The Addams Family: An Evilution

Halloween is almost upon us, so I might as well wrap up my whistle-stop tour over some of the less well-known aspects of Charles Addams’ delightfully creepy kin. Ironically, it seems nowadays that the most obscure part of the franchise are the very cartoons that Addams made as far back as 1938. This might be, in part, due to an apparent lack of contemporary reprints – many were published during Addams’ lifetime, but there was a sharp decline after his untimely death in 1988.

Fortunately, Pomegranate Books decided to release The Addams Family: An Evilution, written by H. Kevin Miserocchi, back in March 2010. True, it was more to coinside with The Addams Family: The Musical which would open on Broadway to great success just a month later, but you can’t argue with synergy. Besides, the book had an unprecedented number of unpublished cartoons from Charles Addams’ estate, along with character guidelines that he wrote for the unmatched 1964 TV series.

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I’ve heard several conflicting stories about Addams’ attitude to the show; he loved it, he hated it, he thought it was alright (but was concerned they were taking liberties). An Evilution doesn’t say one way or the other, but does tell how Charles Addams had a considerable amount of creative control – according to Miserocchi, he even had a say over camera angles.

However, that’s as in-depth a look at the show as we get- the 90’s movies are mentioned occasionally, albeit with what could be taken as a somewhat snobbish tone – this book is about the cartoons, and any mention of anything more modern is merely to note the differences between original and adaptation… even the guidelines are more to give Addams’ gut feelings about his creations to us. Fair enough – the shows and movies have gotten more than enough press over the years, and it can be good to have a strict brief.

There’s a pretty good spread of material, divided (more or less) by specific characters; Morticia, Gomez, Lurch, even the house itself (Wednesday and Pugsley, in a show of typical enforced sibling charity, have to share a chapter). Even Thing gets his own chapter, but be warned: he’s not quite the Thing we all know and love. Cousin Itt has to make do with the chapter about extended family, but that’s more to do with his only appearing in three original cartoons – another disparity between source and screen.

Well, I’ve talked a great deal about what’s in the book, but precious little about what it’s like. Simply put, it’s wonderful. When I first read the book, I thought to myself “I’ll only go over a few chapters today, then I’ll finish it off over the week”… and wouldn’t you know, I ended up reading all 244 pages in one sitting.

I laughed at the impending schadenfreude this foul family inflicted on society; I gasped at their depravity (at times I had trouble believing this could’ve ever been allowed during as staid a time as the 40’s and 50’s); I even found my cold, black heart warmed by the antics of The Addamses – going on a moonlight stroll through Central Park, watching home movies of the children using a tripwire on the mailman, even pouring boiling oil over Christmas carollers (let’s be honest, we’ve all considered it)…

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This actually made me go “D’awww” when I read it.

Thinking about it, that’s probably why we still love The Addams Family. Yes, they are horrendous in their actions, but they are (usually) devoid of malice and just want to do all the things that most families like to do, but in their own way. In that, they resemble us even more, because don’t we all just want to do our own thing?

To put it succinctly, this book is a morbid delight to read. The production quality is very nice, with a glossy dustjacket and fancy binding. My only complaint is that there doesn’t seem to be any further reprints in the pipeline, although I suppose a good book should always leave you wanting more…

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