Writer/Artist: Gahan Wilson
Artist: Gahan Wilson
Release Date: January 11, 2016
The title of this new compilation of Gahan Wilson’s cartoons, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction between 1964 and 1981, offers two clearly intended meanings. First, Out There foregrounds the author of the single-panel cartoons (and short stories and book reviews) contained within this tome. Second, it serves as a complete sentence that forms an opinion of Wilson, who has been making charming, nutball work for decades. Gahan Wilson is indeed out there.
Drawing gags for Playboy, National Lampoon, The New Yorker and many more publications, Wilson established an immediately recognizable style: off-kilter in a similar way to the work of Charles Addams, but sweetly rumpled. Eyes pop. Suits wrinkle. Werewolves belie their ferocious reputation, appearing more sheepish than fierce. Wilson’s output contains an early hint of psychedelia in the way the artist renders both ordinary and extraordinary events, exemplified in the clear delight he takes in drawing noses of all sorts.
Publisher Fantagraphics’ decision to edge each page of the book in a thick black border, framing the cartoons with inverted rounded corners, is a touch distracting, although it seems calculated to evoke the bookishness of the source material, expressing deference toward it as art. A cleaner design might have been a better choice.
On the other hand, the inclusion of several short prose stories and nonfiction pieces by Wilson, also published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, is a great bonus. Four of Wilson’s stories clock in at a single page and manage to lay out their premise, plot and conclusion with an admirable combination of economy and style. Longer ones are almost as entertaining, and his examinations of fantasy and sci-fi created by others are incisive and articulate. Wilson isn’t exactly unfeted, but Fantagraphics is doing good work in its efforts to document his career as thoroughly as possible for posterity.