Anyway, Sunnyville Stories episode 8 has been wrapped up. I’m taking a bit of time off to work on my graphic novel Von Herling, Vampire Hunter (available next spring). On that note, I thought I’d talk today about a macabre illustrator – one who I’ve heard of, but never really investigated until now. That man is Charles Addams.
Charles Samuel Addams (1912-1988) was an American cartoonist best known for his very dark sense of humor. He is best known however for his creation, the Addams Family. A lot of you out there probably know them best from the TV shows and movies, they actually started life in gag cartoons in the New Yorker magazine from 1938 onward.
Born in January of 1912 in Westfield, New Jersey, Charles Addams trained at a number of educational institutions such as Colgate University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. His first cartoon for the New Yorker was published in 1932 and they’d appear regularly from 1938 onward until his death in 1988.
Charles Addams had a dark sense of humor which was reflected in his cartoons. After reading about him online, I did some more research on him and even went as far as to acquire some books collecting his work.
The work of Addams is worth studying. Technically speaking, his art and way of conveying humor is one that cannot be matched. His images were rendered using ink wash – that is, ink diluted with different amounts of water. This helped to set the mood for his cartoons. He also had a distinct comedy style of something bizarre sticking out in our mundane world. As a contributor to the New Yorker, Addams tended to use a more sophisticated sense of humor in his works rather than the obvious slapstick style that you’ll see in your newspaper comics or Web comics.
Charles Addams may have died, but his work refuses to. The Addams Family remains a vital part of our popular culture and Addams’ work continues to influence a new generation of artists.
For further reading, I recommend two texts:
Chas Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life by Linda H. Davis, Random House, 2006
The Addams Family: An Evilution by the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, Pomegranate Communications, 2010
The former title is a biography of Charles Addams, which gives a lot of insight into his life and how he worked. The latter is a collection of Addams Family cartoons, including previously unpublished work. Other books collecting Addams cartoons exist and should be available online, at your library, or at your friendly neighborhood bookstore.