Yes, John Q. Adams III is the renaissance man his name would suggest. Cartoonist, art collector, Puli aficionado, whiskey enthusiast, and keeper of Lockport, NY’s finest Koi pond are just a few of Adams’ varied interests. To many in the comic community, though, he is best known as the wrangler of silverfish — both as one of the creators of the Silverfish mini-comic and as the curator of the Silverfish Gallery blog (formerly here).
Adams answered a few of Go Metric’s questions via e-mail, a format resistant to consumption by the dreaded silverfish.
The whole Silverfish thing started as an self—published comic in the mid 1990s. Why the silverfish as subject?
Well, my collaborator (Crazy Bob Craig) and I were sitting around one day talking about comics and how most collectors cringe at the mention of silverfish. One of us (I don't recall who) said "Hey, why isn't there a comic about silverfish?" and that was all it took. It was initially created in hopes of being included in an Ithaca Comic Club newsletter but they decided to pass — our first rejection letter! After that we went made a few portfolios and went the mini-comic route.
Is Silverfish still an ongoing concern?
We have four issues out. The last one was in 2006 and featured a special guest appearance by Cerebus. Dave Sim (Cerebus creator) was kind enough to take time to contribute three partially drawn pages and the book was sold with all proceeds going to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). I have the story plotted for another two or three issues but actually taking time to do the work has always been my problem. Crazy Bob came up with a ten page fill-in story but that's still in the works as well.
How did the comic evolve into the Silverfish Gallery?
There was a comic in Comics Buyers Guide years back by cartoonist Mark Martin. Something about putting mothballs in old 35mm film containers (remember those?!) to ward off silverfish. We sent him some phony baloney cease and desist letter from the "law firm" of Adam Johnson and Craig Roberts and he sent us back a "Call Off Your Bugs" drawing apologizing for "stealing" our bugs. Seeing his silverfish drawing made me wonder if other artists might wanna draw one and sure enough, some did. It just sorta snowballed from there.
When I explain Silverfish Gallery to people, I sometimes get a puzzled look. Do you have a standard request when you approach artists? Do most people "get it"?
Well, it's easier at a comic convention where I can just show them some of the drawings I have so they know what I'm talking about. When I contact an artist via e-mail, I first mention I have a "theme" art collection. This is more common than you'd think — fans collecting artwork around a specific theme (cliffs, cows, Frank Zappa, etc.) — and many artists have enjoyed the oddball request as a break from the usual Batman or Spider—Man sketch request. I suggest they visit the Gallery to see what other artists have come up with before they decide yea or nay. I hope that once I have them there and they see it's a legit request my chances will be better.
So far, how many have collected?
As of June 2010 I have 433 silverfish interpretations.
What has been the most satisfying interaction with an artist? Not necessarily your favorite piece, but who was the best sport?
It's too tough to narrow it down to just one. The majority of the artists have been very professional, treating my goofy request as a legitimate job and providing the art in a timely manner. Some need a reminder every now and again but that's partially my fault — if they're aren't charging me (yes, some were done gratis!) I explain that there is no deadline involved and to feel free to work on it as their schedule allows. Some of the artists who I didn't expect to be interested have seemed to be the most enthusiastic. And I've even had artists mail me and ask if they could do one — that's always a pleasant surprise.
Any interesting rejections worth noting — famous artists?
Oh, plenty of rejections! Some artists are too busy, some prefer not to draw someone else' creations, some draw sketches only at conventions. I did send an inquiry to the agent of a "famous artist" who replied that the timing wasn't right but to check back in the future (I do — at least once a year!) but I'd rather not name names for fear of jinxing it.
You post the images online, but how do you display them in your house?
I have a number of framed pieces on the walls. Some of the paintings are quite beautiful and not "cartoony" in nature so they don't look out of place with the other "real" art we have. Also, some aren't "drawn" works at all — I have some glass, silver, metal and shadowboxed pieces on display.
Have you ever considered approaching a gallery to display the collection?
Never even thought of that. I imagine the subject matter may turn some folks off but the variety of artists (not all from the comic book field) might have some appeal. Not sure how comfortable I'd be lending out the art, though.
Who would you like to have draw a silverfish who hasn't yet?
There are a few artists on my "wish list.” Some just haven't worked out for one reason or another — their busy schedule, priced outta my range, don't do commissions, etc. — but I've been fairly lucky so far.
— Brett Essler