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Charles Addams & The Addams Family are the black sheep of comics (and it's disgraceful)

It's time we remember Addams Family as a comic before it was a franchise

Addams Family
Image credit: Charles Addams

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p>The Addams Family is a household name around the world. For its movies, for its TV shows, and for its outside-the-norm mentality that we all can find something in common with. It was embraced as a pop culture staple by people in all walks of life, except for one: in the comics community.

Although best-known for the TV shows, the movies, the new TV show, and that iconically-contagious theme song, the Addams Family began - and in some ways was the best version of itself - in a series of 150 comics that creator Charles Addams drew over his lifetime.

Unlike the warm welcome that the Addams Family franchise in TV and movies have recieved, the Addams Family comic strips - and Addams himself - remains something removed and omitted from the conversation of comics fans, professionals, and scholars.

Addams Family - the comic strip

Addams Family
Image credit: Charles Addams

For the first 26 years of its existence, the Addams Family didn't have a name - it was simply an odd family who were decidedly goth before that was even a thing. They were recurring characters in single-panel comic strips created by Charles Addams for the prestigous New Yorker, magazine and later TV Guide and Collier's. Addams himself collected his comics into book form in several occasions including 1942's Drawn and Quartered, 1950's Monster Rally, and 1959's Dear Dead Days: A Family Album - showing Addams being an earlier pioneer of what we now call graphic novels.

When pressed for what to call his motley crew of goths, Addams himself used the name 'Addams' Evils.' It was only with the creation of the 1964 TV series did the family take the name of their creator, Addams.

How the Addams Family TV show wrecked its comics roots

Charles Addams
Image credit: Charles Addams

The original Addams Family TV show from 1964 was pivotal to the franchise - but also contributed to the ruination of it in comics. As reported by several outlets, New Yorker editor William Shaw banned any Addams Family strips from the magazine as being, in the words of the Gothamist's Jen Carlson "no longer appropriate for their sophisticated readership." That ban lasted 23 years, only being removed in the months before Addams' death.

Linda H. Davis, who wrote a biography of Charles Addams called Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life, has said that Addams himself wasn't a fan of the original '60s show at the time - but came to appreciate it for the money and popularity it provided. But even then, Addams wasn't drawn into Hollywood - but instead back into creating comiccs.

While Addams is singularly known these days for the Addams Family, after the TV show's success the cartoonist continued as a cartoonist. Yes, illustrating Addams Family comics from time to time, but also doing other work including an adaptation of the Mother Goose fable in 1967, and continued one-off strips for various magazines to his death in 1988.,

Charles Addams - the good cartoonist

Addams Family
Image credit: Charles Addams

In his life, Addams published over 1300 comic strips, published 10 collections of his strips, and several illustrated books. While the TV shows and movies based on his work are readily available in physical media and streaming, those comic strips and collections are as hard to find as the barely-remembered third and fourth and fifth children of the Addams clan.

While not out of specific intent, the Addams Family franchise that spawned out of the original comics has in some ways stymied the original comics from becoming anything more for the public than a vestigal tail - something that even Addams seems to have realized as the years went on.

“When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said, ‘I think as a good cartoonist,’” Addams biographer Davis said in 2021. “That reflects his modesty. Success never went to his head.”

It's time we - you, and I, and everyone else - remember Addams the man as much as Addams the family.

Weird is relative, and the iconic comic-turned-tv-turned-movie franchise that is Addams Family is the perfect picture of that. Several of the cast of the '90s movie franchise are coming to Seattle's ECCC 2024, and you can get first dibs on photo ops and autographs and watch their panel for free here at Popverse. You can also get to know Charles Addams' iconic family with our Addams Family watch guide, and stories on how Wednesday's Jenna Ortega thinks her character is "a creepy little freak" and how the Addams family got their names.

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant: Chris Arrant is the Popverse's Editor-in-Chief. He has written about pop culture for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel, Newsarama, CBR, and more. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. (He/him)


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