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

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



Sidebar: “They got what they deserved.”

SENATOR HENNINGS: Is that one of your series, the pictures of the two in the electric chair, the little girl down in corner?


HENNINGS: As we understood from what we heard of that story, the little girl is not being put upon there, is she? She is triumphant apparently…

GAINES: If I may explain, the readers do not know that until the last panel, which is one of the things we try to do in our stories, is have an O. Henry ending for each story.

HENNINGS: Now, in that one, what would be your judgment or conclusion as to the identification of the reader with that little girl who has, to use the phrase, framed her mother and shot her father?

GAINES: You will see that the child leads a miserable life in the first six or seven pages. It is only on the last page she emerges triumphant.

HENNINGS: As a result of the murder and purjury, she emerges as triumphant?

GAINES: That is right.

MR. HANNOCH: Is that the O. Henry finish?


HANNOCH: In other words, every body reading that would think this girl would go to jail. So the O. Henry finish changes that, makes her a wonderful-looking girl?

GAINES: No one knows she did it until the last panel.

HANNOCH: You think it does them (the readers) a lot of good to read these things?

GAINES: I don’t think it does them a bit of good, but I don’t think it does them a bit of harm, either.

— from the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary, 1954.


Sidebar: Gaines in Defense of EC and Our Children

GAINES: 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? We think our children are so evil, simple minded, that it takes 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. Once you start to censor you must censor everything. You must censor comic books, radio, television, and newspapers. Then you must censor what people may say. Then you will have turned this country into Spain or Russia.

— from the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary, 1954.


Sidebar: “It was supposed to be a joke. It backfired.”

HANNOCH: Do you know anything about this sheet called, “Are you a Red dupe?”

GAINES: Yes, sir; I wrote it.

HANNOCH: How has it been distributed?

GAINES: It has not been distributed. It is going to be the Inside front cover ad on five of my comic magazines which are forthcoming.

HANNOCH: And it is going to be an advertisement?

GAINES: Not an advertisement. It is an editorial.

HANNOCH: Do other magazines have copies of this to be used for the same purpose?

GAINES: No, sir.

HANNOCH: You haven’t made this available to the magazines as yet?

GAINES: No, sir; and I don’t intend to.

HANNOCH: You believe the things that you say in this ad that you wrote?

GAINES: Yes, sir.

HANNOCH: That anybody who is anxious to destroy comics are Communists?

GAINES: I don’t believe it says that.

HANNOCH: The group most anxious to destroy comics are the Communists?

GAINES: True, but not anybody, just the group most anxious.

— from the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary, 1954.


Next: The Comics Code Authority, Mad Magazine, William Gaines’ conservative politics and much more.


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