unfit to print

An Interview with the Former Weekly World News Editor Who Created Bat Boy 

Every supermarket checkout stand in America is boring and prosaic these days. Sure, there’s plenty of news about Lindsay Lohan and Brangelina, but in the 80s and 90s there was an outlet for ridiculous, made-up stories called Weekly World News. Early on, its headlines were just fake enough to not be considered fraud, but just true enough to grab your attention.

They often relied on existing myths and conspiracies, like the lumberjack who kept Bigfoot as a love slave. Sometimes they would co-opt religious imagery, as when a giant Jesus went all Godzilla on the UN. But nothing had the staying power of Bat Boy.

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Bat Boy was easily the paper’s greatest contribution to pop culture. According to a Washington Post article titled "All the News That Seemed Unfit to Print,“ the writer Bob Lind was inspired to write the headline "Bat Child Found in Cave” when he saw an image that artist Dick Kulpa had created almost by accident. But the Post didn’t talk to Kulpa about what was in his head when he accidentally birthed part of America’s cultural imagination. So I did.

I wanted to know why he inserted this ghoul into the nightmares of every American who shopped for groceries in the late 20th century. Instead of a feisty old retired yellow journalist, he turned out to be a friendly cartoonist who still occasionally puts Bat Boy into his work. He did have some choice words for The Onion, though.

VICE: Hi, Dick. How did you get a job at Weekly World News?
Dick Kulpa: I started out as a freelance illustrator working long distance from Akron, Illinois, and I produced drawings for these guys. Nine artists were in contention for this, and they all fell by the wayside. I did something like 85 drawings over the course of a year, many of them with under 24 hours notice. When they discovered I could write headlines, I was invited to try out for the staff, and I did, and within two days I was hired full-time. 

What were your contributions, other than Bat Boy?
My natural capabilities are in story editing and editorial. I used that throughout my life as my tool to express myself. But there’s a difference between artists and editorial artists. I used to rewrite scripts sent to me by comics magazines years ago, and it was something because I had to pop up the punch lines, etc, and make it so a reader, when they read it, gets a payoff. That was my calling, basically. I could come up with all sorts of story ideas of this nature, and did. That was my value. Those people on that staff were top-notch people.