could just wear a mask and none would be the wiser. Lou gets an idea of his own and suggests that he’ll hide under the ring and coach Ralph through the match. I’d think it would be easier to just coach him outside the ring where you can see everything and not be deafened by the microphone-enhanced bodyslams. Then again, there’s more to Lou’s plan than what he tells the other guys.

Meanwhile, Alice and Trixie are given free tickets to the show and decide to bring Tommy along. Man, Ralph was a lucky guy. He had a hot wife who insisted on going to wrestling shows.

Despite Lou’s coaching, Ralph is absolutely decimated. He can’t get a single piece of offense in there. He can’t hear Lou over the crowd noise and Norton doesn’t dare run towards the ring out of fear of being seen by Alice and Trixie. After getting conked in the head by Turk’s headbutt, the masked Ralph falls out of the ring. Lou drags him under the ring, compliments his guts and comes out wearing Ralph’s mask.

I did a double-take and had to check that yes, Captain Lou was already wearing the same wrestling gear as Ralph before this part. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing because in the end, I wouldn’t have minded if I had to upgrade this article into “talking about that comic where Captain Lou Albano strips an unconscious Ralph Kramden naked”.

Pretending to be Ralph, the masked Lou barges into the ring and annihilates Turk like nobody’s business. Even Norton is fooled and exclaims, “I never knew Ralph could do that!” when Lou hits a dropkick. It’s par for the course, since I’m pretty sure Captain Lou could never hit a dropkick in real life either.

Turk cries uncle and gives up. After having his hand raised, Captain Lou slips out of the ring, crawls underneath, puts the mask back on Ralph and has him come back into the ring. Ralph is awarded the money and unmasks in front of everyone. Alice and Trixie give a surprised shriek, which leads me to believe that Ralph and Alice are set to have some very hot “Mr. Plow jacket” bed action that night.

Sometime later, Lou talks to his cousin Tommy, ignoring the suspicious 40+ years of age difference between them. Tommy knows that Lou was wearing the mask, to which Lou silences him and explains that with Ralph being there for Tommy when he needed help, Lou had to do the same for Ralph. Tommy agrees to keep his mouth shut.

The Manicottis, the Kramdens and the Nortons all get together for dinner as a way to finish off the story. Oh, wait. There’s still one page left after that. Figuring out a way to fill in that last page, they have Ralph give a speech about how helping others makes the world a better place. Everyone supports the statement, including a random scream of, “I love you, Ralph!” from Alice.

Then, all of the sudden, Ralph gets dangerously close to Mrs. Manicotti and with a sinister glare like that of a serial killer excited that he’s about to slaughter an entire orphanage, he informs her that it’s mambo time!

What a nonsensical way to end a comic that should never have existed in a sane world. As you can see, the art was fantastic stuff through and through, but the writing was a bit off. There were a lot of flow problems from panel to panel and scene to scene. In fact, Turk makes it clear that it’s a week between shows, but the constant “next day” and “later that night” narration boxes also make it clear that it’s only been about three days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go search for a comic where Amos and Andy grapple with Demolition.

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10 comments to “Kramden/Albano Team Up ‘88”

  1. You know, G, I think it was about five years ago maybe at the most, when my brain clicked on something and I realized that Captain Lou Albano was not, in fact, Cyndy Lauper’s dad.

    So disillusioned.

  2. Other cameos on that cover: Archie, a Don Martin character, one of those guys from an old comic strip (maybe Gasoline Alley?), and probably some old celebrity caricatures. Is that Jack Kirby with a cigar? And how about the kid in the red shirt with the yellow stripe; that’s not Billy Batson, is it?

  3. Pow! Right in the kisser!
    Pow! Right in the kisser!
    Pow! Right in the kisser!
    Pow! Right in the kisser!
    Pow! Right in the kisser!
    — Family Guy

  4. This reminds me of a MAD TV skit. I don’t really like the show, but I was flipping around and found an episode where they were doing a Honeymooners bit. Ralph does the usual “One of these days, Alice” stuff, but this time Alice calls him out on it. He takes a swing, misses, and then Alice FUCKS HIM UP. It’s awesome.

  5. holy shit, nice find gavok.

  6. And yet despite all of this, you still haven’t reviewed the Undertaker comics.

  7. I’ve been meaning to cover the Chaos wrestling comics for years, but for some reason I always forget they exist.

  8. @Psychoblue:

    Why do you hate Gavok so that you’d want to hurt him like that. I’ve read those comics. Bad bad bad bad. I mean not Ultimate Warrior comic bad, because nothing is that bad. But bad…

  9. Chaos also did a Stone Cold Steven Austin comic. I’m not really sure just what kind of adventures someone like that could have outside of the scripted confines of the WWF.

  10. […] character Captain Lou Albano has passed away. Yes, Capt. Lou once appeared with Ralph Kramden in a wrestling-themed issue of The Honeymooners, which sounds crazy, but hey, that was the Captain. Rest in peace, Capt. […]