If John Landis directing a biopic based on the life of comic book publisher William M. Gaines isn’t perfection, then your definition of “perfection” sucks. Aside from his long-since-scuttled P.T. Barnum film (developed as a star vehicle for John Belushi), I can’t think of a single subject to which Landis’s pulp sensibilities are better suited (though Crispus Attucks is certainly up there).
If you’ve ever been deep into the four-color stuff, you know Gaines as the man behind E.C. Comics, the company that – via salacious bi-monthly tomes like Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science and The Vault of Horror – scandalized a nation and spurred a generation of young men to rape and murder. When Congress took up the cause of combating juvenile delinquency in the late 1950s, Gaines became a popular target for the grandstanding politicians, who were appalled by the publisher’s blunt testimony. Gaines refused to apologize for catering to the nation’s youth with a steady diet of sex, violence and more violence because he understood that the content of a comic book could never compel even the most impressionable youngster to bury an axe in their mother’s back (unless she was being a complete bitch).
Gaines unvarnished testimony marked the beginning of the end for E.C., but the publisher’s subversive instincts were only re-directed to Mad Magazine, which substituted smartass satire for blood and guts. It’s safe to say that many of us wouldn’t be the tiresome wiseacres we are today without Mad Magazine; everyone from the ZAZ team to Judd Apatow owe Gaines a debt of gratitude for showing them that there is a future in being silly.
So who better to take on Ghoulishly Yours, William M. Gaines than the director of Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House and An American Werewolf in London? Landis is developing the film with screenwriter Joel Eisenberg. There doesn’t appear to be a production deal in place, but, c’mon, someone’s got to foot the bill for this! My only question: who the hell do you cast to play Gaines?