Charles Solomon recently reviewed “Addams Family: An Evilution” for the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt.
If Leo Tolstoy had seen the cartoons of Chas. Addams, he would have had to rethink his famous dictum, “All happy families are alike.” Gomez and Morticia’s misbegotten brood may have been creepy and kooky, but they were also happy, as the cartoons in the delightful anthology “The Addams Family: An Evilution“ attest.
Addams, born in 1912, sold his first cartoon to the New Yorker in 1932, while he was still a student at the Grand Central School of Art in Manhattan. Six years later, he began the Addams Family saga with a drawing of a cheerfully oblivious door-to-door salesman demonstrating a vacuum cleaner to early versions of Morticia and Lurch: “Vibrationless, noiseless, and a great time and back saver. No well-appointed home should be without it.”
The slightly plumper proto-Morticia wears her hair in a severe bun; Lurch’s beard makes him look more like the Wolfman than Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. But the cobwebby Victorian mansion is instantly recognizable, with a bat cheerfully flapping by. Over the next several years, Addams reworked and refined his outré clan, until his “altogether ooky” family was complete.
H. Kevin Miserocchi has assembled more than 200 cartoons of the Addams Family characters, including posters, magazine covers, book jackets, sketches and family greeting cards. He also provides a lot of appropriately offbeat information: Wednesday’s name comes from the old nursery rhyme “Wednesday’s child is full of woe”; Pugsley was originally named Pubert, which was considered too racy for America in the 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately, Miserocchi cites but doesn’t include the introductions Boris Karloff and Wolcott Gibbs wrote for collections of Addams’ drawings.
For the first time, Miserocchi, who serves as director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, presents the notes the artist wrote when “The Addams Family” TV series went into production. Lurch is “not a very good butler, but a faithful one. … The children are his favorites and [he] guards them against good influences at all times.” Addams said Uncle Fester was “like me — or how I feel I look — with a bit more hair…”
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– Charles Solomon
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Art: Tee and Charles Addams Foundation
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