June 12, 2006


If you ever wondered why I went nine months without updating the Secret Fun Spot, here's the reason... I'm thrilled to announce a new "visual history book" about the S.S. Adams Prank and Magic Company.. written, photographed, and designed by yours truly. It just finished printing in Korea and we're hoping to have it in hand by mid July.

For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, S.S. Adams (a.k.a Adams) is the world's first and oldest mass-manufacturer of pranks and magic tricks. Adams is responsible for timeless classics like The Joy Buzzer, The Dribble Glass and The Snake Nut Can. They basically pioneered the American "joker's novelty" industry.

I've been doing design work for the Adams company for a couple of years now, and in early 2005 they approached me about creating a book in celebration of their 100th anniversary. This was literally a dream come true, as I'd been talking for years about putting together a book on pranks and magic.

The first thing I did was visit the Adams factory in Neptune, New Jersey and raided the place for artwork, discontinued stock, old photos, promotional stuff..everything I could find. I made discoveries like the original art(!) for the Money Maker and Mystic Smoke that you've seen a hundred million times in comic book ads. The experience was truly phenomenal.

The book consists of 200 full color, large-format pages of prankster's eye candy. I included items and artwork from every decade of the last century. Miraculously, Chris Ware of Jimmy Corrigan and Acme Novelty Library fame wrote the foreword. Just as you'd expect, it's as painful as it is hilarious.

Anyway, you can preview a half dozen pages, and even order it over at S.S. Adams website. Please spread the word if you know of anyone who might be interested. It's a relatively tiny print run, and we've got no real marketing budget, but it's a true labor of love and some of you are going to greatly enjoy it.

As if the experience wasn't already great enough, my design hero Chip Kidd gave me a blurb to die for...
"This book? This book is a JOKE. When I opened it, it played a trick on me: instead of a breezy light-hearted look at novelties, it buzzed in my head and revealed itself as the heartbreaking secret history of twentieth century America that it actually is. Oh, and it's gorgeous too. Tricked again."
-Chip Kidd, author of The Cheese Monkeys, and Batman Collected


dean reusser said...

what ARE you talking about?

nah really, I just might get one, but only if I can get your autograph..:). anyway, best wishes and success on the publication.

next project, a "Swivel Cherry" tell-all confessional all about your life in the band. come on...


Travis said...


Did you meet Chip Kidd when he came to Fayetteville 2 years ago? He was a guest lecturer for the Northwest Arkansas Art Director's Club. Gary Baseman was just here in April.

Chip Kidd was very drunk, and very funny.

Travis said...

By the way, I'd like the autograph, too. Big fan of the site, and congratulations about the book being published! Did you get to keep the loot you photographed from the factory? I hope so!

Kirk D. said...

Thanks guys!

Yeah, I didn't think of that, but I should arrange something with Adams in the way of signing some books.

Travis- I found out about the local Kidd appearance about a month late and I was crushed. I've met with him at Comic Con twice and I corresponded regarding the Adams book, but unfortunately he was always sober.
I wanted to attended Baseman but I was busy that night. I'm just happy that guys like those two have a reason to visit the area!

And yes, I got to keep a good portion of the Adams loot, though not the really rare stuff. I'll have to blog about my Adams collection one of these times.

AWG said...

Wow! Way to go, Kirk. And Chris Ware. This is big time stuff!

gentle_dissident said...

you have a dream job. i've owned a bunch of adams

cograts on the book. i'll spread the word and of course buy at least 1 copy

edit: do i have to delete a post just to fix spelling?

Kirk D. said...

Thanks AWG and gentle!

(yes, deleting the post is the way I've been fixing my spelling mistakes, but then again I'm new to this.)

Flamen Dialis said...

Beautiful work, Kirk! But, being a fat daddy on a fixed entertainment budget, I'm lucky to scrounge together 45 bills for any book! Any softbound versions on the production horizon?

Flamen Dialis said...

Any chance of you throwing up some "warts n' all" pics of some of that original art? It's always a kick to see the white out, overlays/color seps and annotated production tissues from old original commercial art. Seeing an example of a Frankenberry cereal box production mechanical, printed in a fanzine back in the early 70s, was one of the small, but influential, images that spurred me on to become a graphic designer. C'mon, quit holding out on that Onion Gum header card art and let us have a look!

Herva said...

Being one of the few luckies to see the book in person I can tell you it's worth every penny, most of the imagery is larger than life, and the color reproduction is great. You get the feeling you're looking at the actual pieces, they have weathering and scuffs and little faded pencil lines on the art. Very cool. If you're into the collecting side it's a must, you'll get a comprehensive "history" of Adams that will make all those carefully purchased items feel that much more meaningful. If you're into the art and ephemera side of it (as I am) you'll get TONS of inspiration and laughs, there is easily as much art in this book as there are collectibles. Kirk D. put his heart and 100's of hours into this and it shows. My crystal ball shows me more books in his future....

Kirk D. said...

Thanks for the plug Herva, it's worthy of the back cover!

Flamen- While there's no solid plans for a paperback right now (Conversely there's been talk of a "deluxe" edition, ha,ha) there's no telling what the future may hold. If it sells well Adams may seek a bigger distributor, or do another printing, or consider a softcover. I'd love to see an edition similar to the Taschen ICONS series. It's all possible. And believe me, we'll do all we can to get the most mileage out of this collection of images!

Anyway, I am planning on more posts regarding the "behind the scenes" of the book. I'll be sure to include some sweet images. Adams is understandably protective of their amazing art, but I'll see what I can do.

ssadamscollector said...

Looking foward to getting the book. David just sent me an email telling me about it. I then found your space here.
Would like your autograph also. As the owner of one of the larger collections of S.S. Adams Jokes, Magic, and Puzzles, it's always nice to see items that I've never seen before.
John Adams
PS. I'm not related.