Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.
In the meantime enjoy the show:
We all remember that tune from hollywood composer Vic Mizzy:
The Addams family television show aired from 1964 to 1966 for a total of 64 episodes about a morbid family scaring their neighbors with characters like Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Pugsley and Wednesday. A lot of immigrant kids like myself felt a kinship with this show because maybe we were the weird family on the street surrounded by “normal Americans.” Anyone can see when this show premiered that the characters were fresh, hilarious and interesting. Unfortunately it only lasted two seasons, but did have a brief 1 season of an animated series in 1973 by Hanna Barbera maintaining Ted Cassidy as Lurch.
Most of the cast however got back together for the 1977 reunion halloween movie.
It may be the macabre nature of the show, but this newer color version didn’t quite have the same magic as the 60s version, but it was nice to see the original Gomez and Morticia back together again played by John Astin and Carolyn Jones. 1991 and 1993 saw a revival of the characters in 2 academy award nominated films, The Addams Family and Addams Family Values starring Raul Julia and Angelica Huston which captured an even more morbid version of this family.
They were so successful that they also made it possible for two seasons of a 1992 animated Addams family series with Gomez’s voice over performed by the original actor John Astin.
Unfortunately Raul Julia died of complications related to his stomach cancer in 1994 so there was not a third film in the movie series hence another hiatus, and the return of the Addams Family in a straight to TV film in 1998 which was poorly received but did star a very interesting Tim Curry as Gomez.
This came close to killing the franchise, but not quite enough so a season of the New Addams Family was put on Fox Family the same year 1998 in both the USA and Canada for a total of 65 episodes produced by Shavick and Saban Entertainment.
Neither of the two previous outings did well and the characters were put to rest for a little while and revived again as a musical in 2010 with Nathan Lane portraying Gomez.
Eventually the copyright owner MGM finally caught up with the CGI generation of animated movies with a 2019 Addams Family film that fared well at the box office.
However, it’s important to know that the characters look like how they do in the CGI film because they were actually based on an original single panel comic or cartoon in the New Yorker that started in 1938 by writer-artist Charles “Chas” Addams.
Charles “Chas” Addams grew up in Westfield, New Jersey with an interest in stories of Knights and castles written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He began drawing in kindergarten and suffered from claustrophobia but used to frequent cemeteries to imagine what the buried bodies looked like, and would trespass on the property of a nearby Victorian House that would be eventually used as the Addams Family mansion.
He drew cartoons for his Westfield High School student magazine, attended art focused classes at Colgate University, University of Pennsylvania and NY Grand Central School of art. One of his original jobs in 1933 was pretty morbid; he retouched photos in True Detective Magazine by removing blood like some sort of virtual undertaker. He started to contribute one panel cartoons to the New Yorker in 1932 and in 1938 he drew his first of a series of macabre caricatures that became the Addams Family. This concept was what eventually got picked up by David Levy for the 1960s Addams Family television show.
Addams’ single-panel comic features were very successful, but despite his new fandom, still made close to 35$ for each piece he turned into the magazine as a freelancer. To add a touch of situational dark comedy, during WW2 he was drafted to draw instructional films about syphilis for the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
His first wife, Barbara Jean Day was said to resemble Morticia Addams and their marriage ended after 8 years since he did not want children.
Here is an image from 1946 where Chas is drawing a panel with Morticia modeled after Barbara.
In the 1950s he had a syndicated one panel comic called Out of This World, and was a friend of both Ray Bradbury and Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock put a line into his 1959 film North by Northwest with a line spoken by Cary Grant saying, “The Three of you together. Now that’s a picture only Charles Addams could draw.”
The intensity of his Addams Family panels varied often with the editor; for example William Shawn didn’t like jokes about death, but Addams still returned to his darker roots when Shawn left and Robert Gottlieb filled the spot.
He then married attorney Estelle Barb in 1954 who persuaded him to give her control of his TV and Film rights, after which they divorced.
She was reportedly as good looking as she was calculative.
Whenever interviewers would come to his home, he made sure they would see his embalming table, headsman’s axe or skulls as his bread and butter did depend on his fans thinking he was insane.
He often told people he chose his dog because it hates children and married his third wife, Tee in a pet cemetery.
They would stay married through to his death.
His wife Tee reported that Chas would stare and study things, like the differences between fresh and salt water fish for example and kept a suit of armor collection harkening back to his childhood love of knights.
He loved automobiles and reportedly died peacefully of a heart attack behind the steering wheel of his parked Audi 4000, but not without leaving a unique legacy which was preserved by Tee, who had been a source of many images shown today of Charles Addams works.
It wasn’t just the characters that were used for the 1960s TV show, but also some jokes. This 1943 panel of lurch carrying in luggage with Morticia asking the guest to scream if they need anything was used in the 1964 episode 14, “Art and the Addams Family.”
Check out this 1945 cartoon panel of Gomez and Morticia worried for their son Pugsley for being misguided enough to wear a wholesome boy scout outfit.
This subplot was used in the 1964 episode “Morticia and the Psychiatrist” where Gomez tries to talk Pugsley away from his unhealthy obsession with being a boy scout.
In the 49th episode 1965’s “Christmas with the Addams Family,” there are two references to Chas Addams comic, one from 1952:
Wednseday is blowing oxygen to ignite the fireplace to get prepared for Santa going down the chimney presumably to burn to death.
and there is another panel of Morticia decorating a dead Christmas tree.
Here is one from 1946 cartoon of the Addams Family pouring a vat of scalding hot liquid on Christmas carolers.
We see this same scene in the opening credits of the 1991 film:
As we watch future renditions of the Addams Famliy in CGI or whichever format the MGM Gods feel contains worth, it’s best for us to realize that they are founded on the unique morbid genius of Chas Addams, and maybe we should raise our glasses, helmets or swords to the sky and give him a salute.
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