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Hominahominahomina… – The Honeymooners #7

April 20, 2011

In the same vein as the Happy Days post from several days ago, I’m tickled pink that this thing even existed. Originally a series of sketches on Jackie Gleason’s eponymous program, The Honeymooners may be some of the funniest television ever forged, and watching Ralph Kramden boil over is something that will never, ever get old. I screened a few episodes before writing this. I laughed out loud. Many, many times.

This comic series started in 1987, well (well) after the series ended, and roughly three decades after a short-lived comic that was contemporaneous with the show was published by DC. This more recent one came out at right around the time that I first became aware of the show (take that for what it’s worth) and only lasted for 12 of its intended 24 issue run. While I bought several of these Honeymooners latter-day issues recently, this particular book was the one that really grabbed my attention (though one featured a nifty Jack Davis-drawn wraparound cover of the Kramdens and Nortons at Coney Island). The addition of Captain Lou Albano to the mix was the sort of thing I couldn’t resist. And Ralph Kramden apparently cramming (Kramming?) himself into the lower half of Wonder Woman’s costume (star-spangled briefs and red boots) for a wrestling match was just too tempting.

Before taking a look at the story itself, let’s linger on that cover for a second more. Like the aforementioned Davis effort, it’s a wraparound — here’s the whole thing:

Takes a bit of inspiration from the classic Neal Adams Superman vs. Muhammad Ali cover, right? And like that one, there are even some “famous faces” in this crowd. See if you can pick some out — I’ll get you started: Archie, Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields, the white half of Spy vs. Spy, and Frankenstein. I’ve left a few on the table for your eagle eyes — enjoy.

“On the Ropes” (Script: Thomas Edward West & Norman Abramoff, Art: Win Mortimer & Vince Musacchia) begins when some neighborhood kids almost get run over playing stickball in the streets. Big-hearted Ralph and Ed decide to raise the money to spruce up a nearby piece vacant property into a suitable playing field. The only problem is where the money is going to come from — here’s where we cue the typical Ralph Kramden hare-brained scheme. And it is? Winning a thousand bucks for wrestling and beating the Turk, an hulking mountain of a man who had threatened Ralph at the matches the night before.

They turn for help to none other than Captain Lou Albano, a relative of one of the kids Ralph and Ed are trying to help out:

I realize some of you might not be all that familiar with the real-life Mr. Albano. If you want a well-written, in-depth look at who he is (or, sadly, was), I recommend reading this article over at Deadspin. To give you the short of it, he was a wrestler/manager who wore rubber bands in his beard and came to broad prominence in the 1980s because of his association with Cindi Lauper in the “Rock-n-Wrestling Connection.” You’ll find him playing the overbearing father in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video, four minutes that encapsulate a decade rather well, I must say:

All that led to wrestling hijinks like this:

And this:

Hey, he’s the perfect guy to train Ralphie-boy!

And school him he does, giving Ralph the chance to sweat like a big fat pig and utter one of his many catchphrases:

The night for the big fight finally comes, but the masked Kramden is still no match for his foe:

Luckily, Albano has hidden himself underneath the ring to give Ralph some pointers during the match, and, seeing that his pupil is getting the piss knocked out of him, pulls the ol’ switcheroo:

And:

Mission accomplished.

The money is won, and Ralph, Ed, Alice, Trixie, Albano and Albano’s kin all gather together for a celebratory meal that’s only lacking a “Baby, you’re the greatest!” to make it complete:

Seeing Ralph and Ed rendered in funny pages form makes for an odd dynamic, giving them a feel more like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble than ever. The original rip-off was the other way around, I know — that’s what gives this that weird feeling. But you can’t go wrong with Mortimer art, and the pairing of Kramden, Norton and Albano makes me think that there just might be a God, and, even better, that He might have a sense of humor.

Chalk this one up to the waves of nostalgia that wash over the American pop landscape on a regular basis. In the same way the climate was right in the late 80s to stage a Honeymooners comic, the time is apparently right here in the present day for seeing Hawaii Five-O getting a reboot.

I can’t wait for ten years from now when we get that Roseanne re-imagining we’re all craving.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2011 2:32 am

    Jiggs of Maggie & Jiggs, Gumby, a Don Martin character, Joe Palooka, Phil Silvers, and (I think) little Annie Fanny (from Playboy). Don’t see WC in there; perhaps you are confusing him with Jiggs?

    • April 24, 2011 2:54 am

      You’re right — he looked like W.C. to me at first glance (I suppose the Groucho likeness got me thinking along those lines). And there’s still a couple other faces in there I think. I’ll have to make a key for that cover someday.

  2. July 4, 2012 12:04 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Jared. There were a few other characters on the cover- Pee Wee Herman, Billy Batson, Bert & Harry Piels, Charlie Brown, Frankenstein’s Monster, a realistic Betty Boop and Russia’s then-leader Gorbachev. Had a lot of fun inking and art directing this book and working with Win Mortimer on layouts was a joy. For the past 20+ years I’ve worked in advertising and at consumer products divisions of Warner Bros. and Disney. I’ve only done a handful of comics in the years since The Honeymooners project ended, but I’ve got a 17 page story in IDW’s “Popeye” comic book issue #5, coming out this September. Thanks again for being so generous with your comments.

    • July 10, 2012 1:09 pm

      Thanks for stopping in — we’ll keep an eye out for that Popeye comic.

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