As the saying goes, “If you remember the ’90s, you were there and bored.” That’s unless you were a reader of an inky supermarket tabloid that boasted headlines about the fabled “Bat Boy” and other “journalistic” meshugas that instantly turned your coffee table into a Ripley’s Believe it, Or Not exhibit. Well, believe it or not—it’s back: The Weekly World News is alive and well, and coming to a screen near you.
We can thank Weekly World News CEO and editor-in-chief Greg D’Alessandro for this stunning development for the original “fake news.” Why? Because, as their PR explains, “The top publishers in the media industry wouldn’t dare cover stories about the five members of the US Senate who are extraterrestrials or the allegations that the CIA kept classified documents about underwater UFOs or the failed attempts to recruit a cloned Adolf Hitler into QAnon.” That’s why.
In 2019, Greg D’Alessandro and a cavalcade of interested parties purchased the assets of the enterprise from American Media, which are ripe for development into film and TV properties. Think “mini-Marvel,” but instead of superheroes there are the aforementioned Bat Boy, a sex-worker sasquatch and an alien who’s had its picture taken with every sitting president. D’Alessandro and his collaborators recognized that the archives of the WWN didn’t just contain decades of old newspapers so much as a treasure trove of beloved intellectual property.
He wasn’t the only one. In an earlier incarnation the team had a protracted pas-de-deux with the powerhouse agency CAA, which led to interest from a self-professed fanboy and renown mega-director we’ll simply call Steven.
“That went on for years!” recalls D’Alessandro, who would shop properties to various entities (like the “Lake Erie Monster” to a sci-fi-themed outlet or the Hunt for Manigator, which caught the attention of a brand name educational channel). “Every time I would go to pitch stories,” recall —CAA would say, ‘Ah, no. You got to wait for Steven.”
Eventually, “waiting for Steven” became akin to Waiting for Godot—spoiler alert: he never shows. Now, the team is in charge of its own destiny—Bat Boy projects are in discussion and a documentary about WWN’s illustrious history in the works.
“We’ve started the studios where now we can produce our own,” explains D’Alessandro. “The first one is the ‘Zombie Wedding,’ which is not using any of our iconic characters, but still in the wheelhouse.”
Meanwhile, D’Alessandro is introducing WWN’s cast of characters to a new generation online and on social media. Now, the Internet be kept perpetually abreast of the latest alien abductions, Bigfoot sightings, biblical prophecies, and cryptid phenomena that’s come to define this American life.
“It’s funny, [WWN] has been on the air a lot more lately,” says D’Alessandro. “Howard Stern’s talked about it a bunch in the last year and a half. Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel—they’ve all mentioned or held it up. Anderson Cooper held it up.”
Basically, WWN was writing about the weird shit that haunts the popular imagination before it was cool.
“We wrote a lot about UFOs and aliens, and it was all just dismissed,” laughs D’Alessandro. “Now the Pentagon comes out and is like, ‘Maybe UFOs are real, and maybe there are aliens.’ And we’re like, ‘Well, that’s what we were reporting about for 30 years!’”
As D’Alessandro adds wryly, “We’re the world’s only reliable new source. There’s a lot of people that say that the government tries to make people think that it’s not true,” he laughs. “They’re always trying to suppress us. They’re always after the Bat Boy and always trying to hide all this.”
Originally published in the North Bay Bohemian.