Sparky, the lovable half-angel, half-devil mascot of Awakening Comics, made his debut in the small press mini-comic AWAKENING COMICS 2000. The comic was a template for future Sparky books; it featured Sparky jam comics with several independent small press artists as well as jams with students in a cartooning class for teenagers taught by Sparky creator Steve Peters. Debate soon began as to whether the playful and sometimes mischievous imp was a cat, a monkey, or neither, a question which continues to pop up in Sparky jams to this day. Drawn in a quasi-30’s animation style, he soon drew comparisons to Felix the Cat and the Animaniacs, but the more Sparky stories were created, the more Sparky began to manifest his own unique individuality.
Sparky made his national debut in the Day Prize-winning CHEMISTRY, an autobiographical story in which Sparky follows his creator around, sometimes acting as a guardian spirit, sometimes a trouble-making trickster. He then starred in his own one-shot titles, THE ORIGIN OF SPARKY and SPARKY IN LOVE. As in his earlier mini-comics, these titles featured solo stories by Peters, as well as jams with small press (and sometimes mainstream) creators and Peters’ students. Sparky varied from story to story—he was mute, verbose, lustful, innocent, street-wise, nerdy, malicious, friendly. The idea was that there is a Sparky in every reality, and each piece told about a different one.
Peters put out an open invitation to small press creators to include Sparky appearances in their own comics, though to date he has only appeared in Unexpected Tales #1, an issue of Dale Martin’s Watusi, and Eric Wilmoth’s Archetypal Images Sponsorship Special.
In the brand-new TAILS OF SPARKY #1, Sparky returns with his own series. As with Sparky’s earlier books, this comic is chock full of jam comics with many indy cartoonists, ranging from well-known creators to very young amateur art students. The cover is a take-off on the opening sequence of The Brady Bunch (it includes the line “Here’s the story of a man named Sparky”). It features nine Sparkys drawn by nine different artists—some of Peters’ most frequent collaborators—Peters, Daniel Sponton, EJ Barnes, Lee Thacker, Eric Wilmoth, Max Ink, David Mack, James Kochalka, and Dave Sim.
Like The Origin of Sparky, TAILS OF SPARKY #1 is an all-origins issue—only fitting for a first issue! The 4-page opening sequence is written and beautifully drawn by Lee Thacker (in a style resembling that of Charles Burns); it examines the idea that there are many different and sometimes conflicting versions of Sparky.
The 1- to 4-page jams appearing in TAILS #1 are sometimes done with his friends and students; others were passed around at comic conventions, including SPACE, MOCCA, SPX, and Mid-Ohio Con. One was done online at ComicSpace.com. These jams include contributions by Sergio Aragones (Groo), Tom Scioli (Godland), Greg Hyland (Lethargic Lad), Matt Dembicki (Mr.Big), Max Ink (Blink), Jay Hosler (Clan Apis), Dale Martin (Watusi), Jason Thompson (Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath), Bryan Kane, Lee Thacker (One For Sorrow), The Fraim Brothers (America Jr.), Wes Molebash (You’ll Have That), Zander Cannon (Top 10), Paul Friedrich (Onion Head Monster), Matt Feazell (Cynicalman), Pam Bliss, Wally Crane (Sheba), Scott Berwanger (Anubis), Stan Yan (The Wang), and Bryan Glass (Mice Templar).
The varied origin themes include stories about Sparky as cain killing his brother Abel, a stone-age Sparky evolving into modern-day Sparky, a Sparky who is the son of the sailor who kisses a nurse in the famous WWII-era photograph, a sea-monkey version of Sparky, a Sparky who crashes to Earth as a meteorite, a Sparky who hatches from a giant frozen egg floating in space, and a Jor-El like Sparky who realizes he has to flee his doomed planet.
TAILS OF SPARKY #1 made its debut at the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus, Ohio on April 18 and 19, 2009.
TAILS OF SPARKY #1 is a B&W 40 page book.
Published by Awakening Comics. Art and story by Steve Peters and various artists.