One of the focuses of my comic book studies has been the early days of comics, and particularly the assault on comics between 1948 and 1954. While Gaines wasn't the first publisher of comics to come under heavy fire, he certainly was the most notable. EC Comics pushed the boundaries of horror comics in the early 50s - an era which is briefly touched upon in this book. Gaines was the only witness in defense of comics at the Senate hearing that led to their demise, and because of it, became the face of the "evil" of comic books. When his comics line was banished from the newsstands, Gaines fell back on Mad, which flourished to become an extremely successful magazine.
Knowing a basic biography on Gaines from other reading, including some of his quirks and generosity, I couldn't help but to want to learn more about this man. Frank Jacobs, who was a friend of Gaines and a contributor to Mad, writes an amusing and revealing semi-biographical, semi-anecdotal account of Bill Gaines life, work, and passions.
Some of the stories in this book are so outrageous I couldn't help but smile while reading them. This is one of the liveliest biographies I've ever read. Biographies can often be dry, simply regurgitating facts on a timeline, but this book alternates between simple fact and an honest view into character.
Jacobs may be a bit bias. He clearly had a great affection and admiration for Gaines. For further reading, I hope to find something from the point-of-view of Harvey Kurtzman, Mad's original creator and editor, who had a difficult relationship with Gaines.
Overall, this was a wonderful book, providing insight not only to the life and character of William Gaines, but to many other members of the EC Comics/Mad Magazine crew.
eBook The Mad World Of William M. Gaines