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Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons Hardcover – October 3, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Along with the centerfolds and the interviews, Playboy is famous for Gahan Wilson’s cartoons, 50 years’ 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. Seldom mentioned in any of those supplements is the fact that Wilson’s presence in Playboy is quite anomalous, for Wilson nearly never touches upon sex. The sole exposure in these volumes of bare-breasted women, ubiquitous in other Playboy cartoons, is in an image of witches relaxing in their simmering cauldron, and while their breasts are pneumatic enough, they’re irrelevant to the cartoon’s point. But, a failed cartoonist himself, 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. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1056 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; Three-Book Slipcased Set edition (October 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606992988
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606992982
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 4 x 10.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • Due to this item's unusual size or weight, it requires special handling and will ship separately from other items in your order. Read More

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By on January 11, 2010
It's hard to know exactly where to start with this one, but let's begin with the obvious: Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is enormous. It's three volumes weigh more than 10 lbs. all told, and they're all collected in one attractive boxed set.

Actually, "attractive" doesn't quite do it justice. Fantagraphics has truly pulled out all the stops on the production of this set, giving it such marvelous style and pizzazz. From the embossed back cover of the box (in which Dracula sprinkles salt on the nubile young neck of his soon-to-be victim) to the Plexiglas window on the front, which allows us to peer at the scrunched-up face of the artist, everything about this collection is top drawer (and perhaps the Dracula image is at the front and the Plexiglas is at the back...depends on how you look at it, I guess). Further, each book is die-cut, and so are many of the page within.

But it's the content, of course, that is truly king. If the 20th century was indeed the American century, then Wilson is a cartoonist who had a hell of a time chronicling it, mocking it, signifying it, and holding it up to the light--albeit through his own twisted lens, which is a bit like Charles Addams'. Wilson began cartooning for Playboy in 1957, and he hasn't missed an issue since, all the way up to today. Everything up to December 2008 is collected here, and then the volume transcends into Wilson's writing, then reprints interviews and other Wilson material. All of it is introduced by the legendary Neil Gaiman.

At $125, the set certainly isn't cheap, and it's probably best targeted at those who have a great interest in Wilson's work already.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Diego Cordoba on February 9, 2010
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Many people have different opinions as to why they bought Playboy. Aside from the obvious, for the older among us out there, my main reason for buying Playboy though, were Kurtzman and Elder's Little Annie Fanny and Gahan Wilson's cartoons. Never since Charles Addams have I seen someone relish on the macabre so much as Gahan Wilson has. For many years, I've searched for a book that would reprint all of Mr. Wilson's cartoons from Playboy and I never thought I'd see such a book. But then, I thought I was the only person in the world who was looking for such a book. Cut forward many years later and I see that Fantagraphics announced such a book. Needless to say I pre-ordered it a year in advance just so I wouldn't miss it. It seems I wasn't the only one after all wishing for this book. Thank you, Fantagraphics.

Along with Humbug, also from Fantagraphics, this was certainly one of the greatest surprises of the past year. A three volume collection, and in color, featuring all the art Gahan Wilson did for Playboy from the 50's up to the present. Phew! Added bonuses are some stories Gahan Wilson wrote for Playboy and the most in depth interview with him I've ever read.

So I guess that if you wish really hard, sometimes, you'll be granted your wishes.

Now, if we could only have Nuts reprinted, it would make all of us Gahan Wilson fans so very happy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sonia M. Schellenberg on January 19, 2011
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I purchased this product for my husband (a LONG time Gahan Wilson fan) as a Christmas gift. The books are hardcover in a very nice slipcase. The longtime fan took only two days to go through the entire set, and he was very happy. When I ordered, the site mentioned that the books may not arrive before Christmas, but they in fact arrived in time for the holiday. Excellent product, great seller, buy with confidence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stan Grindstaff on October 12, 2014
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Collectable! This 3-volume slipcased set is marvelous to hold & explore. Weighing over 10 pounds & with over a thousand quality gloss pages of mostly color cartoons, this Gahan Wilson collection is a feast for the eyes & intellect & funny bone. I love it that a few of the cartoons make no sense to me whatsoever—but I'm sure as I slip into dementia they will! This is now part of my permanent library, right along with 'The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft' & my other annotated book series of fairy tales & literature. You can't replace the pleasure of handling books like these with e-books...
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One of the things that I have always looked forward to with each issue of Playboy is the Gahan Wilson cartoon. And for years I have waited for a nice collection of his work. This slipcased 3-volume set is exactly what I've wanted. There was obviously no expense spared to put this together. The books are nicely hardbound, the pages are full-color, and the art work is all Gahan Wilson. Each cartoon is labeled to show in which issue of Playboy (over the past 50 years) it was published.

If you are a Gahan Wilson fan this set is a treasure. The price has dropped since I purchased it, but it was worth every penny.
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Gahan's work is wonderful and this collection makes it a permanent occupant of my home library. The hard cover format for each book isn't as cumbersome as you might think, since his work is usually in a large format binding anyway, but it is pretty hefty when lifting all three in the slip cover. The text extras add an enhanced dynamic to appreciating his work and the clever use of the slip case and format is a nice touch.
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