Charles Addams

Bio

Charles Samuel Addams (January 7, 1912 – September 29, 1988) was an American cartoonist known for his particularly darkly humorous and macabre characters. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as The Addams Family, became the basis for two live-action television series, two animated TV series, three motion pictures, and a Broadway musical.

His cartoons regularly appeared in The New Yorker, and he also created a syndicated comic strip, Out of This World, which ran in 1956. There are many collections of his work, including Drawn and Quartered (1942) and Monster Rally (1950), the latter with a foreword by John O'Hara. Typical of Addams's work, one cartoon shows two men standing in a room labeled "Patent Attorney." One is pointing a bizarre gun out the window toward the street and saying, "Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up!"

Dear Dead Days (1959) is not a collection of his cartoons (although it reprints a few from previous collections); it is a scrapbook-like compendium of vintage images (and occasional pieces of text) that appealed to Addams's sense of the grotesque, including Victorian woodcuts, vintage medicine-show advertisements, and a boyhood photograph of Francesco Lentini, who had three legs.

Addams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life. Those that didn't appear in The New Yorker were often in Collier's and TV Guide. In 1961, Addams received, from the Mystery Writers of America, a Special Edgar Award for his body of work. His cartoons appeared in books, calendars, and other merchandising. Singer-guitarist Dean Gitter's 1957 recording Ghost Ballads (Riverside, RLP 12-636), folk songs with supernatural themes, was packaged with album art by Addams showing a haunted house.

Janet Maslin, in a review of an Addams biography for The New York Times, wrote, "Addams's persona sounds cooked up for the benefit of feature writers ... was at least partly a character contrived for the public eye," noting that one outré publicity photo showed the humorist wearing a suit of armor at home, "but the shelves behind him hold books about painting and antiques, as well as a novel by John Updike."

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