By Charles Addams Methuen)
Charles Samuel Addams (1912 – 1988) was a cartoonist and distant descendant of two American Presidents (John Adams and John Quincy Adams) who made his real life as extraordinary as his dark, mordantly funny drawings.
Born into a successful family in Westfield, New Jersey, the precocious, prankish, constantly drawing child was educated at the town High School, Colgate University, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York City’s Grand Central School of Art, producing cartoons and illustrations for a raft of institutional publications.
In 1932 he became a designer for True Detective magazine – retouching photos of corpses – and soon after began selling drawings to The New Yorker. In 1937 he began creating the macabre ghoulish family portraits that become his signature creation. During WWII he served with Signal Corps Photographic Center, devising animated training films for the military.
Whether he artfully manufactured his biography to enhance his value to feature writers or was genuinely a warped and wickedly wacky individual is irrelevant (although it makes for great reading:- especially the stuff about his second wife – and, as always, the internet awaits the siren call of your search engine…).
What is important is that in all the years he drew and painted those creepily sardonic, gruesome gags and illustrations for The New Yorker, Colliers, TV Guide and others, he managed to enthral his audience with a devilish mind and a soft, gentle approach that made him a household name long before television turned his characters into a hit and generated a juvenile craze for monsters and grotesques that lasts to this day. That eminence was only magnified once the big screen iterations debuted…
This stunningly enticing volume is a reissue of his second collection of cartoons, first published in 1947, and semi-occasionally since then. It’s still readily available if you’ve a big bank book, but the time is ripe for a definitive collected edition, or better yet a reissue of his entire canon (eleven volumes of drawings and a biography) either in print or digitally.
Should you not be as familiar with his actual cartoons as with their big and small screen descendants you really owe it to yourself to see the uncensored brilliance of one of America’s greatest humourists. It’s dead funny…
© 1940-1947 the New Yorker Magazine, Inc. In Canada © 1947 Charles Addams.