Reviews Of Old Comics: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! #71
My wife loves this series, if for no reason than her memories of reading it at her Granmother’s as a child. For that reason, whenever we go on shopping trips for comics, she looks for copies.
In the first story, a bird watcher in rural Scotland meets an old man walking the hills on a long trek to catch a train. He loses sight of him and arriving at the train station, discovers that the train the old man was trying to catch hasn’t run in 35 years. Asking around he learns that an old man matching that description died in 1914 under an avalanche while hiking to catch a train.
In the second story, a young maid is led by a dream of an old man to discover a key to a room her cruel mistress keeps locked. Asking around, the man’s description matches her mistress’s late husband who died and was buried in Europe. In the room, she sees a vision of the old man sleeping and her mistress coming in to suffocate him with a pillow. When her mistress finds her and possibly attempts to do the same to her, the maid runs and alerts the authorities who get her to confess to the murder and keeping the room locked because her husband haunted it.
In the next story, a British air raid warden rowing across the Thames consistently sees the ghost of one of Henry VIII’s wives being rowed to her beheading, protesting her innocence. At the tower, he hurries to his rooftop observation post, dreading the feeling the ghostly presence of the tower’s own spirit. When he goes to alert of a nearby fire from German bombs, he sees the wedge move from the door, locking him on the roof. A nearby explosion seems to open the door and the warden sees the wedge move itself back into place, and he goes downstairs to see the office destroyed by that last explosion and credits the saving of his life to the ghostly force that haunts the tower.
In the final story, set in 1770 England, two burglars are caught in the act, but escape from the coach and flee into the ruins of a monastery. There, they see a phantom monk with no face, that one of the burglars sees develop into his own face. He runs off and is caught. He tells his guard of the monk, and is informed of the legend of the monk who was accused of witchcraft for predicting a nobleman’s death and died imprisoned. Now, whomever sees their face under the monk’s hood will die within days. The burglar is given the news that he is to be hung at dawn.
Any one of these stories would have made for a fine story, but each is so abbreviated that they make the stories simple to the point of dumbing them down. Western’s habit of not giving creators credits means we have no idea as to the writer of any of these stories, and that’s just sad. The best stories are the second and the last. The third story, the cover story, is the weakest just because of its dependence on circumstance.
The artists are in order of appearance are Adolfo Buylla, Dan Spiegle, John Celardo, and Frank Bolle. My favorite artist of these four is Frank Bolle, who is one of the masters at framing a panel. The art finds itself limited by the technology of the time, especially concerning colors, but Bolle shows that even with those limitations, mood and lighting can be conveyed. Unfortunately, not everywhere else does the same hold true.
The real treat in this comic is the ads. There’s a half page ad for the Starstream limited series, one issue of which I’ve already reviewed. There’s also a Hostess ad featuring Iron Man, which makes for one of those weird anomalies where a character for another publisher shows up in a comic via the ads.
To the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t been reprinted, but it also is relatively affordable to buy, especially in the lesser grades. Don’t pay more than ten bucks for a copy, even in Near Mint condition.
FINAL RATING: 6.5 (out of a possible 10)
It’s a trap anthologies often fall into, with the bad stories dragging down the good ones. The brevity of the stories also drag the better stories down into not fully exploring their subject matter.