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Friday, January 1, 2010

The Best of Gahan Wilson. Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner (Editors). Underwood Books (2004)


Gahan Wilson is a cartoonist with a enjoyably morbid sense of humour and a distinctive artistic style. This book collects cartons from the span of his career as well as commentary from the artist. The cartoons are mostly single panels, there are a few examples of some strips Gahan Wilson did too. The humour is biting and sometimes is very savage. One full colour panel shows discarded and broken toys in an attic anticipating a nostalgic visit from their owner when he is old and feeble and finally within their power. The caption is tightly composed, it draws all the latent menace from the toys and their situation. The drawing does not emphasise the menace of the toys, the tension arises from the expert combination of the text and the drawing.
Gahan Wilson has a very distinctive style, his cast look as though they are slightly melting, they gather in folds of skin and lines that gives tremendous expressiveness to their actions. His monsters have a plastic, slightly liquid quality that both makes them more horrible and clinging and more comic. The art nicely captures the essential absurdity of a horrifying situation just before it becomes truly horrible. It is a fantastically difficult moment to capture, Gahan Wilson has the enviable talent to locate it and capture it precisely.
The precision of the writing that is evident in the captions is a joy to read. The captions do not repeat the idea in the drawing, they cunningly comment on it or act to provide a sharp context, as where a blood splatter hunter is congratulated by a companion for eliminating an entire species. The smiles of achievement on their faces are sincere and untroubled. This brilliant book provides a great showcase for a tremendous talent, a dark, shiver inducing pleasure.

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