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Sparky 1965 to 1973 
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I recall telly adverts for a new comic just after Christmas 1964. It was called "Sparky". I was nine years old and a regular Dandy reader. I did sometimes have the Beano, Beezer and Topper too.

My Mom agreed to get me the new comic and I began to very much enjoy "Sparky". It had 24 pages (though at 5d it was 2d dearer than Dandy) I did not realise at that time it was virtually full of old comic characters such as "Freddie The Fly", "Hungry Horace" "Keyhole Kate", "Pansy Potter" etc! My two favourites were a one page strip about a sort of Lake dwelling friendly monster called `Flubber` I think! and the two page all colour strip "Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora". I really liked the bizzarre nature of the latter strip which could go anywhere!

I think the front cover was either "The Moonsters" or the african lad wearing a grass skirt and a red mushroom on his head-`Sparky` Why he had the same name as the comic wasn't explained!

I know from today's perspective-many of the character Sparky's stories could be seen as `possibly` racist-but it was the ignorance of DC Thompson, rather than any other intent in my opinion!

The comic was a little more `junior` in style to Dandy or Beano, but I enjoyed it very much! In my next post I will expand on more stories featured in Sparky, circa 1967/8.

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Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:35 pm
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Early 'SPARKY' was filled with revamped vintage THOMSON characters from nineteen-oatcake, with much 'curio'-type strips of a distinctly NURSERY-RHYME, vaguely disturbing nature, the aforementioned 'DREAMY DAVE' being a prime example of the delights within. My earliest 1965 copies have the excellent 'MOONSTERS' on the cover, a definite highlight of heightened LUNAR LOONACY.........

'PETER PIPER', 'PANSY POTTER' and of course 'KEYHOLE KATE' all got a new lease of life [at least in 1965 terms] and viewed today, this early 'SPARKY' has taken on a somewhat archaic quality, but none the less intruiging for it. Sadly, these earlier '60s copies are more expensive, and rersultant holes in my collection remain unplugged [for now] which adds to the overall mystique of 'SPARKY'S' 'wilfully absurd' very early period [1965-]

the controversial 'SPARKY' character himself has been dismissed in some quarters as being more reminiscent of a cartoon SPACE ALIEN than a deliberately 'nasty' ethnic stereotype.........much later on, this character was relegated to 'SPARKY SAYS' comments on the 'FUN FARE' puzzle-pages, then dropped altogether.

The fact that THOMSON dropped this character at around the same time that ITV'S 'LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR' was pulling in millions of viewers suggests, at least, that 'SPARKY' comic was willing to opt out of racially offensive material, [even if this type of material was popular fare in the early 70s on telly and elsewhere] ; at least in the aspect of a 'racially offensive' [however ambiguos] 'starring' character........

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Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:17 pm
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I wouldnt mind seeing the sparky tv ad anyone got any links is it on youtube ect and did thomsons advertise any more of their comics on tv in the 50s/60s ?


Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:49 pm
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TV ads for comics during the 60s and 70s were usually presented in a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' basis; IPC ads often actually had ANIMATION for a few precious secconds: however, production budgets dictated a trend more towards HANNA-BARBERA-styled values: fully-fledged, flowing DISNEY-style graphics was simply out of the question, old bean.

More cynical IPC execs no doubt put forward the poser: 'how many comics do we need to sell to fund this lark?'

The free gifts in many of these 'televisual' ads often centred on the dynamics of the gift in question; sometimes you saw an impressive 'free spinner glider' zooming through the air in animated form.

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Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:59 pm
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Thanks for the info spy i remember seeing a tv ad for the dandy in the early 90s that looked like it had been done on the cheap


Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:36 pm
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I do recall the Sparky ad on TV ( I misheard the title and thought it was called 'Smarty'! What a dope!)
And when Whizzer and Chips started, an animated Ginger the cat was slammed by a falling window as he reached in for a pie! So cruel! This was humour in 1969!
I'm sure I've mentioned all this before, bur also when Mighty World of Marvel began, the voice over on the TV ad was by Stan lee.
Well, those are the 3 ads I remember most fondly, they don't do them any more, shame!


Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:17 pm
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Dennis the Menace featured in a TV ad in Jan 1956 promoting Thomson's new comic title Beezer.


Thu Jan 15, 2009 1:12 pm
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"Love Thy Neighbour" only began in 1972 Sparky (character) had been dropped for about three years before (It was the "Rivers Of Blood") speech in 1968 which highlighted racial tensions -that and the South African sports embargo!

Getting back to my SParky peice! in about 1966 came a strip i really loved "My Grockle and Me" young Jimmy had a pet, which was some sort of small fire breathing Dragon called (By Jimmy) `Grockle`. Grockle could be a bit bad tempered and got into many hilarious scrapes! A big favourite of mine!

The pre 1969 Sparky has a reputation of bieng a bit conventional in its style-but I feel thats a bit harsh. One strip I think that was truly surreal was "Willy The Woeful Wizard" Superbly drawn (The same artist drew 1968s "Blondel, The Wandering Minstral" strip to the same high standard). Willy had some really `way-out` adventures! Though slanted to comedy-many of the plots were as bizzare as US comics were producing then!

In 1968 the comics logo changed; the `Sparky` title, now bieng pure red and straight, and on a straight lined background. Another great `adventure` strip was "The Lonely Lad Of Blue Lagoon" which had some great storylines! One step back in 1968 was the demotion of "Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora" from the centre pages and to monochrome! For a period in 1968 the artist was changed and though I hate to criticise any artists work-I'm afraid I view those drawings most poorly indeed!

Thre seemed to be a lack of vision in 1968 as many strips came and went in the fastest turnover I recall in any comic! "Snapshot Sid", "Harry Carry" "Charlie Chutney" and "Meddlesome Matty" to name four! (Looking a `Matty` now, she reminds me of Melinda Messenger!!)

The comic actually ran adaptions of classic stories during 1968-I know the ran "The Old Curiosity Shop" which was drawn superbly!

Around 1967 began the comics longest (I think) strip-"Invisible Dick" (was this titled by the same person who came up with "Spunky and his Spider"?) Dick Dicksons dad had been an Astronaut and had taken with him on his trip to space a torch (WHY!!??) Anyhow; he gave it to Dick who found its beam shone black and made anything it shone on invisible for a time! The strip was never a favourite of mine-but many obviously liked it!

In late 1968 a new back page strip began called "John Bull Dog" the comic adventures of a humanised Bull Dog! This strip would later front the comic with John having a name change! Anyone guess his new name?

Before leaving Sparky 1968 I must mention one `Adventure` style strip! This was "Big Billy Big" and was in the centre (Replacing Dave & Dora) it was full colour and featured `Big Billy Big` and his Aunt Aggie (Desperate Dan connections anyone?) Billy was the `Worlds Strongest Man` and had adventures lasting up to eight issues in continuing style! After three or four the title would be rested for a month or two. The best one featured a `growing serum` which caused plants and Insects to grow huge!

I am very please that others here remember the Sparky fondly too! Thanks for your posts!

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:56 pm
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the 'SPARKY' starring-character strip stopped after early FEB, 1969, [when BARNEY BULLDOG took over the cover star spot] however, the 'sparky' character definately hosted the inner double-page 'FUN FARE' in which he offered up 'quips and chortles' to 'dear sparky'.........readers. The character definately existed til about 1973, albeit represented more as a 'talking head' figure, but he was definately the comic's mascot until his unannounced 'departure'.

BIG BILLY BIGG' returned to the back colour page of the comic in 1969, a good surrealist strip I enjoyed 4 decades back......'lonely lad of BLUE LAGOON' was a nice evocative adventure strip, unusual in that it presented the HOLROYD artist who drew 'BRASSNECK' artwork outside of his usual 'DANDY' environment.

Other notable early SPARKY creations included 'DAVEY SPACER' [a fine slice of 60s space-kitsch], the evergreen 'KLANKY' with his bizarre PLUTO-like metal dog in early strips, and the celebrated BILL HILL cop-fest 'L-CARS' which started in 1968.

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:52 pm
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alanultron5 wrote:
"Love Thy Neighbour" only began in 1972 Sparky (character) had been dropped for about three years before (It was the "Rivers Of Blood") speech in 1968 which highlighted racial tensions -that and the South African sports embargo!


True, although racial integration had been common for quite a while of course and a character such as Sparky (a revamped version of 1950s DCT character 'Sooty Snowball') was anachronistic even by 1965. I'm amazed Thomsons even considered it, let alone giving it the cover slot.

alanultron5 wrote:
Before leaving Sparky 1968 I must mention one `Adventure` style strip! This was "Big Billy Big" and was in the centre (Replacing Dave & Dora) it was full colour and featured `Big Billy Big` and his Aunt Aggie (Desperate Dan connections anyone?) Billy was the `Worlds Strongest Man` and had adventures lasting up to eight issues in continuing style! After three or four the title would be rested for a month or two. The best one featured a `growing serum` which caused plants and Insects to grow huge!


Big Billy Bigg was a reprint of a foreign strip. I think it was Dutch but I can't recall the original character name at present.

Lew

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:22 pm
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Kashgar wrote:
Dennis the Menace featured in a TV ad in Jan 1956 promoting Thomson's new comic title Beezer.

Was dennis animated or was it a line drawing with voiceover? And dose the ad still exist i wonder if the said ad is lurking in the archives at dct


Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:26 pm
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One thing that struck me about 60s Sparky in particular was the artists all seemed to be from the reserves (so to speak). Apart from Bill Ritchie and Malcolm Judge the majority of the artists in Sparky never featured in Beano, Dandy, Beezer and Topper. I don't think I could name very many of them apart from Phil Millar. Back in the 70s I mangaed to be in the Popular Book Centre shop in New Cross when a customer brought in a pile of early Sparkys (numbered around the late teens to early 30s). The shopkeeper was ready to put his muckle great PBC stamp on the front of them all but I persuaded him to sell them to me unmolested. I still have them and I remember they were in near mint condition. (Haven't laid eyes on them for over 12 years though as my stuff has been in storage).


Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:20 pm
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'SPARKY' did have RON SPENCER ['little plum, baby-face finlayson'] who drew many covers featuring 'SPARKY' himself, Steve: 'PETER PIPER' after a start by other artists, settled into regular pensmanship by VIC NEILL, who became a prominent 'BEANO' artist in the early 70s ['wee ben nevis, etc].......

......but sure enough, there were no WATKINS-like artists in old SPARKY during that 'swinging' decade...........

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Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:06 am
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The main reason that Sparky might have seemed strangely seperate from the other comics that it joined in the Thomson stable in 1965 was because it was created by the boy's and girl's paper dept, headed by Bill Blain, rather than the comics side of the juvenile dept. This is why a lot of the artists used in the paper may have been unfamiliar to readers of the other comics but would have been recognizable to anyone who was a regular reader of the boy's and girl's picture papers.
For this reason it is no surprise to find a lot of stuff in Sparky also owed it's origins to the boy's and girl's papers either directly or indirectly. For instance in the case of some of those items listed above 'The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon' was a reprint from the New Hotspur ( Lonely Larry) and 'The Old Curiousity Shop' a reprint from Bunty, while both Invisible Dick and My Grockle and Me, the latter being some of George Dysdale's finest later work, owed their origins to stories that had appeared in the Rover in the 1920's.
For it's first four years in existence the editor of Sparky was Bill Mann, the first editor of the Victor and a boy's adventure paper editor through and through. Ultimately though this 'experiment' sort of ran out of steam and Sparky, under the editorship of out and out comic's man Ian Chisolm, became much more recognizably a Thomson comic from 1969 onwards.
Oh and by the way Al the Sparky's major logo change came about in Oct 1967 not 1968 and the Willie the Woeful Wizard artist you admired so much was girl's paper regular Bill Mainwaring. Also Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora never actually had a 'regular' artist as such with the artwork for the strip being done, in small runs or week to week by a number of artists including Malcolm Judge, George Ramsbottom and Ian Mackay.
The Sparky has always been a personal favourite of mine and really deserves to be properly indexed. Ah well! Maybe one day.


Fri Jan 16, 2009 11:25 am
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I'm doing another post on George D.. ..found my old Sparky from 1967..never knew he drew Invisible Dick..I can see his style in My Grockle from the Scruffy one..especially the last scan on my post..

thanks for putting artists to comic work Kashgar..

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Fri Jan 16, 2009 11:47 am
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