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Addams, Charles

Entry updated 6 October 2021. Tagged: Artist.

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(1912-1988) US cartoonist and illustrator, a prolific contributor to the magazine The New Yorker from 1932 until his death; he had a macabre sense of Humour and a firm brush-line and wash style. His cartoons were invariably signed Chas Addams. He is best known for his creation of the grotesque Addams Family, whom he first introduced in The New Yorker; these characters have been widely exploited on Television and in the Cinema [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The family members acquired their now well-known names in the first television series The Addams Family (1964-1966), including the impossibly slender Gothic femme fatale Morticia, her loving Spanish husband Gomez (here less seedy than Addams's original), the bald, round-headed, cassock-clad and maniacal Uncle Fester (once famously drawn with a broad ecstatic grin amid a tearful movie audience), the six-foot-nine-inch butler Lurch with his vague Zombie ambience, and the intermittently sinister Children Pugsley and Wednesday (Morticia to daughter Wednesday: "Well, don't come whining to me. Go tell him you'll Poison him right back.").

Although most of Addams's work plays with the tropes and Clichés of Horror, there are occasional sf moments. A querulous patent attorney points a futuristic Weapon (plugged into a wall socket) out of the window: "Death Ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up." Robots on an assembly line building more robots wonder, "Where will it ever end?" Animals move two by two up the airlock ramp of a vast Spaceship (see Shaggy God Story). Small representatives of a vast Alien Invasion force are met with "I'm sorry, honey. We've run out of candy." In one-multi-frame sequence a small boy with a chemistry set creates a potion giving him a temporary Jekyll-to-Hyde remake (see Robert Louis Stevenson); in another, a man in the audience for a planetarium display reacts to images of the Moon with a partial Werewolf transformation.

Many books of the cartoons have been published, beginning with Drawn and Quartered (graph coll 1942). Dear Dead Days: A Family Album (graph anth 1959) includes some Addams reprints but consists chiefly of found images – advertisements, engravings, photographs, woodcuts – that appealed to this compiler's grotesque fancy: the remit includes medical and physical abnormalities, Addamsian mansions, mild erotica and anything tinged with the macabre. The Addams Family Album (graph coll 1991) brings together previously collected cartoons about, or mostly about, the titular family. The substantial retrospective selection The World of Charles Addams (graph coll 1991) appeared posthumously and won a Hugo as best nonfiction book. One rare genre book cover (the artist's own collections excluded) was for Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned: A Family Remembrance (fixup 2001), reprinting the Addams Illustration for Bradbury's included short "The Homecoming" (October 1946 Mademoiselle). Other fantastic artists known for darkly comic work who have entries in this encyclopedia include Edward Gorey, who was perhaps influenced by Addams, and Gahan Wilson, who certainly was. [DRL/RT]

Charles Samuel Addams

born Westfield, New Jersey: 7 January 1912

died New York: 29 September 1988

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