Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons

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Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons (Three-Book Slipcased Set) Hardcover – October 3, 2011
by Gahan Wilson (Author), Neil Gaiman (Introduction), Hugh Hefner (Introduction)

Gahan Wilson is among the most popular, widely-read, and beloved cartoonists in the history of the medium, whose career spans the second 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 it’s 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 Hefner’s office in 1957, he sat down as Hefner was on the phone, gently rejecting a submission to his new gentlemen’s magazine: “I think it’s very well-written and I liked it very much,” Hefner reportedly said, “but it’s anti-sin. And I’m afraid we’re 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 Tussaud’s Wax Museum, his take on our country’s “pathology of violence,” and his appreciation of “transplant surgery.”

Wilson’s 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.

Nominated for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Archival Collection/Project: Strips; Best Publication Design). Illustrated throughout in color and black-and-white

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Few cartoonists ever had as lavish a tribute as a three-volume-slipcased collection, but few are as deserving as Wilson. Collecting 50 years worth of his monthly single page gag cartoons from Playboy, it’s a definitive overview of a remarkable talent and viewpoint. Considering the timeframe, Wilson’s fabled black humor and art style remain remarkably consistent—as time passes, the drawing renders into slightly blobbier shapes that retain all of their wit just the same—but the source and degree of the humor is a constant. Although best known for his slightly lugubrious subjects—monsters, witches, corpses, vampires and skeletons are frequent visitors to these pages—Wilson also targets consumerism, materialism, and other basic human foibles. As publisher Gary Groth writes in a biography in the third volume, He has…constructed a world that is eerily family, unsettlingly recognizable and lethally consistent. Beautifully designed and printed, the books contain cut-out pages, and the slipcase itself becomes a window for a trapped photo of Wilson. Text extras include Wilson’s prose short stories and an appreciation by Neil Gaiman. If these three volumes are a bit much for one sitting, periodic dipping in will always satisfy. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Along with the centerfolds and the interviews, Playboy is famous for Gahan Wilson’s cartoons, 50 years’ worth of which are aptly mounted on Playboy-size pages in this boxed set. Glowing introductions by Playboy proprietor Hugh M. Hefner and Wilson’s latter-day friend and writing partner Neil Gaiman, the five Wilson short stories Playboy has also published over the years, and a sterling profile of and interview with the artist by Comics Journal editor Gary Groth accompany the cartoons. Seldom mentioned in any of those supplements is the fact that Wilson’s presence in Playboy is quite anomalous, for Wilson nearly never touches upon sex. The sole exposure in these volumes of bare-breasted women, ubiquitous in other Playboy cartoons, is in an image of witches relaxing in their simmering cauldron, and while their breasts are pneumatic enough, they’re irrelevant to the cartoon’s point. But, a failed cartoonist himself, Hefner knew great cartooning when he saw it, and the satirical undercurrent coursing through Wilson’s work amused him as much as Wilson’s eldritch comic irony, which is wilder than but otherwise of a piece, especially in quality, with that of Wilson’s greatest peer, Charles Addams. And doubtless Hefner admired, along with the rest of Wilson’s ardent following, the flamboyant, wiggly line with which Wilson limns the hideous figures that people his panels. –Ray Olson

Product Details
Hardcover: 1056 pages
Publisher: Fantagraphics; Three-Book Slipcased Set edition (October 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606992988
ISBN-13: 978-1606992982
Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 7.9 x 10.4 inches
Shipping Weight: 10.4 pounds

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