Gahan Wilson, Cartoonist for Playboy, Dies at 89

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“Would you like this yucky little lunch or that yucky little lunch?” Cartoon via Gahan Wilson’s Facebook page, in Feb. 2019

Gahan Wilson, a cartoonist and author known for his playfully sinister take on childhood, adulthood, men, women, and monsters, whose works appeared in the pages of Playboy for more than 50 years, died Nov. 22, 2019. His death, at age 89, was announced by his stepson, Paul Winters, on Facebook. Wilson had been suffering from advanced dementia.

Winters wrote, “The world has lost a legend. One of the very best cartoonists to ever pick up a pen and paper has passed on. He went peacefully – surrounded by those who loved him.”

For several generations of readers of Playboy, Wilson’s work was as ubiquitous as the magazine’s Playmate of the Month. It’s said that Wilson had a cartoon in each issue of the magazine since December 1957.

A 2010 book, Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons features not only every cartoon Wilson drew for Playboy, but all his prose fiction that has appeared there as well, from his first story in the June 1962 issue, “Horror Trio,” to such classics as “Dracula Country” (September 1978).

Wilson’s work also appeared regularly in The New Yorker and National Lampoon.

On his website, Wilson explained how he his career began. ”My big break came when the cartoon editor for Colliers – who, like everybody else, thought the readers wouldn’t understand the cartoons I did – left to become the cartoon editor of Look. In the interim, the art director took over. Not being a trained cartoon editor, he did not realize my stuff was too much for the common man to comprehend, and he thought it was funny.

“I was flabbergasted and delighted when he started to buy it! He wasn’t in all that long, about a month and a half, but by that time my cartoons had started to appear. The guy who had gone to Look saw them in Colliers, and I guess a great dawning occurred, so he started buying them for Look, and that was it – I was now a big-time cartoonist! Absolutely foolish, but that’s the way it happened. That was the chink in the armor, and I just got through it.”

Wilson was born Feb. 18, 1930, in Evanston, Ill. His wife of over 50 years, Nancy Winters Wilson, died earlier this year.

A film, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, was released in 2013.

Related: Legendary rock photographer, Terry O’Neill, died the same week as Gahan Wilson

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