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Comic Strip / The Addams Family

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For many, many years, Charles Addams drew single-panel cartoons for The New Yorker. While these were standalone (and usually quite macabre) gag-a-week jokes, there were a few recurring characters: a creepy family of loners who were dark opposites of the idealized American family. The first members of the family shown were the mother, the butler, and the "Thing", making their debut in this cartoon.

They went on to appear again, joined by a father, a son, a daughter, a hinted-at-but-never-shown baby, a grandmother, and a recurring bald man whose relationship with the family was ambiguous, but became known as an uncle.

These characters proved to be so popular that a TV show was based off of them, and their popularity only grew from there.

If this family seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to Ray Bradbury's eldritch Elliotts, it's no accident. Addams created his family in about 1938, while the Elliotts first appeared in Mademoiselle, in a story called "Homecoming" in 1946 — which Addams illustrated. They wanted to get together on a collaboration, but it never happened. You may read about the Elliotts and see Addams' original illustration in Bradbury's 2001 anthology From The Dust Returned.


This page is for the New Yorker cartoons with the recurring family characters, not the TV show, movies, or any other adaptations and their tropes. In these cartoons, they didn't even have names; they were called "the Addams Family" because Charles Addams had created them. For a general overview of all works based off the cartoons, see here.

    Other Recurring Characters in the New Yorker Cartoons

  • A blonde girl with flowers in her hair appeared in a few cartoons and artwork, probably inspiring the character of Ophelia in the TV series.

  • "It", a short, hairy creature. Based on Cousin Itt from the TV show (see Canon Immigrant below), he only appeared in the one cartoon, but was subsequently depicted with the family in much of Addams's cover art.

  • The "Wall-Eyed Couple": A bald man with bulging eyes and a blank smile and a short woman with scraggly hair and a nervous smile. In the cartoon shown, they even have a baby, who looks exactly like both of them — in that it has two heads, which are exact copies of the parents'. They are shown visiting the family a lot.

  • A weird, cocoon-like... thing that has formed in a tree. It first appeared in this cartoon, unrelated to the family. But then, it started to appear in the background of many of the family's scenes, such as this one.

  • Disembodied hands reaching out from strange places had appeared in Addams's art before, but they were connected with the family when one cartoon showed two arms reaching out of a phonograph to change the records (see the page image). These were given the Thing's name and role in the TV show.

  • The Baby. In a couple of cartoons, the mother is said to be pregnant. According to the Knitting Pregnancy Announcement, it will have four legs, and if it's a boy it will be given "a Biblical name, like Cain or Ananias." It was never referenced again, which is understandable as the cartoons' continuity was loose, but it did inspire Pubert in Addams Family Values.


Tropes found in the cartoons: