Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics
Magazine cartoonist Gahan Wilson, best known for his work in Playboy, branched out into the newspaper cartoon biz with the rather unimaginatively titled Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics feature. Marketed by the Iowa-based Register & Tribune Syndicate, the feature never caught on despite the obvious appeal of Wilson's wild artwork and off-kilter gags.
The feature began on March 3 1974 and succumbed on May 29 1977 (at least that's the last Sunday I have). When Wilson started the feature his pages included a mix of unrelated gags. About six months in, though, he switched over to having all the gags on a single subject.
Coming up with that many gags every week for the Sunday page in addition to his magazine work may have been a strain on Wilson but the end-product didn't seem to suffer. The Sunday page gags, while perhaps not all gems, had plenty of hits to compensate for the misses. As a bibliomaniac, my favorite of the Wilson Sunday pages is the first example shown here. The one with the giant book, especially, hits my funnybone.
There are lots of websites with interesting Gahan Wilson content, of which Wilson's own site is a good first stop. Here's one with a pretty decent bio, and here's an archived NPR interview with the cartoonist.
On a side note, Wilson's apparently all but forgotten National Lampoon cartoon series "Nuts" is, to me, by leaps and bounds Wilson's greatest work. It was collected in a long out of print book that is still available, though a bit pricey, on used book sites like ABE.
My reference shelf, always in reach while I'm doing research, has the following standard references:
Encyclopedia of American Comics, Ron Goulart
The Funnies, Ron Goulart
The Adventurous Decade, Ron Goulart
World Encyclopedia of Comics, Maurice Horn
World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, Maurice Horn
100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn
The Comics, Jerry Robinson
Comics And Their Creators, Martin Sheridan
The Comics, Coulton Waugh
A Century of Women Cartoonists, Trina Robbins
Women and the Comics, Robbins and Yronwode
The Compact History of the American Newspaper, Tebbell
American Journalism, Frank Luther Mott
Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, Dave Strickler
Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide
A History of Newspaper Syndicates in the United States, Elmo Scott Watson
King News, Moses Koenigsberg
.. and as soon as I get my copy, Here We Are Again by Alfredo Castelli.
None of these books is perfect (Horn's works especially have a lot of misinformation), but each is valuable.
I also keep a Cartoonist Profiles index handy, and my photocopied and bound E&P syndicate directories.
Of course I have hundreds more books that are used for reference, but these are the ones that are in constant use and, imho, should be owned by every serious researcher. Collectoras and fans can prune that list of some items, like the journalism and Watson books. Of course, my primary reference tool is my own Stripper's Guide Index, but that's not published yet.
In terms of collecting newspaper comics, there really isn't a book out that discusses the mechanics of it. I tried to address some of those issues in my series on storing a tearsheet collection here on the blog, but if you'd throw out some questions that you'd like answered about the subject I'll be happy to try and answer.