I’ll tell you in just a bit.

I discovered Charles Addams and the Addams Family cartoons when I was five or six years old. My dad was in the U.S. Army, and we were moving to Germany in1975. We lived in a lot of temporary housing during this time, and we did a whole lot of waiting. One day we waited in a giant public library or maybe it was a university library. She sat me and either one or all of my three sisters down in the stacks of bound comic strips and such. I’m not sure how Mom found the section. She was sharp though.

I read through tons of books that reprinted newspaper comic strips. The only other comic I remember was a one-panel comic which I’ve never been able to find about a robot maid who is given a list of chores, one of which is to “dust” the house, so she spreads dust everywhere. The funnest comics I found, however, were from the pen of Charles Addams, the original Addams Family cartoons. There they were: Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch, Grandmama, and then some.

I love the one-panel comic strip, the shows, the movies, and the new Wednesday TV show, but Charles Addams is not my favorite horror cartoonist.

I used to watch the beginning of PBS Mystery just to see the opening credits created by Edward Gorey. His alphabet book the Gashleycrumb Tinies is a standard horror milestone—“A is for Amy who fell down the stairs.” Working in a used bookstore I see his cover illustrations in every subject from kid’s books to adult books to poetry books. Gorey’s cover and internal art for the 1982 edition of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats written by The Waste Land poet T. S. Elliot is the only edition you see anymore, as if the text and images now belong together as legitimately as John Tenniel’s illustrations in Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories.

Edward Gorey and his work are amazing, but he’s not my favorite horror cartoonist.

I have explored Pete Von Sholly, who created the amazing History of Monsters; Travis Louie’s sepia tone-like portraits; and Joshua Hoffine’s incredible horror scene photography. None of them are my favorite.

Gahan Wilson is single-handedly my favorite horror cartoonist slash illustrator.

Though his cartoons appear in all types of magazines and digests, most of his work can be found in one magazine. I haven’t seen every panel he ever created, but none of the ones published in this particular magazine are strongly sexual in nature, which is ironic since that magazine was Playboy. I love the short stories of Edward D. Hoch, who had a short story published in every issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for at least thirty years. That is thirty times twelve, however much that is. Hoch—pronounced like Coke–stands at the top of an Olympic Games pedestal, tied for first place with Gahan Wilson. The title of the book that shows Wilson’s contributions to Playboy says it all: Gahan Wilson 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons. Remember, times twelve issues a year, though he wasn’t in every issue, so round it down.

And we are not talking about a small, ink on white, single panel buried in a page of text. Most of his work in Playboy was full page and full color, usually after the centerfold, if you are hunting for them like I am–I have been collecting just his pages from the magazine for years–and some issues have the large color cartoon as well as a small ink on white one-panel cartoon, so maybe we should round up how many cartoons he has in this mag.

His comics take classic horror situations and characters and turn them on their pointed ears: the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, ghosts, aliens. At times his work gets pretty dark and satirical: kids selling poisoned lemon aid, a single soldier in a wasteland claiming “I Think We Won,” a husband about to kill his wife for buying him a lot of ties for Christmas. And let’s talk about his Christmas ones: Santa Clause eating his elves, the elves making missiles, the elves making the Frankenstein monster, Santa coming home Christmas Eve to find his wife in bed and the elves hiding in the closet in their boxers—okay so his cartoons do get sexual sometimes, just not sexually graphic.

Look at the fine detail he puts into these images: the color schemes, the spacing, and the cross-hatching shading itself is amazing. His style is noticeably unique. Once you start looking for his cartoons, you can spot his style right away.

Like Gorey, Wilson also created book and magazine covers for the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, the New Yorker, and my favorite, the Classics Illustrated The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe, for which he contributed the cover and the internal art.

The goal of this article was to introduce Gahan Wilson to those who don’t know him, but it has been a rabbit hole for me because I am discovering even more work by him. I knew about his single frame comics, his covers, his fiction, and his Monsters episode. However, he also wrote a live action feature called The Freeway Maniac which is on YouTube, about a man on a killing spree on a science fiction film set. He created a series of Lovecraft book covers, which I am only just now discovering. Also out there is an early computer game, Gahan Wilson’s Ultimate Haunted House (1994). You can get an introduction here or a four hour deep dive into the whole game here.

At least three short movies display his cartoon style in animation—all of these are new to me as well: Diner is an intense six minute animated horror story about a health inspector visiting the titular diner with disastrous results. Another short film, It Was a Dark and Silly Night, is about kids who hold their party in a cemetery and are joined by the local residents, the immediate local residents. Gahan Wilson’s The Kid, based on his newspaper comic strip Nuts, was a Showtime special that reads like a Halloween special for kids, but it has the F-word and the middle finger, so maybe it is just for some kids. It appears to be a feature, but is on YouTube in three parts with secondary titles of The Witch, The Cat and The Waitress. I just watched all of these for the first time and love them. Standard Halloween viewing material now.

BWTM! There’s a reason I have Gahan Wilson on the brain lately. According to gahanwilsonofficial on Instagram and several other sources. The Arizona-based Startup production company and streaming service Flixwest promises their show Gahan Wilson’s Tales of Horror is coming out right now, Fall of 2023. It’s Fall, and the twenty-four episode anthology show is not here yet. I anxiously await. I will bide my time by researching more of his film work.

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