Impossible - But True / Roy Raymond TV Detective
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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Jack Schiff.
Roy Raymond was host of a TV show called Impossible - But True. It presented a series a strange people and feats, all of which initially seemed impossible, or at least, highly unlikely. Roy and his secretary Karen were always auditioning acts for the show. Many of these acts were fraudulent, created by people who wanted to be on TV and who were faking some seemingly impossible feat. Other fake acts were created by criminals as part of some crime scheme. Roy Raymond did much detective work to track down the truth behind these acts and their amazing claims. Such detective work was the main subject of this comic book series.
When this series premiered it was known as Impossible - But True. Late in its run the name was changed to Roy Raymond TV Detective.
A very popular real life comic strip of the period was titled Believe It Or Not. It had a subject matter largely similar to the fictitious Impossible - But True. Believe It Or Not lead to many spin-offs, including TV shows, and a museum in New York City.
The atmosphere in Impossible - But True sometimes recalls that of the detective comic book Big Town. Both have heroes in the New York media, who are always dressed well in suits. Both are dignified, intelligent and energetic. Both solve puzzles that come their way through their media work. Both live in a realistically depicted New York City environment, sophisticated and dynamic. Neither hero wears a costume or has a secret identity; the tales have little in common with such costumed crime fighters as Batman.
Roy Raymond's Rival (1953). A TV rival of Roy's creates a show that imitates Impossible - But True. Some of the best episodes of this comic book series involve variations on its basic paradigm. Here there are two shows who are auditioning and airing "impossible" acts. The complex interplay of their schedules of trying out contestants, investigating their stories and airing the final results makes for beautiful, complex patterns of plot. It is as if the authors were creating riffs on their basic material.
This tale also has a well constructed, if somewhat easily guessed mystery plot. Such mystery tales were frequent in Impossible - But True. This show also has some of the greatest detail about the commercial background of Roy's TV show. We meet its sponsor, for instance, the owner of the Jelko Motor Boat Company.
The heavy iron balls being juggled are all explicitly colored different bright colors, something mentioned right in the dialogue. This reminds us that comic books were among the first all-color media.
Ruben Moreira does an excellent job depicting the hero in the tuxedo he wears while hosting the show. 1950's comics typically depicted TV hosts wearing tuxedos - it was a standard visual clue to their profession. A later episode, "The Man Who Slept 200 Years" (#222, August 1955), shows Roy wearing an Ascot while on vacation. Such Ascots were restricted almost entirely to Society playboys and Hollywood stars; no one else would dare wear anything so high-toned.
Destination -- Mars! (1953). Roy winds up on Mars, where he tries to prove that he is really a Man from Earth on a TV series called Incredible - But True. Delicious, zany spoof of Impossible - But True. At the story's end, it is suggested that it all might be a dream. Impossible - But True was usually a completely realistic comic book series, with no science fiction or supernatural elements. A story like this is a complete change of pace, and is "permitted" in the series because it is a piece of humorous self-satire. Other realistic comics occasionally included similar what-if science fiction episodes. For example, reporter Steve Wilson day dreams about his 21st Century counterpart in "Theft of the Billion-Carat Diamond" (Big Town #45, May-June 1957), and the Shining Knight dreamed about visiting the future in "The Sky-High Hijackers" (Adventure #127, April 1948).
The tale explicitly points out that this story is a complete role reversal of the series' usual approach. Usually Roy is the TV host, investigating his contestants. Here, Roy is a contestant on a Martian TV show Incredible - But True, being investigated by its Martian host. Roy clearly does not enjoy being in this position, and his discomfort adds to the sense of comic surrealism.
Ruben Moreira includes a fine portrait of a Martian city (p3).
The Magic Tablecloth (1956). Writer: Jack Miller. An elderly couple tries to get on the show by faking a tablecloth that magically provides food.
The Creature from the Sorcerer's Stone (#279, May 1960). A magical stone unleashes a large, fantastic creature. This minor tale breaks the paradigm of previous stories: it deals with a genuinely fantastic device, not a fake that Roy needs to expose. Roy does have to solve a small mystery involving the stone, however. Like many Silver Age tales, this has a genuine plot, in this case, a mystery.
Moreira has an excellent portrait of a young cop (p4), wearing a very formal uniform. His officer's cap rises straight up, then extends out in the back, while rising straight up in front, like those of some military officers. He also does a decent job with the creature, who looks more cuddly than frightening, in the non-scary tradition of Silver Age "monster" tales. The way the lower edges of the creature's body fade away into ghostliness is nicely done.