Cartoonist Gahan Wilson—whose grimly funny, frequently macabre work often constituted one of the very best reasons to crack open a copy of Playboy (or The New Yorker, or National Lampoon, etc.)—has died. As reported by The New York Times, Wilson died this week from complications from dementia, at the age of 89.
Born in Illinois, Wilson broke into cartooning in the late 1950s, when he sold his first cartoons to Collier’s Weekly and Playboy. Inspired by the anarchic comedy rampant in magazines like Punch and MAD—to say nothing of the work of Charles Addams, with whom he shared an obsession with classic monsters—Wilson made a career out of mining the darker avenues of human nature, often by having creatures from the id intrude directly into the banal. (Or, just as often, showing the boring, mundane side of being a slavering beast.) His characters were expressively ugly, detailed even when you’d wish they weren’t, and his work sits firmly in a long tradition of cartoonists happy to mine discomfort and unease just as readily as joy, from contemporaries like Shel Silverstein, to descendants like Bill Plympton and Gary Larson.
Fans of Wilson’s work hopped online this weekend to share some of their favorites from his vast library; if there’s a silver lining to his passing, it’s been in seeing so much gleeful, discomfiting weirdness leak into the online world in his honor: