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Gahan Wilson – RIP

Iconic cartoonist Gahan Wilson has passed away.

Gahan Allen Wilson
February 18, 1930 – November 21, 2019

Stepson Paul Winters is reporting the death of Gahan Wilson:

Gahan Wilson

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

Gahan tells how he got his start:

”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.

From a Comics Journal interview:

“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

 

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
November/22/2019
@ 12:23 pm

One of the great ones. He bent the needle of humor, and it stayed bent. His distinctive style conveyed rich atmosphere. And needless to say, he was explosively funny.

#2 Larry Trepel
November/22/2019
@ 1:57 pm

Gahan Wilson’s work is unique and wonderful, both in ideas and drawing style. When I was young his cartoons in National Lampoon inspired me to keep on this path. I was fortunate to meet him a few times, last time about ten years ago out in the Hamptons where he lived. There is no one quite like him, and never will be. Hope his afterlife is less scary than his cartoons.

#3 Jerry Zucker
November/22/2019
@ 3:31 pm

Gahan Wilson brought a similar spirit to his cartoons as Charles Addams. He was a great draftsman and had an incredible sense of the macabre. At least he won’t have to deal with the harshness of Alzheimers anymore. Rest in peace good man.

#4 Caryla Chambers
November/22/2019
@ 5:07 pm

Gahan Wilson was my first and most favorite cartoonist. Years ago in college I was bashing my male friends for reading PlayBoy. But after flipping through one during a bashing, I saw my first Gahan Wilson cartoon and was hooked! After that, my male friends were required to give me their old copies of Play Boy until I had an enormous collection.
I was packing to move and didn’t have room for my collection, so went through each and every copy to tear out the Gahan Wilson cartoons and illustrations. Since then I have purchased a book AND have ALL the cartoons I tore from my PlayBoys!!!!!!
He’s the best. RIP and my sincerest condolences to his family.
Caryla Chambers

#5 Randall Horn
November/23/2019
@ 1:27 pm

RIP Mr. Wilson. Gahan Wilson was THE funniest gag cartoonist, PERIOD. Gahan Wilson’s work for PLAYBOY is where I first got addicted to his sense of humor, then there was “NUTS,” & his other special features in NATIONAL LAMPOON. By the time he was featured in THE NEW YORKER, I was always surprised by the brilliance of his imagination, and how prolific he was!. I collected all his books & he signed a few for me one year he starred at COMIC-CON in San Diego. On my wall, I have a blow-up, framed, of my favorite cartoon of his: The new arrival in Heaven, who comments to another “angel,” Somehow I thought the whole thing would be a lot classier!” He was the best! He never failed to make me laugh. And man, no one drew like him. What a distinctive style! There was only one Gahan Wilson.
Thanks Mr. Wilson!

#6 Bob Andelman
November/23/2019
@ 3:53 pm

In case you missed it, here’s a link to my 2010, 45-minute, Mr. Media podcast interview with Gahan Wilson. Delightful man, so sorry to hear we lost another great one. https://mrmedia.com/2010/04/cartoonist-gahan-wilson-draws-playboy-magazine/

#7 Mike Proko
November/24/2019
@ 11:11 am

One of the best. Inspired many writers, cartoonists and graphic illustrators to think outside the box, that there could be humor in just about everything you could see…

#8 J. David Reno
November/27/2019
@ 9:31 am

I interviewed Gahan Wilson and his wife Nancy Winters when they lived at the foot of Boston’s Beacon Hill.

The article in The New England Business Journal, taken from the interview was titled “Nobody ever said I give them nightmares”

Wilson showed me his first collection, Man in a Cannibal Pot.
The man was in a cannibal pot, pouring poison into it.

In remembering him, I recall Dashiel Hammett’s, author of The Thin Man, praise of novelist Nathan West, author The Day of the Locust, “You don’t hear the echo of other writers in his work”.

Wilson was an acquired taste.

In times of transition,I recall The Twilight Zone episode,”A Game of Pool: In it, a frustrated pool share Jessie Cardiff (Jack Klugman)wants to play the all time champion Fats Brown, who unfortunately is dead. When Fats Brown (Jonathan Winters) appears, Jessie is astounded.

Jessie “But your.
Brown: “Dead? Not really. As long as people talk about you you don’t really die. As long as people say your name, you continue. A legend doesn’t die just because the man does.”

Gahan. I’ll see you in whatever comes next.

Best,
David Reno

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