The brainchild of puppeteer/producer Paul Fusco and veteran television writer Tom Patchett, ALF is the story of Gordon Shumway, a hapless Alien Life Form note who crash lands in the backyard of the Tanner family (no, not them) after his home planet, Melmac, explodes. The original series lasted from September, 1986 to March, 1990 on NBC, with a total of 102 episodes in four seasons, plus a movie released on February 17, 1996, to wrap up the series. The show was produced by Alien Productions, the production company of Patchett and Fusco (in syndication the show was distributed by Lorimar-Telepictures, then Warner Bros. after they acquired L-T in 1989).
As is typical of the Alien Among Us plot, ALF has to deal with the particular customs of living on Earth. In a subversion, however, he is not depicted as particularly advanced or powerful. He's a little freaky teddy-bear monster, who is lazy, gluttonous, and tries to eat the family cat (cats were his home world's equivalent to chickens). He hides out in the attic, and makes no attempts to ever leave the housenote , perfectly content to freeload off the family patriarch, Willie, and tease the Nosy Neighbor Raquel Ochmonek.
The show unexpectedly ended on a season cliff hanger, with ALF being taken off to an undisclosed location by government agents. A later Made-for-TV Movie would reveal the result and provide closure for the series. Despite being relatively formulaic, the show was original in many regards, and had a loyal following.
While viewers saw a delightful, lighthearted sitcom, the show is noted for having been very grueling for the cast, and a hotbed of tension and discomfort when the cameras were off. The technical demands of the ALF puppet required a myriad of trapdoors on set, which had to be reset many times during even a single scene. This led to the show being shot in a very halting, piecemeal fashion, with a single 30-minute episode sometimes taking 20-25 hours of studio time to complete. The effects on the cast were devastating; for example, Andrea Elson (Lynn) suffered from depression and bulimia during the series, while Max Wright (Willie), both physically exhausted and resentful of playing straight man to a puppet, reportedly left the studio immediately after the final shot of the series finale, without even saying goodbye to fellow cast members.
An Animated Adaptation co-produced by DiC Entertainment and Saban Entertainment alongside Alien Productions was broadcast from September, 1987 to January, 1989, also on NBC. It depicted Gordon's life on Melmac before he came to earth. It introduced Gordon's family members and friends, such as little sister Augie and girlfriend Rhondanote (both voiced by Paulina Gillis). A villain threatening Melmac was also introduced to add some tension. He was called Larson Petty (a pun on petty larceny). The show had its own Spin-Off, ALF Tales, which had the characters as Animated Actors performing modernized versions of classic stories.
There was also a comic book adaptation from Marvel Comics (for most of the comic's run, it went under their "Star Comics" banner) which tended to play down the sitcom aspects in favor of a lot of parody and a bigger sci-fi slant, giving ALF strange technological toys which would occasionally be useful but most often wreak havoc in unforeseen ways. In many ways, it seemed more inspired by the Animated Adaptation than the original sitcom, and would in fact often include stories set on Melmac, featuring many of the same characters as in the cartoon (most prominently the Shumway family). These stories usually included a framing story of ALF telling the Tanners of life on his home planet — Willie and Kate, for some unexplained reason, found these flashbacks incredibly tedious, while Lynn was fairly indifferent to them. Brian initially loved them, but towards the end of the series started to get tired of them.
ALF was voiced and performed by Fusco. Recently, the character has been resurrected in various capacities; in 2004, a late-night talk show format (called "ALF's Hit Talk Show"; it only lasted seven episodes) and in commercials during the late-1990s, most notably one for the long-distance service "10-10-220". There's also a feature film in the works.
On August 1st, 2018 Warner Bros Television announced they were developing a reboot of the series. The reboot was aborted in November 2018 as Warner Bros. stated they could not find any network who would buy the program.
The series provides examples of:
- Dead Guy on Display: Cosmetic magnate Terry Faith herself is on display in a museum dedicated to her (located at a hotel resort dedicated to her, which the Tanners end up going on vacation to as a reward for selling a ton of Terry Faith cosmetics in the first season episode, Keepin' The Faith).
- 555: The Tanners' phone number is revealed to be one of these, in "For Your Eyes Only".
- The '80s
- '80s Hair: Lynn
- ALF himself counts, especially on the occasions when he styles it.
- An Aesop: In "Pennsylvania 6-5000," about nuclear disarmament.
- In "Hooked on a Feeling," ALF becomes addicted to cotton.
- In "Stayin' Alive," ALF launches a one man letter writing campaign against a company called SENDRAX, protesting its production of CFCs.
- Aliens Speaking English: They even have English names.
- Amnesia Episode: The very first season had an interesting variant of it, in form of a two-parter Clip Show.
- Alien Lunch: One episode shows that Melmacians ate a dish called "slime balls", which came in such flavours as "slug" and "black cherry". ALF had a bag of these in his ship, which contained a Melmacian cockroach which soon mutates into a Big Creepy-Crawlie thanks to bug spray.
- Amusing Alien: ALF himself. Full stop. He was usually the comedy bit in most jokes, as the show itself was pretty much designed around him.
- Because I Said So: ALF wants to be the leader of the newly formed neighbourhood watch and Willie keeps refusing. Leads to this exchange:ALF: Why not? Give me a reason.
Willie: Because you don't put responsibility in irresponsible hands.
ALF: That's not a reason! That's a platitude!
Willie: Then because I said so!
ALF: And that's dogma! <beat> Actually, that's worse than dogma. That's dog manure.
- Big Eater: All Melmacians, with a side order of Extreme Omnivore. They have 8 stomachs, twice as much as cows. However, "Hungry Like the Wolf" reveals that it actually is possible for Melmacians to suffer and die from overeating.
- A Birthday, Not a Break: Melmac blew up on ALF's 228th birthday.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Melmacians have ten major organs, eight of which are stomachs. (They get denser instead of fatter.) They have green blood. And their hearts are inside their heads (as evidenced by ALF saying "I cross my heart" then making the gesture over his ear). God only knows where his brain might be.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: ALF's list of what to bring for an extended camp-out in the back yard included chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate pudding and... acne pads.
- Casting Gag/Celebrity Paradox: "Going Out of My Head Over You" features Bill Daily of The Bob Newhart Show playing a therapist friend of Willie's. Jack Riley makes a cameo as a patient not unlike Elliot Carlin. note
- Catchphrase: A few, includingALF: "Haaa! I kill me." and "No problem!"Willie: (generally to ALF) "What you did was wrong!"
- Christmas Episode: Two, one zany and light-hearted one in the first season, a considerably darker and somber one later on.
- Clear My Name: In "Looking for Lucky".
- Comic-Book Adaptation: A long-running one, in fact.
- The Couch
- Crossover: ALF (and Fusco, of course) appeared on The Hollywood Squares several times, even hosting a game, as well as Gilligan's Island.
- Deadpan Snarker: Guess who?
- Also Willie, Kate, and Jake.
- Brian gets a shot or two of this now and then, often trading comedian and straight man roles with ALF himself, and the two traded friendly barbs now and then.
- Also Willie, Kate, and Jake.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Between (Western) humans and Melmacians, especially regarding the edibility of cats. Lampshaded in "Looking for Lucky". Mostly Played for Laughs.
- Didn't Think This Through: Subverted in "Keepin' the Faith". ALF gets a job selling cosmetics, and buys $4,000 worth, thinking of how much money he will make selling them. In most works, this would result in An Aesop about counting your chicks before they hatch; however, with some help from Kate and Willie, ALF's idea goes through exactly as planned.
- The Dog Is an Alien: ALF does this from time to time, with varying degrees of success. For instance, on one occasion, he's seen by a hobo who thinks he's a kangaroo... and promptly leaps off the train they were riding.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": For some reason, ALF didn't seem to like the Tanners or other Earthlings call him by his real name of Gordon Shumway and in fact preferred that they call him "ALF".
- Doomed Hometown: Melmac.
- Downer Ending: The aforementioned cliff-hanger was the end of the regular series. Those not aware of the TV Movie were basically left with the notion he had been captured, interrogated, dissected, and killed, probably in that order. It's even on a list of the worst Downer Endings compiled by a CRACKED website contributor.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The actual ending if you include the TV Movie, Project: ALF.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first few episodes of season one. ALF had a much deeper, gruff-sounding voice and was a bit more competent and less of Jerkass. Lynn was slightly more ditzy and had braces. It was somewhat rare to see ALF and Brian separated; with a few exceptions, Kate was more antagonistic towards ALF sometimes for no good reason rather than just simply being strict, Willie was less bumbling and seemed to not be as big of a Butt-Monkey, and the humor and jokes seemed more somber and slow-paced, rather than the Denser and Wackier show into which it evolved. ALF was also occasionally depicted as a beer drinker before this was dropped for being unsuitable behavior for a children's hero. note
- Every Episode Ending: ALF laughing at the end of the closing credits.
- Executive Meddling: In-Universe in an episode of the Animated Adaptation; Gordon has written a movie script for a drama called Yo, Ma and it's bought... but the powers that be use it as the basis for the latest Gutsquisher action extravaganza.
- Exposed Extraterrestrials: ALF is smart enough to crack wise with the Tanners, but can't be bothered to put on a pair of pants.
- Fake-Hair Drama: Willie's mother wore a wig but never told him so he would not think less of her.
- For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: He turned a party into a costume party, and invited himself. He even put a zipper on himself to make his appearance look more like a costume.
- Fun with Acronyms: ALF (Alien Life (or Laugh) Form)
- This leads to a bit of Fridge Logic in Real Life: Fusco's puppet is named ALF. He insisted on it being addressed like any other actor. That means the puppet ALF portrayed the biological alien character Gordon Shumway, who was nicknamed ALF by another character. This makes ALF The Danza.
- Incidentally: Tommi Piper, the German voice actor of ALF, also dubbed Tony Danza most of the time.
- This leads to a bit of Fridge Logic in Real Life: Fusco's puppet is named ALF. He insisted on it being addressed like any other actor. That means the puppet ALF portrayed the biological alien character Gordon Shumway, who was nicknamed ALF by another character. This makes ALF The Danza.
- Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: In one episode, ALF manages to get himself into a situation wherein he has to (vocally) play the role of a hostage-taker as well as a whole bunch of hostages. This ends up being completely justified as we learn in one episode that he can do absolutely flawless imitations of the voices of others (he does so with Brian, Willie, and Kate), which would make ALF an absolutely terrifying force to be reckoned with if he ever put his mind and vocal talents to it.
- Humanoid Aliens: The aliens from Melmac look like a cross between dogs and aardvarks, and they also have a bit of Bizarre Alien Biology. But they still had a mostly human culture. And they could build spaceships, which could take them all the way to Earth.
- I Choose to Stay: One episode had ALF's friends show up in their ship to pick him up. ALF decides to stay with the Tanners.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a song title which is somehow related to the plot.
- I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: In "Promises", when ALF accidentally tells Kate and Willie about Lynn's continued relationship with Eddie.
- Imagine Spot: Happens in one episode when ALF realizes that he won't be able to stay with the Tanners once everyone gets older, and considers what his options might be. He does this five times: Staying with Brian (who unwittingly marries into a mafia family, ending with them calling a hit on ALF), Lynn (who marries a mime who doesn't provide much money and gives her imaginary presents), Eric (who grows up to be a kiddie show host with ALF as his Butt-Monkey sidekick) or Willie and Kate (who become increasingly senile and decrepit, forcing ALF to spend all his time caring for them and putting out kitchen fires), or live on his own (naturally, he ends up in a lab and treated as an animal).
- Indy Ploy: When ALF faces a giant cockroach, he's cornered in the bathroom and tries spraying it with the perfume Willie got Kate on her last birthday. This kills it, much to Willie's surprise. ALF tries to claim that it was a deliberate bit of complex planning before admitting, "I lucked out."
- Interspecies Romance: One-sided and extremely mild; a few later episodes imply that ALF has something of a crush on Lynn, though nothing ever comes of it and she seems to be oblivious to it.
- It's a Wonderful Plot: Subverted in "Stairway to Heaven". ALF finds that he and the Tanners would be relatively better off had he never crashed, but he can't bring himself to go through with forgetting about them.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: ALF. Particularly evident with the lengths he'll go through to help and/or protect the Tanners Willie and Brian in particular when he feels the need. This itself often backfires, but the Tanners are unable to deny that, for all that he often annoys the hell out of them due to the Culture Clash which never truly fades for ALF, his heart is (usually) in the right place.
- Lame Comeback: In "Something's Wrong With Me":Dorothy: Thanks a lot, you hiccuping hairball from Hell!
ALF: Yeah? Well... you're a wienie!
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: In "For Your Eyes Only", ALF tells Kate and Willie about his plans for their anniversary, but states that they're on their own when it comes to the bedroom, wink wink, nudge nudge.
- Large Ham: Willie frequently became one whenever ALF got him angry enough. "An ACCIDENT? YOU ALMOST KILLED ME, AND YOU SAY IT WAS AN ACCIDENT?!?"
- Last of His Kind: ALF due to the explosion of Melmac.
- However, there are other survivors, including his girlfriend "Rhonda".
- In fact, it's implied that there may have been a bunch of Melmacians who survived since they managed to find a new planet to start over with.
- Laugh Track: Considering how tedious production was, a live studio audience was out of the question.
- Left Hanging: Its cancellation made the last episode aired an unresolved cliffhanger, with ALF surrounded by government agents facing certain vivisection.
- Luckily the TV Movie solved this by having him rescued and granted citizenship.
- Misplaced Retribution: A common scenario on the show was ALF doing something bad and then Willie had to either cover it up or take the blame for him (because the Tanners were hiding ALF from the authorities). This would end up with Willie getting in trouble or suffering embarrassment that he didn't deserve. The season one episode "Pennsylvania 6-5000" is the most notable example where Willie actually gets arrested because ALF used his shortwave radio to contact the President with a message that was taken out of context.
- Mundane Object Amazement: First episode, ALF watches a toilet flush."Interesting concept!"
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: At a party for ALF, ALF is grateful to all of his friends — and Dorothy.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In one episode, ALF finds a small alien larva alive in his stuff, and Kate sprays it with bug spray. This causes it to grow large enough to wear a sweater rather than kill it. What does Willie do? He uses up the rest of the entire can on the bug, with predictable results. Luckily, perfume has the desired effect on it. ALF even tries to pretend he did that on purpose.
- Nosy Neighbor: Raquel Ochmonek, who also serves as a Drop-In Character.
- A Nuclear Error: A nuclear war would not blow up a planet. Depending on scale, it could, however, turn said planet into a wasteland.
- ALF intimates that atomic weapons destroyed Melmac, but did not mention whether or not this was the result of nuclear war. Given the largely peaceful state of Melmac (assuming the cartoon is canon to the live action series), it's left ambiguous as to what Melmac was facing that required nuclear weapons at all.
- A Planet Named Zok: Downplayed with Melmac, which is actually the name of an old brand of plastic dishware.
- Ponzi: ALF became a salesperson for Terry Faith cosmetics. The sales method is similar to Multi Level Marketing methods, where ALF needs to make a large upfront purchase and make sales either by building a downline, hosting a "facial party", or hopefully selling to customers. In this case, ALF was lucky to make back Willie's "investment", with a small profit and a few travel rewards.
- Poor Communication Kills: In the Season 1 episode "Pennsylvania 6-5000" ALF uses Willie's short-wave radio to contact the American President about the dangers of nuclear bombs after what happened to his own planet. Unfortunately, the message is taken out of context and it is misinterpreted as a threat. This leads to Willie actually getting arrested by the FBI for terrorism. Willie isn't killed (because it's a family sitcom) but he does express fear of this happening to himself at one point.
- Properly Paranoid: In "Hide Away", upon learning that a house guest was in the witness protection program, ALF was worried that gangsters would attack the house. Turns out, he was right as he caught a member from the mob posing as an FBI agent.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Anne Schedeen's Real Life pregnancy was written into the show, leading to Eric.
- Rear Window Witness: In one episode, ALF (house-bound because he's an alien) thinks he witnesses a neighbour commit murder.
- "Risky Business" Dance: In "Looking for Lucky".
- Soap Within a Show: An episode has ALF writing for a soap opera, with a lot of the storylines taken from the Tanners' day-to-day life, but soapified. Then the family asks him to stop using them for material, and his scripts get blander ... so the executives soapify them further. Cue the family suspecting that the outrageous stuff now in the soap really happened.
- Subverted Catch-Phrase: In one episode, where Willie tries to talk to a bully's father, showing his family the value of nonviolence, he ends up decking the guy instead. Talking to his family afterward, Willie changes up his typical Catchphrase:Willie: "What I did was wrong!"
- Take That!: In "Pennsylvania 6-5000", to Ronald Reagan, who is portrayed as a bit of a buffoon.
- In "Prime Time," one is delivered to The Cosby Show, which is portrayed as dull and unengaging. ("Great episode last week, when Theo lost his comb. I never, ever thought he'd find it.")
- The Television Talks Back: A regular occurrence on the Animated Adaptation. People even reach through the screen to grab the Shumways from time to time.
- They'd Cut You Up: As much of a jerk as ALF regularly is, the first episode establishes, in disturbing detail, exactly how bad ALF's fate would be if the relevant government agents actually found him.
- Time Skip: In "Somewhere Over the Rerun" and "Promises".
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Willie and Kate Tanner. Apparently, the kids more closely resemble the mother.
- By the standards of a middle-aged man, Willie isn't really "ugly"; he is, however, bespectacled and nerdy in comparison to his more conventionally-attractive (again, by middle-age standards) wife.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Lynn Tanner. See previous entry.
- Unexpectedly Dark Episode: In the finale, the title alien is captured and taken away by the Alien Task Force. Before this, the series was a lighthearted comedy. There was a TV movie to finish the story (which was still much darker than the main series), but viewers who didn't see it were left with the impression that ALF was going to be tortured and killed.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: In Baby, You Can Drive My Car, Alf claims that gold is cheap and inexpensive on Melmac, and instead claims that valuable substances include foam, gravel wax and lint. In a later episode, he salvages the platinum plumbing in order to help with financial issues that the Tanner family have (as platinum is more common than iron on Melmac).
The comic book provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Rhonda, at least occasionally.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Brian's a redhead in the comic, taking after his mother.
- All Just a Dream: These types of stories grew increasingly common as the comic went on, sometimes paired with Or Was It a Dream??
- Alternate Continuity: The comic seemed to follow the TV show purely in a Broad Strokes way; it never referenced events from the TV show — other than changes to the status quo such as Kate's pregnancy, Eric's birth and Lucky's death — and focused more on making its own continuity. The cliffhanger finale from the TV show was completely ignored, in favor of its own, rather grander and more planned-out, finale.
- Animal Talk: Occasionally used, since ALF is presented as Speaking Fluent Animal, though it's made clear that every species of animal has its own language, and ALF doesn't know them all (he can't talk to dogs, or cats, for instance). At one point, he fails to communicate with an angry bear, because while he speaks the bear language, that particular bear speaks a dialect he doesn't understand.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: To the point where most of the animals that appear in the comic (including Lucky) show human-like intelligence and can classify as Nearly Normal Animals.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Unrestrained by a TV budget, the comic took this Up to Eleven, revealing that Melmacians also become temporarily invisible if eating a sponge, exhale helium (making bubble-gum blowing a risky thing to get carried away with), their noses begin glowing with extremely bright lights if they get very excited, and every 75 years they go through a "shed cycle" wherein all their fur falls off and they're completely bald for eight hours before re-growing their fur through performing the "primal sneeze ceremony."
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: ALF would occasionally directly address the reader or otherwise acknowledge he was in a comic, such as commenting how many pages there was left of a story, urging the reader to turn the page or mention back issues. Other Melmacians would do the same (primarily in the flashback sequences), but the humans were generally ignorant of the fourth wall. There were a couple of exceptions, though — the most consistent example was Brian, who especially in the later issues would join in on the Fourth Wall Observing.
- Cats Are Mean: Though in the case of Melmacians they have a definite reason to be hostile. Lucky, as opposed to the TV show, was a Nearly Normal Animal who could often be downright antagonistic — though he and ALF did have an Enemy Mine episode or two.
- Character Development: Brian, in stark contrast with his TV series counterpart, went through some noticeable development over the course of the series. He went from Cheerful Child and ALF's biggest fan, to a slightly more cynical Deadpan Snarker who traded good-natured insults with ALF.
- Continuity Porn: The comic series approached this. If any of ALF's strange abilities, habits or ailments, or any of the various things he brought from Melmac in his spaceship, were given any more than the merest passing of mentions, you could bet that they would be brought up again in a later issue. Could double as Chekhov's Gun, as the majority of them would either be or set off important plot points in the later stories.
- Crossover: The comic managed to take part in 1988's Marvel Comics Crisis Crossover, the Evolutionary War. The High Evolutionary warned ALF to stay out of his plans and not mess with human development. In the last issue, the very last fourth-wall-breaking story, ALF got into an argument with Tom DeFalco about whether this crossover meant he was officially part of the Marvel Universe or not.
- Expy: The comics were full of them, with Melmac flashback stories often featuring Melmac versions of popular movie- TV- or comic book characters. Perhaps most notable were The Uncanned X-Melmen, Melmac's most popular superhero team, who appeared three times during the run of the comic and were even revealed having survived the destruction of Melmac.
- Fiery Redhead: Kate had a much more explosive temper in the comic than in the TV show, to the point where she was the one Tanner family member who could intimidate ALF. It was often referred to as her "Irish temper."
- She seemed to have inherited her temper from Dorothy, who was even worse.
- Finale Movie: After the series ended on a cliffhanger, a movie was made to finally wrap things up.
- Flight: By far the most commonly-seen of ALF's technological gadgets from Melmac was his anti-gravity belt, which enabled him to fly — though he used it sparingly, because it ran on Melmacian batteries, which were hard to come by.
- Food-Based Superpowers: Appeared in a parody of X-Men. Magneto became Magmeato, who could attract and levitate meat, while Hagen-Dazzler (based on Dazzler) could create massive blocks of ice cream. Unfortunately, when Hagen-Dazzler encases Magmeato in a giant block of Neapolitan, he uses his powers to instantly free himself.
- Graceful Loser: A trait found in most Melmacians, as pointed out and shown several times. Even when ALF's long-time girlfriend Rhonda ends up marrying Skip, there is no hard feelings from ALF's side — he remains on the best of terms with them both and even performs the marriage ceremony.
- Grand Finale: Unlike the TV show creators, the comic creators knew that the comic was going to be cancelled with issue #50, so the last eight issues feature storylines or hints/clues that lead up to the Grand Finale — one that had a lot in common with the last episode of the TV show — ALF is in danger of being discovered and exposed, and needs to leave the Earth — but featured its own twist on things, most notably a last episode wedding when ALF is revealed to be planning on marrying Rhonda. Ultimately, the finale is subverted. The wedding is in fact between Skip and Rhonda, and when ALF said he was going to "marry" Rhonda he meant that he was going to be the one to perform the ceremony. ALF does intend to leave the Tanners together with the newlyweds, but pulls off a last minute Batman Gambit that ends up discrediting the government agents that are after him, and continues to stay with the Tanners after all.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: There were two Melmacian inventions that would cause this: The most commonly-used was the Milk of Amnesia, a drink that permanently erased memories. The less-seen one was the Time Capsules, small pills that would not erase memories but suppress them temporarily.
- Mr. Fixit: ALF, as opposed to the TV show, is extremely tech-savvy and can fix or recreate a lot of hyper-complicated gadgets. He even managed to fix his spaceship (though without the proper power source he couldn't reach orbit with it). Occasionally overlaps with Bungling Inventor, as his machines tend to do more harm than good.
- Naked People Are Funny: Played with, occasionally, since ALF usually wears only his own fur (though on Melmac he, along with everyone else, is more often a Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal. Surprisingly, Lynn gets this trope a couple of times too — once with a Slippery Swimsuit-like incident (see the Wardrobe Malfunction trope below) and once in the final episode when she's surprised by ALF while taking a bath.
- Ocular Gushers: Brian, several times. Usually at the prospect of losing ALF.
- Omni Glot: ALF, shown to be able to speak a lot of languages, including those of animals (excluding cats). His most used language, apart from English, was in fact Klingonese, which was implied to be a sort of universal language — at least Melmacians all seemed to speak it, as did several other alien species.
- Parental Bonus: The comic was steeped in references and parodies that seemed more aimed at the older audience. Various Melmac-flashbacks featured Melmac-versions of such diverse things as X-Men, Conan the Barbarian, the Marx Brothers The Honeymooners, Humphrey Bogart, James Bond, Psycho and Citizen Kane.
- Pungeon Master: ALF, much more so than in the TV show. Just about everyone else in the comic were pretty pun-happy as well.
- Running Gag: In the comic, the Tanners' garage roof kept getting wrecked, usually thanks to ALF. A couple of times he got his spaceship to fly, but couldn't get enough power to go into space, and he'd invariably crash through the garage roof. Other times the roof would be wrecked thanks to some Melmacian device, or when Rhonda and Skip dropped by for a visit. One "what-if" story taking place thirty years in the future showed that Willie and Kate had installed an automatic door in the garage roof, which according to ALF "really paid off."
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Some of the Melmac-flashbacks ended up as this. Most notably was the story of ALF's cousin, Nancy Drool, which ended with Nancy having been caught by the villains and put in a Death Trap... and then the story ends, because, as ALF explains, that was the night Melmac exploded and everyone died anyway.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Used in one story with Eric, of all people — after he'd played with one of ALF's Melmacian devices, he temporarily became extremely fluent in both English and Klingonese. Of course, he was still a baby and had a baby's brain and comprehension level, so he basically used extremely complex words to express very simple ideas.(watching and laughing at Kate chasing ALF around the kitchen) "The irascible extra-terrestrial employs evasive maneuvers! However, mother's unflinching forbearance remunerates dividends... an irrevocable resolution seems imminent! Such jocular tomfoolery is exhilarating!"
- Symbol Swearing: Used occasionally, though for the most part the comic would go for a Curse Cut Short thing, with any bad language being cut off — usually by ALF, who would inform them that this was a kids' comic.
- Theme Naming: Anyone and anything on Melmac that could have the syllables "mel" and "mac" in them, would have.
- Three Shorts: A rare comic book example. Most of the issues would have three complete stories, and even followed the ABA format — two stories would be set in present day with ALF and the Tanners, while the third (usually the middle) story would be a flashback story set on Melmac.
- Toy Disguise: In the Christmas Special, ALF accidentally gets delivered to a hospital in a van full of toys he unwittingly climbed into while looking for gifts for the Tanner family. To avoid people suspecting that he is an alien, ALF holds perfectly still so that people will think he is a toy. When ALF is given to Tiffany, a little girl he finds out isn't going to live to see another Christmas, he keeps up the act when she calls him "Amanda" and plays tea party with him, but draws the line when she tries to put earrings on him.
- Unwanted Assistance: Rhonda to the Tanners in the comic. She stayed with them a few times, and would always do her best to help them out, but as she was even less accustomed to Earth than ALF was, her attempts at helping always led to disaster.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Happens to Lynn in one story, in a variant of the Slippery Swimsuit trope. ALF, in order to stop Willie and Kate from going down the girl's throat about her new bikini being too revealing, sews a new, stylish and more modest swimsuit for her out of the seat-covers from his spaceship. Crisis averted until Lynn and her classmates go to the seaside and it turns out that the Melmacian fabric can take fresh water without any problems, but dissolves completely in salt water.
- Whole Episode Flashback: About a third of the stories in the comic were these, set on Melmac and presented as ALF's stories told to the Tanners. These stories were either stories of ALF's own life, with the setting from the cartoon, or parodies of famous stories or historical events, starring an Expy of ALF (sometimes one of his ancestors).
- World of Pun: Melmac.