The Addams Family: An Evilution

Synopsis: The Addams Family: An Evilution is the first book to trace The Addams Family history, presenting more than 200 cartoons created by Charles Addams (American, 1912-1988) throughout his prolific career; many have never been published before.

Text by H. Kevin Miserocchi, director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, offers a revealing chronology of each character’s evolution (for instance, did you know that Addams originally named Pugsley ‘Pubert’?), while Addams’s own incisive character descriptions, originally penned for the benefit of the television show producers, introduce each chapter.

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The Addams Family: An Evilution, by Charles Addams and H. Kevin Miserocchi  8.25

I’m a huge fan of the original 1964-66 series ‘The Addams Family’. I wuv it. Like most people, though, for a long while I didn’t even know that they were inspired by Charles Addams’ cartoons.

I don’t remember exactly when and where I discovered the truth, but I suspect it’s when I stumbled upon a pocketbook reprint of some of Addams’ work, featuring Morticia Addams on its cover.

Naturally, I went bat!@#$ crazy over it.

And sought more.

Sadly, in that set most of Addams’ oeuvre seemed to be collected haphazardly, with no particular theme. Given that he drew many other cartoons besides the Addamses, it was a mish-mash.

No longer.

In ‘An Evilution’, Tee and Charles Addams Foundation head H. Kevin Miserocchi not only collects many of the cartoonist’s most beloved Addams Family strips, he provides a historical perspective.

Following a quick introduction, he proceeds to discuss the strips thematically: first the ones that feature the whole family, and then its individual members – as well as relatives and the house itself.

What makes this book unique is that the Addams Foundation was the recipient of Charles Addams’ entire archive, providing Miserocchi with somewhere in the area of 1600 pieces to document.

With those pieces in hand, Miserocchi was able to trace back the origins of some of the family members, dating as far back as August 6, 1938, when Morticia’s cartoon likeness first showed up.

The collection is rife with all sorts of rare, previously-unpublished doodles that Addams had worked on but never completed. Some are good, others less so, but all are of interest to fans of his oeuvre.

Also of interest are the annotations Addams prepared for each character as Filmways, Inc. set their eye on developing the classic TV series. Each is included at the top of its relevant character chapter.

Obviously, though, the crux of the book is the art, and there’s tons of it. While much of it will be familiar (who hasn’t seen the devilish Christmas Carolers one?), its mad genius impresses still.

One thing that novices may notice is just how different Addams’ original depictions are from their TV counterparts – not so much looks-wise, but from a tonal perspective; they’re a bit creepier.

The TV family is delightful because they’re a bit kooky, as well as spooky (and maybe a little ooky, too), drawing laughs from their outlandish attitudes to life. Addams’ family are morbidly funny.

This means that they can be cruel to outsiders, something that would never have happened in the TV show; though they’re also whimsical, the cartoon versions require a twisted sense of humour.

In that way, they’re more akin to their movie counterparts.

Interestingly, the TV series has culled from and distilled various bits from the cartoons, such as the family going fishing with explosives, Wednesday chopping off her doll’s head, that sort of thing.

So the show was an adaptation of Addams’ work – and for those unfamiliar with it, this is probably the best primer one could ever imagine; it’s not only filled with hilarious toons, but factoids too.

Naturally, for fans, some of the information provided in this book (ex: Pugsley was originally to be called Pubert) isn’t new, but it’s terrific to find it all assembled here with their relevant artwork.

It’s like a one-stop The Addams Family shop.

I have no doubt that, soon enough, I will seek a copy of this book for my own personal library. Though I prefer the show to the strips, short of a complete archive, this truly is as good as it gets.

It’s wicked fun.

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