Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Born in Evanston, Illinois on 18 February 1930, Wilson was the only child of a successful executive in a steel company and a talented artist in a Chicago advertising firm. He has described his upbringing as dysfunctional due to his partents' alcoholism, although he was also encouraged to draw. From an early age his drawings featured elements of horror and he became a fan of Chester Gould's 'Dick Tracy', with its many grotesque characters, and 'Little Orphan Annie' by Harold Gray. Radio also played an important part in his childhood love of the mysterious and macabre, as did Hollywood. Through a family friend he was able to visit Hollywood studios in the 1940s.
Wilson attended a number of commercial art studios whilst in High School and studied fine art at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was briefly in the Air Force but a bad leg excluded him from active duty. He then moved to Greenwich Village, selling cartoons to the major weekly magazines Collier's and Look.
Wilson attempted approach to Harvey Kurtzman following the launch of Trump resulted accidentally in his introduction to Hugh Hefner. He had spotted a Chicago address in Trump and visited the offices when he returned to Chicago to visit his parents over Christmas. Trump was, in fact, edited in New York, but Wilson found himself introduced to Hefner who began running his colour cartoons in Playboy in the mid-1950s.
Wilson's first collection of cartoons appeared in 1965 as Gahan Wilson's Graveside Manner and was followed by many other books, including collections of short stories and novels for both adults and children. He was also a film reviewer for The Twilight Zone Magazine, a book reviewer for Realms of Fantasy and designed a computer game, Gahan Wilson's The Ultimate Haunted House.
Wilson's cartoons have earned him a number of awards, including World Fantasy Convention Award in 1981, the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement award in 2005 and the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 from the National Cartoonists Society. He has also been President of the Cartoonist Guild. He was the subject of a documentary directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe entitled Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird.
Examples of Gahan Wilson's original artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.