Charles Addams mugs for the camera.

CHARLES ADDAMS

Born: 1912 : : : Died: 1988
Job Description: Cartoonist
Worked in: Magazine cartoons
Noted for: The toons now known as "The Addams Family", and others of similar themes
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In outward appearance, Charles Addams was pretty normal. He lived in a normal house, wore normal clothing, came and went among normal people … But underneath the normal facade was …

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… a sense of humor that was far from normal. In fact, his cartoons, some of which have remained in print nearly two thirds of a century, could be just a little bit unnerving.

Charles Samuel Addams (who usually signed his work "Chas. Addams") was born January 7, 1912, in Westfield, NJ (a normal American suburban community). His family moved around a lot during his early years, but settled into a nice, normal neighborhood when he was 8 years old, and stayed there for the rest of his childhood. He grew up reasonably normal, with only one recorded infraction of the law — breaking into an old Victorian house in the neighborhood. That house — which, by the way, provided part of the inspiration for the house that figured prominently in his later cartoons — is still standing. In a room over the garage, there is a chalk drawing on a wall, which is believed to have been put there by the youthful Addams.

Addams was a man who knew what he wanted, went for it and, having gotten it, held on. His ambition was to become a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine. He achieved it as a freelancer very early on, became a regular staff member within a few years, and stayed there for the rest of his life. His work occasionally appeared elsewhere, but it was The New Yorker that published the vast majority of the 1,300 cartoons he produced during his prodigious career.

In 1937, when his work was well established in that magazine, he began using a couple of regular characters — a deathly-pale woman dressed all in black, and her misshapen butler, who looked like he'd been assembled from odd-size parts. Later on, the woman's deranged husband and their two horrible children began appearing with her, as well as a couple of less easily categorized family members and an incidental character or two. They appeared in dozens of cartoons, over a period of dozens of years. In 1964, they were turned into a TV sitcom, and are now known as The Addams Family.

Addams painted a TV Guide cover for the occasion, showing series stars John Astin and Carolyn Jones, in character as Gomez and Morticia Addams, dancing with their cartoon counterparts (making a rare appearance in color). It appeared on the issue for Oct 30-Nov 7, 1964. Later, his designs were adapted (rather freely, unfortunately) into a Saturday morning animated series, produced by Hanna-Barbera. Since then, the characters have appeared in movies, TV specials, comic books, etc. etc.

The first collection of Addams's cartoons, titled Drawn & Quartered, appeared in 1942. Eleven more were published during his lifetime: Addams and Evil (1947), Afternoon in the Attic (1950), Monster Rally (1950), Homebodies (1954), Nightcrawler (1957), Dear Dead Days (1959), Black Maria (1960), The Groaning Board (1964), Charles Addams Mother Goose (1967), My Crowd (1971), Favorite Haunts (1977) and Creature Comforts (1981). One posthumous book, The Addams Family Album (1991), brought the total to an even 13.

Addams died in 1988, but his impact on American culture has made him immortal.

— DDM

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