2010 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Archival Collection — Strips
OVER ONE THOUSAND CARTOONS SPANNING 50 YEARS OF A LEGENDARY CAREER
Fifty-one, to be exact, but lets not quibble. Gahan Wilson is among the most popular, widely-read, and beloved cartoonists in the history of the medium, whose career spans the 2nd half of the 20th century, and all of the 21st. His work has been seen by millions no, hundreds of millions in the pages of Playboy, The New Yorker, Punch, The National Lampoon, and many other magazines; there is no telling, really, how many readers he has corrupted or comforted. He is revered for his playfully sinister take on childhood, adulthood, men, women, and monsters. His brand of humor makes you laugh until you cry. And its about time that a collection of his cartoons was published that did justice to his vast body of work.
When Gahan Wilson walked into Hugh Hefners office in 1957, he sat down as Hefner was on the phone, gently rejecting a submission to his new gentlemens magazine: I think its very well-written and I liked it very much, Hefner reportedly said, but its anti-sin. And Im afraid were pro-sin. Wilson knew, at that moment, that he had found a kindred spirit and a potential home for his cartoons. And indeed he had; Wilson appeared in every issue of Playboy from the December 1957 issue to today. It has been one of the most fruitful, successful, and long-lived relationships between a contributor and a magazine, ever.
Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons features not only every cartoon Wilson drew for Playboy, but all his prose fiction that has appeared in that magazine as well, from his first story in the June, 1962 issue, Horror Trio, to such classics as Dracula Country (September 1978). It also includes the text-and-art features he drew for Playboy, such as his look at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, his take on our countrys pathology of violence, and his appreciation of transplant surgery.
Wilsons notoriously black sense of comedy is on display throughout the book, leaving no sacred cow unturned (an image curiously absent in the book), ridiculing everything from state sponsored executions to the sober precincts of the nouveau rich, from teenage dating to police line-ups, with scalding and hilarious satirical jabs. Although Wilson is known as an artist who relishes the creepy side of modern life, this three-volume set truly demonstrates the depth and breadth of his range from illustrating private angst we never knew we had (when you eat a steak, just whom are you eating?) to the ironic and deadpan take on horrifying public issues (ecological disaster, nuclear destruction anyone?).
Gahan Wilson has been peeling back the troubling layers of modern life with his incongruously playful and unnerving cartoons, assailing our deepest fears and our most inane follies. This three-volume set is a testament to one of the funniest and wickedly disturbing cartoonists alive.
PREVIEWS! Download an EXCLUSIVE 25-page PDF excerpt containing all of Wilson's strips from 1958-1959, including a series of strips spoofing Sherlock Holmes (8 MB). Read Neil Gaiman's Introduction right here. And read designer Jacob Covey's production notes, with copious photos, on Flog! The Fantagraphics Blog.
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"...Hefner knew great cartooning when he saw it, and the satirical undercurrent coursing through Wilsons work amused him as much as Wilsons eldritch comic irony, which is wilder than but otherwise of a piece, especially in quality, with that of Wilsons greatest peer, Charles Addams. And doubtless Hefner admired, along with the rest of Wilsons ardent following, the flamboyant, wiggly line with which Wilson limns the hideous figures that people his panels." – Ray Olson, Booklist (Starred Review)
"Since 1957, Wilson’s work has provided a grim counterpoint to the skin and pleasure-seeking of Playboy. Twisting pop-culture icons to dark-witted ends, Wilson places his characters in a world of terror and understatement. ... [T]he incidental commentary here about human selfishness and shortsightedness squeezed between the B-movie monsters and little green men feels timeless, as does the remarkably high level of quality Wilson has maintained over the years. ... [Grade] A" – The A.V. Club
"It's a testament, not only to Wilson's genius (the material never flags or gets rote, no matter what the decade) but also to Fantagraphics skill in presenting this material in such a stellar fashion. Really, it was the best retrospective collection of the year " Chris Mautner, Robot 6
Named a Favourite Book of 2010 by Drawn's John Martz