Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gahan Wilson

Written 21 December, 2010

Gahan Wilson

A few years later when I came across the work of an even more macabre cartoonist-- Gahan Wilson.

It was my junior or senior year of high school, and I rifled through a stack of my brother's Playboy magazines.

I was immediately entranced. I saw beyond the foldout and the pictures of half-dressed women to Hugh Hefner's -- and the magazine's-- philosophy of personal freedom-- and I saw the cartoons of Gahan Wilson.

I found some of Playboy's other cartoons overworked (too-many, too-simiilar): Buck Brown's Granny, for instance (although some of Brown's other cartoons were more than clever). I liked the work of many of the other regular cartoonists (Erich Sokol, Eldon Dedini, Phil Interlandi, for instance: Google them). But the work of Shel Silverstein and Gahan Wilson impressed me.

Shel Silverstein was a multitalented songwriter, artist, and cartoonist, and warrants a post or two himself-- but this one is about Wilson.

Gahan Wilson was born in 1930 in Evanston, Illinois. For more than half a century, his cartoons have been published in Playboy, The New Yorker, Colliers, and assorted other magazines.

Wilson is also a writer; he contributed a short story to Harlan Ellison's anthology of speculative fiction, Again, Dangerous Visions and wrote movie and book reviews for science fiction magazines.

 Wilson is still going strong at age 80. Here's a recent interview by Christopher Irving with a great photo by Seth Kushner.

I thought Wikipedia's comparison of the art of Wilson and Charles Addams was illuminating. Here's a quote with links intact:
Wilson's cartoons and illustrations are drawn in a playfully grotesque style and have a dark humor that is often compared to the work of The New Yorker cartoonist and Addams Family creator Charles Addams. But while both feature vampiresgraveyards and other traditional horror elements in their work, Addams' cartoons are gothic, reserved and old-fashioned, while Wilson's work is more contemporary, gross and confrontational, featuring atomic mutants, subway monsters and serial killers. It could be argued that Addams' work was probably meant to be funny without a lot of satirical intent, while Wilson often has a very specific point to make.
Wilson certainly did make his point. Here's one of my favorite cartoons:

"I think we won."
When I was in college, my attention (prepared by the work of Charles Addams and Wilson) had turned to the early issues of National Lampoon magazine.There, Wilson's cartoon strip Nuts was regularly published. It was clear Wilson wished to portray remembered childhood without the usual romanticism:

Much of the time, however, I think Wilson was just having fun. Here's my absolute favorite. It no doubt served as inspiration for the insane Eye-Gor robot up at our robot sanatorium:

You can read more about Gahan Wilson at his website, here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

He has beeny favorite cartoonist for over 30 years now...his juxtapositions of comedy,irony,wit and sometimes bitter truths are amazing when combined with the hilarious drawings that perfectly express the feelings going on with the character(s)...simply no one with such a great twist on things as Gahan!!