The founder of many great comicbooks, such as MAD Magazine, The Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt and others.
Born on March 1, 1922, Gaines grew up during the depression. His father, Max Gaines, had a hard time supporting the family, and thus was desperate to come up with an idea to make money. In 1933 Max had tried everything, from pro-beer stickers to working at factories. One day, Max Gaines found some old sunday comics and got an idea. At that time, there were no comic books, and Max decided to make them. This was the beginning of EC.
Bill took over his father's work in 1947. At that time, Educational Comics, as EC meant then, was very conservative and unimaginative. Bill hired Al Feldstein, and they started working on new material. Inspired by old radioshows like Lights Out and The Witch's Tale, the duo made the now-famous crime and horror comics. They also changed the name to mean Entertainment Comics. At this time, Harvey Kurzman was also hired to do war comics. MAD Magazine reached the shelves in 1952.
In April 1954, during McCarthyism, Bill Gaines was tried for corrupting the youth (as any other creative or otherwise intelligent comic book publisher during that period). The trial was a farce, and during a questioning about a comic about a girl being abused in a haunted foster home, the following was said:
Gaines: Most foster children, I am sure, are not in homes such as were described in those stories. Those were pretty miserable homes.
Herbert Hannoch: You mean homes that had vampires in them, those were not nice homes?
Hannoch: Do you know any place where there is any such thing?
Gaines: As vampires?
Gaines: No sir; this is fantasy.
The result of these ridiculous exchanges, was anger from the parents, who believed their children were being seduced by the horror and crime comics. In September 1954, Gaines dropped all the horror & crime comics against his will, as they had stopped selling.
Only MAD Magazine was left, and it was then changed from comic format to magazine format, to avoid the Comics Code Authority. This wasn't enough, however, and EC was close to bankrupcy when Bill's mother was persuaded to invest $50,000 in the company. Thus they survived and went on to sell massive amounts of comics, making Gaines a rich man.
Bill married Nancy Siegel in 1955 after a 15-year romance. They got an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. At that time, Bill withdrew from the creative part of EC and kept to the publishing part. As the decades went by, and MAD had more success, Bill became a relaxed person, letting his hair grow long. Bill and Nancy had three children, Cathy in 1958, Wendy in 1959 and Christopher in 1961. Despite common interests the marriage failed and they divorced in 1971.
William then met an avid MAD reader, Anne Griffiths through a letter she wrote him about a lost issue of MAD. They started writing each other, and soon after, as Gaines visited relatives near her, they met in person. Griffiths later moved to New York to be with Gaines and married him in 1987.
William M. Gaines died in 1992.
See also other Comics creators. Audited March 12, 2002