50 Years of Playboy Cartoons

50 Years of Playboy Cartoons

by Gahan Wilson, Neil Gaiman, Hugh Hefner
Nominated for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: a three-volume slipcased full-color set: over one thousand cartoons, spanning fifty years of a legendary career.
Gahan Wilson is among the most popular, widely-read, and beloved cartoonists in the history of the medium, whose career spans the second half of the 20th century, and all of the 21st. His


Nominated for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: a three-volume slipcased full-color set: over one thousand cartoons, spanning fifty years of a legendary career.
Gahan Wilson is among the most popular, widely-read, and beloved cartoonists in the history of the medium, whose career spans the second half of the 20th century, and all of the 21st. His work has been seen by millions—no, hundreds of millions—in the pages of Playboy, The New Yorker, Punch, The National Lampoon, and many other magazines; there is no telling, really, how many readers he has corrupted or comforted. He is revered for his playfully sinister take on childhood, adulthood, men, women, and monsters. His brand of humor makes you laugh until you cry. And it’s about time that a collection of his cartoons was published that did justice to his vast body of work.
When Gahan Wilson walked into Hugh Hefner’s office in 1957, he sat down as Hefner was on the phone, gently rejecting a submission to his new gentlemen’s magazine: “I think it’s very well-written and I liked it very much,” Hefner reportedly said, “but it’s anti-sin. And I’m afraid we’re pro-sin.” Wilson knew, at that moment, that he had found a kindred spirit and a potential home for his cartoons. And indeed he had; Wilson appeared in every issue of Playboy from the December 1957 issue to today. It has been one of the most fruitful, successful, and long-lived relationships between a contributor and a magazine, ever.Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons features not only every cartoon Wilson drew for Playboy, but all his prose fiction that has appeared in that magazine as well, from his first story in the June 1962 issue, “Horror Trio,” to such classics as “Dracula Country” (September 1978). It also includes the text-and-art features he drew for Playboy, such as his look at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, his take on our country’s “pathology of violence,” and his appreciation of “transplant surgery.”
Wilson’s notoriously black sense of comedy is on display throughout the book, leaving no sacred cow unturned (an image curiously absent in the book), ridiculing everything from state sponsored executions to the sober precincts of the nouveau rich, from teenage dating to police line-ups, with scalding and hilarious satirical jabs. Although Wilson is known as an artist who relishes the creepy side of modern life, this three-volume set truly demonstrates the depth and breadth of his range—from illustrating private angst we never knew we had (when you eat a steak, just whom are you eating?) to the ironic and deadpan take on horrifying public issues (ecological disaster, nuclear destruction anyone?).
Gahan Wilson has been peeling back the troubling layers of modern life with his incongruously playful and unnerving cartoons, assailing our deepest fears and our most inane follies. This three-volume set is a testament to one of the funniest—and wickedly disturbing—cartoonists alive.
Nominated for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Archival Collection/Project: Strips; Best Publication Design).

Editorial Reviews

“Starred Review. Along with the centerfolds and the interviews, Playboy is famous for Gahan Wilson’s cartoons, 50 year’s worth of which are aptly mounted on Playboy-size pages in this boxed set. Glowing introductions by Playboy proprietor Hugh M. Hefner and Wilson’s latter-day friend and writing partner Neil Gaiman, the five Wilson short stories Playboy has also published over the years, and a sterling profile of and interview with the artist by Comics Journal editor Gary Groth accompany the cartoons.... Hefner knew great cartooning when he saw it, and the satirical undercurrent coursing through Wilson’s work amused him as much as Wilson’s eldritch comic irony, which is wilder than but otherwise of a piece, especially in quality, with that of Wilson’s greatest peer, Charles Addams. And doubtless Hefner admired, along with the rest of Wilson’s ardent following, the flamboyant, wiggly line with which Wilson limns the hideous figures that people his panels.”
The New Yorker
“Like Charles Addams, to whom he is often compared, Wilson is a master of the macabre.”
The New York Times
“Norman Rockwell’s evil twin.”
The Onion A.V. Club
“Twisting pop-culture icons to dark-witted ends, Wilson places his characters in a world of terror and understatement. ... [T]he incidental commentary here about human selfishness and shortsightedness squeezed between the B-movie monsters and little green men feels timeless, as does the remarkably high level of quality Wilson has maintained over the years. ... [Grade] A.”
Chris Mautner - Robot 6
“The best retrospective collection of the year.”
John Mesjak - my3books
“A monster production, a slipcased behemoth, nearly 1000 pages in three volumes, with deliciously wicked humor on every page. ... Open the box, free the three volumes, and dive in anywhere. You will not be disappointed.”
Jeet Heer
“Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons cannot be praised highly enough.”
Jeet Heer - Comics Comics
“As a physical object Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons cannot be praised highly enough. ...[F]or all their morbidity and ghoulishness, Wilson’s cartoons affirm the value of cherishing life. As inhuman as his characters often are, Wilson is a deeply humane cartoonist.”
Steve Duin - The Oregonian
“This is a stunning collection, gloriously presented.”
Douglas Wolk - Time/Techland
“As mammoth and daunting a career retrospective as anyone could wish for: a gorgeous three-volume set, beautifully designed.”
Tom Spurgeon - The Comics Reporter
“This career retrospective is massive and beautiful and I think a lot of people are going to be so happy to have all this work in one place.”
John Hogan - Graphic Novel Reporter
“The work is tremendous and witty and, as always with an excellent retrospective, it offers the reader an excellent chance to walk back in time through decades of experiences, memories, turbulences and triumphs, and just plain old human oddities. What’s truly amazing is how, for more than 50 years, Wilson rarely misses a witty beat.”
Adam McGovern - HiLobrow
“Wilson’s misshapen mind’s eye, in which every figure and prop and setting looks like it’s made of the same stuff as those watches by Dalí, has remained unblinking and interested to this day. … Wilson was the antithesis of the one-panel, one-gag cartoonist he appeared to be... Whole dystopian novels detached from their illustrations were sensed in [his] cartoons…”
Library Journal
Wilson has specialized in depicting the moment when an unforeseen and potentially quite unpleasant Something arises out of previously mundane surroundings. An elevator door opening, for instance, shows huge dripping teeth top and bottom. But somehow we end up siding with the Teeth against the poor normal whose world is collapsing. That's what's funny—he makes the unthinkable lovable. Lush falls short in describing this embodiment of giggly-grisly masterwork: three slipcased hardcovers in full color with introductions by Hugh Hefner (Vol. 1) and Neil Gaiman (Vol. 2). Extras (Vol. 3) include Wilson's short stories and an appreciation/biography from publisher Gary Groth, plus an interview. A subject index to the cartoons completes the set—and how many indexes have you seen where "Tunnel of Doom" and "Tunnel of Love" sit next to each other and one of the longest entries is "werewolf"? VERDICT Such visceral doubling of horror/humor could be conjured only through Wilson's masterful panel design and graceful pen-work, making monsters and malevolent plants oddly appealing. A must for comic art collections in academic and large public libraries.—M.C.
Publishers Weekly
Few cartoonists ever had as lavish a tribute as a three-volume-slipcased collection, but few are as deserving as Wilson. Collecting 50 years worth of his monthly single page gag cartoons from Playboy, it's a definitive overview of a remarkable talent and viewpoint. Considering the timeframe, Wilson's fabled black humor and art style remain remarkably consistent—as time passes, the drawing renders into slightly blobbier shapes that retain all of their wit just the same—but the source and degree of the humor is a constant. Although best known for his slightly lugubrious subjects—monsters, witches, corpses, vampires and skeletons are frequent visitors to these pages—Wilson also targets consumerism, materialism, and other basic human foibles. As publisher Gary Groth writes in a biography in the third volume, “He has...constructed a world that is eerily family, unsettlingly recognizable and lethally consistent.” Beautifully designed and printed, the books contain cut-out pages, and the slipcase itself becomes a window for a trapped photo of Wilson. Text extras include Wilson's prose short stories and an appreciation by Neil Gaiman. If these three volumes are a bit much for one sitting, periodic dipping in will always satisfy. (Dec.)

Product Details

Fantagraphics Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.60(h) x 3.90(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

In his ninth decade as a human being and his sixth as a master cartoonist, Gahan Wilson (born dead in 1930) continues to produce cartoons for a variety of magazines including Playboy and The New Yorker.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >