Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Addams Family (book)

by Jack Sharkey

TAddams Familyhe Addams Family are, next to The Simpsons, arguably the greatest comic family franchise, and still going strong today, appearing in live TV, animated TV, movies, cartoons, and even more.*  And when the TV show went on the air, the idea came to do a tie-in novel.  The result was The Addams Family by Jack Sharkey.

Sharkey was a hack in the very best meaning of the word:  he cranked out dozens of books in all genres over the years,** and is clearly at home with the macabre comedy of Addams.

The book is often described as a novel, but it’s really just a collection of short stories. And they’re all hilarious.  Sharkey captures the weirdness of the New Yorker cartoons with a macabre sense of humor that matches Addams's own. The basic stories included an introduction to the family, the story of how they got Thing, and several others.

My favorite was “From Here to Perplexity,” when Fester was accidentally drafted into the army and had to undergo a physical. Among other things, they discover he has no fingerprints and weighs 0 pounds.  And what he looks like under his cloak . . .

There’s also “Dear Old Mold and Ghoul Days,” where Wednesday and Pugsley have to go to school, where their teacher is enamored beyond sense by a certain obscure poet.  Who Grandma Addams knew …

And “That Was the Weakness that Was,” where Gomez sets himself up to find ways to make monsters less vulnerable to sunlight or silver bullets or the like.

The book suffered the fate of all tie-ins: it was published to cash in and then vanished. It seems to have sold well enough, since there are reports online of many people who found it, picked it up, and fell in love with it.*** It should definitely appeal to readers nowadays, who can appreciate macabre humor.

*Despite their being his most famous creation, Charles Addams actually produced very few Addams family cartoons.  I can think of only a dozen or so offhand, and only some of those featured more than one character.  Pugsley (ironically one of the least used characters of the TV show) had several panels to himself (notably when he was blowing up his train set) and Fester showed up occasionally, but I’ve come across very few that showed them as a family.  (I don’t think they were conceived in that way: Addams just used a few existing characters when he did his family panels.)

**This one appears to be a work for hire: the copyright is not in his name.  I remember his name from an SF short story “Multim in Parvo,” which is really a series of short jokes.

***A second tie-in novel was written during the run of the show: The Addams Family Strikes Back! by W.F. Miksch.  It was an actual novel about the family taking on a school board, but is no more than mildly amusing and not particually Addams=like.

1 comment:

Jerry House said...

I really enjoyed Sharkey's science fiction stories in the sixties. (Of course I was much younger and more shallow in those days.) In his humorous mood he often had me laughing out loud; his serious stories were always a good read. I found his two mystery novels to be less than than stellar, though. He abandoned both genres when he began writing a long string of plays, none of which I have either seen or read.