December 19, 2009

Celebrating 90 Years of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

ripToday, December 19th, 2009 marks the 90th Anniversary of the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not comic panel that is still being published! Now some may debate and say it’s the 91st birthday since the panel started a year earlier with a different title and slightly different intention (all sports facts). However a ton of Ripley fans feel December 19th is the true birthday, based on a fusion of when the original sports-panel started, and the change in title and content a little less then a year later. This makes it the 2nd longest published comic in the history of American newspaper strips, believe it or not (yeah, couldn’t avoid that joke. The first longest running strip goes to The Katzenjammer Kids, since 1897).  It is amazing to think that it has brand-new panels being published daily ’till this very day (not to mention the course of history to happen over its 90-plus years in print, it’s all very deep). The panel has been a huge favorite of mine, as well as thousands of readers over the years, so I’m incredibly pumped it’s still going strong. Without this panel I never would have gained such knowledge as the fact that there was a bear named Votek who fought in the Polish army in WWII, or that a man named Paul Brant in 1994 purchased 2 new trucks entirely with coins he saved! The panel is an endless depot of knowledge that makes you smile and comes in use for cooler-talk and conversation starters (although take  note: you probably don’t want to try and pick up a date at the bar with facts about shrunken heads. That will make you sound like a creeper. Not even Ripleys can save you then).

ripstripCreated by Robert LeRoy Ripley for the New York Globe in 1919 (he was working on a Sports-fact comic panel for them, Champs and Chumps, in the prior year of good old 1918 but decided to change it up to bizarre facts know as Believe It Or Not ), the panel became an unstoppable juggernaut of swankness, spawning a radio show, TV show, book series, museum chain, comic books, an aquarium, even a pinball game (not to mention collected books of the panel being printed and reprinted on numerous occasions).

ripcomAt the peak of its popularity, Believe It Or Not had over 80 million readers and was receiving around 2 million fan letters a month! In World War 2, aside from Superman comics, collections of the panel were the other most common comic carried by numerous soldiers.

Ripley wrote and illustrated the strip by himself for a handful of years. Then in 1923, Ripley hired Norbert Pearlroth to be his personal researcher, which Pearlroth gladly did as his job for the next 52 years, sitting everyday in New York’s public library, digging up interesting and weird facts (other researchers have included Lester Byck and Don Wimmer). Over the years an army of artists have illustrated the panel, which include Paul Frehm (who was the main illustrator from 1949-1978), his brother Walter Frehm (who was main illustrator from 1978-1989), Joe Campbell, Art Sloggatt, Clem Gretter, Stan Randall, Carl Dorese and Bob Clarke (Clarke would move on and create parody panels of  Believe It Or Not for Mad Magazine).

A fun fact (which is fitting being the panel is about fun-facts) is Charles Schulz, of Peanuts fame, had his first artwork published in Believe It Or Not; he drew and sent in a picture of his dog Spike with the believe it or not caption of  “A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks and razor blades is owned by C.F. Schulz, St. Paul Minn.,” which Ripley published in the panel.

Today a handful of newspapers and dozens of internet comic strip sites still carry and publish the brand-new daily strips. If you have never read the panel, there is no better time to get in and read this ever-lasting piece of Americana.

Much congratulations and love on your 90th (or 91st for the argumentative) birthday Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.


Drew McCabe



  1. Eli

    I loved all things Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! when I was a kid. I’ve been to the museum in St. Augustine, FL, and it’s awesome. It seems to fit in a place like St. Augustine. Standing next to Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in the world on record, until recently I think, was too cool. I had no idea this has all been going on as a comic strip for so long. It’s fitting I guess that in his description on their website, he’s first described as a cartoonist.

    Hopefully it’ll continue on for another 90 years. I mean, who doesn’t need to know about a Vietnamese man who’s been sleeping next to his dead wife’s body for the past 5 years.

  2. Nice write-up Drew!

    I had no clue this comic strip even existed. Where can I find examples online?

  3. I don’t believe it…or not!

  4. Billy

    Holy crap, I never knew that’s where it all started! Good write-up.

  5. Drew McCabe

    It’s pretty amazing its been around so long. United Feature Syndicate (who owns a majority of comic strips out there) always posts dailies online of all their titles in print, here is link right to their Ripley page:'s%20Believe%20It%20or%20Not%20Dailies

  6. […] or another. The comic would more realistic artwork (reminding me personally of the artwork from the Ripley’s Believe It or Not panels) with narration boxes to tell its tale. Sure it isn’t men fighting giants but the real […]

  7. […] who collects comic art. These gorgeous, full color works of art are mostly collected from Hana …Celebrating 90 Years of Ripley's Believe It Or Not!Usurping your inner geek … This makes it the 2nd longest published comic in the history of […]

  8. […] Also if you like Heathcliff, you may want to check out Ferd’nand or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. […]

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