by Charles Addams




The World of Charles Addams
Cover by Charles Addams

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Cartoonist Charles Addams may be best known for the television and film adaptations of his macabre characters and grotesque sense of humor, "The Addams Family," however this collection demonstrates that there is more to Addams's work than the misadventures of Gomez, Morticia and their children and other relations.  Covering a span from Addams's first appearance on February 6, 1932 until an illustration which appeared two years after his death, The World of Charles Addams is a collection of 300 illustrations summarizes the works of Charles Addams.

The earliest included cartoon which has characters identifiable as the traditional members of the Addams "family" appears from 1938, with Morticia.  Even before this, Addams's sense of humor is clearly evident with women married to monkey-men and ministers in witch-doctor masks.  As the collection progresses, the characters become more frequent and more refined until the final Morticia cartoon included, from 1988, the year of Addams's own death. 

Although Addams's first cartoon, a quirky hockey joke, gave an indication of his humor, it could not have prepared people for the morbid humor which would inundate nearly all of Addams's work, whether focusing on his family or on other characters and situations.  Even the color illustrations which appeared as covers for The New Yorker magazine, demonstrate his humor.

Rather than use the sparse lines of so many cartoonists, Addams filled his cartoons with a close attention to detail, bringing in several smaller chuckles in addition to the main point of the cartoon.  In doing this, he took full advantage of his medium in a way similar, perhaps, to the filmmakers Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker.  This means that the reader is encouraged to spend time looking at the illustrations to see the details Addams chose to include instead of simply glance at the cartoon and move on to the next one.

The World of Charles Addams opens with an all-too-brief introduction by Wilfred Sheed.  Sheed's introduction gives a background on Addams as an individual, while giving the reader the sense that the scariest thing about Addams was how normal he was and that such mockeries of sanity could come from a normal person.  The editors of the collection then chose to let Addams's, or at least their selection of Addams's work, speak for itself.  It does, eloquently, but the reader still feels the desire to know more about the situations which surrounded the creation of each Addams work and recurring character and the way Addams viewed those characters.

The book is a delightfully spooky (and kooky) introduction to Addams's artwork, much of which may have been forgotten or unknown to modern readers who do only know him from the representations of his art by John Astin and Carolyn Jones (or even the later depictions by Raul Julia and Angelica Huston).  Even without additional commentary, Addams's work speaks for itself, which is what made it so successful in the first place.

Purchase this book  from Amazon Books.

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