Kefauver spoke up. He pointed to one of the covers, from an issue of “Crime SuspenStories,” on display in the hearing room.
KEFAUVER: Here is your May 22 issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman’s head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
GAINES: Yes, sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. 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.
KEFAUVER: You have blood coming out of her mouth.
GAINES: A little.
As Gaines must have realized too late, it was absurd to defend comic-book art by a standard of good taste. Disrespect for good taste was one of the chief attractions comic books had for pre-adolescents. Grossness is a hot commodity in the ten-to-fourteen demographic. Gaines, Feldstein, and Kurtzman were justifiably proud of their ability to reach that market with a superior gross-out product. That’s what Gaines, in his post-amphetamine fog, meant by “good taste.” It’s not what most people mean.