R.I.P., Gahan Wilson

My lone Gahan Wilson collection.

Gahan Wilson, whose surreal cartoons regularly appeared in National Lampoon, Playboy, and other top-shelf mags, has stepped away from the drawing board.

He died Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Complications of dementia, they say. He was 89.

This guy was funny. Bleak, weird, the owner and operator of left field, he kept you off balance like some psychotic judo master. There was nobody else like him working Back in the Day®, and if he has a successor, I’ve not seen him or her yet.

One of my faves? An overstuffed chair absorbing a reader. Eyeglasses and book lie on the floor. All you can see as the reader vanishes is a pair of hands, protruding from the seat.

Another depicts a gardener who has unearthed a skeleton. His employer, a stately, dessicated husk of a woman, says, “I think you would be advised to locate the new delphinium bed elsewhere, Hobbs.”

Yet another shows a soldier covered in gore, muck and God knows what all, knife in one hand and assault rifle in the other. He stands alone in a smoking hellscape that makes the “Terminator” future look like Disneyland. His eyes pop out of the murk like cue balls. And he smiles. “I think I won!” he says.

Dracula with a vampire hand puppet. Dracula with a salt shaker. (Dude liked Dracula, what can I tell you?) A woman who has stuffed her husband into the trash can outside her apartment door (“You don’t get rid of him that easy, Mrs. Jacowsky,” says a man who may be the building superintendent). A writer for “The National Confidential Weekly” who, stuck for a lively bit of the old Fake News®, finally leaves his typewriter for a while and returns to tap out, “It isn’t easy cutting the heart out of a woman with a dull knife. And it takes time. It takes a good fifteen minutes.”

Oh, Gahan Wilson was one of the greats. I hope he and Charles Addams are hoisting a tall cold one in the Beyond.

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6 Responses to “R.I.P., Gahan Wilson”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Bummerville. And for a trip down Memory Lane:

  2. matlinp Says:

    I first came across Wilson’s cartoons in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction back in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s (yeah, I’m one of those old farts). Have loved his work ever since. R.I.P.

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    One of my favorites. He was always looking around and ahead.

  4. Jon Paulos Says:

    He died of dementia? Given his cartooning history, how could they tell?

  5. David Watts Says:

    Loved Gahan’s work. Truly, one of the greatest cartoonists ever. Weird themes, but I like weird. Favorite was the people being sucked into an escalator with, I think, the caption of “God, it really has been one of *those* days.” Edward Gorey was another of the same sort.

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