Gahan Wilson 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons
2010 Eisner Award Nominee: Best Archival Collection — Strips
Fantagraphics Books 2009
942 pages over 3 slip cased volumes.
It is apparently Big Fat Book week. Just after finishing the 75 Years of DC Comics book, my Gahan Wilson book arrives. First off, for those unfamiliar, don’t let the Playboy in the title scare you off. There is very little “naked lady” content here. Wilson’s cartoons for the magazine are the fun, creepy ones that make you laugh as easily as they make you squirm. They are characterized by the seemingly loose linework and muted watercolors mixed with a dark and moody sensibility. The Far Side owes a huge debt to these classic cartoons. Having graced the pages of Playboy since 1957, these cartoons were a huge contrast to the centerfolds and interviews that the magazine is more popularly known for.
There is a lot here. The packaging is amazing. The first thing you see as you look at the slipcase is Wilson himself, squished up against the inside of a window in the box as if he wants to know what you think you are doing. There is a similar picture on the back of each of the 3 books so he will always have his eye on you. Each book has a die-cut cover and the section dividers are also die cut pages on heavier stock. the book has a nice feel in the hands. I should add that I got this because of one of the infamous pricing glitches that Amazon has on occasion. The book was posted for a day or so at $28. For that price I had to jump as he is one of my favorite cartoonists. Even at $76, I doubt you will be disappointed in the quality of the book. The content is all first-rate and if you are a fan of the type of work he has been doing for most of your life, it is well worth it.
This is a collection of single panel cartoons from 1957 to 2008 and presents the material very nicely. The quality of the reproductions is very good. I imagine that it could have been done with even higher quality, but not without making this book far more expensive. The full retail price is $125 and I cannot help but think this book does not feel like a $125 book. But everything is priced with things like Amazon in mind. At $76 the book is a fair price that will not leave you feeling cheated.
Included in each volume is a text piece. The first volume has a short and very effusive intro by the mighty Hugh Hefner himself. The second has an all too brief, but very fun and personal intro by Neil Gaiman of Sandman, The Graveyard Book, American Gods etc fame, for those of you that don’t know. The third volume has at the back, a great group of short stories and a lengthy interview with Gahan Wilson himself that does not disappoint.
This book is exactly what this wonderful and funny artist has deserved. There have been a number of great books from Playboy in the last few years, with more on the way. I am particularly looking forward to the Doug Sneyd book arriving later this year. This book from Fantagraphics is a wonderful presentation of the career of one of the finest cartoonists of the last 100 years and deserves all the praise it gets.