WILLIAM M. GAINES 2022 fine art print / edition of 25 / $195.00
WILLIAM M. GAINES (1922-1992) was studying to become a chemistry teacher when his father, Max, was killed in a boating accident in 1947. Bill's mother insisted that her 25-year-old son take on the family business, a floundering publishing company with the mundane name Educational Comics, or E.C. Bill had no interest in comic books—educational or otherwise—so at first he came by the offices once a week just to sign payroll checks. But Bill was an avid reader, and he began to investigate his company's offerings, as well as those of other publishers. What he found delighted him, and he became intrigued with his father's business.

Taking control, he dropped lackluster titles and launched comics that followed popular trends, e.g., romance, westerns and crime. He also began recruiting a younger staff, including artist Al Feldstein, who became his editor, writing partner, and right-hand man, and artist/writer Johnny Craig. The company was officially renamed Entertaining Comics. Their new crime, horror, science fiction, and war titles (edited and written by another maverick hire, Harvey Kurtzman) transcended their competitors' fare, and the revitalized E.C., by hiring the finest writers and the most talented artists, became the gold standard of the industry. In 1952, Kurtzman introduced a new satirical monthly to the E.C. line: MAD.

E.C.'s horror comics were their biggest-selling titles, and Gaines and Feldstein gained notoriety with ghoulish, over-the-top depictions of monstrosity, depravity, and gore. These creepy periodicals were especially targeted at children—who became fanatical, bug-eyed buyers. In 1954, a crusading psychologist, Dr. Fredric Wertham, published a blockbuster expose, Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed that horror and crime comics had harmful effects on kids.

Much of the finger-pointing was aimed at E.C. To defend his work, Gaines testified at a Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which led to him becoming the national poster boy for greedy New York comic purveyors who were inciting juvenile crime. The industry adopted a new standard, The Comics Code Authority, designed to quell the controversy. E.C. was compelled to jettison their most sensationalistic titles; ultimately, only MAD was left standing.

Soon, Kurtzman departed, taking with him MAD's artists, to launch a new publication—which soon failed. Gaines had the last laugh. He and his loyal editor Feldstein guided MAD (and its goofy mascot, Alfred E. Neuman) into becoming an American institution. The eccentric Gaines would evolve into the world's oldest and fattest hippie. He described his formula for success: "My staff and contributors create the magazine. What I create is the atmosphere."

This portrait was created by Drew Friedman in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of William M. Gaines.
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Only twenty-five (25) prints of WILLIAM M. GAINES by Drew Friedman were produced for this edition. Each print is signed in the lower right, hand-numbered in the lower left, with the title handwritten by the artist beneath the artwork. We have sold numbers 1/25 thru 13/25, and are now offering print numbers 14/25 and 15/25, unframed, for $195 each (plus shipping & handling). Prices for remaining prints will increase as the edition sells down.

The image area is approximately 15-1/2" wide x 19" high on an untrimmed 17" x 22" sheet. Paper, ink, and production specifications, as well as shipping details, are available on our PRINT SPECS page.