SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Gahan Wilson, whose humorous and often macabre cartoons were a mainstay in magazines including Playboy, the New Yorker and National Lampoon, died last week. He was 89.
Wilsonâ€™s stepson, Paul Winters, said he died Nov. 21 in Scottsdale, Arizona, from complications of dementia.
Wilson delighted readers with his haunting scenes and dark humor. One cartoon shows a man reading a doctorâ€™s eye chart with progressively shrinking letters that spell out, â€œI am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now.â€ Behind him, a mad scientist gleefully holds a blade, ready to strike.
In another, two fishermen sit in a boat, unaware the captain behind them is removing a human mask to reveal a fish-like face, a mischievous toothy smile and scaly chest. â€œHow did you come to name your boat the Revenge, Captain?â€ reads the caption.
In a story posted on his website, Wilson recalled how heâ€™d struggled to convince editors that their readers would understand and appreciate his cartoons. His big break came from a fill-in cartoon editor at Colliers who didnâ€™t know the conventional wisdom about his work.
â€œNot 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,â€ Wilson wrote. â€œI was flabbergasted and delighted when he started to buy it!â€
He went on to reflect on artists who push boundaries and shock the status quo.
â€œArt should lead to change in the way we see things,â€ he wrote. â€œIf some artist comes up with a vision which gives a new opening, it usually creates a lot of stress, because itâ€™s frightening.
His regular multi-panel strip in National Lampoon in the 1970s was called â€œNuts,â€ a take on Charles Schultzâ€™s â€œPeanuts.â€
Gahan Allen Wilson was born Feb. 18, 1930, in Evanston, Illinois. His father was an executive for a steel company, his mother a publicist for a department store. He served in the U.S. Air Force and went to the Art Institute of Chicago.
His wife of 52 years, writer Nancy Winters, died in March. Heâ€™s survived by two stepsons, a daughter in law, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.