Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon Files: Gahan Wilson: Early Gag Cartoons 1954 - 1964

Below is my friend Dick Buchanan with a story of the early days of the well-known gag cartoonist Gahan Wilson. Plus: many unseen-in-over-fifty-years gag cartoons by Mr. Wilson. 

During the first years that Gahan Wilson slogged up to the Midtown NYC markets for Wednesday, "Cartoon Look Day," he was told that his cartoons, while funny, were probably not fit for the midcentury sensibilities that the cartoon editors were looking for. I have heard this story from Gahan himself -- and Dick picks it up below, reminding us that persistence in deed and vision can pay off. 

Thanks, Dick, for these rare early gag cartoons of Gahan Wilson's!


After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, Gahan Wilson moved to New York City. From his apartment in Greenwich Village he made the trek uptown for Wednesday rounds only to learn that the prevailing opinion among cartoon editors was that readers would not understand his cartoons.

His big break came when famed cartoon editor Gurney Williams left Collier’s to work for Look Magazine. In the interim, Collier’s Art Director assumed cartoon-editing chores, but not realizing Wilson’s cartoons were not for the masses, bought them anyway and the rest, as they say, is Cartoon History.

This is a selection of Gahan Wilson’s early cartoons, published during his first decade as a gag cartoonist, when his fabled career was in its delightfully demented infancy.

1. At last a major market cartoonist, Gahan Wilson cartoons began appeared regularly in Collier’s until they ceased publication. COLLIER’S. October 15, 1954

2. COLLIER’S. January 7, 1955

3. COLLIER’S. January 21, 1955

4. The masses may have been bewildered but Cartoon Editors were beginning to get the message. TRUE MAGAZINE. May 1955

5. TRUE MAGAZINE. August 1955


7. COLLIER’S. September 16, 1955

8. COLLIER’S. January 20, 1956

9. COLLIER’S. March 16, 1956

10. COLLIER’S. March 23, 1956.

11. COLLIER’S. July 6, 1956

12. When Collier’s folded, Cartoon editor Gurney Williams welcomed Wilson to the pages of Look. LOOK MAGAZINE. July 22, 1958

13. Many of Wilson’s best gag cartoons appeared in Look Magazine in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. This one was a classic. LOOK MAGAZINE. December 3, 1963

14. Dell Editor and cartoonist John Norment was a friendly editor who happily promoted Wilson’s early work, publishing many cartoons, several spreads, and cover art for his two Dell publications. FOR LAUGHING OUT LOUD. October-December, 1963

15. 1000 JOKES MAGAZINE. June-August, 1964



More of Dick Buchanan's great gag cartoon collection:

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon File: Inkyfellers' Gagzette

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon File: The Years of Al Ross - 1947 – 1968

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon Files: New Yorker Cartoonists Abroad 1966-1968

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon File: 1945 - 1962

From the Dick Buchanan Files: "How I Create Humor" from 1950s - 60s Gag Cartoon Insider Journal "The Information Guide"

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon File: 1950s Color Magazine Gag Cartoons

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon File: Funny Vintage Magazine Gag Cartoons 1946 - 1963

Dick Buchanan's Cartoon File: Wordless Gag Cartoons 1944-1964

1953 George Booth Drawings for American Legion Magazine

Dick Buchanan: Winter/Christmas/Holiday Gag Cartoons 1940s-60s

Dick Buchanan: Some PUNCH Magazine Cartoons 1948-1963

Dick Buchanan: Gag Cartoon Clip File 1946-64

Dick Buchanan: Gag Cartoon Clip File 1947-62

Dick Buchanan: Some Favorite Magazine Gag Cartoons 1940-60s

Dick Buchanan: Gag Cartoon Clip File 1931-64


Smurfswacker said...

I hate to admit it, but I don't get the cartoon in the yellow block. Can someone explain it?

Larry Rippee and Molly Rea said...

What a great cartoonist Gahan Wilson is. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...


The man is facing a firing squad.

He has plugged his fingers into his ears to avoid hearing the shots.