Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Bill Gaines is one of the most important figures in comic book history. In the ’50s he was the man behind E.C. Comics, which with titles like Tales From the Crypt and Weird Science became a scapegoat for juvenile delinquency. A Senate Subcommittee investigation into the effects of horror comics led to a skewed public perception of Gaines that nearly put E.C. out of business. Gaines kept one title, which he developed over many years: Mad Magazine.
Now John Landis, a director with quite a pulp instinct of his own, may finally have the money together to make a film about Gaines.
Two years ago was the last time I remember the Landis biopic of Gaines coming up, but I’m sure it has been mentioned since then. Deadline says that Landis is in Cannes lining up the financing for Ghoulishly Yours, William M Gaines, based on a script by Joel Eisenberg.
(Landis is also at Cannes with his ‘comeback’ film, Burke and Hare, which I’m quite anxious to see.)
The Senate investigation into juvenile delinquency was established in 1953, and brought Gaines in to testify in 1954. The attack on Gaines and E.C. was paralleled by the publication of Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed to demonstrate how comics were ruining our children.
When facing the Senate Gaines was famously unrepentant, and claimed that his comics were ruled by his own good taste, and that he wouldn’t publish anything he considered to be in bad taste. But public opinion turned against Gaines anyway. The hearings also led directly to the formation of the Comics Code Authority, which regulated the content of comics for decades afterwards.
There’s a lot more to Gaines’ life; as the publisher of Mad, he was eccentric and iconoclastic, but always sought to treat his staff and contributors with respect. His passing in 1992 was one of the events that definitively represented a changing era in comics.