My friend over at Attempted Bloggery recently emailed me: “It’s that time of year.” I knew exactly what he was talking about before I opened the link he attached. In this New Yorker cartoon-centric world of the Spill, “that time of year,” mid-way through October, could only belong to Charles Addams.
Addams is one of a dozen New Yorker cartoonists I place in the Cartoon God category. We are so fortunate his work has been well collected — all of his anthologies are easily available (Abebooks is an excellent place to search for them. Chris Wheeler’s site is a good place to see the covers all at once).
We are also fortunate that Linda Davis gave us a biography of Addams: Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life (also easily found online).
When I began contributing to The New Yorker in the late 1970s, Addams was very much a presence in the office. (Ms. Davis’s book includes my account of riding the elevator with him. Comparable, I suppose, to a rookie ballplayer walking into the clubhouse and spotting Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays). But of course it was Addams’s work that really inspired. It was a gift to open the magazine in those days and turn to a full page Addams drawing. Not only did it entertain, but it inspired. I learned more than I’ll ever know from examining his drawings — the care put into details; his characters’ perfect expressions; the obvious joy he took drawing whatever he was drawing; the drawing as a whole, caption — if there was one — and art, scoring a near perfect 10 every time. Yes, he had help in the idea department (and here again, I intersected with him, supplying an idea, as did a number of colleagues), but the supplied ideas were elevated through his art.
As we close in on Halloween there will definitely be an increased Addamsy feel around here; I’ll miss not seeing one of his covers grace the magazine as they often did around now, but the work remains available 24/7. Pounce on it.
Here’s Mr. Addams’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:
Charles Addams (above) Born in Westfield, New Jersey, January 7, 1912. Died September 29, 1988, New York City. New Yorker work: 1932 – 1988 * the New Yorker has published his work posthumously. One of the giants of The New Yorker’s stable of artists. Key cartoon collections: While all of Addams’ collections are worthwhile, here are three that are particular favorites; Homebodies (Simon & Schuster, 1954), The Groaning Board (Simon & Schuster, 1964), Creature Comforts (Simon & Schuster, 1981). In 1991 Knopf published The World of Chas Addams, a retrospective collection.