Gahan Wilson  

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"Shades of Lehrer's sick humor were also evident in the work of cartoonists such as Edward Gorey, Tomi Ungerer, William Shoemaker, Gahan Wilson, and ..."--Revel with a Cause: Liberal Satire in Postwar America (2010) by Stephen E. Kercher

"... funny and unsettling, especially when he crosses the line, as he occasionally does, into the “sick humor” of contemporaries such as the cartoonist Gahan Wilson." --Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (2018) by Mark Dery

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Gahan Allen Wilson (February 18, 1930 – November 21, 2019) was an American author ("The Sea was Wet as Wet Could Be"), cartoonist ("I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now...") and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations.

Wilson was born in Evanston, Illinois. He was married to author Nancy Winters (née Nancy Dee Midyette) from 1966 until her death in 2019.



Wilson's cartoons and illustrations are drawn in a playfully grotesque style and have a dark humor that is often compared to the work of The New Yorker cartoonist and Addams Family creator Charles Addams. But while both feature vampires, cemeteries and other traditional horror elements in their work, Wilson's work has a more contemporary, shocking aspect to its humor, featuring atomic mutants, subway monsters and serial killers.

Wilson was inspired by the irreverent work of the various satiric Mad and Punch cartoonists, as well as the science fiction monster films of the 1950s. His cartoons and prose fiction appeared regularly in Playboy, Collier's and The New Yorker for almost 50 years. In addition to his cartoons for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, he also wrote movie and book reviews for that publication. From 1992 through end of publication, he prepared all the front covers for the annual book Passport to World Band Radio. He has been a movie review columnist for The Twilight Zone Magazine and a book critic for Realms of Fantasy magazine.

His comic strip Nuts, which appeared in National Lampoon, was a reaction against what he saw as the saccharine view of childhood in strips like Peanuts. His hero, The Kid, sees the world as dark, dangerous and unfair—but also occasionally a fun place.

Wilson wrote and illustrated a short story for Harlan Ellison's anthology Again, Dangerous Visions (1972). The "title" is a black blob, and the story is about an ominous black blob that appears on the page, growing at an alarming rate. He has contributed short stories to other publications as well; "M1" and "The Zombie Butler" both appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and were reprinted in Gahan Wilson's Cracked Cosmos (1975).

Wilson created a computer game, Gahan Wilson's The Ultimate Haunted House, with Byron Preiss. The goal is to collect 13 keys in 13 hours from the 13 rooms of a house by interacting in various ways with characters (for example, a two-headed monster, a mad scientist, and a vampiress), objects, and the house itself.

Wilson wrote the 1992 animated short Diner.

In 2009, Fantagraphics Books released Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons, a slipcased, three-volume collection of Wilson's cartoons and short stories for that magazine. A collection of his work, Fifty Years of Gahan Wilson, was published in 2010. Fantagraphics announced a "complete" edition of Nuts in the spring of 2011.

In 2019, his stepson Paul Winters announced that Wilson was suffering from advanced dementia.

On November 22, 2019, Winters announced that Wilson had died from complications of dementia.


In 2005, Wilson was recognized with Lifetime Achievement from the World Fantasy Awards. He received the World Fantasy Convention Award (in the form of the bust of H. P. Lovecraft that he had designed as the award trophy in 1975) in 1981. He also received the National Cartoonists Society's Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Wilson is the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe.

He was an influence on later alternative cartoonists, including Gary Larson, John Callahan and Bill Plympton.


  • Gahan Wilson's Graveside Manner (1965)
  • The Man in the Cannibal Pot (1967)
  • I Paint What I See (1971)
  • Playboy's Gahan Wilson (i) (1973)
  • Gahan Wilson's Cracked Cosmos (1975)
  • The Weird World of Gahan Wilson (1975)
  • And Then We'll Get Him! (1978)
  • Nuts (strip collection) (1979)
  • Playboy's Gahan Wilson (ii) (1980)
  • Is Nothing Sacred? (1982) Template:ISBN
  • Gahan Wilson's America (1985)
  • Eddy Deco's Last Caper (1987)
  • Everybody's Favorite Duck (1988)
  • A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) (illustrated by Gahan Wilson; written by Roger Zelazny)
  • Still Weird (1994)
  • The Big Book of Weirdos (1995)
  • Even Weirder (1996)
  • The Big Book of Freaks (1996)
  • The Cleft and Other Odd Tales (1998) (stories and illustrations by Gahan Wilson)
  • Gravediggers' Party (2002)
  • Monster Party (2003)
  • The Best of Gahan Wilson (2004)
  • Pop Art (2007) (illustrated by Gahan Wilson; written by Joe Hill. 52 hard covers signed by Mr. Hill, limited edition lettered from A to Z. Rare.)
  • Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons (2010) (slipcased three-volume set containing all of Wilson's cartoons for Playboy)
  • Nuts: A Graphic Novel by Gahan Wilson (2011) (collects his entire Nuts comic strip, Fantagraphics)
  • Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics (2013) (Publication Date: September 7, 2013)
  • Gahan Wilson's Out There (2016) (collects material 1964–1981 from Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)

Children's fantasy

  • Matthew Looney series written by Jerome Beatty Jr., illustrated by Gahan Wilson:
    • Matthew Looney's Voyage to the Earth (1961)
    • Matthew Looney's Invasion of the Earth (1965)
    • Matthew Looney in the Outback (1969)
    • Matthew Looney and the Space Pirates (1974)
    • Maria Looney on the Red Planet (1977)
    • Maria Looney and the Cosmic Circus (1978)
    • Maria Looney and the Remarkable Robot (1978)
  • Bob Fulton's Amazing Soda-pop Stretcher: An International Spy Story (1963) written by Jerome Beatty Jr., illustrated by Gahan Wilson
  • Harry, the Fat Bear Spy (1973)
  • Harry and the Sea Serpent (1976)
  • The Bang Bang Family (1974)
  • Spooky Stories for a Dark and Stormy Night (1994)
  • Didn't Didn't Do It (2007) written by Bradford Morrow, illustrated by Gahan Wilson

Books edited by Gahan Wilson

See also

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