Iconic cartoonist Gahan Wilson has passed away.
Gahan Allen Wilson
February 18, 1930 – November 21, 2019
2/18/1930 – 11/21/2019
The world has lost a legend. One of the very best cartoonists to ever pick up a pen and paper has passed on. He went peacefully – surrounded by those who loved him.
Gahan Wilson leaves behind a large body of work that is finely drawn, elegant, and provocative.
He was preceded in death by his wife, author Nancy Winters Wilson, and his parents, Allen and Marion Wilson. He leaves behind stepsons, Randy Winters, and Paul Winters, and daughter in law Patrice Winters. Grandchildren, Tiffany Smith, Jessica Winters, Chris Winters, Ashtin Winters, Carlie Winters, Rachel Winters, Kyle Winters, and Jessie Winters, and two great grandchildren, Noah Smith, Jaylie Winters, and Elizabeth Winters
Paul calling Gahan a legend above is not some relative using hyperbole.
Gahan was (is) justly famed as a legendary BIG NAME cartoonist for his weird and macabre cartoons.
Gahan’s career began in the mid-1950s, and even then…
above: early Gahan via Mike Lynch and Dick Buchanan
”My big break came when the cartoon editor for Colliers – who, like everybody else, thought the readers wouldn’t understand the cartoons I did – left to become the cartoon editor of Look. In the interim, the art director took over. Not being a trained cartoon editor, he did not realize my stuff was too much for the common man to comprehend, and he thought it was funny. I was flabbergasted and delighted when he started to buy it! He wasn’t in all that long, about a month and a half, but by that time my cartoons had started to appear. The guy who had gone to Look saw them in Colliers, and I guess a great dawning occurred, so he started buying them for Look, and that was it – I was now a big-time cartoonist! Absolutely foolish, but that’s the way it happened. That was the chink in the armor, and I just got through it.”
The great cartoon editor Gurney Williams, who took a chance with Virgil Partch, turned down Gahan!
Anyway that entry into a major market with Collier’s (1954) and Look led to others; notably Playboy (1957), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1964), National Lampoon (1971), The New Yorker (1980), and more. By the early 1960s Gahan was famous enough that his cartoons that were rejected by the major magazines were eagerly snapped up by the lower level (and lower paying) gag magazines like For Laughing Out Loud.
Gahan is probably most well-known for his Playboy cartoons. Within a year of his first contribution to Hefner, Gahan was given full-page, full-color status for his cartoons. While others were buying Playboy for the articles and interviews and fiction (to which Gahan also contributed), I and other like-minded kids were getting the magazine for the cartoons. And Gahan was a standout. (Okay, we may have glanced at some other pages while we were there.)
The early ’70s saw the National Lampoon become a regular gig for Gahan. He offered inside features and outside covers; and, notably, a monthly comic strip. “Nuts” was Gahan’s look at the terrors of childhood.
“They told me they were going to do a comic book at the end of the magazine, and they wanted me to do a strip. ‘Make it as horrible as you can,’ they said. ‘You bet!’ So I fooled around with monsters, which was interesting but wasn’t turning me on. Maybe I would have come up with something if I persisted, but I was already doing monsters successfully in my panel things. What’s really horrible, I wondered. What’s really scary? Oh, shit! A little kid is scary! And in that instant I knew that I’d do a realistic strip about what the little bastards go through. That was it.”
While Gahan had, in features for various magazines, done illustrated continuity of a sort this was an honest-to-goodness comic strip.
Whereas his Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics of the mid-’70s for newspapers, while themed, was a group of panels.
above: New Yorker cartoon via Cartoon Collectons
When Gahan began contributing to The New Yorker, he seemed to dial back on the gruesome and ghastly, but the strange remained.
Gahan did more than cartoon.
He was author of horror and children’s books, and a book and movie critic.
A fan of the classics, he would incorporate Poe, Doyle, Lovecraft, Carroll, and more into his cartoons.
Gahan Wilson was a master cartoonist with an uncanny ability to mix the hilarious with the horrifying.
Gahan Wilson remains a sacred treasure.
Rest in Peace!
the above obituary is an expansion of the notice posted earlier today