Dear cartoon lovers,
Gahan Wilson, one of the great greats of the art of the single panel cartoon died last week. I knew him as a colleague and friend and was his editor at The New Yorker from 1997 to 2016 where he published over six hundred cartoons. This was the last cartoon he published there or, I believe, anywhere:
Gahan is best known for his brilliant work for Playboy, where, inspired by Charles Addams, he tapped into the paranoia that is with us now more than ever; the knowledge that behind the comforting façade of normalcy there is the capacity for evil (and even vicarious delight in it) that lurks within us all.
But though Addams and Wilson both mined the hilarity that is horror’s funny bedfellow, the cartoon style in which they did so is very different.
Addams style is primarily functional; the macabre lies in the idea, not in the drawing itself.
With Gahan, drawing and idea are completely intertwined. I can’t think of a better example than this Playboy cartoon which is pure genius in its grotesque imagination and draftsmanship:
Yes, the joke is a good one that will stay with you for a while– but you’ll never forget that monster or, I hope Gahan.
Yours in Good Humor,
P.S. A great way of remembering Gahan is to watch the documentary by Steven-Charles Jaffe made in 2007 “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead”:
And here’s a link to his New Yorker cartoons on CartoonCollections.com