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WWRMD? (What Would Ralph Malph Do?) – Happy Days #3

April 16, 2011


There are times when I’m pleasantly surprised by a comic discovery. Learning that there was a Happy Days comic book was just such a moment. I can’t remember the show during it’s original run all that clearly — it started before I was born and ended around the time I was in the first grade — but I do remember it’s spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi, mainly because there was a commercial for it on the old dubbed VHS tape I had of the Christopher Reeve Superman. It went something like this:

I liked the Happy Days. It was/is sort of like Neil Gaiman in this regard — nobody dislikes Gaiman, and nobody dislikes Happy Days. Its name was “Happy Days” for Chrissakes. Its fuzzy, affectionate look at a bygone time, whose remembered felicity — if we take away the nostalgia — likely never truly existed, is sweet without being overly saccharine. And it gave us the Fonz, a man whose every word seemed to add to the American lingo. Who among us hasn’t tried to kickstart a stubborn appliance with a Fonzarelli-like smack?

Can the comic live up to all that without devolving into an Archie rip-off?

Not really, but I thank the folks behind it for trying. Let’s have a look at this one.

The first story, “Male Fraud,” features art from Bill Williams (ditto with the other two stories presented) and has Fonz-lite Chachi concocting a scheme to feast off his smooth cousin’s romantic scraps:

It doesn’t take long for Fonzie to pick up that something weird is going on:

He’s a gamer, and he valiantly goes out on a number of the dates (while Chachi secretly takes out those gals that get left behind), but eventually even the inexhaustible machismo of the Fonz is spent. One of the disappointed scam-ees gives him a vital clue as to the source of his troubles:

With a little help from red-headed pal Richie Cunningham, Fonz gets to the bottom of this chicanery and puts an end to it as only a Fonz can:

Arthur Fonzarelli is also (surprise!) the star of the next story, “Framed!” Things start going missing (including Mrs. Cunningham’s “Mother of the Year” trophy) from various people’s houses in Riverd-, I mean Milwaukee, and a leather jacket-clad thief is seen fleeing the scene in each instance. When some tools go missing at Fonzie’s mechanic job, he gets the blame and an obvious clue as to the real culprit:

Yeah. “Dick Fixx” sounds like a perfectly nice boy.

Richie once again comes to his pal’s assistance, and, when Fixx tries to to pick up a waitress with one of the stolen items, he springs into action and wraps up the case all nice and neat:

The final bit is a Ralph Malph special. While on a date Ralph gets a random compliment that really sticks in his head:

He takes the Bogie “likeness” thing bit too far and starts dressing like him and putting on airs, including ditching Potsie’s band:

After thoroughly alienating all his friends, he finally comes to his senses when he gets a dismissive reply to a letter he sent his idol — though the vicious cycle seems to begin anew at the conclusion:

The Archie comparisons are hard to avoid with the style of this thing, though that isn’t really too harsh a criticism. As the cliche goes, this “is what it is.” It’s teenage hijinx comedy. Nothing more, nothing less. I can’t really say that that’s ever been my cup of tea, but at least there’s no offensive stupidity to any of the shorts featured here. And the only comment I can offer on the art is that the Fonz looks less like Henry Winkler in a leather jacket than he does Tim Allen during his Home Improvement days. Not a complaint, just an observation.

Like I said before, the mere fact that this comic exists is good enough for me. Anything else is just gravy. Ayyyy.

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