This story does not begin at Christmas, but just when one of them ends. It could not be otherwise, judging by the kind of lover of endings that was its protagonist. Its protagonist is Charles Addams, the cartoonist that first he was a somewhat illustrious boy – he was descended from not one but two former presidents of the United States: John Adams and John Quincy Adams – who liked nothing more than spending time in the cemetery
The cemetery was the Presbyterian burial ground in their town, little Westfield, in New Jersey. His biographer says that what he did there was to imagine what his life would be like if he were dead and continued to be alive. The Addams boy was born on January 7, back in 1912, and he was 25 years old when he gave life to Wednesday Addams.
the teenage daughter
At first, Wednesday wasn’t even called Wednesday. It was nothing more than the teenage daughter of a family of presumed dead that, despite their condition as dead -despite traveling in a hearse, dressed in black, and wearing dark circles and extreme paleness-, they were not too far from the rest. In reality, rather, they behaved like a model family, unbalancing the very idea of the strange, because weren’t they eliminating every last cliché about what did not fit, becoming the perfection of disengagement? As Robert Mankoff, the cartoon editor of the New Yorker -place where ‘The Addams Family’ was born- recalled, “except for the inversion of their values, the truth is that they behave quite conventionally.”
Mankoff coincided with Addams for just over a decade at the New Yorker. He was his editor when Addams died of a heart attack in 1988. Addams was parking the car and then he was nowhere to be found. They buriedas I had wanted in an animal cemetery.
It was the same one in which he had married his third wife, Tee Miller. Her resemblance to Morticia Addams was not accidental. Nor was the one of the two previous ones. “They said a lot of things about him. Like that he was periodically admitted to mental hospitals and things like that. But nothing was true. The truth was that he delivered his drawings on time, and that he did not draw in the office but at home”, Mankoff pointed out when he wrote about him on the occasion of the premiere of the musical ‘The Addams Family’.
a lovely guy
It was believed that a guy who “did nothing but create sociopaths” couldn’t be just another sociopath. But the truth is that, apparently, as Mankoff pointed out, he “was a charming guy.” Charismatic enough to date Greta Garbo and Jacqueline Kennedy. or for plan for years a series of picture books with Ray Bradbury about the Elliots, something like the Addams of the science fiction writer, a most charming family of vampires. In fact, Addams had illustrated the first of the stories they starred in: ‘Homecoming’. And one more thing. From the walls of the house Alfred Hitchcock hung a couple of cartoonist’s originals. The director was such a fan that he made the character of Cary Grant talk about him in ‘With death on his heels’.
As protagonists of the famous gags of the New Yorker -those jokes of a single panel-, the members of the Addams family were most wasted. They didn’t even have names. They didn’t have it until in 1964 a producer decided they should have their own television series. And no, Wednesday is not called that because she was born on a Wednesday -she was born on Friday the 13th-, but because a friend of Addams, the poet Joan Blake that at the time when the cartoonist was looking for names for his characters, he met him in New York -he was fighting for the custody of his children- and He told him that he should put Wednesday. She had just remembered an old nursery rhyme that spoke of children as abysses related to that day of the week.
There is something magically macabre and wonderful in the way that the adolescent Wednesday and the rest of the addams they are resurrected, from time to time, to reflect how the world changes. They did it in the 90s at the hands of Tim Burtonand the iconic Christina Riccito reposition the world before the end of the world -actually, before the turn of the century-, and he has done it again just now, with Ricci herself on board, in a series after which they are Miles Miller and Alfred Gough, but also, Burton. ‘Wednesday’ leaves the family aside for once and reformulates the idea of the self ‘outcast’, the self outside the system, the unique individual in a universe – Nevermore Academy, uh-huh, nod to Edgar Allan Poe – of supposed unique individuals. And isn’t that the world today?