Thursday, 9 February 2012

History of the Sparky Comic

THE SPARKY FILE. 23 January 1965 – 23 July1977.

(Or, “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About `Sparky` Comic, But Were Afraid To Ask!”)

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This `Sparky File` will strive to be (I hope!) the most comprehensive guide and review of D.C Thomson’s hither to neglected 1960s – 1970s comic, Sparky.` It is both a factual guide and a subjective review of the comic and its contents circa 1965-1977.

I now have re stocked a near complete run of the comic to aid me in compiling the `file`. The years 1966 and 1967 were awkward for a while, but I now have a majority of issues from both years, plus my memory, to work on – though there are a couple of minor gaps in both. However, I do like to think that this is, hopefully, the `definitive` guide to the history of Sparky comic- so far.

I have striven to list every issue number and date where a strip begins and ends in the comic, including periods of omission when strips dropped out for weeks, months or even years! Because `Sparky` comic revived so many old characters from past issues of other Thomson titles such as the `Beano` and `Dandy` I have endeavoured to note which publication such characters first appeared in, e.g. `Hungry Horace` first appeared in the first issue of the Dandy` back in 1937.

Hopefully, I have catalogued all `fun pals` who originated in all such titles. I have also supplied names of artists where possible and of the writers, who are far harder to gain details on. This latter data comes via the folks on the `Comics UK` site who I have credited at the end of this article. Their help has been invaluable and I thank them fully.

As each fun or adventure strip and character is covered in an initial resume I have put the title in italics: example here using Hungry Horace once more to demonstrate. Only with the initial coverage will this be done for the readers benefit; other references as normal print.

There will be a brief summary for fun strips and a more detailed synopsis for adventure strips, particularly in the case of the more serious mode of adventure strips. Where fun strips have points of interest, e.g. new characters appearing for short runs in such; or notable episodes as with the `Thingummyblob` strips etc, then these will be noted. Some fun strips such as `I. Spy` and `Big Billy Big` ran episodic serials as part of their series. These will be described in more detail.

I aim to provide readers with an informative and comprehensive, as well as entertaining (I hope!) history of Sparky comic, and its assorted strips, both `fun` and `adventure`. Sparky comic has been sadly neglected by many comic historians,
so here’s hoping that the balance can be redressed somewhat. I am informed by those most able folks on the `Comic’s UK` site that the comic was set up by the `Boy’s and Girl’s comic department of D. C Thomson rather than the juvenile department which `Dandy, Beano, Topper and Beezer` originated from. I’m not sure what difference that makes, but that is how it originated.

The `file` consists of a year-by-year survey 1965 to 1977, its publication life, followed by a special `events` of each year, Politics, Sport, Music etc. Every years `fun` and `adventure` strips will be highlighted by a short summary of their characters and themes. As stated earlier, some strips, such as `Willy the Woeful Wizard` and `I. Spy` for example, due to their serial based format, allow for rather more comprehensive synopsis.

Following the 1965-77 chapters there is a chapter regaling my experiences with the numerous free gifts that I collected when the comic underwent it’s many (nine) revamps, when it was trying to boost it’s none too healthy sales. Of course, there were actually ten separate free gift/ promotion weeks from the comic if you count the comics initial launch with free gifts. That initial launch, isn’t technically a `revamp` though, hence my stating nine.

Finally, there is an appendix section which lists the `adventure & fun` strips in table form an in depth look at the nine `promotions` the comic undertook, and a personal guide to anyone interested in collecting old issues of the comic.

As this is also a subjective article I have voiced my opinions, which may appear to some readers perhaps rather strongly about certain `strips` in the comic. These views that I proffer concern I felt was an utter naivety regarding the portrayal of ethnic races along with my views on other issues raised. Hence the `Pause For Thought! spots that appear throughout the file, as well as my views in the main text.

But! These are just my personal views and just because I like or dislike a strip it doesn’t mean said strip `is` actually good or bad, except to me. As far as subjective taste goes I happily accept that other people’s views, even vastly differing ones, on said strips merits are just as viable and every bit as relevant as mine. Hopefully, these `opinions` that I venture won’t mar readers enjoyment of the data provided –too much.

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