Title: Campfire Stories #1 – “An Evening With Ranger Bill,” a.k.a. “Ranger Bill Says ‘No Means No Or He’s Gonna FUCKING KILL YOU'”
Writer: Don Oriolo
Artist: Vincent Scarpelli
Get ready guys, because this introduction is gonna be a doozy. This comic has got to have the weirdest history of any individual comic I can think of.
It was supposedly published in 1992 by a company called “Global Comics,” yet seems to be the only title the company released besides an adaption of “Thirteen Something” which included early artwork by famed “Archie” artist Dan Parent. The next time I see Dan I need to ask him about all this.
Yet the reason I ever heard of this comic was a low budget, direct to video horror movie from the early 2000s called “Campfire Stories.” Made about a decade after the comic was released, the plot involved two teenage boys, a female hitchhiker, and the creepy Forest Ranger Bill. Ranger Bill tells them three stories:
- An escaped mental patient who found work as a school janitor, and then kills the group of boys who humiliate him
- Three bikers who rob an elderly Native American man and are turned into old people because of his stash of weed
- Two roommates who decide to pull a prank on their boyfriends that ends with one of the roommates possessed by her grandmother’s spirit
The movie ends with the three escaping from Ranger Bill and making their way to a nightclub, only to realize the people in said nightclub are the characters from the stories. The boys are murdered while the hitchhiker escapes and flags down another car asking for a ride the exact same way she approached the boys…
The third story’s the only one I ever held an interest in, but once I was able to watch the entire movie I saw the opening credits mention a “Campfire Stories” comic book. However, said comic that I’ll be reviewing has little to do with the movie. The setting’s totally different, it doesn’t feature the same stories, and instead of being a forest ranger, Ranger Bill is a camp counselor. Yet the end credits of the movie feature pages from the ACTUAL comic.
As a side note, there was a different movie called “Campfire Stories” that came out in 1991, a year before the comic was published. They don’t seem to be connected although except they both tell a standard urban legend (the same one in fact).
Compounding all this weirdness, the comic AND the movie were co-created by Don Oriolo. Don’s a writer and musician and apparently worked with both Bon Jovi AND discovered Meat Loaf. He’s also the son of Joe Oriolo, the creator of the “Felix the Cat” TV show and co-creator of “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” Don’s well known for producing the “Felix the Cat” movie of the 1980s, one of the most infamously bizarre animated films in existence. Of course it’s also got a great soundtrack.
Weird, right??? So much packed into one comic.
Because I’ll be reviewing “Scream Around the Campfire” this month I chose to do a recap on this title to go with the camp theme.
First we begin with a little intro from dear, devoted Ranger Bill.
Remember kids, Ranger Bill loves you. [Wing: NOPE.]
It’s been a week since this year’s batch of kids arrived at Camp Minakonka, and some of them still aren’t used to their head counselor, Ranger Bill. Sure he’s a bit… different. Sure the idea of being alone with him in front of a campfire makes some kids think they’ve entered “Friday the 13th Part Nine,” but it’s not like he’s gonna eat them.
(This was made a year before the masterpiece “Jason Goes To Hell” was released. *Sniff* WE LOVE YOU, JOEY B. YOU FUCKING RAY OF SUNSHINE)
[Wing: Okay, that is both delightfully drawn and also terrifying.]
Ranger Bill tells the “Little nebules” to get nice and close, because he’s got some lovely little stories to share. Yep, out here in the woods with no TV, no ping pong, no Nintendo, all they’ve got are fun, educational, [INSERT TITLE HERE].
One kid, Jimmy, can’t help but comment that he imagines tomorrow’s headlines are gonna be about their barbecued bodies, singling him out by Ranger Bill. Ranger Bill asks if he’s afraid of the dark, afraid of some notoriety before he dies. Bill can’t help but reminisce about another kid. See, this kid would’ve gladly preferred to have his picture in the paper after what happened to him…
Bobby wasn’t happy his parents were dragging him away from his friends in the city to spend the summer out in the country. Mom Theresa says those “Friends” of Bobby’s are a bunch of bullies who only use him for stuff. Besides, it’s not like they’ll be living out in the woods for a month. The family’s renting a beautiful old New England farmhouse, complete with its own swimming hole. Dad George says he’d have killed for such a trip when he was a kid instead of being stuck in NYC all summer long.
Driving down Sleepy Hollow Lane, Bobby’s family quickly arrives to the 200 year old Beau Sejour, which isn’t a farmhouse so much as it’s a rather dark looking mansion. Despite Bobby’s apprehension, even he has to admit the house looks cool. George and Theresa both hope this vacation might be good for bringing Bobby out of his shell.
Bobby heads into the house before his parents and explores the rooms. All the furniture’s covered in white sheets, but Bobby’s attention is drawn to a shrouded painting by the fireplace. He pulls off the sheet to reveal a large portrait. The subjects are a severe looking older woman, hair tied back in a tight bun, her arm around the shoulders of a young boy in a suit. The woman’s holding a cross and scowling at the boy, whose face has an expression of extreme sadness.
Bobby’s practically mesmerized by the painting until George and Theresa enter the room and he snaps back to reality. After the parents did all the unpacking, Theresa proposes they celebrate their first night with a barbecue. While George goes to look for a grill, Theresa assures Bobby this summer won’t be THAT bad. There must be some kids around the area he can make friends with. Bobby tells his mom not worry, knowing he can be a pain sometimes.
After eating outside and enduring a barrage of Dad jokes, the family quickly heads back inside when a summer storm begins. Before the rain falls, Bobby looks up at the house and sees a shadow moving in the attic window…
Before going to bed, Theresa suggests tomorrow the family can hit the swimming hole and wishes Bobby a good night. Since George has already zonked out (no canoodling for these two), Theresa tries to get some sleep as well. Around 2 in the morning she hears the sound of laughter coming from upstairs. George is still snoring and Bobby’s not in his room, so Theresa investigates. She finds Bobby looking through some old books from a trunk. Bobby says he’s learned the identities of the people in the painting. The boy’s name was Ethan Greystone, and the woman was his mom Sarah. Seems Sarah didn’t like Ethan playing with other kids because she thought they were sinful. She’d even lock him up when he was being bad!
[Wing: Well hello, Carrie’s mum.]
Theresa’s starting to lose her patience and tells Bobby to get back in bed; she doesn’t want to deal with this kind of behavior for an entire month,
The next morning, Bobby declines going on a run through the forest with his parents. After they leave, Bobby is drawn back to the painting of the Greystones….
George and Theresa have been running for two hours when Theresa says she wants to head back since she doesn’t want to leave Bobby all alone, but George figures their son’s found something fun to do. Arriving back at the house, George is all for a little swim, but Theresa wants to check on Bobby first. Theresa doesn’t even notice Bobby’s breakfast is still half eaten on the plate, but she’s getting creeped out by the painting in the living room. She then hears laughter from upstairs and thinks Bobby made a new friend.
Bobby’s shocked when his mom enters the attic, and Theresa asks who his friend is. He says his new friend is named “Ethan…”
And Bobby can’t introduce Ethan to her because Ethan had to leave, even though she just heard them talking. She’s not sure what to think but still asks if Bobby wants to go swimming with her and George. Bobby quickly says “No” and says he’ll try to see if the old TV in the house gets the Yankee channel.
“Oh, Bobby, sometimes you really worry me!”
“I guess that’s what kids are for, Mom.”
Theresa heads outside wondering what to do about Bobby when she sees George floating face down in the water!
Only no he’s not dead he’s just screwing around and pulls her in. She just HAD to marry into a family of funny guys. While upstairs in the attic, Bobby is heard laughing with someone.
The next morning, George decides Bobby needs a push out of the nest and thinks he knows exactly what to do. Figuring this’ll give Bobby a much needed shock to his system, George bursts into Bobby’s bedroom and hoists him up. He jokes it’s time for an early morning swim, but Bobby flips the fuck OUT. He starts screaming for his mom, or rather, starts begging that he’s been good. That he “Hasn’t sinned.” As George jumps into the water with Bobby, Bobby pleads they not give him another “Baptism.”
Theresa is now thoroughly scared, especially when Bobby doesn’t come up from the water. George dives down and finds Bobby floating near the lake floor. He drags Bobby back up, but as he does the water shifts around the boy. It looks like the water is taking on the form of hands to pull him under!
Out of the water, Theresa rushes to Bobby’s side and is absolutely PISSED at George for what happened. Inside the house, George tries to apologize as much as he can since he only meant to joke with Bobby. But still, he asks what, exactly, happened in the lake. Bobby claims he just doesn’t like to swim and asks to be excused. George says they can watch the Yankee game later, but Bobby would rather hang out with Ethan.
Once Bobby’s out of the room, Theresa can’t hold it in any longer. She starts crying as she explains to George that Bobby has told her Ethan’s his friend, but she’s never seen him so she doesn’t even know if he’s real. George is thrown through a loop asking what the hell’s going on. He’s being told his son’s got imaginary friends and his wife looks like she’s having a breakdown. And there’s still the mystery of whatever tried to drown Bobby in the lake. Theresa’s terrified something bad’s going to happen, and she can’t stand that horrible painting looking at her anymore. George promises he’ll move the painting into another room.
That night, Theresa wakes up and hears Bobby talking to “Ethan” again and quietly cries.
The following morning, Theresa tries to bring Bobby his breakfast when she hears him talking with Ethan again. Ethan says he wants to play some more, and Theresa FINALLY remembers that Ethan was the name of the boy in the painting. Theresa starts screaming for George and asks where he put that painting. George reveals he put it in the attic.
The parents rush to the locked attic door, and Theresa can hear Ethan telling Bobby to hurry or his mother will punish them again with another baptism. George breaks down the door, but it’s too late.
Another camper doesn’t believe that story, so Ranger Bill gives him an earful for being a “Doubting Thomas.” He remembers a camper a couple of years back named Donny. He thought he knew everything too, and it almost got him killed.
Walter Slayter, the Hook Killer, recently escaped from Hardysville Mental Hospital and killed two guards in the process.
Can we just pretend we don’t know where this story’s going for the sake of the recap? [Wing: God, I love hook killer stories, though I prefer when it’s escaping from prison and not, you know, crazy = dangerous.]
Teen Donny hears the news of Walter’s escape on his car radio, how Walter’s killed at least 18 campers and Lover’s Lane sweethearts. Donny can’t believe how people are losing their shit over one escaped loony, and figures there’s no way he’d show up in Donny’s neck of the woods.
Tonight Donny wants to take his girlfriend Ellen to the Bloody Pagans concert. He hopes she’ll appreciate the sweet new paint job on his car, but Ellen’s not in a very outgoing mood. She doesn’t appreciate Donny joking about Walter’s escape and thinks he should be more careful. Donny’s all “Puh-leeze” and figures if Walter was smart he’d be in Canada by now. Ellen reminds him that Walter is a vicious monster who kills for fun. He’s not smart, he’s crazy.
Anyway, Donny tells Ellen to stop being melodramatic and get in the car. During their drive, a news bulletin comes in saying two campers were found dead at Saddleback Campground. Ellen points out that’s not very far away and thinks Walter’s nearby, but again Donny tells her to cool it. It’s just media hype. They didn’t even say if Walter was responsible. Donny finally gets Ellen in a party mood when he surprises her with tickets to the concert. What better way to get your mind off grisly murders than listening to the Bloody Pagans?
Anyway, Ellen’s at least touched because she never even mentioned the Bloody Pagans are her favorite group and takes it as a sign Donny does pay attention to her.
Ellen has a blast at the concert, and when it’s over Donny has another surprise. He drives Ellen over to Blueberry Hill, a.k.a. “Lover’s Lane.” They have an hour to kill, so Donny thought they could talk, relax. You know, do “Stuff.” Ellen figures she knows exactly what kind of “Stuff” he wants.
Fucking breeders, man.
Ellen’s a bit spooked since it’s so deserted and asks if Donny could keep the engine running. That’s when she hears the scratching noise. Donny says he can’t hear anything over the radio and the storm outside. Ellen hears it again and she’s getting genuinely upset. She doesn’t care what Donny says, she wants to go home. Donny concedes even though he thinks she’s being a baby, but has troubling starting the car. Ellen’s on the verge of tears and tells Donny to stop joking when he finally gets the car going.
In front of Ellen’s house, Donny gripes about how she had to spoil their good time.
Oh and some dipshit scratched up his new paint job!
And surely there won’t be a bloody hook hanging off the handle of the car door because we haven’t heard this story a million times.
Ranger Bill assures everyone Donny’s not a Doubting Thomas anymore when camper Bud scares one of the other kids. Bud almost gets his fingers broken and Ranger Bill doesn’t take kindly to this horseplay. He tells the boys they need to keep their hands to themselves. Being violent isn’t NICE!
But all this talk about hands reminds Ranger Bill of yet another story, a story about a hand. A special hand. The Pharaoh’s Hand.
Archaeologist Jonathan Swift managed to discover the lost tomb of the infamous Pharaoh Tutakata. It was the biggest discovery of his career and he thought everyone in the International Society would be green with envy. Removing the lid from the pharaoh’s sarcophagus, Jonathan discovered one of the mummy’s hands was actually unwrapped and unmummified. Adorning it was a gorgeous red jewel. Upon closer inspection, the hand practically fell off the wrist into Jonathan’s grasp.
Jonathan’s assistant Kareem warned him there was a legend about Tutakata’s hand. Those who own the unmummified hand of the pharaoh may receive three wishes, but the third always ends in doom. Jonathan’s too blinded by excitement for his discovery to really care.
Once again let’s pretend like we don’t know where a story about a wish granting hand’s gonna end.
Despite the fame Jonathan’s discovery has brought him (and his parents are certainly proud), his discovery didn’t exactly make him rich. On a lark, he recalled what Kareem said about the hand and wished for a million dollars. On cue he gets a call from the International Society of Anthropology and Archaeology saying they’re granting him a million dollars for his discovery!
Jonathan blows through the money via partying and gambling. His parents chide him for his behavior and say he’s wasting his fortune on people who’re just using him. Jonathan admits he knows his “Friends” don’t really care about him. True friends are loyal. In fact he wishes he had a true friend.
At that moment a barking sound comes from outside the front door of the Swift house. Jonathan discovers a lost little dog out in the rain. He takes the dog in and figures he could use a friend. He even names the dog “Tutta.”
[Wing: Where is the lie? #dogsarethebestfriends]
Tutta is indeed a loyal friend to Jonathan, and a few days later after blowing through the rest of his money Jonathan sees an advert for a swanky new car. He remembers what Kareem said about the third wish, but figures the money and Tutta arriving were just coincidences and asks for a new car.
At that moment the TV announces Jonathan’s won the giveaway for the new Vector 5000 sports car. The car’s so cool Jonathan immediately wants to try it out for a test drive even though it looks like the weather’s getting nasty. And despite the worried whining coming from Tutta.
Sure enough, doom comes for Jonathan Swift and the car is sent over a cliff. Weeks later, Jonathan’s distraught mother remembers what he said about the pharaoh’s hand and thinks she can have her son back. She finds the hand and immediately wishes for Jonathan’s return.
And return he does.
Ranger Bill ends the story explaining Mrs. Swift didn’t specify how she wanted her son back, but cuts off forgetting she only used TWO wishes and could’ve probably fixed him with the second. [Wing: As long as the dog lived.]
Anyway, that’s enough and the campers have to go to bed. See, that wasn’t so bad? They weren’t on the menu for Ranger Bill tonight. A ha.
A ha ha.
Looks like Ranger Bill’s having a snack before bedtime.
Wing since there weren’t any werewolves in the stories proper enjoy this “Letter column” from the back of the issue.
[Wing: Okay, that’s adorable.]
So this was a cheesy little romp into the 90s, wouldn’t you say? Honestly the one story I prefer was the first because it was the longest and it wasn’t a rehash of an old ghost story or urban legend. I wonder what prompted Oriolo to use this as the basis for a movie, or why only one issue was written.
You think anyone wrote to Ranger Bill?
But before we go here’s a pin-up of our favorite ranger.