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Macabre cartoonist Gahan Wilson dies at 89

Posted: 12:44 PM, Nov 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-23 12:44:40-05

NEW YORK — Cartoonist Gahan Wilson, whose magazine illustrations earned him the nicknames “the Michelangelo of the Macabre” and “the Wizard of Weird,” has died at 89, according to his stepson Paul Wilson.

NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 15: Artist Gahan Wilson discusses his piece on display during a press preview of the Metropolitan Opera’s and The New Yorker’s exhibition of “Hansel and Gretel” at the Arnold & Marie Schwartz Gallery Met on November 15, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)

“The world has lost a legend,” Paul Wilson said. “One of the very best cartoonists to ever pick up a pen and paper has passed on.”

Gahan Wilson gained fame with his offbeat drawings in magazines like Playboy, The New Yorker and National Lampoon.

One drawing featured a man deliriously happy as he is being strapped into the electric chair and saying, “Gee, it’s just like in the movies.”

Another showed an eye doctor with a knife about to attack a patient who is reading an exam chart that says, “I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now…”

On Halloween, Gahan Wilson posted an old image from Playboy on his Facebook page.

Wilson told David Letterman in 1982 that he was always attracted to circus sideshows and freaks.

“They’re fun,” he said. “They’re nice people.”

He said he originally had read classic gothic novels for inspiration but then found it more abundant in everyday life.

“The daily papers and television news are a much better source of grotesque humor,” he said.

His stepson wrote on Facebook that Wilson, born February 18, 1930, died peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Thursday.

On his website, Wilson said he made it through a “chink in the armor” of big-time magazine publishing when an editor laughed at his work but didn’t realize it was “too much for the common man” to understand.

“The creative artist is automatically an outsider, because he sees through the world that everybody else takes as the final reality, and he’s a very scary kind of guy.”