Gahan Wilson (born February 18, 1930) is an American author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations.
Wilson was born in Evanston, Illinois. He has been married to author Nancy Winters (née Nancy Dee Midyette) since 1966.
Wilson's cartoons and illustrations are drawn in a playfully grotesque style and have a dark humor that is often compared to the work of The New Yorker cartoonist and Addams Family creator Charles Addams. But while both feature vampires, cemeteries and other traditional horror elements in their work, Addams' cartoons are gothic, reserved and old-fashioned, while Wilson's work is more contemporary, gross and confrontational, featuring atomic mutants, subway monsters and serial killers. It could be argued that Addams' work was probably meant to be funny without a lot of satirical intent, while Wilson often has a very specific point to make.
Wilson was inspired by the irreverent work of the various satiric Mad and Punch cartoonists, as well as the science fiction monster films of the 1950s. His cartoons and prose fiction appeared regularly in Playboy, Collier's and The New Yorker for almost 50 years. In addition to his cartoons for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, he also wrote movie and book reviews for that publication. From 1992 through end of publication, he prepared all the front covers for the annual book Passport to World Band Radio. He has been a movie review columnist for The Twilight Zone Magazine and a book critic for Realms of Fantasy magazine.
His comic strip Nuts, which appeared in National Lampoon, was a reaction against what he saw as the saccharine view of childhood in strips like Peanuts. His hero, The Kid, sees the world as dark, dangerous and unfair—but also occasionally a fun place.
Wilson wrote and illustrated a short story for Harlan Ellison's anthology Again, Dangerous Visions (1972). The "title" is a black blob, and the story is about an ominous black blob that appears on the page, growing at an alarming rate. He has contributed short stories to other publications as well; "M1" and "The Zombie Butler" both appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and were reprinted in Gahan Wilson's Cracked Cosmos (1975).
Wilson created a computer game, Gahan Wilson's The Ultimate Haunted House, with Byron Preiss. The goal is to collect 13 keys in 13 hours from the 13 rooms of a house by interacting in various ways with characters (two-headed monster, mad scientist, vampiress), objects and the house itself.
Wilson wrote the 1992 animated short Diner.
In 2009, Fantagraphics Books released Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons, a slipcased, three-volume collection of Wilson's cartoons and short stories for that magazine. A collection of his work, Fifty Years of Gahan Wilson, was published in 2010. Fantagraphics announced a "complete" edition of Nuts for the Spring of 2011.
In 2005, Wilson was recognized with Lifetime Achievement from the World Fantasy Awards. He received the World Fantasy Convention Award (in the form of the bust of H. P. Lovecraft that he had designed as the award trophy in 1975) in 1981. He also received the National Cartoonists Society's Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Wilson is the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe.
He was an influence on later alternative cartoonists, including Gary Larson, John Callahan and Bill Plympton.