Netflix just dropped the first teaser trailer for Wednesday, an upcoming comedy horror series that focuses on the daughter in the famous fictional Addams Family. The series is directed by Tim Burton and is set to premiere later this year.
At this point, the Addams Family is a huge part of American media and culture. We’ve seen the characters in several television shows, movies, video games, and even a play. The new Netflix show is just the latest in a long line of media projects, stretching all the way back to 1964 with the first Addams family television show.
But the origin of the Addams Family stretches back much further, to the pages of The New Yorker. In 1938, Charles Addams was a cartoonist whose cartoons were regularly published in The New Yorker.
One of the cartoons Addams submitted to The New Yorker featured a slender woman in a long black dress, a heavy-set butler and a slumped older figure, all within a creepy, gothic-style mansion. This would be the first appearance of a set of characters Addams would reuse several times throughout his cartoons, eventually expanding the cast to include an entire family. This unnamed family would be referred to by the name of their creator, and so the Addams Family was made.
It wasn’t until 1964 that a television adaptation was made based on this family – a family that appeared only a few times throughout the years, and only in The New Yorker. Charles Addams was asked to flesh out the characters a bit, and so provided some of their names for the first time.
From spinoff and reboot to spinoff and reboot, we manage to end up with the Addams Family today, a presence well known in American media.
Addams himself, it seems, did not draw inspiration directly from his lived experiences. He was not as creepy or antisocial as his characters. In fact, his success as a cartoonist allowed him to climb the social ladder. Among his strange brushes with history, he briefly dated Jackie Kennedy after the assasination of her husband, John F. Kennedy. He is also related to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, despite the difference in name spelling.
In the beginning of the 20th century, successful cartoonists were some of the highest paid and most prominent comedic voices. It’s strange now to see how something as big as the Addams Family can start from fifty-odd New Yorker cartoons. It goes to show how the path towards comedic success has changed so drastically.
It seems likely that the legacy of Charles Addams will continue through the newest Netflix adaptation, and well beyond the hundred year anniversary of that first cartoon that started it all.