MIKE GOLD: Only Reliable No More
Well, going to the supermarket isn’t going to be much fun any more.
No doubt you’ve heard about the demise of the print version of The Weekly World News. It billed itself as the world’s only reliable newspaper, and it certainly was that. It was also one of the best-written newspapers in America.
The Weekly World News was a hoot. Its headlines always brought a smile to my face, and on more than one occasion I would be found laughing out loud while waiting in line at the Stop and Shop. No matter how outrageous the premise, each story was written absolutely straight, as though Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden actually had a child or we really had space aliens in the Senate.
Well, maybe that last one wasn’t so reliable. That could be true, I guess.
Quite a number of people who had been in the comics business, including ComicMixers Robert Greenberger and Ric Meyers, were either on staff at the WWN or were regular contributors. The paper also published comics by Ernie Colón, Craig Boldman, Mike Collins, Danielle Corsetto, and Sergio Aragonés. We hadn’t seen such a line-up of first-rate comics talent in a weekly newspaper since Grit stopped running Steve Canyon, Mandrake The Magician, Archie and Blondie.
In the pre-WWN days of 1970, I was offered a job by their parent company, to write for the National Enquirer. It turns out they liked some of the work I had done for my then-employer, radical illusionist Abbie Hoffman. I passed up that job, preferring the roles of broadcaster and professional rabble-rouser. But I always wonder what it would have been like to work for them. Before too long, the Enquirer actually slicked itself up and used their old, cheap black and white press to print The Weekly World News. By comparison, the Enquirer looked sedate.
I immediately took to the paper. It filled the part of my life that Mad Magazine used to own until it became safe and predictable. Actually, the WWN was more like Topps’ Mars Attacks cards: strong on verisimilitude and style, and way over the top in concept.
In the past 20 years, I think those roles were filled by teevee shows like The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead, South Park and Robot Chicken. And maybe that’s what did The Weekly World News in: the rest of the media finally caught up. Homer Simpson and Eric Cartman have become just as reliable, and Eric can be just as timely.
When I heard some of my friends and acquaintances were working for the WWN, I was genuinely happy for them. Clearly, this was a job made in heaven for those people. They had, and continue to have, all the appropriate gifts and worldview for the job. I hope most of them are able to stay in the Reliable Misinformation racket. We need people who look at the world in that way now more than ever. People who, to paraphrase Paul Krassner – the man who practically invented the form with The Realist – can show us not only is the Emperor naked, but he’s hung like a hamster.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.