Saturday, 26 April 2008

98: Gahan Wilson's "Nuts"

in "National lampoon" October 1972

in "National lampoon" November 1972

Gahan Wilson is best known for this macabre cartoons, appearing in “Playboy”, “New Yorker”, “Punch” and many other magazines. During the 70s he had a cartoon strip “Nuts” running in the backpages of “National Lampoon”. “Nuts” was a deliberate riposte to Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts”. “Nuts” was genuinely about kids, whereas Wilson thought “Peanuts” was a blind for Schulz to indulge a peculiar sentimentality and unchildlike philosophising. “Nuts”, while nostalgic, was about the real anxieties of being a kid. How confusing things are when you’re young, the intense desires and pleasures, and the struggle to just get through from one day to the next. Wilson’s slightly squashed and semi-deflated drawing style is ideal for capturing the proportions of a child’s world. As in “Peanuts” adults are only ever partly seen. The appearance of the adult’s hand in the last two frames of October’s strip is rather insidious and creepy. Whether intentional or not, these two strips rather flag up the connections in the public’s mind between homosexuality and paedophilia. Since these two strips are about children interacting with gay men, it’s almost inevitable. Again, any talk about Oscar Wilde is a shortcut to acknowledging homosexuality. The dinner table conversation in the second strip dramatises wonderfully the parents attempts to protect and insulate their child while at the same time only heightening a child’s sense of fear and incomprehensibility about the world.

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