Wilson, Gahan

Tagged: Art

(1930-    ) American artist and author, best known for his work outside the genre as a cartoonist, his career beginning in the mid 1940s; associated mainly for many decades with magazines like Playboy (from 1957) and The New Yorker (from 1980). The bizarre and often macabre sense of humour he displayed in his innumerable cartoons, though influenced by precursors like Charles Addams (1912-1988), has had a broad impact on the style and substance of American culture as a whole. His contributions to sf have also been copious, if not as significant.

As a writer, Wilson produced three books for children and two novels, Eddy Deco's Last Caper: An Illustrated Mystery (1987) and Everybody's Favorite Duck (1989), all with illustrations. He also wrote a number of short stories, the most prominent of these being the typographically-unrenderable "•", for Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions (anth 1972), which visually and verbally describes an expanding black blob that takes over a person's life. Other stories, which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Omni, Playboy, and several original anthologies, were collected as The Cleft and Other Odd Tales (coll 1987). In addition, Wilson published numerous book reviews and film reviews in Realms of Fantasy, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, and Weird Tales; he wrote the introductions to several books; and he edited three anthologies of short fiction: Gahan Wilson's Favorite Tales of Horror (anth 1976), offering a broad range of older and more recent stories; First World Fantasy Awards (anth 1977), which also includes essays and poems; and Gahan Wilson's The Ultimate Haunted House (anth 1996), a collection of original stories based on his own artwork. His occasional work in films includes writing the horror film Freeway Maniac (1989) and "Leavings" (1991), an episode of the series Monsters (1988-1991); he also wrote and served as production designer for the animated short Diner (1992).

Wilson's sf artwork began with several cartoons published in 1954 issues of Fantastic, and along with cartoons for Amazing Stories and Weird Tales, he went on to publish numerous cartoons in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction during the 1960s and 1970s. These did not always involve genre subjects, but one cartoon from F&SF republished in "... And Then We'll Get Him!" (graph 1978) can be said to represent his propensity for twisted takes on familiar tropes, as it depicts a Mad Scientist who has assembled a monster (see Frankenstein Monster) with the head, hands, and feet sewn in the wrong places, leading his hunchbacked assistant to murmur, "I think he's gone soft!" Wilson also did a few covers for the magazine, such as his drawing of Santa Claus propelling himself through the air with a hand-held rocket and a jet pack for the January 1969 Christmas issue. His occasional book covers include an interesting effort for Robert M Price's anthology Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos (anth 1992), showing supplicant authors presenting their manuscripts to an enormous statue of Lovecraft, also being honoured by a bowl of burning incense and a sacrificed dog. Another clever cover for the August 2003 issue of Realms of Fantasy, shows Harry Potter signing books in the company of figures from fantasy. Though he never won a Chesley Award, his numerous honours include a 2004 World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. In recent years Wilson produced some apparently original covers for several books from Subterranean Press, and cartoons, in particular for The New Yorker; retrospective compilations of his best cartoons continue to make his singular artwork widely accessible to new generations of readers. He announced his retirement from cartoon work in January 1930. [GW]

Gahan Wilson

born Evanston, Illinois: 18 February 1930



graphic works

works as editor


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