Chas’ Family

Charles Addams began inking his twisted one panel cartoons in the New Yorker back in 1938 and continued until his death in 1998. While consistently steeped in black humor, the panels didn’t regularly begin to feature the cohesive family unit known and loved as The Addams Family until the forties, when apparently Addams did an illustration for the Bradbury short story “The Homecoming,” a tale about a family of vampires named the Elliots. They hoped to collaborate on an entire book about the family. When this project didn’t pan out, Addams continued developing his own family of oddballs until they eventually coalesced into the Addamses, when ABC requested their creator give them names for the television series.

The cartoonist was either a brilliant eccentrist, or a brilliant self-promoter. or both. Stories about his dark wit and unusual habits flowed through creative circles for decades, mostly at Addams’ instigation. Biographer Linda H. Davis, in her book Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life (Random House, 2006)  describes Addams eccentricties with a wry tone.
“He visited snake farms. He was known to picnic in graveyards, and he sometimes took souvenirs. Friends of the cartoonist noted that it was always at Charlie’s instigation that they found themselves dropping in at the “booby hatch,” or the winter home of the Ringling Bros. circus freaks in Sarasota, Florida. “Charlie, what about you? What did you do over the weekend?” cartoonist Mort Gerberg asked Addams over lunch one day when the mundane conversation had turned to the subject of gypsy moths. “Well, it was really such a nice day on Sunday, I decided to take a friend for a drive — to Creedmore,” said Addams, referring to the state psychiatric facility in Queens. Gerberg wasn’t sure whether he was kidding.”
Even his passing was noted with typical Addams wit. He died of a heart attack within his parked car. His wife, according to the New York Times, commented: “He’s always been a car buff, so it was a nice way to go.”
After a few incarnations of the television show and three films, Addams’ legacy continues with a Broadway musical production of The Addams Family. Furthermore, there is the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, dedicated to “advancing the artistic acheivement of the American cartoonist, Charles Addams.”

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