An Interview with William M. Gaines, Part Two of Three

Posted by on October 13th, 2010 at 12:01 AM



GROTH: Krigstein was an interesting case. He seemed to be the most rebellious of the artists.

GAINES: Very rebellious and a very fine artist who really I suppose shouldn’t have been in comics and I’m sure he isn’t any more. One of the things he did which is my very favorite is that Bradbury story about the Chinese…

DECKER: The opium…

GAINES: The opium story, I forget the name. Oh, “Pipe Dream.” And the other one was the one about “The Flying Machine.” They were both magnificent stories. But “Master Race” was probably his greatest. He did it himself; he just refused to do it in the space we gave him.

GROTH: What was Krigstein like? He seems like kind of a strong-willed, serious artist.

GAINES: Yeah. Strong-willed, serious, a little bit cranky, basically nice but very cranky. At least he was then. I haven’t seen him in so many years.

GROTH: In a way it seems like the artists had a tough time here. If they didn’t want the text-heavy stories they’d have to go to Harvey who would lay out all the pages for them.

GAINES: Well, they didn’t go to Harvey. Harvey would go to them. Harvey would only use the artists he wanted to use, which was not a lot of the artists. For example, he’d use Wood and he’d use Davis, but he wouldn’t use Orlando and he wouldn’t use Kamen. I don’t think he would use Crandall.

GROTH: He did — at least once.

GAINES: Well, he’d probably use somebody once and then never again. That means he didn’t like whatever he got.

GROTH: Can you imagine an Ingels war story?

GAINES: Well, I could think one up, but Harvey wouldn’t like it. [Laughter.]

DECKER: Oh, here’s a question I’m going to ask for the readers who definitely want some sort of answer. What happened to Graham Ingels?

GAINES: Well, Graham Ingels… I don’t know quite how to put this, because what I’m saying would be part speculation, so I won’t say what I was going to say. Let’s just say that Graham Ingels was not happy with his home situation and so he ran away from home and disappeared so that his family could not find him. I guess it’s reasonable to assume that he really was running away from his wife more than from his children, and as a matter of fact I think I heard that his daughter had made contact with him, and they do see or talk to each other. But he went to Florida and he’s in Florida and I don’t know exactly where he is in Florida and if I knew I wouldn’t say because he doesn’t want to be found. But I can contact him through a third party, a lawyer I guess, and I do every year because I still send the boys money from the Cochran stuff and the sale of artwork and whatever else we do from the old EC stuff. I share this with all the old artists. For many years I sent the money to his wife, because I didn’t know where he was, and then I found out where he was, so I started sending the money to him, but first I had to contact him, and I got him on the telephone finally — he called me, because I wouldn’t know where to get him — and he said he didn’t want the money. He said he was ashamed of what he did and it was dirty money and he didn’t want it. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s roughly what he said. So I said, “Graham, you’re going to crap up my books, [laughter] if you don’t take the money, what am I going to do with it?”

And he said, “Well, I just don’t want it.”


Detail from Jack Kamen’s poster for the movie Creepshow.


I said, “Why don’t you take it and give it to charity? Then you’ll be taking it, you’ll solve me the problem of what to do with it, and still you won’t be dirtying your hands with it and you’ll be doing some good.”

He says, “Oh, fine, that’s a good idea,” and so I have sent him sometimes quite a large amount of money for the last six, seven, eight, nine years, whatever it is, and he takes it, because I know his signature and that’s what comes back on the check.

Now, what he’s doing with it, I don’t know, I assume he’s giving it away, but I don’t care. I hope he isn’t. I’d rather think he’s spending it on something and enjoying it. And that’s the Graham Ingels story. He’s down there, he’s apparently not always down there, sometimes he goes to New England for the summer, I don’t know where. But around Christmastime I can always find him if I have to.

GROTH: But he feels badly about what he did?

GAINES: He feels badly, he feels ashamed. He doesn’t want any money from it. He’s very happy: he’s painting portraits; he’s teaching art.

GROTH: Did you ever try to convince him otherwise, that what he did wasn’t terrible?

GAINES: Oh, no. I tell him that he’s revered and held in the highest esteem by everybody, and he accepts this and can understand it, but he thinks everybody who feels that way about him is out of his head. Russ [Cochran] wanted to send him one of these [The Complete EC Library] and he decided he would accept Shock SuspenStories because he isn’t in it. So Russ sent him a set of Shock SuspenStories and maybe a Two-Fisted Tales, I don’t know, but he didn’t want the horror books. And that’s that.

WHITE: And he’s the only one from the old days that feels like that?

GAINES: Feels that strongly about it. Everybody else, whatever they may have felt about it, they weren’t turning down the money. Now when Creepshow came along, the movie, and the guy who is writing it — what’s his name, King? — called us one day and was trying to find Ingels, and I said, “He won’t want to do any work for you, but just to make sure I’ll write him a letter and ask him.”

So I wrote him a letter and asked him, and of course he came back and said no, he doesn’t want to do it. So they got Kamen to do the movie poster. I’m not sure. I think they’re putting out a horror comic to go with the movie.

GROTH: Yeah. They got Berni Wrightson to do that: today’s Ingels. [To Dwight] Do you have anything else leading into…?

DECKER: Well, we could lead into it by talking about the market at the time. I understand that the feeling at the time was that horror was just a passing thing; two, three, four years and then it would go on to something else.

GAINES: I don’t remember… Well, let me put it this way: I was always surprised when anything lasted more than a couple of years, because I was a born pessimist and no matter what I was doing I was sure it couldn’t last. But I didn’t think that there was any reason that horror was going to go away. I just thought that my books would eventually fail because I couldn’t conceive that they wouldn’t. For years I thought Mad was going to fail, but it’s been 30 years, so that’s a pretty long run. I don’t know. In ever said that, I don’t know why I said it, because I don’t recall thinking that.

DECKER: But certainly the market at the time was heavily into horror. You started the trend?

GAINES: Oh yeah, we started horror, and we started what we called real science fiction as opposed to cowboys-and-Indians-in-spaceships science fiction like Buck Rogers. And there were many, many competitive books, but I didn’t think — the horror books made money right to the very end, even after I made the decision to drop them. It wasn’t because they weren’t making money. Despite all the incredible problems and the wholesalers hating us, and nobody wants to handle them, somehow they got out and they sold. They never lost money, not once did they lose money. So I don’t know why I thought they were going to stop. I just thought there would be a problem, a censorship problem.


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