SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — 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.
Wilson’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 doctor’s eye chart with progressively shrinking letters that spell out, “I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now.” 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. “How did you come to name your boat the Revenge, Captain?” reads the caption.
In a story posted on his website, Wilson recalled how he’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 didn’t know the conventional wisdom about his work.
“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,” Wilson wrote. “I was flabbergasted and delighted when he started to buy it!”