William Maxwell Gaines; (March 1, 1922 – June 3, 1992), was an American publisher and co-editor of EC Comics. Following a shift in EC's direction in 1950, Gaines presided over what became an artistically influential and historically important line of mature-audience comics. He published the satirical magazine Mad for over 40 years.
He was posthumously inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame (1993) and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame (1997). In 2012, he was inducted into the Ghastly Awards' Hall of Fame.
- The (Communist) "Daily Worker" of July 13, 1953 said that comics play the conscious role of:
"...Brutalizing American youth, the better to prepare them for military service in implementing our government's aims of world domination, and to accept the atrocities now being perpetrated by American soldiers and airmen in Korea under the flag of the United Nations."
This article also quotes Gershon Legman (who claims to be a ghost writer for Dr. Fredrick Wertham, the author of a recent bast against comics published in "The Ladies Home Journal"). This same G. Legman, in issue #3 of "Neurotica," published in autumn 1948, said: "The child's natural character...must be distorted to fit civilization . . . fantasy violence will paralyze his resistance, divert his aggression to unreal enemies and frustrations, and in this way prevent him from rebelling against parents and teachers . . . this will siphon off his resistance against society, and prevent revolution."
- William Gaines, "Are You a Red Dupe?", The Haunt of Fear, EC Comics, (August 1954); as qtd. in “Today In Comics History: Bill Gaines Fights The Good Fight”, John R. Parker, Comics Alliance, (April 21, 2016).
- "Entertaining reading has never harmed anyone. Men of good will, free men should be very grateful for one sentence in the statement made by Federal Judge John M. Woolsey when he lifted the ban on ‘’Ulysses’’. Judge Woolsey said, 'It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned.' May I repeat, he said, "It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned." Our American children are for the most part normal children. They are bright children, but those who want to prohibit comic magazines seem to see dirty, sneaky, perverted monsters who use the comics as a blueprint for action. Perverted little monsters are few and far between. They don't read comics. The chances are most of them are in schools for retarded children.
What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of our own children? Do we forget that they are citizens, too, and entitled to select what to read or do? Do we think our children are so evil, so simple minded, that it takes a story of murder to set them to murder, a story of robbery to set them to robbery? Jimmy Walker once remarked that he never knew a girl to be ruined by a book. Nobody has ever been ruined by a comic."
As has already been pointed out by previous testimony, a little healthy, normal child has never been made worse for reading comic magazines. The basic personality of a child is established before he reaches the age of comic-book reading. I don’t believe anything that has ever been written can make a child overaggressive or delinquent. The roots of such characteristics are much deeper. The truth is that delinquency is the product of real environment, in which the child lives and not of the fiction he reads.
There are many problems that reach our children today. They are tied up with insecurity. No pill can cure them. No law will legislate them out of being. The problems are economic and social and they are complex. Our people need understanding; they need to have affection, decent homes, decent food. Do the comics encourage delinquency? Dr. David Abrahamsen has written: “Comic books do not lead into crime, although they have been widely blamed for it. I find comic books many times helpful for children in that through them they can get rid of many of their agressions and harmful fantasies. I can never remember having seen one boy or girl who has committed a crime or who became neurotic or psychotic because he or she read comic books.”
- William Gaines, testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, (April 22, 1954)
- WE BELIEVE: Your editors sincerely believe that the claim of these crusaders . . . that comics are bad for children...is nonsense. If we, in the slightest way, thought that horror comics, crime comics, or any other kind of comics were harmful to our readers, we would cease publishing them and direct our efforts toward something else!
And we're not alone in our belief. For example: Dr. David Abrahamsen, eminent criminologist, in his book, "Who Are The Guilty?" says, "Comic books do not lead to crime, although they have been widely blamed for it . . . In my experience as a psychiatrist, I cannot remember having seen one boy or girl who has committed a crime, or who became neurotic or psychotic . . . because he or she read comic books." A group led by Dr. Freda Kehm, Mental Health Chairman of the Ill. Congress of the P.T.A., decided that living room violence has "a decided beneficial effect on young minds." Dr. Robert H. Feli, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said that horror comic do not originate criminal behavior in children . . . in a way, the horror comics may do some good . . . children use fantasy, as simulated by the "comics" as a means of working out natural feelings of aggressiveness.
We also believe that a large portion of our total readership of horror and crime comics is made up of adults. We believe that those who oppose comics are a small minority. Yet this minority is causing the hysteria. The voice of the majority . . . you who but comics, read them, enjoy them, and are not harmed by them . . . has not been heard!
- William Gaines, “A SPECIAL EDITORIAL THIS IS AN APPEAL FOR ACTION!”, Shock SuspenStories 18 (EC Comics, December-January 1954-55); as qtd. in “Today In Comics History: Bill Gaines Fights The Good Fight” , John R. Parker, Comics Alliance, (April 21, 2016).
"William Gaines' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency" (April 22, 1954)
"William Gaines' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency", (April 22, 1954); as quoted by Peter Kihss in "No Harm in Horror, Comics Issuer Says". New York Times, (April 22, 1954), p. 1.
- Beaser: "Is the sole test of what you would put into your magazine whether it sells? Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it? "
- Gaines: "No, I wouldn't say that there is any limit for the reason you outlined. My only limits are the bounds of good taste, what I consider good taste. "
- Beaser: "Then you think a child cannot in any way, in any way, shape, or manner, be hurt by anything that a child reads or sees? "
- Gaines: "I don't believe so. "
- Beaser: "There would be no limit actually to what you put in the magazines? "
- Gaines: "Only within the bounds of good taste. "
- Beaser: "Your own good taste and saleability? "
- Gaines: "Yes. "
- Kefauver: "Here is your May 22 issue [Crime SuspenStories No. 22, cover date May]. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman's head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste? "
- Gaines: "Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody. "
- Kefauver: "You have blood coming out of her mouth. "
- Gaines: "A little. "
- Kefauver: "Here is blood on the axe. I think most adults are shocked by that. "
William M. Gaines in “WILLIAM M. GAINES INTERVIEW II”, by Steve Ringgenberg, Gauntlet Magazine, (June, 1991)
- RINGGENBERG: I'm here with Mr. William M. Gaines on the fourth of June, 1991, doing an interview for Gauntlet Magazine. Mr. Gaines, my first question is, having lived through the repressive censorship climate of the 1950s, how would you compare the current climate in this country?
- GAINES: Well, they don't seem to be bothering publications today. Today it's music they're after. And the only censorship problems I've heard about are what the musicians and the record companies are having.
- RINGGENBERG: Do you think there are any limits about what should be published in a comics format?
- GAINES: Well, if you're excluding...I guess there's nothing left, no. I mean the...I was going to say excluding pornography, but, of course, you have the underground comics and they've been pretty pornographic for years, so I guess there's nothing left.
- RINGGENBERG: Is there anything that you personally would find objectionable?
- GAINES: I can't think of anything.
- RINGGENBERG: Would you censor anything if you had the power?
- GAINES: Oh, I've never believed in any kind of censorship against anything in any way for anybody nohow.
- RINGGENBERG: Well, given that the Comics Code expressly forbid the use of the words Weird, Horror and Terror, did you feel that your company was being particularly targeted?
- GAINES : I would say so, yes. (Chuckles)
- RINGGENBERG: Before you changed Mad into a magazine, you did a whole new line of magazines, or comics, rather; the New Direction line. Were titles like MD and Psychoanalysis sort of an attempt to mollify some of the criticism from your detractors?
- GAINES: No. They were...What do you mean to mollify them?
- RINGGENBERG: Well, I mean...
- GAINES: I was putting out comics that I thought would not be criticized. But I didn't do them to mollify anybody. This was a whole new...We put out a whole new line of comics. Extra! was about newspaper reporters. Piracy was about pirates. Aces High was about World War I aircraft. And MD was about doctors, and Psychoanalysis was because I undergoing it at that time.
- RINGGENBERG: One thing I'm curious about is the Jack Davis baseball story in Haunt of Fear #19. That was the one where the evil baseball player was dismembered.
- GAINES: One of our worst.
- RINGGENBERG: I was wondering, was this a deliberate attempt to bait the people who were criticizing you, or just a miscalculation?
- GAINES: No, no. No, it's just that Al and I were turning out a story a day, and it's not easy to turn out a story a day. And that day we were probably very late coming up with a plot and so we took this thing, and did it out of desperation because we absolutely had to have a story written that day. It was a bad story, it was a stupid story. It was certainly in bad taste. And I'm sorry we did it, but we did it.
- RINGGENBERG: Is there anything else that E.C. put out that, in retrospect, you wish you hadn't done?
- GAINES: No. Not that I can think of.
- RINGGENBERG: Let's jump ahead a little bit, to the New Direction comics. In Impact #4 you had a story called "The Lonely One", which was about prejudice against Jews. The Jewish in the story had a very bland name. It was "Miller".
- GAINES: Oh, well, that's very probably the Code at work. I'll tell you an even funnier one. In Psychoanalysis we had a guy, who, one of whose problems was that he was Jewish. This was giving him problems. And we were not allowed to say he was Jewish. And we had to take all reference to the fact that he was Jewish, thereby the entire story made no sense at all, because it was a story about a man with a Jewish problem and we're not allowed to say he was Jewish. This was the Code.
- RINGGENBERG: So you weren't allowed any kind of depictions of different ethnic backgrounds?
- GAINES: Not allowed to call any attention to it.
- RINGGENBERG: How do you feel about your friend Lyle publishing a book for bomb-makers?
- GAINES: I thought it was horrible. Lyle and I do not see eye to eye in many ways. And he's one of my dearest, probably my dearest, closest friend. But, over the years we have had many differences of opinion. I think it's a disgrace that he publishes The Anarchist Cookbook. On the other hand, I'm delighted that he can get away with it because that shows that this is a free country after all.
- RINGGENBERG: Do you find that a lot of the people who criticize Mad and maybe criticized the E.C.s back in the fifties lacked a certain sense of humor?
- GAINES: Oh, sure, absolutely. All our horror stuff was written tongue in cheek, and as horrible as it gets, it was all done tongue in cheek, in the spirit of black humor. And of course, most people that didn't like it didn't understand that, and wouldn't understand any black humor, when you get right down to it.
About William Gaines
- Mr. Gaines fought a never-ending war between his willpower and restaurants of the world. Every few months, he would have an on-again, off-again flirtation with a new diet. This meant that no two pair of pants fit him at the same moment. His wardrobe, Mr. Jacobs said, looked as if it were fresh out of the laundry hamper, but Mr. Gaines had his own dress code.
"I own three ties, which I wear as infrequently as possible," he said. "I wear my multicolored tie to wine tastings because it's required. I wear my bright red tie with my orange jacket and my green tie with my brown jacket to restaurants when ties are required. My ties are narrow. I wear short socks, gray or blue, which I buy eight dozen at a time, at Korvettes."
- Barron, James. "William Gaines, Publisher of Mad Magazine Since '52, Is Dead at 70". The New York Times. (June 4, 1992).
- So he said it can't be a Black [person]. So I said, 'For God's sakes, Judge Murphy, that's the whole point of the Goddamn story!' So he said, 'No, it can't be a Black'. Bill [Gaines] just called him up [later] and raised the roof, and finally they said, 'Well, you gotta take the perspiration off'. I had the stars glistening in the perspiration on his Black skin. Bill said, 'Fuck you', and he hung up.
- Von Bernewitz, Fred and Grant Geissman. "Tales of Terror: The EC Companion" (Gemstone Publishing and Fantagraphics Books, Timonium, Maryland and Seattle, Washington, 2000), p.88
- This really made 'em go bananas in the Code czar's office. 'Judge Murphy was off his nut. He was really out to get us', recalls [EC editor] Feldstein. 'I went in there with this story and Murphy says, "It can't be a Black man". But ... but that's the whole point of the story!' Feldstein sputtered. When Murphy continued to insist that the Black man had to go, Feldstein put it on the line. 'Listen', he told Murphy, 'you've been riding us and making it impossible to put out anything at all because you guys just want us out of business'. [Feldstein] reported the results of his audience with the czar to Gaines, who was furious [and] immediately picked up the phone and called Murphy. 'This is ridiculous!' he bellowed. 'I'm going to call a press conference on this. You have no grounds, no basis, to do this. I'll sue you'. Murphy made what he surely thought was a gracious concession. 'All right. Just take off the beads of sweat'. At that, Gaines and Feldstein both went ballistic. 'Fuck you!' they shouted into the telephone in unison. Murphy hung up on them, but the story ran in its original form.
- Diehl, Digby. "Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives" (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY 1996) p.95
- Gaines got his empire from his father, publisher Max C. Gaines, who died in a motorboat crash in 1947, when Bill was a 25-year-old NYU education student. Having inherited his dad’s nearly bankrupt company, Educational Comics, Inc., the legatee renamed it Entertaining Comics, and switched from publishing his father’s favorite title, Picture Stories From the Bible, to such corpse-strewn pulp as ”Ooze in the Cellar,” Crypt of Terror, and Vault of Horror. According to the recent book Completely Mad, he dreamed up his stories by staying up all night on diet pills his doctors prescribed to counter his compulsive eating, while gorging on sci-fi and Grand Guignol fiction. Despite the medication, Gaines stayed large; he contained multitudes-slob and nabob, hedonist and workaholic, and iron-fisted dictator of budgets figured according to what he called the ”Boogerian Constant,” a law he declined ever to define. He paid contributors faster and better than anybody in the comics business-but strong-armed them to sign over all rights to their work. When Mad cartoonist Sergio Aragones reportedly provoked a 1960s Paris street mob to rock Gaines’ limo, shrieking, ”Feelthy fat capitalist!” there was something underlying the joke. Yet, Gaines was paying for the trip, just as he frequently flew the Mad staff on revels all over the globe at company expense. Could he be Santa? Or Stalin with a sense of humor?
- ”Bill wasn’t a nice guy,” says artist/editor Harvey Kurtzman, the creative genius who invented Mad, ”and he wasn’t a bad guy. He was bold, but he’d sit there with a slide rule every day very preoccupied with how to distribute his money.” Gaines sold the magazine partly for pure profit, but also out of a nagging dread that ”sooner or later, there’s gotta be an end to it.” To paraphrase his ubiquitous cover boy, Alfred E. Neuman, he needn’t have worried.
- EW Staff, “Remembering William M. Gaines”, Entertainment Weekly, (June 19, 1992)
- Mad publisher William M. Gaines, says former editor Nick Meglin, was a “living contradiction. He was singularly the cheapest man in the world, and the most generous.”
Gaines, a self-described “maniac” who looked like Santa Claus’ wiseacre younger brother, was a millionaire but dressed like a bum. He shelled out thousands for exotic annual trips for Mad’s staff and freelancers but forced the group to pay for their phone calls. Meglin once asked for a raise of $3 a week and was turned down, only to have Gaines continue the conversation over an expensive dinner at one of New York’s finest restaurants.
“The check came, and I said, ‘That’s the whole raise!’” Meglin recalls. “And Bill said, ‘I like good conversation and good food. I don’t enjoy giving raises.’”
Gaines, living contradiction that he was, also wasn’t a funny guy. Despite that, he “appreciated humor,” Jaffee said, and helped build one of the most influential magazines in American history.
- Wertham testified on the afternoon of the first day of the hearings, followed by Gaines. Gaines originally had been scheduled to appear in the morning, but other witnesses apparently ran on longer than expected, pushing Gaines’s testimony until after lunch. After the committee reconvene, however, Wertham appeared to testify, and the committee move him ahead of Gaines. Gaines later contended that the postponement of his appearance adversely affected his testimony. According to his biographer, Gaines was taking diet pills, and as the medication began to wear off, fatigue set in. Gaines recalled: “At the beginning, I felt that I was really going to fix those bastards, but as time went on I could feel myself fading away…They were pelting me with questions and I couldn’t locate the answers” (Jacobs 107).
- Nyberg, Amy (February 1, 1998). “Seal of Approval: The Origins and History of the Comics Code, Volume 1”. University Press of Mississippi. p. 61. ISBN 0-87805-974-1. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
- The corpulent Gaines relished jokes about his 240-pound size and his Santa Claus-like hair and beard.
Born in New York and graduated from New York University, Gaines took over his father Max’s publishing firm, EC, in 1947.
Prodded by its failing fortunes, he made the company a successful pioneer in the horror comic genre, publishing such strips as “The Vault of Horror” and “Tales From the Crypt.” Less controversial series included “Saddle Justice” and “Moon Girl.” In 1952 Gaines launched Mad as a 10-cent comic book titled “Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD.”
Although he staunchly denied that horror comics had any connection to juvenile crime, Gaines was the object of congressional scrutiny in 1955, testifying at widely publicized U.S. Senate hearings.
- Gaines may have been the last publisher to computerize, still keeping his circulation figures in hand-penciled ledgers well into the 1980s. Like other publishers, he frequently lashed out at a national decline in reading.
Reluctantly, Gaines agreed to produce a videodisc as the magazine’s “commemorative issue” on its 30th anniversary in 1982.
“Those people who don’t read, we’ll give ‘em TV,” Gaines groused.
- Myrna Oliver, “William Gaines; Founded Mad Magazine”, Los Angeles Times, (June 4, 1992)
- Bill Gaines was the publisher, and Al Feldstein the editor, of EC Comics, a legendary but short-lived publisher (circa 1950-55) of some of the greatest science-fiction, crime, war, humor and horror comics ever created, that featured artwork by some of the greatest comic-book illustrators to grace the field, and is considered a high-water mark for the medium.
The stories that Gaines and Feldstein co-wrote were not the typical comic-book fare of the previous decade. Coming of age in the same postwar era that began to examine the darker underbelly of American society, producing new cinematic genres like film noir, Gaines and Feldstein’s eight-page stories (four to an issue) took a similar darker and more adult turn: EC’s horror comics were more horrible than any before (or since).
Their war comics were anti-war comics. Their science-fiction stories had ironic endings that predated The Twilight Zone’s. And their crime and suspense titles featured stories steeped in social and moral issues that had never before been tackled in comics (or most of the larger popular culture) — bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism — which reflected the traditional social and moral aspects of the Judaism of Gaines’ and Feldstein’s upbringing. These were the seeds that would grow into both the underground and overground comics revolutions of the 1960s.
- Schumer, Arlen. "The 13 Most Influential Jewish Creators and Execs, PART 3". 13th Dimension.
Bill Craig, “Publisher Bill Gaines says MAD still going strong after 32 years”, Stars and Stripes, (January 20, 1985)
- Gaines says his father, Max, an advertising man, invented the comic book. Gaines senior conceived the idea of producing small, hand-lettered color pictorials for department stores to use as giveaways.
"As the family legend goes, he came up with the idea of putting a 10-cents sticker on them and putting them on the newsstand," Gaines said. The comics moved so quickly that he was able to persuade Dell Publishing Company to back him. His first comic book was called "Famous Funnies."
- "It wasn't a patriotic thing," he said, laughing. "I was flunking out of school and I just wanted to get the hell away from home. The only problem was I was a physical wreck and nobody would take me."
After being turned down by the Army, Coast Guard and Navy (he didn't even try the Marines), Gaines went back to his draft board and requested to be drafted. It worked. He was the first 20-year-old from his district to go during World War II. He was drafted into the Army Air Corps and trained as a photographer.
But after his training at Lowry Field in Denver, he was assigned to a field in Oklahoma City that had no photo facility. He was put on permanent KP duty. He loved it.
"Being an eater, this assignment was a real pleasure for me. There were four of us, and we always found all the choice bits the cooks had hidden away. We'd be frying up filet mignon and ham steaks every night. The hours were great, too. I think it was eight hours on and 40 off."
- Gaines says the comic-book business was subject to the same intense scrutiny that was applied to baseball in the 1920s and to movies in the 1940s.
Gaines says the strict censorship crippled the comics industry. In the '50s, he says, there were 700 separate comic books with circulations of up to 400,000. Gaines said those figures began plummeting almost as soon as the censors took on the industry. Now, he says there are only 130 titles in comic books, with an average circulation of 150,000 each.
- "In a way I was responsible for the crackdown, too," Gaines admits. "Some of the stuff I was publishing at that time was so rough that they had a Senate subcommittee investigating comics. Many thought that we were causing juvenile delinquency. When you look at it now compared with the material that is being published today, that stuff was innocuous. At that time, though, it was pretty rough."
Gaines avoided censorship in another way. He has never accepted advertising in MAD and says this is the most effective way of maintaining freedom in picking material for the publication.
"I don't know if anyone remembers it anymore, but I got this idea from a newspaper called PM that was published in New York in the '40s," said Gaines. "They were liberal and I was always intrigued with their concept — a paper refusing ads so they wouldn't have any censorship problems."
- PM was edited by Ralph Ingersoll, who had made a name for himself at Time magazine, and published by Marshall Field, the Chicago-based department store magnate who went on to found Field Newspaper Enterprises. The newsstand price of PM was a nickel at a time when the N.Y. Daily News sold for 2 cents and the N.Y. Times, 3 cents. It began publishing in 1939 and ceased operating in 1946.
"Ingersoll was my hero," Gaines laughs. "I did what he did only I got away with it. Seriously, though, when you consider the kind of material we publish, it makes sense not to accept ads. You can't take money from Pepsi and spoof Coke."
It's been for that reason that Gaines has never brought MAD into other forms of the media as some of his rivals — most notably National Lampoon — have done.
"First of all it's really a hard thing to do," he explains. "Many people have tried it. Look at Monty Python, who are just incredibly funny. They have never been able to do anything successful in print."
- Gaines says he misses the old days when he was an active plotter in the editorial side of his operation. With the success of MAD, he was forced out of editorial into the business end of the company. He sold the magazine to Warner Communications in 1960 and has stayed on as publisher.
His fondest memories, he says, are the days when he and Al Feldstein were putting out four comics a week. "We had a western love comic called `Western Romances' and we did a column for the lovelorn called `Chat with Chuck,' " he mused.
"We were Ann Landers types but unfortunately we didn't give her kind of answers. God knows what stupid things we said. It was a lot of fun in those days, being involved in the creative process. Once MAD came along it was business for me. Business isn't that much fun but I guess you have to have both.
Louis Menand, “The Horror”, The New Yorker, (March 24, 2008)
- Gaines was a comic-book publisher by accident. The accident involved a motorboat on Lake Placid, and had killed his father, Max, who was the founder of EC Comics. The name stood for Educational Comics, and its proudest product was “Picture Stories from the Bible.” EC Comics also put out “Picture Stories from American History,” “Tiny Tot Comics,” “Animal Fables,” and “Dandy Comics”—nothing that would have attracted the attention of a psychiatrist. William had had no interest in his father’s business. He was studying to become a high-school chemistry teacher when Max died, in 1947, and at first he left the operation of the company he had inherited to others. But he soon became involved, and, along with his editors at EC (renamed Entertaining Comics), Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, he began producing cleverly drawn, literate, artistically self-conscious, and unapologetic pulp: “The Crypt of Terror” and “The Vault of Horror” (horror comics), “Frontline Combat” and “Two-Fisted Tales” (war comics), “Shock SuspenStories” (topical tales with O. Henry twists, the sort of thing Rod Serling would later do on “The Twilight Zone”), “Weird Science” and “Weird Fantasy” (science fiction). Gaines was a living symbol of the industry as Wertham had described it—and he had volunteered to testify. He sensed the seriousness of the threat that Wertham and the Senate committee posed, and he seems to have genuinely believed in the integrity of his product. But his testimony (partly because the effects of the Dexedrine he had been taking when he was preparing his statement wore off halfway through it) was a catastrophe. Many people, then and after, thought that Gaines destroyed the industry.
- Gaines was not a stupid man, but, as Hajdu points out, he was in the position many liberals find them-selves in when they set out to defend the freedom of artistic expression: he claimed that comic books that treated social issues in a progressive spirit were good for children, and that comic books that were filled with pictures of torture and murder had no effect on them. If art can be seriously good for you, though, it follows that it can be seriously bad for you, and that is the point at which censorship enters the picture. The committee was not interested in debating the merits of comics that treated social issues in a progressive spirit; it was interested in the claim that horror and crime comics were merely anodyne entertainment, and they twisted Gaines like a pretzel.
- As Gaines must have realized too late, it was absurd to defend comic-book art by a standard of good taste. Disrespect for good taste was one of the chief attractions comic books had for pre-adolescents. Grossness is a hot commodity in the ten-to-fourteen demographic. Gaines, Feldstein, and Kurtzman were justifiably proud of their ability to reach that market with a superior gross-out product. That’s what Gaines, in his post-amphetamine fog, meant by “good taste.” It’s not what most people mean.
- Where, in a concept of Cold War culture, does the panic over comic books fit? As Hajdu points out, Communism was never a real issue in the controversy. Since comic books were attacked in the Daily Worker (as weapons of American cultural imperialism), Gaines at one point suggested that criticism of comic books was anti-American, another argument that did not go far with the senators.
”What, Me Gone? An Annotated Transcript of the William M. Gaines Memorial Service", (June 5, 1992)
- Bill Sarnoff: A couple of incidents kind of show the type of fellow he was and that we knew and loved.
The first was back in about 1975, a little earlier than that, when Warner Communications took over the big building in Rockefeller Plaza and a lot of the divisions were moving into the building. And I went over and I asked Bill, I said, "How would you like to move Mad magazine with the rest of the company?"
And he said, "Well, if you were a grown child, would you like to live with your parent?"
- Bill Sarnoff: Warner has-had and has-a unique management philosophy, wherein the executives are rewarded enormously well when they perform enormously well. And I went to Bill and I said, "Gee, uh, Bill, I'd like to work out some sort of profit sharing arrangement with you. Not taking anything away. Whatever you're getting you're getting. But this is just added to it. We'd like to introduce something where you have a possibility, as Mad does better, that you'll be rewarded even more meaningfully."
And he said to me, "Bill, I'm really not interested."
I said, "Really, Bill, there's no hidden agenda here."
"This is only-this can only be good for you. Please believe me, only be good."
And he said, "Bill, I'm really not interested."
And I said, "Well, okay. You know, if it doesn't make sense to you. But, could you tell me why?"
And he said, "Sure. Because that philosophy assumes that I'm not doing everything I can to make Mad as good as it can be. And I tell you that's never been the case, and it never will be the case. So if you think that by giving me a profit incentive I'm gonna work harder, you're absolutely wrong and you've got the wrong guy here."
And that's the kind of guy Bill was.
- Maria Reidelbach: He was impossible and he was impossible in many ways. He ate impossible amounts of food. He was impossibly disheveled. His laughter was impossibly loud and long. At first, I thought it couldn't be genuine, but it was.
And Mad, in the middle of the 1950s, when the competition was getting bigger, glossier and more colorful, it was ridiculous to launch a small black and white newsprint magazine that dared-no, it delighted in poking a finger at the American dream. It was suicide not to take advertising. It was impossible. Yet, forty years later, it's hard to name another magazine that's had the impact that Mad's had on American culture.
Bill immensely valued Mad's artists and writers, yet he was stubborn about artist's rights; refusing to bend just a bit. He was just impossible. He cared an inordinate amount for an extraordinary number of us. About our health and our love lives, our joys and our sorrows. How could one man have such love in him? It was really impossible.
- Lyle Stuart: At a certain point there were some nuts. One was a psychiatrist, one was an attorney and these nuts felt that comic books were what ruined America. This is before Ronald Reagan, before Nixon. So the Senate committee decided they could get a lot of publicity, a lot of mileage out of investigating comic books. Everybody ran for cover and I, who was then Bill's business manager, suggested that he volunteer to be a witness. And he was the only person who volunteered to be a witness to defend comic books. And we stayed up all night and wrote a speech that is now a historic speech. And he delivered it very well. And when he was through, there was some antagonism on the part of the attorney for the committee because inadvertently we had offended him. These were the days when you were either pro-Franco or anti-Franco depending on how you felt about the Catholic Church and so forth. And Bill ended the speech saying "Let's not make this country another Russia or Spain."
- Joe Raiola: Bill was an atheist, and I used to talk to him about this because you know it occurred to me that as atheists went Bill was a very religious atheist. I remember one day I went to his office [and] said, "You know, you are a religious atheist. Because you don't believe passionately. You don't believe as much as people who do believe, believe. And you look kind of like a guru, kind of like a perverted or deranged Zen master. I think you're a religious person after all. I don't believe this atheism bit."
And he said, "Please, will you please get the hell out of here."
- Joe Raiola: [T]here was one story that really best typified my relationship with Bill. Like I said, we disagreed on everything. I'm skinny, he's fat. He's hairy and I'm bald. And I'm a healthy guy. I'm into nutrition and vitamins and vegetables and bean sprouts. And Bill would eat anything that moved. I mean this is a guy who ordered steak by mail and got cases of frozen beef in his apartment. So one day Bill calls me into his office. He says, "I want you to go downstairs to the corner of 53rd Street and Madison. It's gotta be 53rd and Madison. It's gotta be the southwest corner. There's a hotdog vendor on that corner. I want you to get me two hotdogs with mustard, sauerkraut."
I said, "Bill, I can't do that." I said, "Bill, not only can't I do it, but you don't want me to do it."
He said, "Why don't I want you to it? I'm hungry."
I said, "Because you know I'm a vegetarian. You know it would be against everything I stand for. It would be against my principles. I am a man of integrity, Bill, like you are. To go down and buy you hotdogs and bring them to you... you would have no respect for me. So you don't want me to buy you these hotdogs."
And Bill said, "Wrong!" He said, "Not only do I want you to buy me these hotdogs, but Joe, you are the only person in the office I could trust to bring the hotdogs back without eating them."
- Nick Meglin: Bill Gaines had a logic unique unto himself. For instance, he could stop everyone from their work at any time, to try to hunt down the culprit who made a dollar twenty-seven personal phone call to Des Moines without recording it.
When John Ficarra made him aware that the time devoted to this investigation-the actual cost per hour for eight of us to search through our address books, calendars, appointment books-could cover the cost of a three hour call to Tibet, he just snarled and said, "I had to assemble you here anyway to talk about our trip. This year I'm taking you all to Switzerland and Paris." And so, thirty artists, editors and writers trekked through the wonders of Europe, all on the dollar twenty-seven we saved tracking down a phone call to Des Moines.