Gahan Wilson was an American author, cartoonist and illustrator.
I was unacquainted with the work of Wilson. Dave Letterman introduced him in the 1980s as the “guru of gruesome, wizard of the weird and the Michelangelo of the macabre.”
Me being European, Wilson reminds me of Tomi Ungerer (1931- 2019) or Roland Topor (1938-1997) and perhaps more of Topor, since like Topor, Wilson was not political.
Wilson is regarded as the only heir of Charles Addams (1912-1988) and often mentioned in one breath with Edward Gorey (1925-2000) .
The epithet ‘sick humor‘ sometimes pops up, although I have to disagree on this one, as, as a European, I am used to Hara Kiri, most likely the epitome of 20th century sick humor.
Since I found out about his death, I watched the “The Waitress” episode of The Kid (2001) and Wilson’s appearance at David Letterman’s (March 30, 1982) when he published Is Nothing Sacred?. I also listened to a reading of the wonderful story “The Sea was Wet as Wet Could Be” (1967).
His cartoon “I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now…” is frequently cited as of his best work. In it, a non-suspecting man reading an optometrist’s ‘eye examination’ with the text cited is approached from behind by a knife wielding optometrist.
There are body horror elements in his work and the cartoon “Harry, I really think you ought to go to the doctor.”, in which Harry is a regular man with the head of a prawn, is positively Lovecraftian.
“Goodbye to lovely “pro-Women’s Liberationist” Paul Krassner, with all his astonished anger that women have lost their sense of humor”on this issue” and don’t laugh any more at little funnies that degrade and hurt them: farewell to the memory of his “Instant Pussy” aerosol-can poster, to his column for the woman-hating men’s magazine Cavalier, to his dream of a Rape-In against legislators’ wives, to his Scapegoats and Realist Nuns and cute anecdotes about the little daughter he sees as often as any properly divorced Scarsdale middle-aged father; goodbye forever to the notion that a man is my brother who, like Paul, buys a prostitute for the night as a birthday gift for a male friend, or who, like Paul, reels off the names in alphabetical order of people in the women’s movement he has fucked, reels off names in the best locker-room tradition—as proof that he’s no sexist oppressor.”– “Goodbye to All That” (1970) by Robin Morgan
The entire issue where he is depicted with a spray can of “instant pussy” referred to, can be read here.
I’ll never forget the moment at he end of the interview when he started singing “Die Gedanken sind frei” and many of the German-language invites joining in.
Fornicon (1969) [above] is a collection of 60 prints of scenes of funny machine-aided sadomasochistic male domination. When I say machine-aided, think Rube Goldberg machine. Box sets of these prints are being sold for as high as 3,000$. Books can be had for as little as ten dollars.
“Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted.”
But really, the whole passage is excellent in its power of imagination, in its ability to trivialize providence and omnipotence, in making it ridiculous by giving inane details, which seem like endless digressions à la Tristram Shandy. If you’re curious, you can read the rest of that passage here.
I wondered what the exact nature of the ‘triumphant beast’ of the title of the text was, and why, if so triumphant, it needed to be expelled. Some googling learnt that the beast is the the Pope or the Catholic Church.
Sadly, the wit in this text was fatal for Giordano. After a trial that lasted eight years, Bruno was burnt at the stake in 1600 for his derision. He was barely 52.