Variety reports that John Landis is directing a film about William M. Gaines, the publisher of Mad Magazine and, before that, the EC Comics line. Since the film’s titled “Ghoulishly Yours, William M. Gaines,” one imagines it will probably focus on that latter period, when horror comics were so notoriously “shocking” (by 1950s standards, anyway) that the national furor makes today’s debate over videogame violence look tame by comparison. As Variety puts it, “At the peak of his success, Gaines became a First Amendment figurehead due to his unapologetic testimony before a Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency.”
The full story, as handed down to generations of comics fans and about to be recounted in David Hajdu‘s The Ten-Cent Plague, is a bit more complex: When Gaines testified before the Senate, he was coming down from diet pills he’d taken earlier that day, and the resulting testimony—in which he defended a cover depicting a man holding a woman’s severed head over her corpse by saying “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”—was widely regarded by others in the industry as another nail in the coffin. You can see why Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood) wants to do it.
So let’s picture this flick as somewhere between Ed Wood and The People Vs. Larry Flynt, and move on to the important stuff: Who’s going to play Gaines? Personally, considering that Gaines would be much younger in the film than he is in the picture above, I’d go with Zak Orth.