Ambush Bug here from the San Diego Comic Con. Anyone who’s waited in line at a supermarket will recognize the name THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS, but it’s not exactly the first thing you think about when you think comics. I had to get to the bottom of this and I went to the writer, Chris Ryall for some answers about this JUST-ANNOUNCED comic from IDW Publishing.
CHRIS RYALL (CR): The Weekly World News is a supermarket tabloid newspaper – rather, a mock tabloid paper – that carries with it the tagline “the World’s Only Reliable News.” It started in 1980 and basically offered up bizarre stories and characters years before The Onion. The paper broke the news that Kennedy and Elvis were still alive (true story, really! And both are hanging with aliens from outer space), and went on from there.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS as a comic book? For the two or three people who don't know what the heck you're talking about, can you explain what THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS is?
BUG: How on Earth are you going to adapt a supermarket newspaper rag into a comic book?CR: We have the rights to some of the best recurring characters the paper created over the past two decades: Bat Boy, PhD Ape, Manigator, Freeze-Dried Baby, Lemmie the Lake Erie Serpent, Chaos Cloud… and I put together an all-new story that basically works in all of these characters and more. The lead character in the story is Ed Anger, the far-right wing newspaper columnist who thinks the Rain Forest should be paved. So the story revolves around Ed and his dislike of illegal aliens and freaks, all of whom populate this story and make Ed’s life miserable. Until all of them are threatened by the appearance of Chaos Cloud, that is.
BUG: It appears some of WWN's regular features make an appearance in this new miniseries. Let's go over them one by one. First off, let's talk about the phenomenon that is Bat Boy?CR: Bat Boy was the first breakout “star” from the Weekly World News. He’s been the subject of numerous cover stories, he was the star of his own musical, he’s basically the most famous of all the characters, someone who always seems to be where the action is. He’s a bat-eared Zelig (or Forrest Gump, depending on your frame of cultural references) for our time.
BUG: What exactly is a Chaos Cloud and why should all mankind fear it? CR: Chaos Cloud is prophesied to destroy the world in the year 2014. But as with all prophesies, maybe this one’s off by a few years—it’s quite possible that the cloud will destroy everything in 2010, unless the other characters in the comic can figure out a way to stop him. If you need another clue as to just how evil this cloud is, it’s a giant, destructive cloud with the face of former French President François Mitterand. Brrr.
BUG: And you've got a man alligator hybrid of some sort, too?CR: Manigator, yep. Anyone who’s read any of my TV columns dating back to the time I ran Kevin Smiths Web site in the early aughts knows I’ve long had a fixation on half-man/half-anything-else creatures like, say, Mansquito. Well, Manigator predates all of ‘em, and is even more awesome for the fact that he’s a reptile-bodied good ol’ boy, a beer-drinkin’, shit-kickin’ real American. With scales. And a big, reptilian tale.
BUG: What kind of research does one have to do to write a WEEKLY WORLD NEWS comic?CR: A lifetime of research, which I thankfully have. This one’s not any lark for me—I’ve followed Bat Boys exploits for a decade or so, as evidenced by the attached photo. You’ve got to have some sort of—well, some say problem, but I say “interest”—in Bat Boy to keep an actual newspaper that features him for almost a decade (the paper in my hand is dated December 2001). But this series is basically going to be the Bizarro World version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is the kind of thing I’ve spent my life reading about and watching in bad TV and worse movies. It’s been—seriously—a dream project for me to work on for years. And now it’s finally here.
BUG: You've delved into the quirk before with ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS and your recent GROOM LAKE with Ben Templesmith. What did you learn from those miniseries that you're taking into this one?CR: GROOM LAKE was nice practice for this, since it also combined a long-time interest of mine, aliens and conspiracy theories, with ridiculous settings, crazy characters and hopefully good bits o’ humor, too. All those things are what fuels me and my writing, so this feels like the natural extension of what I’ve done before.
BUG: Would you consider this a team book?CR: I would, even if Ad Anger wouldn’t. Well, it’s also sort of an “anti-“ team book, now that I think about it. But we can call it that, sure. Hell, we can call it anything—I’ve even created a new word for the series, since it sort of defied easy explanation: the subtitle of the first miniseries is “The Irredemption of Ed Anger.”
BUG: Can you tell me a little about the artist for WEEKLY WORLD NEWS?CR: Alan Robinson is handling the interior art and is also doing the “tabloid newspaper”-style covers that will adorn each issue. We’re going to do new covers for each issue that emulate the Weekly World News papers themselves, which will hopefully set them nicely apart from the comics and also show a little bit of why these types of covers were so striking when I’d see them at the grocery store checkout lines. Alan drew the Terminator Salvation Movie Prequel comic for us, and he strikes a great tone between realistic art and cartoony. I think if a comic like this played all the characters for complete goofs, it’d fall flat, but we seem to have struck a great tone in story and art that hopefully plays up the ridiculousness of the characters while at the same time making you actually—no, really—care about them and the story being told, too.
Artist Joe Corroney provided a good variant cover for issue 1, a Weekly World News tribute to an iconic Alex Ross image, only this time featuring Bat Boy. After that, I’ve got a couple other great covers from artists who’ve been associated with Bat Boy or the WWN in the past also in the works.