Steve Peters is no stranger to jam comics. He began jamming with his friends as soon as he was old enough to hold a pencil, and both his self-published, Xeric Award-winning series, Awakening Comics, and his Slave Labor Graphics/Amaze Ink series, Everwinds, included jams with a number of well-known comics artists. His love for the jam comic art form reaches its ultimate expression in The Origin of Sparky.
Sparky, a lovable little half-angel, half-devil troublemaker, first appeared in Peters’ autobiographical 2005 comic, Chemistry. He follows Peters around and influences him in making certain decisions, some positive, some destructive. Real life has imitated art, for this character has become quite a force in Peters’ life. “He was such an iconic figure that when I started drawing Chemistry, it also seemed natural to start doing jam comics with him as the star”, Peters says. The jams started to amass over the following years, and The Origin of Sparky is the result.
The comic is packed with Sparky origin stories, each one completely different from the next. “My idea was that Sparky is able to travel between realities, and that each reality has its own Sparky, each with his own unique story. With its unpredictably surreal, stream-of-consciousness qualities, the jam comic was the perfect way to tell some of these stories.” Most of these jams were done at the various comic book conventions held across the country, such as Wizard World Philadelphia, the San Diego Comicon, SPX in Bethesda, MD, and SPACE in Columbus, Ohio. The list of artists who collaborated on the jam reads like a “Who’s Who” of independent and small press artists, such as Alex Robinson, Zander Cannon, Jim Gownley, Shannon Wheeler, Matt Feazell, Roberta Gregory, Jamar Nicholas, the Brothers Fraim, and many more. There’s even a couple of mainstream creators mixed in for good measure, like Eric Battle and Jamal Igle, as well as complete unknowns, like the teenage students from Steve’s cartooning class. There’s also a reunion jam with two alumni of Steve’s class, Mark Price and James Heimer.
The origins of the different Sparkys vary widely depending on the whims and imaginations of the creators involved. In one story, he is sent by a mysterious being to save the life of a dying athlete; in another, he is a golem, made to do his master’s bidding. He is a project created by a teacher for kids in his art class, roadkill resurrected by a compassionate angel, and a magical being alchemically created from the blood of JFK just after his assassination.
One of the highlights of the book is a 4-page jam between Peters and self-publishing champion Dave Sim, creator of Cerebus. Done by mail over a 2-year period, it is a true mixing of the two artist’s styles. “I penciled out the title of the jam and a picture of Sparky and sent the first row of panels to Dave, expecting that we would take turns drawing panels. Instead, he penciled the entire row and sent it back for me to ink. I was extremely honored that he allowed me to ink his work, and I did my best to make it look good”, Peters says. From then on, the two artists took turns drawing rows of panels. In the tradition of the first “Mind Game” story in Cerebus, they hid an image inside the negative shapes of the jam, which can seen more clearly by stepping back a few feet. “Dave told me that he only wanted to pencil, but he surprised me by sending a couple of rows with large portions inked as well. In one, he drew an angel with a lot of detailed stippling, and it looked like something out of his book, Rick’s Story. So I asked if he could do some of the Hieronymous Bosch-like demons that also appeared in Rick’s Story, and on his next turn, he quite graciously complied, inking them as well! I was very impressed by the man’s generosity, especially since finding out how busy he’s been since the completion of Cerebus. I was also quite surprised to find out, while talking to him at the recent SPACE convention in Ohio, that the Origin Of Sparky jam was the FIRST thing that he drew after the completion of Cerebus!!!”
In an added twist, Sim dubbed the jam “The Musical Origin of Sparky”, and the two artists wrote surreal song lyrics above each panel of the jam. Peters has set these lyrics to music, and has posted the song on the Awakening Comics web site.
The Origin Of Sparky is a B&W 32 page book.
Published by Awakening Comics.
Art and story by Steve Peters and various artists.
$3.00 USD; Diamond Order Code JUN06 2953
“The fact that the Origin of his white-gloved, haloed, angel-winged and pointy-tailed iconic cartoon mascot is given twenty different treatments, most of them free-form jams with other cartoonists…is in itself pretty witty.”
—Dave Sim, Cerebus
“Consider it an autograph book for APE or SPX.”
—David S. Carter, Yet Another Comics Blog
“The jam comic turned out pretty cool.”
—James Kochalka, Super F*ckers, American Elf