Saturday, August 8, 2015

RR The Addams Family by Chas Addams

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're all together ooky, of course I'm talking about The Addams Family!

I read this fantastic book exactly one year ago. I thought it would be nice to revisit it for the occasion!

Name: The Addams Family: An Evilution - Chas Addams
Created and illustrated by Charles Addams
Re-arranged by H. Kevin Miserocch
Country United States/Canada
Published by Pomegranate Books
Publication date March 31, 2010
Genre Humor/Comic Strips

Possibly the most famous fictional family all over the world. Not bad for a little newspaper comic strips from decades ago!

Of course most of us know them from the original black & white TV series. Or the 1990s movies. Or even the cartoons. But let's remember how it all started. 

The creation of cartoonist Charles Samuel Addams, aka "Chas Addams", The Addams Family were created as single-panel comic strips that ran in The New Yorker between 1938 and Charles Addams’ death in September 1988. A pretty long impressive run, all things considered!

Chas Addams was mostly known for his dark humor and sense for the macabre. The man was an eccentric, as most artists are! About 150 strips would run over those years.

The Addams Family didn't follow any real "story" per say, what we collectively know nowadays as "The Addams Family" were simply his on-going strips he did draw for The New Yorker. Little humorous gags, Addams' own look and interpretation of what he considered funny in our modern society. Over the years he started re-using a few regular characters, building a few running jokes and establishing a link between these characters. Finally this group of fictional characters started sharing a family, and thus The Addams Family as we now know them was born.

The traditional regular members of the Addams clan are Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday and Pugsley. There was no "Thing" yet in Addams' cartoons, this memorable addition to the family was developed for the TV series. 

The Addams Family was his way to portray a satirical take on the ideal American family. Like their creator, they were a bunch of eccentric oddball characters. The family was developed as this wealthy clan that has a taste for the macabre. They never really bothered other people who always see them as these frightening monsters and ghouls.

Sadly, it's really difficult nowadays to get your hands on all of Charles Addams' work. Most haven't been lost to time, the rest having known very little reprints over the ages.

Thankfully this publisher Pomegranate Books has released the most complete collection of Chas Addams' strips to date for the United States and Canada. Releaaed in March 2010 to celebrate The Addams Family musical.

The book is called The Addams Family: An Evilution, and it was compiled and re-arranged by the author H. Kevin Miserocch, the director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation.

As its title "evilution" implies, it's a collection that wants to present the entire history of The Addams Family characters and their evolution over the decades.

It's about 224 pages-long, and  it contains about 200 cartoons, several of which had never been published so far!

The book is cut into small chapters, each dedicated to a different character and his evolution presented in chronological order of publication. Each chapter featuring a small introduction mentioning what the television series added to their depiction, briefly mentioning future films and cartoons addition to the lore as well, introduced by Chas Addams' own character descriptions he originally wrote for the producers of the TV series during the production of the show.

The book contains a Preface, an Introduction, after that it goes on to dedicate a chapter for The Family, then the very first proper character Addams created Morticia, after that Gomez, Wednesday and Pugsley, the Frankenstein-like butler Lurch, Granny Frump (aka Grandmama), Uncle Fester, despite not properly existing in the comic strips there's a short chapter for the Thing, one for "Relatives & Family Friends" and finally a final chapter for the mansion.

They were never meant to be a proper family. But the entire Addams Family concept would grow around these characters and organically join them in the house we now know.

All simply created by Addams as a bunch of different character with a penchant for the macabre and our dark side. These funny, strange, odd and spooky character were all created by a single mind and would work together pretty naturally. It was a really natural progression for the characters. In fact it's not really important if these vastly different-looking characters were really supposed to be a real family unit, they would form a "family" of their own.

The parents always feeling a lot of responsibility for their children, the Addams Family caring a lot for their (exotic) pets, be it spiders or dragons.

Addans's original cartoons were one-panel gags. Simple, clear and right down to the punchline. The characters started undeveloped, unrelated and unnamed, but soon they would start popping up along one another until the clan took its now-classic shape. They would in fact remain unnamed until the television series.

In Addams' mind these protagonists were pretty clear "actors" he used depending on the joke. Gomez and Pugsley were the enthusiastic ones. The very first character he started using a lot was Morticia, showing his own personal taste, who even popped up with a different husband at first, she was a muted, witty and deadly woman. Grandma Frump is your fairly typical children fairytale grandma, good-natured but a slightly odd one. Wednesday was the perfect little girl, her mother's daughter, with a strange smile always on her face even if she was seen decapitating a doll. 

Finally the house is could be seen as a whole character of its own. Despite looking like a wreck from the outside, it was the proud home of the Addams clan. Fully of weird doors, odd shapes, dantesque presence and trap doors all over the place. It was in fact based on real memories Charles Addams had of his hometown of Westfield, New Jersey. A place he lived nearby, full of old Victorian mansions and old-looking archaic graveyards. The TV series would add the adjacent cemetery and swamp.

The characters were never meant to be depicted typically truly evil. 

Morticia was just created as this witch-woman to better contrast our everyday life, an anticonformist take on what society dictates. She was given a mate, and to better play with our expectations he was this pudgy little fellow with a mustache and hair on the side. Soon they would be joined by these two children, a boy with a stripped shirt and a little girl with pigtails. A grandmother and a bald uncle with huge bulging eyes and a fur coat would be added to complete the family picture.

And it all started with a single comic strip panel in a magazine in 1938, the first instance of what would become known as The Addams Family.

The gang lived in a creepy haunted mansion and felt more at home amongst the macabre and gloom. They were good people. They didn't share everyone's taste, but they weren't bad people for it. They deeply cared for one another.

Of course, the strips were immensely popular in the press.

Charles Addams' humor, always on point, sharp and witty caught the eye of a lot of people.

In fact, that is precisely what would make them more popular than ever.

The little family would caught the attention of a former vice president of NBC. Seeing the huge potential in these characters, he asked the rights to use these characters to Charles Addams. At first he was a bit skeptical about it, but the folks at television folks seemed genuinely interested and fond of the concept. A black and white television series was launched to an even bigger commercial success.

TV brought the Addams Family to life. They quickly become part of pop culture. And the rest is history.

The TV crew would soon give a name to the characters, and Addams' creation became worldwide phenomenons. 

By the way, that is where the disembodied hand, "Thing", would come into play. Inspired by a mysterious pair of hands coming of a phonograph record, those hands would pop up a few times (with a mysterious face always hidden in the shadows!!!). Cousin Itt also become a somewhat irregular member of the family on the show, the same as his sporadic appearances in the strips.

The Addams Family became huge. They would soon be adapted to other medias over the decades. Including more televisions series (live and animated), a few theatrical films, several video games and finally a musical.

But long before all that, remember, they were in Chas Addams' black & white comic strips in the New Yorker. 

In fact it was the New Yorker's founder and editor Harold Ross who suggested first to Addams to make more cartoons with these characters. To bring these characters back for more comic strips. Making them recurring figures in Addams' work.

His art, charm and humor made the rest.

Overall, The Addams Family is a fantastic piece of comic book history, in its own way. Despite being mostly known for the television series, cartoons or the films, they originated in simple one-panel comic strips.

Charles Addams' work is intemporal. Transcending time, culture and changes. These characters and these comic strips are timeless. Chas Addams' humor didn't age, his witty comedy and pursuit of what he deemed different to the "correctness" at the time made these characters become that much more unique. To this day, they still represent something present in all of us. They aren't "evil". They're not bad people. They simply do things as it pleases them and don't interfere with others, since people seem always frightened by how different they act from society's expectations.

That's is why these character have been continuously adapted over the decades, yet they mostly remain the same as decades ago.

Following these strips in The New Yorker, the character would get a TV series that ran for two seasons between 1964 and 1966 on ABC. After that the family would be brought back for a first animated series from 1973–1975 on NBC. This was the show that changed Fester to Gomez's brother which he remained since then. In 1991 Paramount produced the first live-action film, made by Orion Pictures and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. A sequel was released in 1993, Addams Family Values, the sequel is mostly notable for incorporating a ton of gags directly straight from the comic strips. A third film was original planned for 1994, but the sudden death of actor Raúl Juliá.made the production scrap the entire project. A second animated series, The Addams Family: The Animated Series aired from 1992 to 1993 to follow on the live action film's success. In 1998 was launched a new TV Series, The New Addams Family, filmed in Vancouver. Despite some very bad first impressions, this new show was not that bad, they even revamped a few episodes from the original black & white show.

Since then there hasn't been much new Addams Family material. They had been rumors for a third film and a stop motion-animated film loosely based on Charles Addams' original drawings, supposedly to be produced by Tim Burton in 2010. And plans for a reboot film, but we haven't heard anything new from that since 2013.

The only thing to have happened to franchise this past decade was The Addams Family: Musical. Announced in 2007. It was launched with a fairly popular Broadway stage and was written by several Broadway veterans. Since then there's been many representations of this show, which quickly became one of the most popular musicals of this generation. That just goes to show there's still a fight left in The Addams Family, let's just hope they come back to their roots, on paper, someday.

I give it:
3 / 3 Things!


  1. Always wanted to see more of these comics. Good to know there's a book I can buy!

    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy this one - it's a must buy ;)