I think this is the definition of irony: one of the most famous moments of the 1954 Senate Hearings which helped prompt the comic book industry to create the Comics Code is an exchange between Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver and EC Publisher William Gaines, during which the Senator questioned Gaines about the cover of Crime Suspenstories #22 by artist Johnny Craig.
For the first time in decades, Craig’s original artwork for that cover has surfaced publicly — on the same week that the Code era has come to a close.
A snippet of the relevant Senate Hearing testimony:
Mr. BEASER. There would be no limit actually to what you put in the magazines?
Mr. GAINES. Only within the bounds of good taste.
Mr. BEASER. Your own good taste and salability?
Mr. GAINES. Yes.
Senator KEFAUVER. Here is your May 22 issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody ax holding a woman’s head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
Mr. 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.
Senator KEFAUVER. You have blood coming out of her mouth.
Mr. GAINES. A little.
Senator KEFAUVER. Here is blood on the ax. I think most adults are shocked by that.