The `Sparky` File!

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The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Fri May 21, 2010 3:07 pm

I have-sort of- completed my history of `Sparky` comic on word document! I will try to put it on the site year-by-year as it is too large to go on in one great chunk!

THE SPARKY FILE. 23 January 1965 – 23 July1977.

This revised and greatly expanded `Sparky File` will correct (I hope!) those errors in my earlier abridged article for `Crikey! `. This version is more detailed on dates where possible and far more comprehensive in description where possible, of adventure stories in the comics early years.

I have striven to list ever issue number and date where a strip begins and ends in the comic. I have also supplied names of artists where possible and of 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.

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 few gaps in both. However, I do think this is the `definitive` guide to the history of Sparky comic so far.

* * * *


SPARKY, The `Forgotten` comic.


Now, almost forgotten, apart from those devout fans such as members of the `Comics U.K board (like myself) `Sparky comic, when remembered, is thought of as the `odd-man-out` in the stable of D.C Thomson `fun` comics.

It was the last of the D. C Thomson big five fun titles to appear (23rd January 1965) and the first to founder on 16th July 1977. Its twelve year life seems to be poorly recalled by many U.K comics’ aficionados. Graham Kibble White has sadly got virtually all his factual data incorrect concerning Sparky in the small chapter on it in his book.

I hope to give readers as comprehensive as possible history of Sparky comic and its assorted strips, both `fun` and `adventure` Sparky comic has been sadly neglected by many comic historians, here’s hoping that the balance can be redressed somewhat. 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

The comic had a different look to its strips as many of the artists had not worked on those sisters `fun` papers. The first Editor was Willie (Bill) Mann who had previously helmed `Victor` comic. Sparky in its early years carried strips that featured surrealistic themes not seen in the other Thomson stable of comics. There was also a high preponderance of animal themed adventure strips in the first two and a half years of its life.

It possessed a mixture of `fun` strips, which were, at one or two pages, simply drawn (in comparison with the `adventure strips) and the `adventure` strips which were drawn to a higher degree of artwork; these were always two page efforts. The comic also ran a text (with some illustrations) strip for its first few months. Anyhow, that’s enough introductions, now on with the show!













































1965. The new comic is launched.


Sparky No 1 entered the market on Friday 16th January 1965 (Note! The cover date was 23rd January; but all U.K comics were dated a week ahead of publication. I’m afraid I don’t know why this was). Sadly, it turned out to be one of the worst cases of bad timing in a commercial sense. Why? Well, also coming on sale the very same day was City Publications title “T,V 21” It was rather like the Monkees pop group releasing their “Headquarters” LP at the same time as Beatles “Sgt Pepper”. Sparky comic was quite overshadowed by the flashier TV 21 and this inauspicious start did not auger well for its sales.

One aid to Sparky though was fellow Thomson titles, `Dandy` and `Beano` issues of 9th January 1965, both carrying four page `pink flier` inserts that advertised the new Sparky comic. I had the Dandy one at the time and have recently bought (on E.Bay) the Beano edition with `pink flier`

Both comics (Sparky and TV 21) had been advertised just after New Year’s Day 1965 on the telly. The Sparky ad showed scenes of youngsters playing with the free gift, the “Flying Snorter”. This was a yellow balloon with a flattened red coloured air hole which let the air out in sort of controlled way to give a rasping sound! You blew it up, and let if go, and there it went, rasping away till all the air inside was depleted. Sparky No2 gave away the `Big Banger` and No3 the `Red Racketty`

I was only allowed one of either `Sparky` or `TV 21` and I chose `Sparky` (I bet I was in the minority there!) My Mom bought me the new comic (I was Eight years of age in early 1965) The “Snorter” was great fun indeed! Wish I’d kept it. Anyhow, this was the start of a long and happy association for me with Sparky comic. In fact, I had purchased (and later bought myself) all but four Sparky’s (and kept them) to about June / July 1971. Oh! How I wish I’d still kept them.

At a cost of 5d (old pence) it was 2d dearer than Dandy or Beano; but it had a page content of 24 pages instead of 16 as with Dandy, Beano or the A3 sized Topper and Beezer (they were 5d in price too). Unlike Dandy and Beano, who increased their price (to 4d) in 1968, Sparky stayed at 5d right up to issue 281, 1st August 1970 when it increased to 6d. Friday was the day Sparky came out and it stayed Friday until late 1969.

The comic was aimed at a slightly younger readership than Dandy or Beano for the first three or so years of its life.

At the time, I didn’t know Sparky had updated many old 1940s strip and conceived new adventures using old characters! My Mom wasn’t pleased with the content, but I begged her to please continue buying it as I was quite happy with it.

By 1967 I was buying the comic (and Dandy, Pow & Smash) with my pocket money. Friday’s was Sparky day and after school, I would have my tea, then I would change out of my school clothes and dash to my local newsagents (With my street clothes on of course!) For my Sparky!

My early favourites were “Flubberface” (the friendly monster), “Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora” (whose dreams led to wonderfully surreal adventures). I also liked the “Jeff Ye Jolly Jester” strip too! In all, I thoroughly enjoyed my Sparky comic each Friday. After reading, I would store my Sparky along with my Dandy’s and other comics in my wall set clothes store! No sunlight got in, so they were in superb condition.

The `Sparky` character was drawn by Ron Spencer and Jimmy Glenn. He has caused some debate in his years as `cover` star regarding his supposed race and colour. Only issue seven gave a hint to this in his treatment, but I can see why he is deemed Non P.C today. Speaking personally, I find two 1970s `L. Cars` episodes were far worse in this respect.

`Hungry Horace` and `Keyhole Kate` were drawn by George Drysdale who would sadly pass away in 1967. George also drew the `Me and my Grockle` strip in 1966/67.

`Flubberface` and `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` were drawn by Bob Webster. He would also draw strips `The Slowdown Express`, `Fireman Fred` and from 1968, the Pansy Potter` strip, taking over from Bill Hill who had drawn her from 1965.

The covers (first & last pages) and the middle colour ones were full colour.
Pages 2, 11, 14 and 23 were always a mix of Red, Black and White. All other pages were in monochrome.

The `Sparky` Logo was curved similar to the `Dandy`. Colours of Logo were the same as Dandy too. The word Sparky was in bright red on a yellow surround. This was complimented by a royal blue background which made it an identical colour scheme to the Dandy.

The comic was a repository for old Beano and Dandy strips such as Pansy Potter, Keyhole Kate, Ma Jolly and her Brolly, Hungry Horace, Freddie the Fearless Fly, Frosty McNab, Black Jack the Sweep, Stoneage Steve, Dick Turpentine, Peter Piper, Hairy Dan etc! even though these were `updated` versions.

Frosty McNab, Black Jack, Stoneage Steve and Dick Turpentine all vanished by issue eight, Ma Jolly ended at issue 17 and Hairy Dan to issue 29. These strips were very poor fare indeed!

Thankfully, some new strips such as `Flubberface` and the Moonsters were also included. The wonderfully surreal `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` which occupied the middle two pages (in colour) was perhaps the best of the early strips.

The comic had a letters page titled “Write to Sparky” and also a puzzles and conundrums page.

Sparky comic never enjoyed the sales of Dandy or Beano; in fact Topper and Beezer seemed to better it here as well. The comic seemed to be the `oddball` of the Thomson output and really struggled to find an identity or a loyal readership!

The first two years plus of the comics life saw the unusual mode of `strip rotation` which meant that strips such as `Flubberface` `Minnie Ha-Ha`,`Joe Bann` `Freddie the Fearless Fly` and `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` were taking turns to appear. No wonder the comic struggled early on as it was difficult to get readership identification with characters if they didn’t appear every week! In fact, this bizarre practice was still in operation in late 1967-early 1968, rotating the `Pansy Potter` and `Tom Tardy` strips.

Issue No 25, July 10th 1965 saw the addition to the comic of `fun` strips Winnie the Witch` and `The Slowdown Express` `Winnie` became a weekly regular while `Slowdown` went into the rota system after issue 65 in 1966. There was also a new `adventure` strip that issue too, `Riddle of the Roughlands`. The `Slowdown Express` fun strip, drawn by Bob Webster was a bit of an anachronism in that it was strange that the comic run a strip about a steam train service just as they were ending in real life. `Winnie the Witch` featured the fun adventures of a novice witch. Sadly, the artwork on this strip was quite poor indeed.

The rotation system affected all fun strips except for `Sparky`, `Winnie the Witch`,`The Moonsters`, `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`, `Hungry Horace` `Cuckoo in the Clock` and `Keyhole Kate`; who were the only regular weekly fun strips.

The Moonsters strip was in the style of the early `Bash St Kids` when that strip was `When the Bell Rings` circa 1954. Similar to the `Bell Rings` strip, the Moonsters had one or two (sometimes none!) small panels leading to one large panel featuring several the Moonsters trying vainly to achieve that weeks subject. It soon became obvious this Moon had oceans, forests, and many other similarities to Earth. Until the late 60s `space-race` this lack of scientific accuracy didn’t matter much. It was drawn by Bill Ritchie.

Other `fun` strips were `Minnie Ha-Ha, and Running Kick, her pet talking Raven` the fun adventures of a young Red Indian squaw and her talkative pet. There was `Cuckoo in the Clock` A wooden, but living clock cuckoo who would often leave his clock to get up to mischief!

There was `Hockey Hannah` The fun adventures of a schoolgirl and her hockey stick. It wasn’t a very inventive strip and I must admit that I barely recall it at all. It was drawn by Andy Tew.

One character who I recall in his debut issue, No 3 was `Peter Piper`. The strip began with Peter taking a stroll in a park. Suddenly two bullies began picking on him (a regular hazard for `fun` characters). A nearby statue of Pan came to life and scared the bullies away (never?). Pan then gifted Peter his set of pipes. He told him they would bring any icon to life; be it statue, sculpture or any drawing if he blew the pipes at them.

This done, Pan popped back on his plinth and became a statue once more (sans pipes). Only years later did I find out that Peter Piper was an old comic character. Yet another old two characters updated were `Pansy Potter` the strongman’s daughter and `Nosey Parker` (drawn by Bill Hill), an interfering old busybody. They often shared one page split between them. Nosey Parker departed after issue 29, 7th August 1965 for over a year till issue 83, 20th August 1966; but Pansy Potter stayed as one of the `rotated` strips.

Now! Here is an example of a very early `Sparky` line-up.


SPARKY No 2, (30 January 1965, 5d)

Page 1
(Cover) Heading “Free Inside `Big Banger` (it was one of those `Crack-Bang` efforts which the brown paper always split after about three `bangs`

Sparky clears the snow with his Vacuum cleaner, hitting a policeman with a burst of cleared snow. (Full Colour)

Page 2
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`. Comic adventures of Cowboy Joe Bann and his all-purpose Banjo! (This page in Red, Black & White)

Page 3
`Keyhole Kate. ` I had no idea, that Kate was an old character, now updated.

Pages 4 & 5
`The Young Castaways` Story concerned two babies from a shipwreck who were raised by friendly occupants of a South Seas island. Drawn by the artist (Tony Speer)who would later sketch Invisible Dick`.

Page 6
`Cuckoo In The Clock` Comic adventures of a wooden, but living, Cuckoo.

Page 7
`Hockey Hannah` The comic adventures of a schoolgirl and her hockey stick. This is one strip I have virtually no recollection of at all!

Pages 8 & 9
`Wee Tuskey` Adventure strip, light hearted, which was about a young Elephant and his life in the jungle of south Asia. The Sparky comic had a real taste for animal based stories in its early years.

Page 10
`Hungry Horace. `This was the only strip to be ever present from Sparky No 1, to 652 (final issue). At the time I had no idea he was an old Dandy character.

Page 11
Adverts for next weeks free gift, the `Red Racketty` and for a choice of Ten shilling postal order or a transistor radio if readers wrote to the comic and letter was published. B/W & Red.

Pages 12 & 13
Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` One of my favourites; I loved the early adventures which could get really surreal. Unlike later stories, the early ones did not often turn into nightmares! This issue sets Dave and Dora to rescue the children of Hamlin Town. In full colour.

Page 14.
`Minnie Ha-Ha` Comic adventures of a young Red Indian Squaw, and her pet `talking` Raven; `Running Kick`. In B/W & Red.

Page 15
`Sparky’s puzzles` As it says, a page full of puzzles. Maze, spot the difference, etc.

Pages 16 & 17
`The Kidnapped Kidds`
A very strong (for 1965) story of two children who witness a train robbery and are subsequently held captive by the crooks. This was pretty gutsy stuff for Sparky! Gang leader Gus is not averse to physical violence to children or of holding his gun to their heads. I have no idea; but I would not be surprised if parents complained about this strip.

Pages 18 & 19 and top half of 20.
`The Palace of Secrets` This was a text story, along with a few illustrations, concerning the adventures of young Mary at the palace of Kra. This story is definitely aimed at female readers.

Page 20, bottom half.
The Editor and the rest of the Sparky staff introduce Pansy Potter to the readers, stating she will begin her adventures from next week’s issue.

Page 21
`Jeff Ye Jolly Jester `. The comic adventures of medieval Jester, Jeff!

Page 22
Freddie the Fearless Fly. Another rejuvenated old character. Again, I had no idea he was an old character until my Mother stated so.

Page 23
Top third, `Frosty McNab` A sort of `Jack Frost` character.
Middle third, `Grandma Jolly and her Brolly`
Bottom third, `Black-Jack` Chimney Sweep. You could tell these were old characters because, though the stories were contemporary, they were drawn in 1940s style. Even to me then, they looked terribly old fashioned! It was a stupid move by the staff and `Frosty` and `Black-Jack` departed very quickly.

Page 24
`The Moonsters`. In issue No2 Penny and Peter Pleasant are about to land on the Moon. Peter had pressed a button while he and Sister Penny were exploring at the Rocket Ship exhibition (as you do). They land safely and are greeted by little green `Moonster` people who lay on a big feast for their Earth visitors. Note! One of the Moonsters has pointed `Spock-like` ears. This was not apparent in later adventures.

The final three inches of page 24 consisted of adverts for next weeks new pal `Peter Piper`. Also, the comic asks “Have you written to Sparky Yet?” All page 24 in full colour.

A very varied comic indeed! I had no idea that some strips were updated adventures of old characters. The `Kidnapped Kidds` was very strong stuff indeed! The text story was for girls only in my view! I looked forward to next Friday’s comic.

The `Young Castaways` strip is etched in my memory. It ran from the first issue to No 16, dated 8th May. The story featured on two babies who barely survived the sinking of the yacht their mother and father seemingly perished on.
The babies were washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Akavu. They were found by the friendly natives who took care of them. The native leader, Queen Lemba, had worked as a nurse in Australia and had after some years had returned to the island she was born on.

The Queen taught the babies as they grew to children, English and gave them the names Mark and Marina. The youngsters believed their parents must be dead as did the Queen who looked after them as best as she could.

Mark and Mary had many adventures on the island. One day Mary was badly injured by a falling tree and though Lemba had some medical knowledge, she knew that a surgeon must operate on the child to save her. The island was often visited by a plane from nearby Australia and a message was relayed regarding Marina’a condition. A surgeon, Mr Maxwell, agreed to fly to the island.

Amazingly, the surgeon turned out to be the Childs father! Both he and their mother had survived and both had believed their children had drowned. It all ended happily with Mark and Marina finding out their real name was Charles and Mary Maxwell. The strip was drawn very ably by Tony Speer. He would later draw the abysmal `Invisible Dick` strip.

Running from issue No 1 to No 15, 1st May 1965, was a story that was anything but `fey` or `twee`. `The Kidnapped Kidds` saw two children John and Mary Kidd, witness a train robbery. They are caught by the husband and wife leaders of the gang, Gus and Betty.

Gus in particular is a very nasty piece of work. In episode seven he hits young John severely across the face. The tenth episode has the very harrowing sight of Gus walloping John with his trouser belt, a scene no fun comic today would dare display. This was no `Dennis the Menace` type spanking, it was graphic child abuse! Gus also holds the gun to the children’s head on more than one occasion. The final time he did this in issue 15 when the police have them cornered, Betty comes to her senses and knocks his arm away and the children are then rescued.

It was a very hard hitting strip which was drawn by artist David Ogilvie who succeeded admirably in giving Gus a very cruel look indeed. Had this story been mooted for inclusion a few months later it may not have been accepted for publication due to the real life horrors of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.

As it was, it still stands today as the most harrowing adventure strip in the comic’s history. Nothing like it was ever attempted again and I think that maybe concerned parents wrote to the editor about the content and the fact of the `Moors Murders` hitting the headlines just after publication of the story must have given D.C Thomson pause for thought!.

A possibly controversial (by today’s standards) front cover story was issue No 7 dated 6th March, Page 1. Cover `star``Sparky` gets pushed into vats of coloured paint (for snooping) Police can’t scrub all the colours off, so they paint the rest of him with black paint!! If a comic did that storyline today, we would all be hearing about it in the resulting prosecution! What incredible stupidity.

There was a surfeit of animal based strips early on. Some were humorous such as `Wee Tusky` (young Burmese elephant), `Kipper feet` (young walrus) both drawn by Jack Monk, and `McGinty’s Goat` (regimental mascot) drawn by Bob Webster. Others were more serious in tone such as `Watch` who was a Newfoundland rescue dog, and `Rory` the horse of many masters. There were fifteen of these animal themed stories from the comics inception to September 1967, a case of `overkill` me- thinks!

`Wee Tusky` ran from issue No 1 to No 22, 19th June 1965. It relayed the `fun` adventures of a young Burmese elephant. Wee Tusky had a higher I.Q than many humans if any of the `adventures` are to be believed! Tusky was replaced, in issue No 23 by `Kipper Feet` who was a young walrus. It was basically the same style of nonsense; both strips were drawn by the same artist, Jack Monk.

`Kipper Feet` left for good on issue No 34, 11th September, being replaced by another stint of `Wee Tusky`. The second series of `Tusky` only lasted eight issues to No 42 dated 6th November 1965.

The far more serious strip `Watch` drawn by George Radcliffe concerned the adventures of a Newfoundland rescue dog at a 19th Century fishing community, stands up far better today. It had many well executed storylines and is enjoyable to me on current reading. It ran from issue No 16, 8th May, to No 35, 18th September 1965.

The comic also had a text strip `The Palace of Secrets` from its first issue to No 14, 24th April. It was most certainly aimed at girl readers. Replacing this text story in issue No 15 was another text story `Will O` the Well`. This was a bizarre effort about a pixie like boy who lived at the bottom of a wishing well (and never got wet!); who granted wishes to whoever threw coins into the well and made a wish. Will spent all money `earned` on ice lollies.

Those wishing unselfishly on behalf of others fared best, while those wishing with selfish or cruel intentions got their wish; but in a manner that taught them a lesson! It was a very inventive series and an early favourite of mine.

I was sad to see the text stories of `Will` end at issue 25, 10th July as it helped my reading ability and made me use my imagination to great effect. `Will` did return in comic strip form from No 53, 22nd January 1966, but that wasn’t as successful as the text story as the text leant to the imagination being used. The cartoon version only lasted to issue 59, 5th March 1966, a mere seven issues!

Yet another comedy based animal strip was `McGinty the Goat` drawn by Bob Webster who also drew the `Joe Bann` fun strip. This strip was the fun adventures of a very aggressive Army regimental mascot. My nomination as possibly the worst animal styled story of all time. For me, it is abysmal. It ran from issue No 17, 15th May, to issue 29, 7th August 1965, fifteen issues.

Now, let us take another look at a 1965 line up; this time from issue No 20.


SPARKY No 20, (5th June 1965, 5d)

Page 1
`Sparky` joins a brass band.

Page 2
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`

Page 3
`Keyhole Kate`

Pages 4 & 5
`Watch` The Victorian period adventures of a Newfoundland rescue dog and the fishing community he worked for. One of the more serious animal based stories in Sparky and quite a good effort indeed.

Page 6
`Hockey Hannah`

Page 7
`Freddie, the Fearless Fly`

Pages 8 & 9
`McGinty the Goat` The fun adventures of a regimental mascot. For me, this was one of the worst examples of how very poor many of the `fun` animal stories in the comic were.

Page 10
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Page 11
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` This week the twins meet a king who never smiles.

Page 14
Top half, `Pansy Potter` Bottom half, `Nosey Parker`

Page 15
`Write to Sparky`

Pages 16 & 17
`Wee Tusky`

Pages 18, 19 & top 2/3 of page 20
`Will O’ the Well` Delightfully inventive text strip about a strange elf-like boy who lives in a well and grants wishes to whosoever throws coins into the well and makes a wish.

Page 20 Bottom 1/3
`Hairy Dan` Another updated old character. Unbelievably old-fashioned stuff!

Page 21
`Hungry Horace`

Page 22
`Jeff Ye Jolly Jester`

Page 23
`Minnie-Ha-Ha! And her talking Raven`

Page 24
`The Moonsters`


The comic also gave readers two sci-fi, alien invasion adventures in 1965. The first titled `Raiders from the Red Planet` was a `blink and you’ll miss it` affair commencing in issue 30 (14 August 1965) to issue 34 (4 September) just five episodes! It was in black and white and drawn by the artist who drew the 1965 `Peter Piper` strip. The `Martians` themselves, looked identical to humans in every way (except for their space suits).

These Martians were armed with `gas` guns that could immobilise. They also set up parabolic shaped devices that operated as `heat` rays. Thankfully for the human race, the Martians were susceptible to the common cold, so that as in `The War of the Worlds`; mankind’s saviour was a microbe.

In issue 35 (11 September 1965) the far better `The Year of the Vanaks` appeared in colour on the middle pages (bumping Dreamy Dave and Dora to black and white).

The strip looks like it could be a reprint from an earlier Thomson comic as it has a 1950s look to it. There were three different classes of Vanaks. The humanoid types were small (about four foot) fellows who were bright purple and possessed large bulbous (and bald) heads with pointed ears. Their robotic counterparts were cylinder like creations, also around four feet in height, but could hover above the ground. The third, rarely seen Vanaks, were large cumbersome humanoid shaped Robot types, crimson in colour.

The Vanaks were armed with weapons that fired either green paralyzing rays or red death beams. Most of the earth had been conquered by the Vanaks in a surprise attack, before nuclear weapons could be utilised.

However, a resistance movement gathered itself together and slowly the Vanaks weaknesses were uncovered. They could be immobilised themselves if their green rays were transmitted at a slightly higher frequency. This was achieved by humanity by turning a Vanak world link-up television broadcast against them.

Earlier, it had been discovered that the aliens were very susceptible to wasp stings, dying in seconds on receiving stings. The humans then concocted formic acid devices (Wasp stings are basically formic acid) to use against them.
It was an entertaining strip which ran to issue 56 (12 February 1966).

The `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` fun strip which inhabited the two centre colour pages through September 1965 produced some of the best and innovative surreal stories I have ever seen in any comic. Many of the early and most surrealistic stories were drawn by Pam Chapau. As with the characters in the 1935 film `Peter Ibbotson` Dave and Dora` would always experience each others dreams. An example of how inventive this format could be is the example from issue No 30 (14th August 1965)

Dave and Dora are in their beds trying to sleep, but they just cannot nod off! They imagine sheep, and lo and behold! A flock of sheep appear in their bedroom. They have to imagine up a shepherd to remove the sheep. They realise that whatever they think of will appear so they think up an elephant.

It fills their bedroom so they `think` it smaller and then into a porcelain figure. Enjoying this power of thought, they then think themselves onto the seaside. However! All the people on the beach laugh at them as they are still in their pyjamas.

Upset at this derision Dave and Dora think everyone away! Now finding themselves alone on the beach they don’t care for it and Dora wonders if it will rain. It then does to Dave’s chagrin! Dave wishes they were back in their beds and so they are-but! They are both in their beds on the beach with rain falling on them.

Before anything else happens they are being woken up by their Mother who tells them it is time for school. Dave and Dora realise they had been dreaming about `not` being able to sleep all along!

Other themes were trips by rocket to the centre of the earth. Adventures at the end of a rainbow, trip in a time machine. Visits to the places where time and weather are made. There were also trips to a mirror world, to the land of lost children and other strange dimensions.

Storylines such as these made this strip a truly captivating read and one of the early successes from Sparky comic. I loved the more surrealistic plots very much indeed. Other artists took turns in drawing the strip in rotating order through 1966 to 68; these were James Malcolm, George Ramsbottom, Ian Makay, Ian Judge and more entries from Pam Chapau.

As mentioned earlier, issue No 25 dated 10th July 1965 saw the debut of the Enid Blyton styled `Riddle of the Roughlands`. This story featured youngsters Frank and Pat Freeman encounter smugglers while on holiday on a area called the `Roughlands`.

They encounter a young lady that they think is part of the gang, but it turns out that she is an undercover policewoman who rescues the children and their dog `Nip`. With her help, the smugglers are captured in issue No 34, 11th September.

The following week of 17th July, issue 26, there commenced an adventure strip that mixed education with adventure. `Lonely Wood` featured youngsters Dick and Cherry Grainger who helped their father who was a warden for a nature reserve called `Lonely Wood`.

The strip often gave many interesting details on wildlife and flora and fauna of the region. I learned many interesting facets of the natural woodland from this strip.

Despite serving up such interesting offerings (to me at least!) the comic was struggling sales wise. By late 1965 sales were obviously sluggish so the first of many promotions took place, hence =


SPARKY No 35 (18 September 1965, 5d)


This issue saw something of a `re-vamp` to the comic. Issue 35 saw the first Logo change. It was the colour red in the word Sparky, which now changed place with the yellow surround. Hence, Sparky in yellow on a red surround. The blue background stayed the same though. The `Sparky` character strip and `The Moonsters` swapped front and back cover places from this issue up to issue 140.

The comic gave away a free gift; the `Squeezy Wheezy` balloon.

Page 1
`The Moonsters`. They swapped places with the `Sparky` character, who now took over the back page. The Moonsters decide to make a film.

Page 2
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 3
`Peter Piper`

Pages 4 & 5
`New Story`. `Gilpin, the Lost, Lost Boy`. A strange offering this! Set in the 16th century, it concerned the adventures of a `sprite` (Gilpin) who had a spell placed upon him (by whom it was never revealed) that compelled him to become the servant of the first mortal he met. Gilpin looked human except for his large eyes. He possessed some magical powers to help him in his tasks. He finally achieved his aims and was no longer `lost` which is more than can be said for many a puzzled young reader of this strip.

Page 6
`Hungry Horace`

Page 7
`Winnie the Witch`

Pages 8 & 9
`Wee Tusky`

Page 10
`Write To Sparky`

Page 11
Top two thirds are an advert for next week’s free gift, the `Spin Din` (illustrated). The bottom third of the page showcases both this weeks new stories `The Year of the Vanaks` and `Gilpin, the lost boy`, with a panel from next weeks adventures in both.

Pages 12 & 13
`New story`, `The Year of the Vanaks`. This was another space invasion, but in a much more serious mode. In full colour, we see an advance guard of crimson robots who prepare the earth populace for the arrival of their masters; the Vanaks!. These turn out to be about four foot tall with large bulbous heads. They are bright purple in colour.

Page 14
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
`Watch` This was the final episode.

Pages 18 & 19
`New story`, `The Flood that Mother remembers`. This story featured a coastguard and his family who were stationed in Southampton in 1953. I think it was loosely based on the true story of the great flooding of 1953.

Pages 20 & 21
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` The pair find themselves in `Topsy-Turvey` land. For the first time, the strip was moved away from the centre pages and was now illustrated in black and white.

Page 22
`Freddy the Fearless Fly` Bottom of the page “Next week; Jeff Ye Jolly Jester”.

Page 23
` The Slowdown Express`

Page 24
Top three quarters, `Sparky` Who was now on the back page. Bottom quarter of the page was devoted to illustrated advert for next weeks new story `Floating Along, Singing a Song`. The adventures of a musical family; who live on a canal barge.

Issue 35 was the first in a series of `re-vamps` for the comic through the sixties. It probably gave away more free gifts 1965 to 1969 than any other Thompson comic in this period. My guess for this move was due to none too healthy sales. Here is a list of new strip and those replaced over weeks of 18th and 25th September 1965. All were adventure strips, no change in `fun pals`.


New Strips Introduced, issues 35 & 36, September 18th & 25th 1965.

In

`Gilpin, the Lost, Lost Boy` (2 Pages)

`The Year of the Vanaks` (2 Pages)

`The Flood That Mother Remembers` (2 Pages)

`Floating Along, Singing A Song` (2 Pages)

`Wee Tusky`* (2 Pages) * = Returning Strip.
Out

`Lonely Wood` (2 Pages)

`Kipper Feet` (2 Pages)

`Raiders from the Red Planet` (2 Pages)

`Watch` (2 Pages)

`Riddle of the Roughlands` (2 Pages)

There were five new `adventure` strips over issues 35 and 36, these were `Year of the Vanaks` `Wee Tusky` on his second run in Sparky. `The Flood that Mother Remembers` and `Gilpin the Lost, Lost Boy` in issue No 35 and `Floating Along, Singing a Song` in issue No 36.

The `Gilpin the Lost, Lost Boy` strip which began in issue No 35 was a pretty strange affair indeed! Readers were introduced to Gilpin as he addressed readers bemoaning his plight! A spell had been cast upon him (we never found out by whom as far as I know!) so that he must be the servant of the first human he encountered. Gilpin was what was known as a `sprite`, an elf-like creature, but not of the water variety.

He encountered Henry Cranstoun and insisted he become Cranstoun’s servant! The power in his eyes made Cranstoun accede to this. Gilpin’s task was to bring about a marriage between Cranstoun and young lady Mary Scott. The Cranstoun and Scott families had been at war for years and only such a marriage could bring about peace.

A major problem for Gilpin was Mary’s mother, Lady Janet Scott. She was a witch who could read Gilpins thoughts. She was against any peace between the families as the war suited her purpose. It ran to issue 49, 25th December, when Gilpin eventually worked things to a happy resolution.

`The Flood That Mother Remember` which also commenced in issue 35; was loosely based on real life flooding that had happened in the 1950s. The strip also mixed in a smuggling theme to liven things up a bit! It was drawn by Tony Speer. It ended issue 47, 11th December 1965.

As previously mentioned, “The Year of the Vanaks” was also part of the new intake along with a second series of the comedy adventures of young Burmese Elephant “Wee Tusky”.

Issue 36 brought the strip `Floating Along, Singing a Song` to readers. It concerned a family who travelled the country on the `Nancy Lee` canal barge. The children formed themselves into an amateur pop group who entertained towns and villages they stopped at. They were followed by two mysterious characters that seemed like villains. The `villains` turned out to be friendly and informed the children that one of them was actually heir to a Dukedom! To me, it was most unlikely fare, but enjoyable; it was drawn by Edward Drury and also finished in issue 47.

Issue No 43 brought us `The Downside Donkeys` which concerned a donkey reserve owned by the father of Mick and Cathy Murphy. Two silver donkeys they had purchased were wanted by foreign crooks, which was the base of the story. Rather dull stuff to me. Tony Speer took artistic duties on this one. This story lasted to issue 52, 15th January 1966.

In the 18th December issue, No 48, yet another animal based story commenced. `Goldie` was a golden eagle who became a pet of sorts to children, Steve and Betty Martin. It ran to issue No 61, 19th March 1966 and for me was utterly tedious! Yet again Tony Speer helmed the pens and pencils.

Also in issue 48 was `Lost Children of the Forest` which was set in the Second World War. Linda and Barry wrights London home is destroyed by a bomb and they believe their parents were killed in the blast. The homeless children team up with fellow orphans Peter, Robin and Sue Miles.

All try to survive in the New Forest region but find it very tough going. Salvation comes when they discover their parents had indeed survived the blast! They and their new friends make a new life away from London. It lasted to issue No 55, 5th February 1966.

1965 wasn’t quite the roaring success that had been hoped for the new comic as a fairly comprehensive overhaul with free gifts had to be promoted in September that year. The new comic had survived its first year and entered 1966, hoping for better sales. It was to be a tough struggle though!

THE SPARKY FILE. 23 January 1965 – 23 July1977.

This revised and greatly expanded `Sparky File` will correct (I hope!) those errors in my earlier abridged article for `Crikey! `. This version is more detailed on dates where possible and far more comprehensive in description where possible, of adventure stories in the comics early years.

I have striven to list ever issue number and date where a strip begins and ends in the comic. I have also supplied names of artists where possible and of 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.

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 few gaps in both. However, I do think this is the `definitive` guide to the history of Sparky comic so far.

* * * *


SPARKY, The `Forgotten` comic.


Now, almost forgotten, apart from those devout fans such as members of the `Comics U.K board (like myself) `Sparky comic, when remembered, is thought of as the `odd-man-out` in the stable of D.C Thomson `fun` comics.

It was the last of the D. C Thomson big five fun titles to appear (23rd January 1965) and the first to founder on 16th July 1977. Its twelve year life seems to be poorly recalled by many U.K comics’ aficionados. Graham Kibble White has sadly got virtually all his factual data incorrect concerning Sparky in the small chapter on it in his book.

I hope to give readers as comprehensive as possible history of Sparky comic and its assorted strips, both `fun` and `adventure` Sparky comic has been sadly neglected by many comic historians, here’s hoping that the balance can be redressed somewhat. 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

The comic had a different look to its strips as many of the artists had not worked on those sisters `fun` papers. The first Editor was Willie (Bill) Mann who had previously helmed `Victor` comic. Sparky in its early years carried strips that featured surrealistic themes not seen in the other Thomson stable of comics. There was also a high preponderance of animal themed adventure strips in the first two and a half years of its life.

It possessed a mixture of `fun` strips, which were, at one or two pages, simply drawn (in comparison with the `adventure strips) and the `adventure` strips which were drawn to a higher degree of artwork; these were always two page efforts. The comic also ran a text (with some illustrations) strip for its first few months. Anyhow, that’s enough introductions, now on with the show!

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Fri May 21, 2010 3:09 pm

Yes! seems to have gone on OK! I will leave it for folks to read and add the 1966 chapter tomorrow!

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Fri May 21, 2010 3:10 pm

OoopS! Bottom few lines are a repeat-but no worries! I will get better as I go along!

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1966

Post by alanultron5 on Sat May 22, 2010 10:45 am

Here is the 1966 chapter!

1966. More free gifts, but a struggle to stay afloat.


1966 was obviously a critical period for Sparky as it had two free gift and new story / Fun pal promotions that year. The scarcity of editions on E.Bay or other sources seems to bear out very low sales in 1966.

1966 saw an easing of the amount of fun strips in rotation. This meant the loss of `Flubberface`, `Minnie Ha-Ha`, `Hockey Hannah`, `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` and `Freddie the Fearless Fly, during the latter part of that year. Other fun strips, `Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`, `The Slowdown Express` and the `Pansy Potter` were still rotated in what must have been a puzzling way of presentation to readers.

Issue 55 , 29th January, saw the very final `Minnie-Ha-Ha` fun strip and issue 59, 26th February, was the departure of `Flubberface`.

The first issue of the year, No 50 dated 1st January presented the strip `Quest of the Wandering Wingates`. It was set during the time of the holy crusades. The father of Dickon and Norah Wingate was forced into Prince John’s army and their farm destroyed. The children ended up in the holy lands and their attempts to get home were the main story. It ran to issue No 59, 5th March.

A surprise move in issue 53, 15th January, was the return of `Will O’ the Well`. This time it was as a picture strip. It was a bad move as the imaginative text stories could never be matched by pictures and it ran for only seven issues to No 59, 5th March 1966.

Issue No 56, 12th February 1966 gave an even shorter strip, `Pocahontas`. The tale of the daughter of a Red Indian chief and her encounters with early `new world` settler Adam Smith. This dull affair lasted just five issues to No 60, 12th March 1960.

Issue No 57, 19th February, saw the return of `Lonely Wood` but it was a real `blink and you’ll miss it` affair, only lasting three issues to No 59, 5th March. Surely, one of the briefest strips of all time!

Sales must have been sluggish and so another two weeks of free gifts and new stories began on issue No 60 dated 12th March. New stories were `Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` which was in the same vein as `Wee Tusky` and `Kipper Feet` and drawn by the same artist, Jack Monk. It did not appeal to me at all. `Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` were three bears (where have I heard that title before?) who lived in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Their `adventures` were every bit as daft as `Wee Tusky` or `Kipper Feet`. They departed in issue No 74, 18th June 1966.

There was `Seven at One Blow` the adaptation of the tale of the tailor’s apprentice, which also began in issue 60. Peter Pretzel (who thought that name up!?) who made his fortune by his wits rather than brawn. This strip ran to issue No 72 date 4th June.

Best of all commencing in issue 60, occupying the centre pages in full colour, and demoting `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` once more to two black and white pages, was `City under the Sea`. This futuristic tale featured John and Janet Lowe who lived in a great underwater metropolis we presume was in the near future, that was the centre of a huge fish-farm. The children assisted their father in his duties at the `farm` having many exciting undersea adventures.

This strip was very similar in artwork to the `Year of the Vanaks` strip the previous year, and similar to that story, most enjoyable; one story featured a tremendous tussle between a huge sea serpent and an enormous giant squid! It had a good run of 19 issues to No 79, 23rd July 1966. When it finished, `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` returned to the middle pages (in full colour)

Here now, is the line up of issue No 60.


SPARKY No 60. (12th March 1966, 5d)


Above the title of the comic it announced the free gift inside: `The Sparky Spinner`. This was a cardboard disc that when spun on the string that intersected it, produced a hypnotic pattern and a whirring sound.

Page 1
`The Moonsters` The Moonsters hold a funfare.

Page 2
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 3
`Peter Piper`

Pages 4 & 5
New story-`Seven at One Blow` This was the loose adaptation of the old tale of the Tailors apprentice.

Page 6
`Hungry Horace`

Page 7
`Winnie the Witch`

Pages 8 & 9
New story- `Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy`. This strip featured the adventures of three South American bears. They dwelt at the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This strip was in the style of `Wee Tusky` and `Kipper Feet`, the artist was the same as drew those.
Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Page 11
Top two thirds is an illustrated ad for next weeks `Crack-Bang!` free gift. The bottom third of the page is a preview of next weeks new story, `Children of the Secret Pool`.

Pages 12 & 13
New Story-`City Under the Sea` The futuristic adventures two children who are part of the community of an undersea city.

Page 14
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` Dave and Dora are in television advertising world.

Pages 18 & 19
`Pocahontas` This was the adaptation of the meeting between new world explorer Adam Smith and Pocahontas who was the daughter of a red Indian chief.

Pages 20 & 21
`Goldie` The adventures of a golden eagle. Goldie was the `pet of sorts` to Steve and Betty Martin.

Page 22
`Hockey Hannah`

Page 23
`The Slowdown Express`

Page 24
Top ¾ `Sparky`. Bottom ¼ Three panel ads for next weeks free `Crack-Bang!` gift (left panel) and new story `Children of the Secret Pool` (middle panel). The right panel was a showcase of the comic’s fun characters!

Here is the list of new strips (and those departing) over issues 60 and 61. As with issue 35 and 36 in September 1965, the turnover is of adventure strips: no `fun pals` affected. It wasn’t such a big overhaul as the 1965 changes with no change to the Sparky logo.


New Strips Introduced Issues 60 & 61, 12th & 19th March 1966.

In

`Seven at one Blow` (2 Pages)

`Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` (2 Pages)

`City under the Sea` (2 Pages)

`Children of the Secret Pool` (2 Pages)


Out

`Pocahontas` (2 Pages)

`The Year of the Vanaks` (2 Pages)

`Will O’ the Well` (2 Pages)

`Quest of the Wandering Wingate’s` (2 Pages)


In the second issue of the new stories / free gift promotion, No 61 dated 19th March, began an intriguing story. This was `Children of the Secret Pool`. Young Jack and Jill Hardiman’s parents had been killed in a car crash in Scotland (where they lived), and the two toddlers were sent to an orphanage.

Reading about the crash was an elderly man who the readers learned was the children’s grandfather (his Christian name was never revealed). He strode off to the orphanage but was denied custody of the children by the worried staff (this storyline would really raise eyebrows today).

The grandfather returned at night and took the children. He took them to his home in the mountains. There, he told the children that the waters of the pool and stream that ran past his home had special qualities.

Over the weeks, the children bathed and drank the waters. Like their grandfather, they became super fit and robust. They had many exciting adventures. Edward Drury was the artist on this strip.

It does read in print as a dubious story, but in actuality was pretty innocent; but, I don’t think such a story would see publication these days. It ran to issue No 76 dated 2nd July 1966.

Issue No 62, 26th March, saw a serious animal story, `Rory, the Horse of Many Masters`. Set in early 20th century, 1900 to be precise. It told the story of `Rory` a horse that swapped ownership many times. His first owner, Farmer Charles Oakham decided he preferred the new `horseless carriages` (Cars! To the uninitiated) and sold Rory. Some of his owners were kind, other-not so! I can’t recall much of this strip except that Rory ended back with Charles Oakham who had become disillusioned with motorised transport, so it couldn’t have been very special. It ran to 18th June 1966, issue 74. It was drawn by George Radcliffe. I’m afraid I hardly recall it at all.

I do recall the strip that replaced it on 25th June 1966 (issue 75) though! This was `Big Klanky` drawn by Bob Webster for this, and his second run in 1967. This initial series of the two page strip was titled `Big Klanky`. Subsequent outings were reduced to just `Klanky` thereafter.

Klanky had been sent to Earth by his creators to `help mankind`. This he did most ably, often thwarting various wrongdoers in his adventures. He befriended the Huggins family, in particular youngsters Ernie and Sis. Not until the third series (commencing 1st February 1969) did readers learn his real identity, the rather dull QZ-199. His planet of origin was revealed here too; it was the equally blandly titled planet `J`.

Klanky was very powerful and almost indestructible, he often thwarted wrongdoers. The Klanky strip did sometimes become repetitive; but never on the scale that the excruciating `Invisible Dick` did. This first series ran to issue No 87, 17th September 1966.

Backtracking a bit to issue No 63 dated 2 April 1966, the first new `fun pal` since 1965 was introduced. This was `Fireman Fred` who was drawn by artist Bob Webster who drew `Joe Bann and `Slowdown Express`, `Fireman Fred`, was a regular weekly strip until mid 1967 issue 127, 24th June. It popped back for two weeks 15th & 22nd July 1967, issues 130 & 131, and then it was gone for good.

Issue No 73 dated 11th June, saw `Boy in the Forest of Fear`. This told of a feral boy (name never given) who experienced hostility from forest creatures as he tried to make a home there. It ran to issue No 83, 20th August 1966 and was drawn by George Radcliffe. It was replaced the following week by a one-off complete story titled `Prentice Pete` Pete was an incredibly thick workmate to a builder. Though just a single week offering this time, `Pete` would return in spring 1967 for a longer run.

The summer of 1966, 9th July, issue 77 introduced `The Balloon Family Robinson` Set in the 19th century, it told of the Robinson families adventures in their wooden home that was held aloft by hydrogen balloons. It ran to issue 85, September 3rd 1966. It would return (very briefly) in 1967. Tony Speer was the artist.

Issue No 74, 18th June 1966 was the final `Hockey Hannah` outing. `Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` took a long rest (over a year) from issue 77, 9th July 1966 to No 138 on September 9th 1967.

Issue No 79, 23rd July 1966 saw the arrival of `Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer`. This was a two page `fun` strip and even in a surrealistic comic such as Sparky this was truly mind bending stuff. One day a flying saucer (from Mars) landed in Granny Cupps garden, it was having control trouble.
While the Martians carried out repairs, Granny served the creatures cups of tea with cake and biscuits. The craft was soon repaired and the friendly fellows left Granny a small saucer in gratitude. The saucer had many devices which helped Granny quite a bit, and got her into some scrapes too. The artwork was rather sparse and took some getting used to (artist unknown). Granny finished her ride in issue 85, 3rd September 1966, but she would return in summer 1967.

Another animal based story beginning in issue 75, 25th June 1966 was `Police Horse Hadrian`. This was about a horse `Hadrian` who trained to be a police horse. His owner, Farmer’s daughter Joan, couldn’t afford to keep Hadrian and sold him to the Police. His trainer/rider, P.C Don Harper, taught Hadrian all he could about being a successful Police horse. Other than that I don’t recall it at all, which says a lot! It too ended on issue 85.

One character returning after dropping out in issue 29 back in 7th August 1965, was `Nosey Parker`. He returned in issue No 83, 20th August 1966. `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` bowed out in issue 89, 1st October, followed shortly by `Freddie the Fearless Fly` in the 15th October issue, No 91.

The comic certainly went through a heavy turnover of stories, both semi-serious and purely fun strips in 1966. It seemed to be struggling for continuity in its effort to garner a loyal readership. By September 1966 yet another two weeks of free gifts and new stories was offered to readers in a bid to increase sales.

As this was not deemed one of the more radical re-jigs to the comic there was no logo change again this time. Anyhow, here is the line up for issue No 86 dated 10th September 1966, which was the first of the two weeks minor re-launch.


SPARKY No 86. 10th September 1966, 5d


Top of page announces the free gift of the `Tweek-Squeak` balloon.

Page 1
`The Moonsters` The moon creatures hold a fun-fare.

Page 2
`Keyhole Kate`

Pages 3, 4 & 5 (this week only)
New story `My Grockle and Me` Young Jimmy Johnson receives a large egg posted by an uncle residing in Africa. He warms it in the oven and it hatches out into a small dragon-like creature which makes the noise “Grockle”. Deciding to name it Grockle, Jimmy keeps it as it grows to the size of a small horse. I didn’t know at the time that this was an updated 1920s `Rover` comic strip called `Jimmy Johnson’s Grockle`. I consider this George Drysdale’s best work in the comic.

Page 6
Hungry Horace`

Page 7
Top half, `Pansy Potter` Bottom half, `Nosey Parker`.

Pages 8 & 9
New story, `Willie the Woeful Wizard`. This was the fun adventures of the court wizard to the king of Pom. It was a truly superb offering.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Page 11
Advert for next weeks free gift, the `Bizzy Buzzer` plus a preview of next weeks new story, `Nine Hundred Years Ago`.

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` Now back in the centre colour pages, the couple visit `Census Land`.

Page 14
`Fireman Fred`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Page 16
`Peter Piper`

Pages 17, 18 & 19
New story `Terry Had a Little Pig` What I do recall of this was that it was very dull indeed!

Pages 20 & 21
`Big Klanky` Klanky has been sent to earth by his masters to aid humanity. He aids the Huggins family which is a start.

Page 22
`Winnie the Witch`

Page 23
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Page 24
Top ¾ `Sparky`. Bottom ¼ of page is another preview of next weeks `Bizzy Buzzer` free gift and `Nine Hundred Years Ago` new story.


Here is a list of the strip turnover / changes of the weeks of 10th and 17th September. For the first time a new `fun pal` strip was introduced in these changes, this was My Grockle and Me`.


New Strips Introduced, Issues 86 & 87, 10th & 17th September 1966.


In

`My Grockle and Me` (2 Pages)

`Willie the Woeful Wizard` (2 Pages)

`Terry Had a Little Pig` (2 Pages)

`Nine Hundred Years Ago` (2 Pages)


Out

`Prentice Pete` (2 Pages)

`Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` (2 Pages)

`Balloon Family Robinson` (2 Pages)

`Police Horse Hadrian` (2 Pages)


The `Willie the Woeful Wizard` strip was not especially unique as magic based stories were common in fun comics, but the artwork and plots were superb! Bill Mainwaering drew it to finely detailed precision, which complemented the surreal flavour of the storylines. I can honestly state, that in my opinion Bill Mainwaerings artwork on the `Willy` strip is the finest I have ever seen in any `fun` comic.

Willie was a thin, wiry fellow who had long blond hair and slightly prominent teeth. He had a rather `scatty` personality and often got himself into awful muddles. Early on in his adventures he got around on a broomstick which was most unwizard like until he acquired a second hand magic carpet from one `Genie Kelly`.

Willie worked for the king in the land of `Pom`. He carried out many varied tasks which presented readers with wonderfully innovative storylines. My favourite was the task for Willie to find `Old Tom’s Almanac`. For this, he had to climb an Indian rope to a land (called `Nohow` land) to a library set in the cloudbanks which held the tome. Just wonderful!! The whole series was a wonderful tour-de-force in surrealism.
The strip actually got away with a couple of drug references in the run by mentioning a character smoking `Junk` and `Mescalweed`(a nod to Mescaline) which was incredibly daring for a children’s comic. The strip often put in references to present day culture and `pop` songs for readers to spot.

Characters such as the `With it Witch` (who played a modern day electric guitar) and `Genie Kelly` (only film musical buffs will catch on to the association of that name) inhabited his world. There was `Ally Lullia` a pretty young lady who aided Willy on some occasions. The local postman was called Jeepio (G.P.O).

Yes! I adored this strip with its delightfully bizarre nature and wrote my first letter to the comic in March 1967 saying how much I enjoyed it. The result being the following month (8th April 1967), issue No 116, was that the strip ended forever!! Ah well! So much for reader feedback!

The week of 10th September 1966 saw the introduction of another updated old fun strip I mentioned earlier; `My Grockle and Me`. Jimmy Johnson grew Grockle from an egg sent to him from an uncle in Africa. Grockle had an amazing appetite, even eating metallic objects, he even drank petrol with apparently no ill effects.

Grockle was prone to bouts of temper, often belching out flame when in a fit of pique. He was a loving pet to Jimmy and could be very helpful to him.

At the time I had no idea this was a contemporary version of the old `Rover` and `Dandy` comic strip, `Jimmy Johnson’s Grockle`. It was a very enjoyable fun strip which ran to the big overhaul of September 1967, issue No 140. It featured some of artist George Drysale’s best work.

There other new adventure strip, more serious in tone titled `Nine Hundred Years Ago` commenced in issue No 87, 17th September. It was set just before the battle of Hastings. A convoluted plot saw the blacksmith Father of Mildred and Edgar jailed by King Harold’s men! The children were made homeless and worked their way to France to try and raise help!? (I know! It is `most` confusing!) Anyway, it cumulated in William the Conqueror winning at Hastings and freeing the childrens Father. As well as confusing, it was rather dull to me; but saved somewhat by artist Bill Mainwaerings superb work on it. `Nine Hundred Years Ago` ran to issue 94, 5th November 1966.

`Terry had a Little Pig` the last of the September 1966 intake was an awfully tedious affair indeed. Terry Hicks won a small pig at a garden fete (as you do!) the strip outlined his efforts to keep the pig a secret from his perceived, disapproving parents. This too ended in November 1966, the 26th issue 97 to be precise, and not a moment too soon!

Also in September 1966 the `Sparky Book 1967` was issued (all D.C Thomson annuals were dated for following year by mid 1960s). The Sparky books were actually compiled more than a year in advance of the year they came out which meant that in some years, particularly in the 1970 book, the strips in the books had ceased in the weekly comic more than a year before!

The fun animal based adventures strips such as `Wee Tusky` and `Kipper Feet` were represented in this first Sparky book, but the only one of the more serious in tone adventure strip to feature in it was `Floating Along, Singing a Song`. This was titled in the book `The Canal Kids` the name the children called their musical group in the comic strip.

The first Sparky book had 128 pages with 48 of them in full colour. It is not too common today, but isn’t as expensive as either the `Dandy` or `Beano` annuals 1967. The cover features the `Moonsters` Fire Brigade and is light blue in colour.

Here is the line up of the first Sparky book.


Sparky Book 1967, Contents.

`The Canal Kids` (this was titled `Sailing Along, Singing a Song` in the comic)
`Sparky`
`Pansy Potter`
`Jeff Ye Jolly Jester`
`The Moonsters`
`Nosey Parker`
`Dotty Daydream` # (This was a non-comic story, only appearing in the Sparky book.)
`Freddie the Fearless Fly`
`Wee Tusky`
`Young Ben` # (text and another non-comic story)
`Winnie the Witch`
`The Slowdown Express`
`Minnie Ha-Ha`
`Keyhole Kate`
`Lonely Wood`
`Dolly Dimple` # (another non-comic strip)
`Hungry Horace`
`Kipper Feet`
`Peter Piper`
`McGinty the Goat`
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`
`Will O’ the Well` (text)
`Flubberface`
`Hockey Hannah`
`Cuckoo in the Clock`
`The Walk-About Wilsons` # (non-comic adventure strip)

The # sign by a strip means that the strip never featured in Sparky comic, only the book.

Back to the comic itself and in late 1966 a character that would have three series in Sparky circa 1966 to 1969, was introduced. This first outing was titled `Little Davey Spacer`. It commenced in issue 95 dated 12th November 1966.
The first two series were loosely based on Jonathan Swifts `Gulliver’s Travels` with Davey as a sci-fi Lemual Gulliver.

Davey West was stranded on the asteroid `Astra`. Davey was captured by the six inch high Astrian populace, and as with Gulliver, he was secured to the ground by many ropes. Davey managed to free himself, and when it became clear he was friendly, the Astrian population befriended him. He was later joined by space dog, Puff` (Whose vocabulary was mostly based on the word “Boogle”)

Davey then helped the Astrians when they were invaded by `The Raiders from the Rim` (presumably the galactic rim!) who Earth forces had been at war with. The `Invaders` were human sized intelligent chicken-like creatures who were more prone to firing their ray guns rather than peaceful contact. The hostile creatures led by their cruel commander Oswan, set about capturing the Astrians. Davey though soon sorted those big chickens out! This first series ran to issue 107, 11th February 1967 and was very popular. I certainly enjoyed it a lot.

Issue No 88, 24th September 1966 saw `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` bumped off the centre pages again (back to two B&W pages) to make way for the adaptation of Pegasus the winged horse titled `The Horse With Wings`

It was a fairly interesting and enjoyable strip. One episode featured the lost continent of Atlantis whose citizens had devised weapons more advanced than 20th century technology! They were most warlike! The continent was destroyed by a huge earthquake. Another episode featured a creature called a `Chimera` half lion, half dragon, which was quite a sight! It lasted to issue 106, 28th January 1967 and was drawn by Edward Drury.

The strip `Island from the Past` commenced in late 1966 issue 98, 3rd December, it carried onto 18th February 1967, issue 109. It was the story of the island of Moa which had somehow reverted to prehistoric times with animals, plants and humans all de-evolved to that period.

Two modern day children, Hope and Rodney Murdoch became shipwrecked there and the strip conveyed their adventures. It was a most exciting premise for a story. The major drawback to the strip was what I regard as poor artwork that just does not do the story justice. As stated, it ended at issue No 109, 18th February 1967.

1966 had been a struggle for sales with two lots of free gift, new story promotions. The comic was looking rather archaic compared to the likes of `Wham` and `Smash` from rivals Odhams, and especially against City publications `T.V 21` offering. Even fellow stable mates `Dandy` and `Beano` seemed more contemporary in comparison.

1967 loomed ahead, would Sparky fare better?

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1967

Post by alanultron5 on Tue May 25, 2010 2:27 pm

Sorry for delay-here's 1967

1967. Another sluggish year and a major revamp.


In 1967 as stated at the end of the 1966 chapter, the comic was looking rather old fashioned in comparison to I.P.C titles such as `Wham`, the new `Pow` and `Smash` and in comparison to City publishing’s `T.V 21` comic.

As the year progressed some strips were very dull, for example “Prentice Pete” the adventures of an incredibly simple minded apprentice; and `Titch, the Pup that Grew and Grew` Riveting!

Sales must have struggled and yet another two weeks of free gifts and new stories was planned for September that year. This time, the overhaul would be quite radical in an attempt to save the comic.

Issue No 106, saw an addition to the `Moonsters` strip. These were the `Oakies`, animated tree creatures! They faded from the strip after a few months.

Issue 107 saw `Keepers of the Dancing Drums`. This was an adventure strip concerning an African dance troupe and their attempt to travel to Johannesburg to attend a large dance festival. A mystery enemy kept trying to sabotage their journey, why, I don’t recall. It lasted to issue No 122, 20th May 1967.

A very bad day for me happened on 11th February 1967 (issue No 108). This was the start of the long running `Invisible Dick` strip. This had been another very old strip given a contemporary look.

The premise for the strip was absurd! Dick Dickson’s Dad was an Astronaut (this is early 1967 and the U.K can barely afford Concorde never mind a space programme).

Dickson senior takes a torch with him and the capsule encounters cosmic rays. On return, dad gives Dick the torch as a memento. Dick soon discovers that it makes all it shines its black beam on invisible. That’s the sum of it really.

For me, this became quite easily the most mind numbingly boring strip in Sparky comics (and any other comics) entire history. It soon became awfully repetitive and extremely tedious. Virtually every storyline was some bully, or self important fellow receiving their come-uppance via Dick’s torch.

Thankfully, this first run of the strip ended at issue 123 27th May 1967, but! It would return in 1968. One aspect of the strip was what in my view was a `lessening` of clarity in artist Tony Speer’s work on the strip! I think his later years on `Invisible Dick` were not his best work, but this is only my opinion.

In mitigation, there is one truly innovative `Invisible Dick` story that impressed me on getting some late 1971 Sparky’s recently. In one issue, Dick and a friend are pot holing. His friend breaks the regular torch they have and the pals get lost. Dick realises his torch can help them and he shines its black beam to where the cave roof should be. At once beams of sunshine penetrate through the `now invisible` section of cave roof, lighting the cave up! As they progress Dick creates more `holes` to guide them. Up above, townsfolk are horrified to see what must be subsidence creating great holes in the roads and fields.

A really good episode, but it took over four years to bring forth such an engrossing tale! If only more thought had gone into this strip it could have been truly entertaining. Sadly, it soon got back into the rut of bullies and prigs getting their just desserts, Yawn!

A far, far better strip was `The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon` which commenced in issue No 124 dated 3rd June. This was a Hotspur comic reprint (I did not know that then) called `Lonely Larry` which turned out some wonderfully inventive storylines and beautiful artwork from Bill Holroyd towards the end of its run in summer 1968.

`Larry` or `Ken` as he was called in this re-run, had been stranded on the island after a shipwreck with an elderly couple. The woman had died when the strip began and her husband died in episode two (in his sleep) leaving Ken alone except for his pet Toucan, `Tommy`.

One of the best of the 1967 stories in the run of Ken’s adventures was when a volcano broke surface just offshore of Ken’s island and Ken, with Tommy, had to evacuate to another island. The strip changed artists in its 1967-78 tenure in Sparky which did affect continuity a little. As well, part of the storyline was run incorrectly in early 1968, so someone in the Sparky office boobed!

Other artists on the strip were Steve Chapman and someone called Buzelli!

Backtracking a little to 6th May 1967 with issue 120 1967 saw the commencement of`The Cave Kids` which was set in prehistoric times. It featured young cave children Daro and Oaki and their way of life in such far away times. They, their Father, Mother and baby Brother lived in a cave that they had `liberated` from one Black Bear!

Black bear was a mite `cheesed off` at this and tried to drive them out again until they discovered fire which terrified the bear. I do recall one very atmospheric episode featuring the summer solstice at Stonehenge, but apart from that I can’t recall too much about it, so it couldn’t have been too engrossing. It lasted a bare dozen episodes to issue no 131, July 22nd.

Issue 110, 25th February brought us `The Lost Ponies of Thor` This was an adventure strip about a rare breed of ponies and two children’s efforts to keep them safe. I recall very little of this strip. It was drawn by the same artist of `Island of the Past` rather basic and not eye catching artwork. It ran to issue 119, 29th April.

Replacing the wonderful `Willie the Woeful Wizard` strip in issue 117, 15th April, was another listless animal based story, titled `Greedy Gus`. This was set in the wild west about a horse with a relentless appetite. Basically, it was a re-working of the `McGinty the Goat` strip (same artist Bob Webster). As with that strip, it was poor fare indeed. Thankfully, it only lasted to issue No 127, 24th June.

Issue 122, 20th May the `Winnie the Witch` fun strip was replaced by new fun pal, `Harry Carry`. This featured Harry and his mate Sam, who were in the haulage business. It was the first step in a move away from fantasy based fun pals, like Winnie, to reality based characters. September 1967 would reinforce this direction.

Issue 123 replacing `Keepers of the Dancing drums` saw the return, this time for more than just `one` issue, of `Prentice Pete` the handyman’s assistant who seemingly possessed about half the brains of an amoeba! Pete was just too `thick` to be true! The strip was too ridiculous to enjoy for my tastes. It finally ended at issue 140, 23rd September 1967.

Making a return flight in the summer of 1967, issue 132, 29th July (replacing the `Cave Kids`) was old `Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` with eight episodes, to issue 139, of utterly surrealistic flights of fancy. Quite the weirdest adventure came when Granny accidentally thwarted an attempted South American junta! I can’t give justice to it in words; it has to be seen to be believed.

The 1st July issue No 128 initiated yet another animal themed strip. This was `Titch, the Pup that grew and Grew`. Titch was the pet of schoolgirl Linda Wilson. One day he devoured a whole bag of pig feed and started growing.

He finally stopped when he reached the size of a small horse. Titch and Linda became a television story and the huge puppy got into many adventures.

Finally, he became fed up of pig feed (no! I don’t know why they fed him on it either!) He started to shrink, just a little at first; then he drank some spilt whitewash and next morning was `puppy-size` again. The Titch strip was yet another yawn fest ending at issue 137, 2nd September 1967.

Three new writers joined the comic during 1967. These were Gordon Cook, Mike Baird and Peter Clark. Peter Clark would pen the very finest `I. Spy` stories from 1969 to 1971.

The second Sparky book, dated 1968 came out in September 1967. The `Moonsters` were the cover stars again, becoming a brass band this time. The cover did look similar to the 1967 book, having the same light blue tone of artwork. The 1968 book only ran to 124 pages rather than last years 128 totals. Next years book (the 1969 one) and subsequent issues would be back at 128 pages. About 50 were in full colour.

Here is the line up of the 1968 book.


SPARKY BOOK 1968, Contents.
`David` # (non-comic strip) this was the biblical story of how shepherd boy David became King of the Jewish peoples)
`Sparky`
`Hungry Horace`
`Clara’s Crystal` # (non-comic strip)
`No Highway for the Heyworth’s` # (non-comic strip)
`Keyhole Kate`
`Peter Piper`
`Pansy Potter`
`The Moonsters`
`Fireman Fred`
`Winnie the Witch`
`Young Ben` # (non-comic text strip)
`Cuckoo in the Clock`
`Goldie`
`Lonely Wood`
`Stone age Stella` # (non-comic strip)
`Hockey Hannah`
`Wee Tusky`
`Nosey Parker`
`Dotty Daydream` # (non-comic strip)
`Pa, Ma and the Kids` # (non-comic strip)
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`
`The Slowdown Express`
`Big Klanky`
`Will O’ the Well (text)
`Kipper Feet`
`Lucy Lane’s Paper Round` # (non-comic strip)

I have to make a personal point here concerning the two religious strips, `David` and `The Road to Cavalry` from the 1968 and 1969 books. I think Dudley Watkins was the artist for those strips.

I have no particular gripe against religious based strips in general, but I do object when they are placed in a book aimed at the readers of a `fun` comic.

How many fans/readers were surprised when getting their 1968 or 1969 book to get this kind of stuff? I for one, when getting my Sparky book 1969 thought it a deception that I had paid for this `message` based strip! If I wanted religious education in books I would buy religious themed books, not `fun` annuals.

Back to the file, and September 1967 also saw the return of `The Balloon Family Robinson` which broke the record set by 1966’s second run of `Lonely Wood` for brevity in the comic at just `two` episodes! Issues 138, 9th September, to No 139 16th September. It is a record that will surely never be beaten-or equalled, if you discount the one-off `filler` episode of `Prentice Pete` in 1966. Why bother to bring back a story for just two issues?

Also returning for just one issue was fun pal `Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` in issue No 138, 9th September. Joe had been absent since issue 77 back on 9th July 1966. It was a very strange move to bring him back after over a year for just one episode! Why the `Slowdown Express` could not have gone on for one more episode, I just don’t know.

By mid 1967 the comic was obviously struggling though; and it was time for another couple of weeks of free gifts and new `fun pals`. However, this time the overhaul was to be quite radical.

Many fans and commentators when mentioning the comic’s history, always point to the February 1969 re-launch as the big `turning point` for the comic. My view is that the September 1967 changes were every bit as radical, the comic becoming more contemporary and relevant to 1967 readers after September that year.

There were as many `ins` and `outs` as the 1969 reshuffle and for the first time the emphasis was more on `fun pals` in the strip turnover. The logo change to a more symmetrical design gave the comic a contemporary look which was in contrast to the two rather antiquated logos (issues 1 – 34 and 35 – 139) it had sported to that date.

Below are the listings of the 23rd and 30th September 1967 comics (both weeks of the overhaul) this is because, unlike every other re-jigging where nearly all new stories were included in the first week; the 1967 renewal spread the new intake rather more evenly; six new stories issue 140, and three new ones in issue 141.

Below these listings is a list to show which characters / strips moved out and in over the weeks of 23rd and 30th September 1967.


SPARKY NO 140, (23rd September 1967, 5d)

The first of the two weeks major overhaul saw not only six new stories / fun pals but a big change in the masthead design. The title /Logo changed radically to a straightened out `Sparky` in deep red, set against a custard yellow background. Horizontal lines above and below the logo gave a very symmetrical look to the title. The 5d price was now enclosed in a blue diamond shape. This is my favourite ever design of Sparky cover.

The free gift, as advertised above the new logo was “The Rip Snorter” a rasping balloon similar to issue No 1’s “Flying Snorter!


Page 1
`Sparky` Sparky plays a record he likes too loud upsetting his neighbours! Now back on the front cover-while the `Moonsters` swapped back to the back page- Sparky would remain here to the next big overhaul starting on issue 211. He would only appear on the `Funfare` section after that. I thought putting Sparky back on the cover was the one big mistake of the 1967 reshuffle!

Page 2
New `fun pal` `Deputy Dawg` The cartoon series had been a big success on the telly, so the comic gave a comic strip version a run out. A very puzzling move for Sparky comic as this was the only time they encroached onto `T.V Comic’s territory. Sadly, the comic version never matched the TV series and was soon dropped.

Page 3
`Peter Piper`

Pages 4 & 5
New Story, `David Copperfield` This story was the first in a series of adaptations by the comic of works by famous authors. The Charles Dickens classic was the first to be realised in this format. Artwork was quite superb!

Page 6
Top half, New `Fun Pal`, `Meddlesome Matty` Young girl tries to be helpful but it nearly always goes wrong. I quickly warmed to Matty, she reminds me a little of Melinda Messenger!

Bottom half, advert for Sparky book 1968.

Page 7
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 8 & 9
`My Grockle and Me` The final episode of this very funny adaptation on an old `fun pal` Possibly ended due to George Drysdale being ill-he would sadly pass away later in 1967.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Pages 11
Full page advert for next week’s free gift (Target Tiddleywinks) and the three other new stories / Fun Pals!

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` A team of `wake` experts try to keep Dave and Dora from falling asleep-but it is all a dream!

Page 14
New `Fun Pal` `Tom Tardy` Drawn by the artist who drew the departing `Cuckoo in the Clock` Young Tom can never get to School on time. This strip took a bi-weekly rotation with the `Pansy Potter` strip to issue 175 in May 1968. It was dull fare indeed.

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
New story, `Davey Spacer in Giantland` Returning for a second run! Davy Spacer had first appeared in 1966 in a story where he was a giant on a planet of little people. The story was based loosely on Jonathan Swift’s `Gullivers Travels`. This second tale followed the Brobgdanian chapter where Davey is the small fellow in a Land of Giants.

Pages 18 & 19
`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon`

Pages 20 & 21
`Prentice Pete` This was the final episode of this very hard to enjoy tale of a moronic Joiners apprentice! Pete made `Benny from Crossroads` seem like a towering intellectual colossus in comparison.

Page 22
`Harry carry`

Page 23
New `Fun Pal` `Snapshot Sid` The comic adventures of a young free lance news photographer who got his picture by `hook or by crook`.

Page 24
`The Moonsters` now back on the rear of the comic, where they would see out their run to issue 199.



SPARKY No 141 (30th September 1967, 5d)


The comic was into its second week of quite a major overhaul. Above the title it advertised this week free gift; “Free inside; Target Tiddlywinks”.


Page 1
`Sparky` He goes camping this week, and though reminding himself, successfully not to forget the tin opener, he goes and forgets the tins.

Page 2
`Deputy Dawg`

Pages 3, 4 & 5
New Story! ` Big Ossie`. Yes! Yet another animal based story! This effort featured a tame Ostrich that was owned by Tim and Mary Parker. Supposedly set in 19th century South Africa, it had a 1960s look to it. Quite abysmal indeed!

Page 6
Top half, New `Fun Pal`,`Charlie Chutney`. The comic adventures of a Cook which I found not very comical at all. Charlie would often share the same page as `Meddlesome Matty`. Bottom half an advert for `Flying Skimmer` free gift in next week’s `Hornet` comic.

Page 7
`Peter Piper`

Pages 8 & 9
`David Copperfield`.

Page 10
`Write to Sparky`

Page 11
`Keyhole Kate`

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`. It’s fitness time with `Jim Nastic` and `Tramp O’ Leen`. This was one of the poorest Dave and Dora stories ever. This particular one was one of the first of stories filled with ever more stupid puns and word bending phrases. Sadly, the strip lost virtually any originality and became awfully formularised.

Page 14
`Pansy Potter` The Pansy Potter strip would now become bi-weekly, rotating with new fun character `Tom Tardy`.

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
`Klanky` This was the first episode of Klanky’s second run in Sparky, the first had been in June to September 1966. Klanky’s rulers (on the yet unnamed home world he was constructed), decide to send him to Earth again in order to help human kind again. Klanky would become a firm favourite in the comic, appearing on and off up until 1974.

Pages 18 & 19
`Davey Spacer in Giantland`.

Pages 20 & 21
`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon`

Page 22
`Hungry Horace`

Page 23
`Snapshot Sid`.

Page 24
Top three quarters is `The Moonsters`. Bottom quarter is a four panel preview titled “Four Fun Pals in a Pickle”. First panel is `Klanky`, who, in this colour panel, turns out to be red! Second panel `Snapshot Sid`, third is `Deputy Dawg, and fourth panel features new story `Tom Tardy` the boy who is always late for school!

This was a very comprehensive re-launch indeed! Below, I have listed those strips dropped and those introduced over the weeks of 23rd and 30th September 1967.


SPARKY RE-LAUNCH of SEPTEMBER 23rd & 30th 1967.

New Strips Introduced, Issues 140 & 141.


In

`Deputy Dawg` (1 Page)

`Big Ossie` (2 Pages)

`Charlie Chutney` (1/2 Page)

`Meddlesome Matty` (1/2 Page)

`Snapshot Sid` (1 Page)

`David Copperfield` (2 Pages)

`Tom Tardy` (1 Page)

# `Klanky` (2 Pages)

# `Davey Spacer in Giantland` (2 Pages)

Strips marked with # sign were old characters returning.



Out

`The Slowdown Express` (1 Page)

`Balloon Family Robison` (2 Pages)

`Nosey Parker` (1 Page)

`My Grockle and Me` (2 Pages)

`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` (1 Page)

`Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` (2 Pages)

`Cuckoo in the Clock` (1 Page)

`Prentice Pete` (2 Pages)


The weeks of 23rd and 30th September are a vital part of Sparky history. The comic had obviously been struggling in its sales and a big overhaul was needed. It was the change in fun characters that was most radical, with more `down to earth` characters that children could identify with, debuting.

As mentioned in the September listings, Davey Spacer returned; this time crash landing on planet Gargantua, populated by of giants. Every creature, including insects, possessed but one eye. Many of the creatures such as rabbits, cats and dogs could understand what Davey said to them, though they could not speak themselves.

The giants themselves turned out to be friendly and their scientists led by Davey’s friend, Professor Dee, both repaired Davey’s ship and made their own craft based on Davey’s.

Davey in return was able to help them in a battle against intelligent, but malevolent rats that lived in an underground city which was similar to 16th century Earth villages. The wiping out of every rat in that society by Davey and his animal friends was rather brutal stuff for such a strip! There was also a new breed of deadly wasps that could kill the giants with one sting. These too were `eliminated` by Davey! This second `Davey Spacer` series ran to issue No 157, 20th January 1968.

Another 1966 character returning was `Big Klanky`, only from this second series he was titled just `Klanky`. Once more he came to earth to aid humanity, in particular Ernie and Sis Huggins.

The last episode of the first Klanky season never saw him return home, so readers must have been puzzled when the Huggins children were missing him; a case of bad continuity there. This, second run of Klanky’s adventures in Sparky lasted to issue No 160, 10th February 1968.

The `David Copperfield` strip which commenced in issue 140 was the first in a series of classic book adaptations the comic presented over the next year and a half to February 1969.

`David Copperfield` was presented in the format that pre `Dandy` comics had displayed fun strips (and the current Dandy strip `Black Bob` was shown) which was having no word balloons but strips of text along the bottom of each frame.
The `David Copperfield` strip in Sparky was an abbreviated version leaving out all of David’s later adventures. It ended at issue No 158, 27th January 1968

The final new adventure story, titled `Big Ossie` was the final animal themed strip from issue No 141. He lived on a ranch owned by the parents of Tim and Mary Walker who befriended him. It was set in early 20th century South Africa and was as dull as ditchwater. Finally, the powers that be at the comic were realising that readers were tiring of these endlessly themed animal stories.

New fun pals `Charlie Chutney` (Chef), and `Snapshot Sid` (Photographer) had very real-life jobs. Fun pal youngsters `Tom Tardy` and `Meddlesome Matty` were basically ordinary characters who got themselves into comic, but believable scrapes.

The new `Tom Tardy` strip was rotated bi-weekly with the `Pansy Potter` strip until issue 175, 25th May 1968, leaving the `Pansy Potter` strip as a regular weekly effort to the end of its Sparky life in December 1975.

Another new fun pal was `Deputy Dawg`. This is the only occasion that Sparky based a fun strip on a television based character. The cartoon series was a wonderfully funny and enjoyable affair. Unfortunately, the Sparky strip could not match it, and it departed on 16th March 1968 in issue No 165.

`Meddlesome Matty` was drawn by James Malcolm who was one of the artists on the `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` strip. Matty tried so hard to help people but nearly always made a mess of it. She looks to me like a young Melinda Messenger! Matty ran to mid 1969, issue 224, and was the longest lasting of the five new `fun pals` of the September 1967 intake.

`Charlie Chutney` was a cook whose fun adventures weren’t all that funny to me. He and Matty often occupied the same page in their respective half-page strips. He departed in issue 209 in January 1969

`Snapshot Sid` was a young newspaper photographer who often got his `shot` by the most bizarre coincidence` he was drawn by Bob Webster. Sid was replaced by `Cheating Charlie` in September 1968.

Old characters, `Minnie Ha-Ha`, `Hockey Hannah`, `Freddie the Fearless Fly` ,`Joe Bann`, `Fireman Fred`, `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester`, `Nosey Parker`, `Cuckoo in the Clock`, Flubberface`, `The Slowdown Express` and `Winnie the Witch` were gone for good. The comic still had its share of fantasy, particularly `Davey Spacer` and `Klanky`, but there was now a more `down-to earth` feel to it.

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1968

Post by alanultron5 on Wed May 26, 2010 1:29 pm

Here we go-into 1968!

1968 A Transitional Year.

The year 1968 would see the commencement of a series of changes to the comic that would culminate in another very large overhaul and re-launch in February 1969. It is a year I very much enjoyed the comic, particularly January to July 1968.

1968 began with `Big Ossie` ending in issue No 155, 6th January. It was replaced the following week, issue 156 by `The Magic Sword`. This Tony Speer drawn strip told of the trials of shepherd’s son, Kelman, who was tutored by Omar the wise man in order to overthrow the tyrant, Jask.

Kelman had to obtain a number of weapons that were guarded by ferocious beasts or in inaccessible places, in order to face the tyrant. Kelman finally defeated Jask in issue 168 dated 6th April 1968.

One wonderfully bizarre strip based on the Old Testament tale of Noah’s Ark was `The Floating Farrells` commenced in issue No 158, 27th January, ending in issue 170, 20th April 1968. It doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny in the logic of the storyline, but no matter! It was still great entertainment.

Professor Farrell predicts a `second flood` of world-wide proportions. The authorities don’t believe him so, he and his family begin to construct a modern-day Ark; one that is spherical in shape.

He, his wife and children Mark and Sara strive to save as many land based animals as possible when the deluge begins. Seemingly, they were the only human survivors as they never met another person during the whole run of the strip.

One superb episode saw a giant squid, which looked more octopi in appearance, attack the ark in a weak spot (it had hit an iceberg some weeks past). The squid broke in via the weak spot and ripped open the Lion and Tiger cages. There ensued a tremendous battle between said squid and big cats which finally ended when the squid retreated. The Farrels drove the cats back to their enclosures using water hoses.

I really enjoyed this strip, the artwork was superb and many of the stories were most inventive.

The Harriet Beechers Stowe story `Uncle Tom’s Cabin` was an ironic replacement in issue 159, 3rd February, for `David Copperfield`. This; in a comic with cover character `Sparky` does seem very contradictory indeed.

Nevertheless, it was an enlightening tale which told of the tragic life of Tom, a Negro slave whose devout belief in the teachings of the bible, helped sustain him right to his death by an evil plantation owner. It ended at issue 178, 15th June.


1968 was certainly the year of `Big Billy Bigg`. According to comic expert, Lew Stringer, Billy was originally a Dutch cartoon character `Jerome` drawn by Willy Vandersteen. He was a sort of modern day `Desperate Dan` who also had an Aunt Aggie. No cow pies though! The strip bumped Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora from the colour middle two pages; Dave and Dora would see the rest of their days (to December 1968) in black and white.

The first Big Billy adventure began in issue 161, 17th February 1968. This opening story sees the `tube` aliens from Jupiter attempt to invade Earth for its supply of grass (garden variety) which they need to live on. They shrink Billy, Aunt Aggie along with their friends Professor Barabas and his accident prone assistant, Sylvie, all down to their size of about six inches!

The first adventure ran for nine weeks to issue No 169, 15th April. Billy would soon return.

1968 also saw a little bit of female emancipation in the comic too! Firstly, replacing Big Billy Bigg for nine weeks, from issue 170, 22nd April, to No 178, 15th June 1968 (on the two colour centre pages) was `Clever Claire`. The strip was drawn by the Big Billy artist and it too looked European. Claire was a newspaper reporter who was a very capable lady who was helped by her photographer pal `Ginger Snap` and fellow reporter Sandy. Claire and her pals discover a boy, Jake, whose pet pig `Nose-Nose` can sniff out gold instead of truffles.

The story makes world headlines and comes top the attention of a South American dictator, Ferdinand Fiasco. Fiasco sends his agents to capture Jake and his pet. Claire and friends set off to rescue them. Eventually they succeed with help from rebels who want the country ruled fairly. Fiasco is deposed and `Nose-Nose` uncovered a huge hoard of buried Aztec gold that will be used to rebuild the country.

The lovely Claire was a breath of fresh air in the comic.

`Deputy Dawg` had ended in issue 165. His replacement in No 166, 23rd March was possibly the least likely `fun` strip aimed at the comics readers, The Snooks`. The Snooks was a sort of “Terry and June” strip (a good few years before Terry and June) featuring Leonard and Marie Snook.

They were a middle aged, middle class couple. Their daughter Freda would sometimes appear with the two children (boy and girl). Neighbours were the Crabb’s, who they sometimes argued with. This `Terry and June` style comedy strip is still an enigma to me even now! Who on earth in the comics readership could it have been aimed at? It was also drawn by the `Billy Bigg` artist. The strip ran to issue 205, 21st December 1968.

Replacing `The Magic Sword` story in issue 169, 13th April, was the superbly drawn (by `Willy the Woeful Wizard` artist Bill Mainwearing) `Blondel the Wandering Minstrel`.

It was based on the supposedly true story of Richard the Lion heart’s Minstrel, Blondel, who travelled throughout central Europe trying to find where his king was being held captive. Blondel would play a certain song on his lute which only Richard knew the final verse to.

After many exciting adventures, Blondel discovered that Richard was held in Durrestein castle in Austria. Blondel then entered a jousting tournament in the castle and won it! Under the rules of chivalry he was then able to put his case to the Austrian prince holding Richard that the people of England would pay far more for Richard’s release than usurper, king John had paid to the prince keep Richard captive. It ran to issue 181, 6th July and was very enjoyable indeed!

Back to emancipation and the other strong female character in 1968 Sparky was `South Sea Suzie`. Running from issues 171 to 186, 27th April to 10th August it concerned a girl, Suzie, who became honorary Queen of a South Seas island. She was opposed by a Witch Doctor who held the islanders in his thrall by supposed strong magic. Suzie exposed him for the fake that he was by using common sense and modern (1960s) science.

Let us now take a look at a Sparky line up from mid 1968.


SPARKY No 183, 20th July 1968, 5d

Page 1
`Sparky` the living scarecrow.

Page 2
`Peter Piper` Guest character, `Big Billy Bigg`

Page 3
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 4 & 5
`Invisible Dick`

Page 6
`Snapshot Sid`

Page 7
`Write to Sparky`

Pages 8 & 9
`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon` The final Sparky episode of what turned out to be a wonderful adventure strip.

Page 10
`Harry Carry`

Page 11
`Pansy Potter`

Pages 12 & 13
`Big Billy Bigg` The search for the lost professor Burton in darkest Africa.

Page 14
`The Snooks`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Page 16 & 17
`South Seas Suzie`

Pages 18 & 19
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` The pair receive cooking hints from `Finny Haddock`.

Pages 20 & 21
`The Old curiosity Shop`

Page 22
Top half `Meddlesome Matty`. Bottom Half, two panels. Right one, `Win a Transistor radio`. Left panel, `Beano Summer Special 1968`.

Page 23
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 24
Top ¾ `The Moonsters`. Bottom ¼ Advert for next weeks new story `The Captive Kidds` A very loose re-make of 1965’s `The Kidnapped Kidds`.


The second `Big Billy Bigg` series commenced issue No 179, 22nd June, lasting eight issues to No 186, 10th August. He is contacted by his friend Professor Barabas to help find professor Burton who has gone missing in Africa.

Billy is also aided by `Anna` a young Zulu girl. The depiction of Anna was, thankfully, very enlightened with no hint of condescending racism usually found in Thomson comics.

Billy did track down Burton, only to discover that he wasn’t missing, but had set up an ivory poaching outfit. Big Billy soon sorted things out. Anna decided to stay in Africa.

The `Tom Tardy` strip ended in issue 175, 25th May, leaving the `Pansy Potter` strip a weekly offering. `Pansy Potter` was now drawn by Bob Webster, who in my opinion did his finest work for Sparky in this strip.

`Uncle Tom’s Cabin` ended in issue 178, 15th June, to be followed from issues 179 to 198, 22nd June to 2nd November, 20 episodes of `The Old Curiosity Shop` This was the Charles Dickens tale of the evils of gambling and unfettered greed which led to a double tragedy to young heroine Little Nell and vile money lender Daniel Quilp. It was a beautifully drawn affair, which I am told first appeared in `Bunty` comic a few years earlier.

On 13th July, issue 182; my heart sank as `Invisible Dick` returned to bore me half to death. Sadly, unlike its 1967 run, this time it continued weekly to issue 499 (bar a one week break in Christmas 1973) 17th August 1974. A run of 317 episodes, if you exclude the one-week break, the longest run consecutively for a `non-fun` strip (it was certainly no fun for me!) in the comics history.

`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon` strip finally ended in issue 183 after a thrilling adventure where he was trapped on the far side of the island, firstly in underground volcanic caverns and then in a gorge with impassable sides. The scenes inside the volcanic caves were most ably drawn and the storyline was most enthralling. These final adventures were superbly drawn by Bill Holroyd.

Replacing the lonely lad in issue 184, 27th July 1968, was `The Captive Kidds`. Contrary to the stated view of author Graham Kibble-White, this was not a sequel to 1965s `The Kidnapped Kidds`.

It was set in the Balkans sector of Europe just after World War Two. Robert and Margaret Kidd and their children Pat, Ann and Nicky are on their way by train to look after army horses as Robert Kidd is a veterinary surgeon. The train is hijacked by rebels of the country Sardia who think the medical supplies are actually weapons bound for the government.

The Kidds are held captive by the rebels, some of whom are ruthless killers. After some adventures the family are freed when government forces manage to track down the rebels. It ran to issue No 195, 12th October.

Issue No 187, 17th August, saw the first Western strip start in the comic. This was `Sacramento Here we Come` which ran to issue 197, 26th October.

It told the story of youngsters Tim and Sal (surnames not given) who were accompanied across 19th century Arizona by guide Tim. They had to reach their father who was a colonel at a fort in Sacramento. It was the usual western style fare, mildly entertaining, but nothing special.

Issue 187 also saw the third Billy Bigg adventure commence. This one was where Billy is sent back in time via Professor Barabas time machine to where hidden treasure was secreted in `Chumley Castle`.

The castle’s 20th century residents, Jimmy Hick-Jones and his Mom, need the money to upkeep the castle which is now their home. The unscrupulous Baron Sly has made her a derisory offer for the castle which Billy advised her to turn down.

As soon as she did this, the castle suddenly became infested with `ghosts` who turned out to be only too human (Sly and his men).

This is the one `Big Billy Bigg` story I have least recollection of. It ran nine episodes to issue No 195, 12th October 1968, followed by another Billy adventure the following week.

On September 14th (issue No 191, the regular letters page and the puzzles page were combined into a two page `Funfare` section, combining both. One interesting letter in the 28th September issue came from one Charlotte Brain of Chippenham Wiltshire, telling of the family holiday that May in Paris being caught up in the Paris riots. Very topical!

Issue 191, September 14th; saw the final `Snapshot Sid` fun strip. It was replaced the following week, issue 192 by `Cheating Charlie`who I think was drawn by Bob Webster. He was quite unsavoury indeed! Charlie used dodges, lies, deception-in fact almost any connivance to get his way! There must have been letters to the paper about what was a possible bad influence on its young readers as Charlie was part of the February 1969 cull.

As stated, the fourth, and best in my view, `Big Billy Strip` began in issue 196, 19th October. This saw a compatriot of Professor Barabas, Professor Beanhoff, make off with a new `growing serum` that both had invented.

Pursued by Billy, Beanhoff sprayed the serum across Barabas back garden turning it into a jungle-like landscape with gigantic plants and immense insects. A colossal stag beetle turned out to be a very tough customer indeed!

Billy and his Aunt Aggie had to brave the hostile territory in order to track down Beanhoff. Finally coming to his senses, the rogue scientist relented what he’d done and helped Barabas to perfect an antidote.

It was quite my favourite of the Big Billy adventures, wonderful stuff! It lasted eight episodes to issue 203, 7th December. Yet another `Big Billy` story followed it from issue 204.

Issue 193 began `Sailor Brown’s Schooldays` which told of young Robbie Brown’s training as a 19th century sea cadet. It ran to issue 210, 25th January 1969 and was very dull indeed!

Issue 198 saw the second western style strip to occupy the comic, this was `The Boyhood of Deadwood Dick`. Young Dick helps out his friend sheriff Dan Hooper when assorted gunslingers and badmen threaten the township. Basically, that’s about the sum of it. The strip ran to issue 210, 25th January 1969.

On 9th November issue 199 one of the comics stalwart fun strips finally ended. Losing the `Moonsters` was like saying goodbye to an old friend you had known for years. I never found the strip hilarious, but did quite like it. It was to be replaced by a fun pal who would soon become the cover star.

I have a theory as to why the Moonsters were terminated. By mid 1968 the American Apollo Moon shots were very much in the news. People (and children) were becoming educated via television as to what conditions on Earths natural satellite were like. I think the strip ended because it was so at odds with reality, and though just a `fun strip` was possibly seen as interfering with children’s perception of a real life historical event.

So, Peter and Penny seemingly never made it back to Earth! Perhaps they, and the Moonsters were on hand to greet Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the following July 20th.

Issue 199 also saw the commencement of the comics last adaptation of a classic book, R.M Ballantyne’s `The Coral Island`. This was the 19th century set tale of the shipwrecking of three pals, Ralph Rover, Jack Martin and Peterkin Grey, on said coral island.

This time the strip reverted to `normal` by reintroducing the word balloons, I think it worked better this way. One of the most heartrending parts of the story is when Peterkin who has been captured by pirates, befriends Bill, the one pirate who has good in him.

Bill helps Peterkin to escape but is wounded. The death of Bill is one of the most pathos filled episodes you could read. The strip ran to issue 210.

There was a change of Editor somewhere in late 1968 with Ian Chisolm taking the helm from Bill Mann. Chisolm obviously decided that the comic needed another drastic overhaul; he started the changes piecemeal at first. Below is the line up from issue No 199 dated 9th November 1968.



SPARKY No 199 ( 9th November 1968, 5d)

Page 1
`Sparky`. `Sparky` misses the bus.

Page 2
`Peter Piper`

Page 3
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 4 & 5
`Invisible Dick`

Pages 6 & 7
`Funfare` The letters page and puzzles pages were now combined in a double page spread. The `Sparky` character still hosted these pages.

Pages 8 & 9
`Sailor Brown’s Schooldays`. The story of 19th century sea cadets. Very boring.

Page 10
Top half, `Charlie Chutney`. Bottom half, ad for Dandy and Beano books 1969.

Page 11
`Pansy Potter`

Pages 12 & 13
`Big Billy Bigg`. In what I regard as his best story, Billy is faced with the results of an experimental growth serum that `rogue` scientist Professor Beanhoff had dosed an everyday garden with. Soon all plants and insects are a hundred times their normal size! Wonderful stuff!

Page 14
`The Snooks`

Page 15
`Harry Carry`

Pages 16 & 17
`The Boyhood of Deadwood Dick`. The adventures of an orphaned youth in the old `Wild west`.

Pages 18 & 19
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`. The sleepy couple meet a `Lightning Conductor`.

Pages 20 & 21
`The Coral Island` The final adaptation of classic novels, this was Sparky comics take on the novel by R.M Ballentyne in which three youths are shipwrecked on a South-Seas coral island.

Page 22
`Cheating Charlie`. This was the comic adventures of a cheating rogue. Charlie would do anything to get his way in various humorous situations. He always ended up losing badly.

This strip only lasted a bare four months; possibly it was felt by incoming editor, Ian Chisolm, that the character might be a bad role model for readers.

Page 23
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 24
Top three quarters, `The Moonsters`. Making `Guy’s` for ` Guy Fawkes night`. This was the very last `Moonsters` strip. It was like losing an old friend that you had known for years! Though I had never found the strip more than vaguely amusing, I felt a pang of sorrow when realising they would be gone forever.

Bottom quarter, “It’s A Dog’s Life, Next week, and every week with `John Bull Dog”. The replacement strip for the `Moonsters` John Bull Dog was, of course, soon to be cover strip, `Barney Bulldog`. We never found out why his name got changed.


This edition of Sparky was the start of a series of changes to the comic that would alter its outlook as radically as the 1967 re-haul.

I am one who doesn’t find the 1 February re-launch really that radical. If the `Moonsters` and `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` had both carried on up to 25 January 1969, I `would` agree on the 1 February changes as the comics biggest overhaul.

I believe that new editor Ian Chisolm actually joined the comic in October 1968 and started a piecemeal style change first with dropping old characters gradually, before undertaking a further overhaul on 1 February 1969.

If anyone has any info on the exact date Mr Chisolm helmed the comic I am happy to be corrected. Until such correction my view is that he took over as editor in around October 1968.

`John Bull Dogg` had replaced the `Moonsters` in issue 200, 16th November. He would soon replace `Sparky` as cover star, becoming `Barney Bulldog` and lasting in that role for over five years. He was drawn by Bill Ritchie whose most famous creation was `Baby Crockett`.

The 14th December issue, No 204 saw the final Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora adventure (in the land of `pairs`) Again, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. In truth though, the strip had become extremely repetitive with only small variations on the same storyline; a far cry from its truly innovative early days.

The strip `L. Cars` drawn by Bill Hill replaced Dave and Dora the following week. Based loosely on the TV series “Z. Cars”; it lasted right through to the comic’s final edition in July 1977.

`Big Billy Bigg` commenced his final centre pages adventure from issue 204. This time Billy was up against master world criminal `Krimson` a fellow who stole many of the world’s greatest monuments such as the Eiffel tower and Taj Mahal temple by using a miniaturising device on them.

This was the most violent of Billy’s adventures. Landmines, electrified doors and machine guns were employed against our hero to little effect as Billy fought his way into the criminals H.Q.

The adventure ended after seven episodes in issue 210, but Billy would be back for one final adventure in Sparky in 1969.

The `Sparky` book 1969 had come out in September 1968. It featured the Moonsters again on the front cover having fun in the snow. The cover colour scheme was predominately black and white. Here is the line-up of contents.


SPARKY BOOK 1969. Contents.

The Road to Calvary #
Sparky
Tom Tardy
Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora
The Slowdown Express
Keyhole Kate
Peter Piper
Wee Tusky
Prentice Pete
Nosey Parker
Winnie the Witch
Hungry Horace
Quick Dick #
Pansy Potter
Harry Carry
Stone Age Stella #
Cuckoo in the Clock
Willie the Woeful Wizard
Lonely Wood
The Moonsters
Invisible Dick
Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer
Freddie the Fearless Fly
My Grockle and Me
Riders of the New Forest #

Strips with # sign were non-comic strips.


On 28th December issue 206 `Spoofer McGraw` entered the comic replacing the Snooks who had said goodbye in issue 205, 21st December. Drawn by Gordon Bell, this was an inventive strip with over-smart schoolboy `Spoofer` inventing ever wilder explanations to his dull witted friends, `Bo`, questions. Later, readers were offered cash prizes if a written question of theirs was used in the strip.

1968 had been a transitional year; in particular the second half of the year saw the comic moving toward the style it is best remembered by fans today.

alanultron5

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1969

Post by alanultron5 on Thu May 27, 2010 2:56 pm

Here we go; into 1969!

1969 Renewal, `Puss N’ Boots and `I. Spy`


Into 1969 and big changes were on the way. Issue 209, 18th January saw the final of James Malcolm’s `Harry Carry` strip. `John Bull Dogg` left the back page, only to arrive on the front cover of issue 211 as `Barney Bulldog`.

Issue 210 announced on the back page that there were to be five new fun pals (there were actually more!) and a free gift of the `Flip Frog`.

As with 1967, the changes of 1st and 8th February 1969 were quite radical. Below is a line up of issue 209 the penultimate pre-change issue, followed by the strips / characters turnover in February 1969.


SPARKY No 209 (18th January 1969, 5d)


Page 1
`Sparky` `Sparky` buys a new bed. After his final appearance on next weeks cover, the `Sparky` character would be demoted to hosting the `Funfare` page; which he had been doing since September 1968 anyway. Promoted to front cover `star` from 1st February would be name changed (from John Bull Dogg) `Barney Bulldog`.

Personally, I doubt if racial worries removed the `Sparky` character as racial stereotyping was quite evident in many of its humour strips right up to its final edition in July 1977. My theory is the writers had run out of ideas for the character! He still appeared in `character` to promote the `Sparky` book 1971 and 1972.

Page 2
`Peter Piper`

Page 3
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 4 & 5
`Invisible Dick`

Pages 6 & 7
`Funfare`

Pages 8 & 9
`Sailor Browns Schooldays`

Page 10
Top half, `Charlie Chutney`. Last episode. From Feb 1st `Harry Presto` would occupy the half page slot. Bottom half, left panel, `Win a free `Model Miss comb and mirror set in Diana` Right panel, “Write to Sparky”.

Page 11
`Pansy Potter`

Pages 12 & 13
`Big Billy Bigg`. This was the episode where a limpet mine, electrified door and a barrage of machine guns were used in attempts by `Krimson` to eliminate Billy.

Page 14
`Spoofer McGraw`

Page 15
`Harry Carry`. Last episode.

Pages 16 & 17
`The Coral Island`

Pages 18 & 19
`L.Cars`

Pages 20 & 21
`The Boyhood of Deadwood Dick`

Page 22
`Cheating Charlie`. Charlie would finish next week (25th Jan) to be replace by `Helpful Henry`, one of the 1st February new intake.

Page 23
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 24
Top three quarters, `John Bull Dogg`. J.B would be back in two weeks replacing `Sparky` on the front page and becoming `Barney Bulldog`. Bottom quarter, “Great news about next week’s free gifts”.


As stated, on 25th January, Five new `fun pals` were advertised on that weeks back page; `Klanky and Faithful Hound`, `I. Spy, the Shhh Guy`, `The Sparky People`, `Esky Mo` and `Cap’ N’ Hood and his Merry Men` (who commenced on 8th February).

`Klanky` was actually an old character (who debuted in Sparky mid 1966), though `Faithful Hound` was new. Another new strip `Wyatt Twerp` was only announced on bottom of final `Tom Browns Schooldays` episode, and Helpful Henry` at the bottom of the final `Cheating Charlie` page. There was no mention of the `Harry Presto` or `Jungle Ark` strips at all!
The logo changed again to red curved written `Sparky` with the firework style tail of stars shooting from the bottom of the `Y` in the title.

As I mentioned in the listing of issue 209, the comic didn’t suddenly `see the light` regarding possible `racist` caricaturing when demoting the `Sparky` character. In fact it presented many examples of this through the 1970s. The `Invisible Dick` strip in a two-part story in April 1969 featured a `White Hunter` and his native servant. It is repulsive in the extreme!

In one episode of the `Willie Getaway` strip in January 1972; Willie `blacked himself up in an attempt to avoid detection. A coloured man recognised him with the words “Hey man, you’re Willie Getaway, gone blackaway!” subtle stuff indeed!

Worst of all was a 1974 episode from issue 500, 17th August. It was the `L. Cars` strip titled `Illegal Immigrants`. This strip is beyond belief in its levels of crass stupidity. I believe if any comic were to run an identical strip of this kind today, it would be prosecuted. Thankfully, such ignorance was not too common in the comic’s life.

The overhaul does come across as very comprehensive as all but one of the nine new strips (`Cap’n Hood and his Merry Men`) entered on issue 211 - `Hood` began in 212. So, it really did seem as though Sparky comic changed overnight! Here is the line up for issue 211.


SPARKY 211, (1st FEBRUARY 1969) 5d.

`Free gift, the `Flip-Frog`

Page 1
`Barney Bulldog` No reason for name change from John to Barney given, but he was the same character from issues 200-209. Barney would become the comics longest lasting cover `star`.

Page 2
`Peter Piper`

Page 3
New `Fun Pal` - `Esky Mo` He was a sort of north pole `Little Plum` type character. This strip was never very funny or original. It departed in the 1970 overhaul.

Pages 4 & 5
`L.Cars`

Page 6
Top Half, New `Fun Pal` - `Harry Presto` Conjurors son `Harry` uses his dad’s hat to pull out assorted objects! Only ran to issue 224.
Bottom half `Meddlesome Matty`
Page 7
New `Fun Pal` - `I. Spy` The start of perhaps Sparky comics best strip in it’s history! The one page `I. Spy` strip started out a comedy based feature but soon it began to evolve into a superb plot based near-adventure style offering! It was drawn wonderfully by Les Barton. It became the highlight of the comic for me.

Pages 8 & 9
New Story, `Klanky` This was the third series of Klanky’s adventures. He won’t answer the recall command from home planet `J` and so his `masters` construct a robot detective along with robot dog, `Faithful Hound` to fetch him back! Klanky soon teamed up with Faithful Hound and defied orders to return.

Page 10
`Pansy Potter`

Page 11
New `Fun Pals` - `We Are the Sparky People` The `fictional adventures of the staff who put together the comic. Obviously nothing like reality-because the comic would have never got out if it were! This strip was the only one of the 1969 `intake` to last into comic’s final year 1977.

Pages 12 & 13
New `Fun Pal` - `Wyatt Twerp` This was a Ron Spencer drawn strip featuring the somewhat inept Wild West sheriff, Wyatt Twerp. It didn’t last too long, though `Twerp` would return in 1970 albeit slightly redrawn (same artist though!)

Page 14
`Spoofer McGraw`

Page 15
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 16 & 17
`Invisible Dick`

Pages 18 & 19
`Fun Fare`

Pages 20 & 21
New Story, `The Jungle Ark` The story of Luana who was rescued by people trying to save animals in a part of flooded Africa. Pretty dull!

Page 22
New `Fun Pal` -`Helpful Henry` these were the `fun` adventures of a helpful schoolboy who always got it wrong! Henry was a male version of `Meddlesome Matty` though more help than meddle was intended, the result was the same-chaos! I really loved this strip which was dynamically drawn by Hugh Morren (his most famous character was the Dandy’s `Smasher`) I was most surprised when Henry departed on issue 230.
Page 23
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 24
Full page advert for next week’s free gift, the “Zoomer Boomerang”

Issue 211 featured the most radical turnover of strips in any single issue of Sparky with eight new stories/Fun pals joining that issue, leaving only `Cap’n Hood and His `Merry Men` of the new intake to join a week later in issue 212. It was the start of a new direction for the comic who would, for a year or two, try to appeal to an older readership than stable mates the `Dandy` and `Beano`.

Let us now take a look at those new strips, and those departing in issues 211 and 212, 1st and 8th February 1969.



SPARKY RELAUNCH of FEBRUARY 1st & 8th 1969

New strips issues 211 & 212


Out

`Sailor Browns Schooldays` (2 Pages)

`Charlie Chutney` (1/2 Page)

`Big Billy Bigg` (2 Pages) * Note! Billy would return once more in mid 1969.

`Harry Carry` (1 Page)

`The Coral Island` (2 Pages)

`The Boyhood of Deadwood Dick` (2 Pages)

`Cheating Charlie` (1 Page)

`Sparky` (1 Page)


In

`Esky Mo` (1 Page)

`Harry Presto` (1/2 Page)

`I. Spy` (1 Page)

# `Klanky` (2 Pages)

`We are the Sparky People` (1 Page)

`Wyatt Twerp` (2 Pages)

`The Jungle Ark` (2 Pages)

`Helpful Henry` (1 Page)

`Cap’n Hood and his Merry Men` (1 Page)


Strips marked with # are old strips returning.


Unlike some Sparky fans, I don’t see the Feb 1 changes as a real watershed, just another step in the direction the comic had mapped out over the weeks of 23rd and 30th September 1967. Of the new strips/ Fun pals, only `I. Spy` and `We are the Sparky People` would turn out to be real successes.

I do concede that for the vast majority the 1st Feb re-launch was a cathartic moment in the comic’s history. It was the start of a change of direction by the comic through 1969, 1970 and 1971.

What is clear from these changes is the increase in `fun pals` with the decrease in `adventure` strips. By 1974 the adventure strips would be completely phased out.

Though the `Sparky` character was demoted to hosting the `Funfare` pages (to 1973) the comic was still racially naïve to say the least. The previously mentioned `Invisible Dick` strip that I highlighted for this `fault` (from April 1969) portrayed a coloured character in such a way that could possibly get any similar portrayal by a comic today (2009) legally prosecuted! No! Sparky didn’t suddenly become; as we term it now, P.C overnight. It still produced racial stereotypes such as 1974s `Baron Reisch Pudding` the WWI `Hun` who shot down more of his own men than the enemy.

The comic now titling itself `Sparky, the big comic for boys and girls` did seem to be boosted by these 1969 changes though and sales must have increased a little.

Back to the new intake, `Esky Mo` was basically a North Pole version of the Beano’s `Little Plum`. It was drawn by Bob Nixon. Unlike `Little Plum` it never really took off and ended in the lesser overhaul of January 1970.

`Wyatt Twerp` who occupied the colour centre pages was an inept sheriff in the wild west. This strip was drawn by Ron Spencer who had drawn the `Sparky` character from 1966 to 1969. `Wyatt Twerp` wasn’t very inventive and only lasted a few months to June 1969.

One of the 1st February intake that `was` successful was `We Are the Sparky People` drawn by Jim Petrie, this was the wholly fictitious adventures of those crazy people who put the paper together.

Readers were introduced to head writer `Throgmorton`, the overweight `Joke Man`. We met the bohemian `Artist`. There was office typist `Julie` whose mini-skirted legs were obviously based on Cilla Blacks. There was young office boy `Dick`, the ancient mariner look-alike `Printer` and finally office cat, `Puss`.

All lived in fear of tyrannical editor `Sir` whose face was never seen, but his boot (for kicking his staff) was often on show.

Readers were asked to send in drawings of what they thought sir looked like to win cash prises. A cruel rumour has gone around that `Sir’s` features `did` appear in the comic in 1970. They were supposedly the template for the facial features of `fun` character `Spider` who was forever failing to catch the title character of the `I. Fly` strip! It was said to be an `in-joke` which Editor Ian Chisholm was only told about a couple of years later! Be nice if this `rumour` is true.

`Helpful Henry` was a male version of `Meddlesome Matty`. He was drawn by Hugh Morren whose most famous character was the Dandy’s `Smasher`. The `Henry` strip was wonderfully inventive and had lots of bangs crashes and explosions each week as Henry’s good deeds went wrong. I was very sad and surprised when Henry departed in issue 230, 14th June 1969.

Hugh Morren had even less success with `Harry Presto`. This half-page strip about a conjurors son who could fetch out virtually any object from his dad’s hat with the cry of “Presto!” soon became boring. It only lasted to issue 224, 3rd May, sharing its final week with `Meddlesome Matty`.

`Cap N’ Hood and his Merry Men` occupied the back page from issue 212, 8th February. It was a frantic affair with some good action panels when the ship had its many accidents. Cap N’ Hood was a hyperactive fellow who lost his temper every five seconds or so.

His crew were a slovenly bunch who most likely thought manual labour was a Spaniard! The strip seemed to try too hard to be funny, often looking rather rushed in its approach. It didn’t last too long, ending on issue 231, 21st June.

`Klanky` made his third visit to the comic but was still only on his second visit to Earth, he had arrived back for his second visit in 1967. The rulers of his planet of origin; `planet `J``; wanted him back, but he wouldn’t answer their signals.

They then built a robot detective who was based on Earth’s fictional `Sherlock Holmes` and also built a robotic bloodhound, `Faithful Hound`.

The detective and `Faithful Hound` were assigned to track down and arrest QZ-199, Klanky’s real name.

The detective was no Sherlock Holmes though; in fact he was a clod-hopping incompetent who couldn’t even have found his feet if not for `Faithful Hound`. Klanky soon befriended `Faithful Hound` by tempting him with spanners which the robot dog loved.

The detective soon dropped out of the strip getting tricked into being shot back home (he is now probably blundering around planet `J`` looking for a clue somewhere) and Klanky and Faithful Hound teamed up with the Huggins family for more adventures. This version of Klanky was drawn by Terry Patrick.

Another new issue 211 story was a short lived adventure strip called `The Jungle Ark` drawn by Andy Tew. It told of a white girl Luana who was to be sacrificed to the rain gods by the Kobemba tribe because too much rain had caused flooding.

She was rescued by Rob Royde and his father who were attempting to save as many stranded animals to their floating ark. Luana was able to help them in their cause and most of the stories concerned the problems of rescuing particular creatures.

One day they heard from a native they rescued that a white man was being held by another tribe called the Loguba. The man, Professor Jordan was rescued by them and it turned out that he was Luana’s father. He had been separated from her when she was a baby, hence not instantly recognising her.

A strange tale as it is stretching things a bit to believe two people could be held for years-consecutively-by two separate tribes; but who expects logic in a `fun` comic!

Now! The final, and by far and away the best of the 1st February, issue 211 intake was a fun strip titled `I. Spy`

`I. Spy` was very loosely based on the Odhams / I.P.C press character `The Cloak`. However, the initial similarities were soon left behind once the `I. Spy` strip got into its stride.

The Cloak ran in `Pow` from about May 1967 to March 8th 1969, finishing in `Smash and Pow` No 162. Unlike the Cloak, I. Spy never revealed his face, and his assortment of devices within his suit became far more elaborate (and larger) than the Cloak’s ever were!

The stories soon surpassed those of `The Cloak` as did the villainous line up that produced two truly formidable super-villains in `Mr X` and `Mr Mastermind`. The first season ran from issue 211, 1st February 1969, to issue 279, 23rd May 1970.

It was drawn superbly by Les Barton who it is believed wrote the first eight episodes. It started out as a one page affair that featured a mysterious spy `I. Spy` who held numerous devices beneath his trench coat and trilby (that sounds a bit naughty doesn’t it?)

He worked for an unnamed organisation, probably a branch of the secret services. His boss was known as `Boss Spy` and issued orders from behind his desk. `Boss` soon became a fully fledged character whose name readers learned was Bert, via a long running joke about the radio sign of signature `Roger`.

`I. Spy` tackled very minor, but very humorous cases involving characters such as `Hoots McBagpipe`, `Slinky Snitchovitch` and `Karate Chip` in those first few one page offerings. A far deadlier foe was soon to emerge to trouble him though.

`Mr X` appeared in episode seven looking like the `atypical` villain from a Victorian melodrama. He would very quickly prove to be I. Spy’s most ubiquitous foe. The strip quickly became very popular with readers ( I soon rated it my top ever Sparky strip) and in issue 225, 10th May, it expanded to two pages with a great eight part story that pitted I. Spy against his deadly nemesis, `Mr X`.

Mr X, aided by his `super-strength-pills` has stolen plans to I. Spy’s `design` and constructed a robot `double` of the agent. The robot clobbers I. Spy and Mr X incarcerates him in his dungeon. The robot now frames I. Spy by robbing banks. I. Spy escapes X’s prison but is captured by his own side who belive that he has gone `bad`. Finally, I. Spy catches up with his `double` as it is about to kill Boss. Eating a supply of Mr X’s super strength pills which he `borrowed` he clobbers the robot for good!

Mr X isn’t finished though, he then constructs twelve of the `doubles` and even when I. Spy deals with those in an incredibly action packed episode, he still has to face Mr X’s trump card, the colossal `Super Spy`. Super Spy is finally defeated by a supply of hiccup and sneezing pills that I. Spy introduces into its fuel. It was a terrific tale to inaugurate the lengthier stories in the series.

`I. Spy` became accompanied in these longer stories by `Boss Spy` who was now no longer a remote desk-bound figure. Boss Spy provided much of the humour in the strip and was someone to whom I. Spy could relate plot details to, which helped readers. I sometimes wondered how `Boss` ever gained that title, being as he was almost as clueless as the robot detective in the current `Klanky` strip. No matter, I. Spy was most loyal to him.

Writer Peter Clark had taken over writing duties for the last six weeks of the one-page outings. He would pen some truly great `I. Spy` scripts over the next couple of years. The two page outings saw adventures across the globe when I. Spy tackled oriental spy, `Mahairee Yogi` in the hunt for the `Fantasmagor` diamond. There was a wonderfully hilarious affair up in bonny Scotland where `Aye McSpy` had perfected paralyzing porridge which froze people, including villains `Mr X`, `Karate Chip`, `Slinky Snitchovitch` and `Mahairee Yogi`. Aye McSpy relented his naughty ways by stories end.

We saw I. Spy’s granny in a story that featured master of disguise, one `Cammy Flage` who stole plans for the deadly `Supertank`. Granny returned to plague I. Spy and Boss in another similar styled story where `Mr X` forced a team of scientists to build the awesome `Fantasmagorian` war machine. This incredible device was seemingly indestructible but I. Spy finally thwarted it by creating an artificial volcano!

Another really inventive story saw our hero face `Mr Tempest` and his amazing weather device which unleashed Tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, blizzards and other meteorological phenomena against I. Spy. Tempest even managed to turn off the sun in the stories final episode which saw Les Barton’s use of shading put to perfect use.

The strip then expanded to three pages in the Sparky re-shuffle of issue 261, 17th January 1970. The first of these three page offerings was a marvellous six part story that featured a new villain who was even more (if such is possible) a deadly threat than `Mr X` .

`Mr Mastermind` a multi millionaire, extremely successful and very ruthless businessman had sold his slot machines and other coin operated devices across the globe. At his order they turned into `Dalek-like` killing machines that went on the attack across the major nations of the Earth. Mastermind managed to conquer the world (something that even Mr X had yet to achieve) only I. Spy could save the day (and did). Mastermind, was added to the list of those beaten, but he swore revenge. In this story it became very clear that Mastermind was a force to be reckoned with and every bit as deadly as Mr X!

The penultimate series story was the seven part mystery of Mr X’s new found `invisible power-force`. Mr X and two accomplices using this `power` , broke out of jail and overthrew the government and used a terror army to try to eliminate I. Spy. Our hero thwarted these designs and defeated his long time enemy with nothing more than cans of fly spray! Devastated at yet another defeat, Mr X ran to the clock room in the tower of `Big-Ben` and hurled himself out through the glass and into the Thames below as I. Spy closed in on him. Was Mr X finally dead?

The finale to this first I. Spy season, and Les Barton’s last work on the strip was a story of sheer outstanding brilliance! If this stupendous six part story `Operation I. Spy / Grab` isn’t the greatest ever `fun strip` story in a `fun` comic then I would certainly love to know what in comicdom is. `Operation I. Spy / Grab` is, in my opinion, quite easily, Sparky comics greatest achievement in its twelve year history.

The story opens with a collection of three silhouetted figures being addressed by a fourth who is obviously their leader. The fourth figure is seated in a throne-like seat and outlays the plan he is about to set in motion that will rid them “Once and for all” of I. Spy.

A complex plot that makes it seem that I. Spy has cracked up and turned `rogue` due to the pressure of his work succeeds brilliantly; even I. Spy believes that he is ill such is the thoroughness of the plan. I. Spy is arrested, stripped of his secret devices and jailed for ten years. The `frame` is so perfect that I. Spy believing he has done the deed puts up no resistance to his incarceration.
Eventually in jail, I. Spy finds out what has happened via a friendly inmate who had been locked up with the villains behind all I. Spy’s woes. With help from this friendly `lag` he breaks out of jail to get his spare suit of devices at Spy H.Q.

The culprits responsible turn out to be `Cammy Flage`, `Mahairee Yogi` and `Mr Tempest` who are led by `Mr Mastermind` . Mastermind has devised the plan to jail I. Spy and has deployed his virtually indestructible `Matic-Men` robots who even I. Spy could barely cope with, across the country to wreak havoc.

It all cumulates in a showdown in Masterminds castle-like headquarters where I. Spy has managed to secrete high explosives inside the casings of the now dormant (I. Spy got Mastermind to recall and deactivate them via a clever ruse) terror robots in an attempt to finally destroy them.

As I. Spy is about to escape through a window, Mastermind throws the switch to reactivate the Matic-men. In a huge detonation the H.Q, Matic-men, Mastermind and accomplices `and` I. Spy are all blown to bits. It was a truly shocking ending, one that stays in the mind of all I. Spy fans to this day. It is a wonderfully plotted story with plot nuances that were most probably too complex for younger readers, but that makes it stand today as easily the greatest achievement of all the `I. Spy` series.

I was devastated by the surprise ending; surely, the comic’s greatest character and strip weren’t ending forever? Readers flooded the editorial office with demanding letters (I was one such distraught I. Spy fan).

Happily, the comic never really had any intention of killing I. Spy off; but it made for a great cliff-hanger. I. Spy returned in October 1970, now drawn by Brian Walker (Peter Clark was still on board as writer). Walker’s artwork started out similar to Barton’s but he soon evolved his own style of penning the strip.

I could write reams and reams on the I. Spy strip, but don’t want to impede too much on Rab Smith’s article on the character for `Crikey! `.

Issue 227, 24th May 1969; saw the return of `Davey Spacer` for his third and final adventure. Now no longer following the Jonathan Swift books, this adventure saw Davey crash land on the ocean covered world of `Mermia`.

Davey befriended the Mermian people (who resembled Mermaids). He helped them in their struggles against two enemies. The first were the `Eightlegs` who were identical to Earth Octopi save for one huge Eightleg fellow!

The second enemy were the `Barbaries`; great `Roc` like birds who lived on nests of floating seaweed. Both the Eightlegs and Barbaries had been giving the Mermians a hard time before Davey appeared. It ran to issue 240, 23rd August. As stated this was the final Davey Spacer adventure in the comic.

The woefully unfunny `Wyatt Twerp` strip finished in issue 229, 7th June. Wyatt Twerp did return for a short time in the `Wyatt Twerp and Bugsy` one page strip, with Bugsy Muldoon ( a very unsavoury fellow indeed!) his `nemesis`. It wasn’t much of an improvement.

It was replaced the following week, issue 230, in the centre pages by `Kings of the Castle` which was drawn by Ken Harrison. The Kings lived in a castle and the `Dirty Rascals` were forever trying to get in (never mentioned why). A fairly inventive strip, even though it became increasingly unbelievable.

On June 21st 1969 (issue 231) the `Helpful Henry` strip was replaced by `Puss and Boots`. They were `humanised` cat and dog who constantly feuded. The strip was nothing too special at first, occupying page 16 in black and white for a few weeks. By August they were on the back page in colour. The strip became ever zanier and wonderfully funny, until by 1971 it was clearly the most popular strip in the comic.

By October 1973, issue 456, Puss and Boots were given a two page spread, some on the middle pages (and in colour) others just black and white. They were one of only five Sparky characters retained when the comic merged with Topper. Eventually, they were the only Sparky characters to last any real length of tenure! Puss and Boots were the comics `biggest hit`.

Here is the Sparky line up from issue 225.


SPARKY 225, 10th May 1969 5d

Page 1
`Barney Bulldog`

Page 2
`Peter Piper`

Page 3
`Esky Mo`

Pages 4 & 5
`Klanky`

Pages 6 & 7
`I. Spy` First of the two page longer serials. The second page replaced the `Harry Presto` and `Meddlesome Matty` strips. In this eight part story, I. Spy faced his most redoubtable enemy `Mr X` and his `super strength` pills.

Pages 8 & 9
`Invisible Dick`

Page 10
`Pansy Potter`
Page 11
`We Are the Sparky People`

Pages 12 & 13
`Wyatt Twerp`

Page 14
`Spoofer McGraw`

Page 15
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 16 & 17
`L. Cars`

Pages 18 & 19
`Funfare`

Pages 20 & 21
`The Jungle Ark`

Page 22
`Helpful Henry`

Page 23
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 24
`Cap ’N Hood and his Merry Men`


The `Cap ‘N Hood` strip ended in issue No 231, 21st June to be replaced in issue 232 by another `Big Billy Bigg` adventure.

This final (in Sparky comic) Billy story ran for 12 weeks to issue 243, 13th September on the colour back page. This tale led Billy and his friends to South America in the search for the legendary giant `Hugo`.

Hugo was no legend though, he was found covered in snow deeply asleep straddling two Andes range peaks. As luck would have it, he awoke, and though not openly hostile, was dangerous in his half asleep state. He was about sixty foot high and kept uttering the word `Geesachup`.

`Geesachup` it was learned meant `I’m hungry!”. Billy and friends set about feeding the giant with enough food to have pleased `Band-Aid`. Once sated, Hugo settled down for another two to three hundred years of sleep.

It was a very strange tale for Billy’s finale, but very enjoyable all the same. Seemingly, in Belgium the `Jerome / Billy` tales ran to the 1980s so why they finished in Sparky in mid 1969 is a mystery as I’m sure they were popular with the readers.

The third `Klanky` series finished in issue 239 to be replaced the next issue 240, 23rd August by one of the most inventive and enjoyable `adventure / fun` strips to appear in Sparky, titled `Mr Bubbles`.

Mr Bubbles was a `bottle imp` looking a bit like the `Mr Stay Puffed` character from `Ghostbusters` except that his humanoid shape was made of bubbles and unlike the colossal `Mr Stay Puffed` he was only about six inches in size!

He lived in what was to all purposes an everyday plastic squeezy washing up bottle. Any time anyone squeezed his bottle, Mr Bubbles would pop out (no laughing please!) He would grant three wishes to whomever the lucky? Squeezer was.

You didn’t have to be human-no! Mr Bubbles would grant wishes to animals, birds, fish and on one occasion a scarecrow (who had been brought to life by the previous `wisher`). Some of the stories reached heights of surrealism that only the `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` fun strip had managed circa 1965-67. It was a bit of a mix of that strip and the 1965 `Will O’ the Well` story from 1965.

Many wishes were quite bizarre! One young fellow wished for shadows (not Hank Marvin & co) to come to life, and then to be solid!

Another little girl wished that all grass and plants disappear and thus a world barren of all flora and fauna came to be. Another recipient of wishes asked for the oceans to disappear and another for a trip in a fairground ride to take him into outer space.

One lovely episode showed the inside of Mr Bubbles bottle when a young girl wished that she and her dog could see how Mr Bubbles lived. Readers saw for the first and only time that the inside of the bottle had a living room, a bedroom and a kitchen. It seems that Mr Bubbles needed to drink, eat and sleep. Other bodily functions we will pass over.

Mr Bubble’s powers were limitless and no wish was too difficult to achieve.

The strip did have a moral of sorts to it in that the first two wishes nearly always led to trouble for the person –or creature- wishing and they used the third and final wish to return things to how they were. It was a sort of `Be careful for what you wish for` lesson each week.

Not every tale took this turn, sometimes those wishing unselfishly on behalf of others got all they wished to go well, especially in the Christmas issue stories.

The strip enjoyed the second longest continuous run in the comic (just behind `Invisible Dick’s` tenure) from issue 240, 23rd August 1969, all the way to issue 546, 5th July 1975, a total of 306 continuous episodes. There were a few artists employed on the `Mr Bubbles` strip over the years, two I know of were Pam Chapaeu the `Dave and Dora` specialist and latter day `I. Spy` artist James Fox.

Issue 241, 30th August, introduced `The Jungle Walkers`. Set in Malaya during World War two it told of the harrowing trek across the jungle by children Mary, Tony and Ginger Walker to find which prison complex their parents had been incarcerated by the invading Japanese forces. It ran to issue 254, 29th November.

As September arrived the `1970 Sparky Book` was issued. The cover showed Keyhole Kate looking through a large keyhole where other Sparky characters could be seen. This cover picture was in red and blue. Here is the line up.



SPARKY BOOK 1970. Contents.

`Sparky`
`The Terrible Tasks of the Tambling Twins` #
`Kipper Feet`
`The Moonsters`
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`
`Klanky`
`Peter Piper`
`Pansy Potter`
`Smokey Joe` #
`Keyhole Kate`
`The Snooks`
`Hockey Hannah`
`My Grockle and Me`
`Nosey Parker`
`Snapshot Sid`
`Harry Carry`
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`
`Hungry Horace`
`Cuckoo in the Clock`
`Tom Tardy`
`Winnie the Witch`
`Meddlesome Matty`
`Hitch-hike Mike` #
`Charlie Chutney`
`Fireman Fred`
`Quick Dick` #
`Willie the Woeful Wizard`
`Do you want to be a Bobby? ` #
`Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer`
`Prentice Pete`
`Invisible Dick`
`Davey Spacer and the Battle of Puff-ball`
Cheating Charlie

The # sign indicated a `non-comic` strip.

This book has to be the worst offender of all Sparky books for being utterly out-of-step with the current comic. Most of the featured strips had long departed the comic, some such as `Hockey Hannah` in 1966 and `Kipper Feet` as far back as 1965! The 1971 book (issued in 1970) would be far closer to Sparky comic 1970.

The `non-comic` strip `The Terrible Tasks of the Tambling Twins` was actually based on an old Russian folk tale and had been one of the `Tales from Europe` programmes screened by BBC1 in the children’s slot in the 1960s (the `Singing, Ringing Tree` is the best remembered transmitted story from that series).

The artwork was very unique with what looks like finely airbrushed strokes, giving the strip a strong `fantasy` look.

From issue 242, 6th September 1969, the day of publication changed from Friday to Saturday. It would only stay a few months at Saturday publication though.

Issue 244, 20th September 1969 saw the introduction of the half page `Sams Snake`. Young Sam and his pet snake Snodgrass often thwarted bullies and ne’er- do- wells receiving slap-up meals as reward. The strip was drawn by artist Phil Millar who was one of the fellows who drew the saucy sea-side cards in the 1950s and 60s.

`Puss N’ Boots` now replaced `Big Billy Bigg` on the back page from issue 244, where they would stay for over three years and would soon become the comic’s most popular strip.

Though the comic had supposedly moved away from its fantasy roots of 1965-67 it did still produce the occasional strip that would look well in place in that era. One such offering was `The Misery King` which commenced in issue 255, 6th December 1969.

It was the story of the boy king (he was never named) of Pomenia (I wonder if that’s next door to `Woeful Wizard Willy’s residence of `Pom`?) This fellow was always miserable and so offered half his kingdom (as you do) to anyone who could show him true happiness.

Thus, came forward young urchin Timothy, who after many bizarre adventures, did teach the young king the meaning of true joy! Rather twee fare, which ran to issue 260, 10th January 1970.

1969 had seen great changes to the comic which would lead to its greatest period both artistically and sales wise. The two finest strips in its history began in 1969, `I. Spy` as one of the 1st February intake, and `Puss N’ Boots` who debuted in June that year. 1970 looked like a good year too.

alanultron5

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1970

Post by alanultron5 on Fri May 28, 2010 2:54 pm

Into the 70's now-with `1970`

1970. Consolidation and more `I. Spy`.

Issue 260, 10th January 1970 saw the announcement of more free gifts and new `fun pals` so the change to Saturday publication wasn’t working as well as hoped for in raising sales. This week saw the last episode of `The Misery King`,`Kings of the Castle` and `Esky Mo`.

Issue 261 saw a lesser re-shuffle than 1969s. Along with the free gift the comic introduced new strips `Bush boy` on the centre pages. Fun strips `Ali and his Baba`, `Wyatt Twerp and Bugsy` and the half page `I. Fly` also joined the list in issue 262, 24th January 1970. As well as all this, the very successful `I. Spy` strip gained another page, making it a three page affair.

Here is the list of strip changes for those weeks.


SPARKY RE-LAUNCH 17th & 24th JANUARY 1970.

New Strips Issues 261 & 262.

Out

`Kings of the Castle` (2 Pages)

`Esky Mo` (1 Page)

`The Misery King` (2 Pages)


In

`Bush boy` (2 Pages)

`Wyatt Twerp and Bugsy` (1 Page)

`Ali and his Baba` (1 Page)

`I. Fly` (1/2 Page)

Of the new strips, `Bush boy` which now occupied the centre pages vacated by the `Kings` (so he achieved what the Rascals never could!) was loosely based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs `Tarzan` adventures. More precisely, the strip copied the film version of `Boy` who was Tarzan’s son (by Jane of course!). It also borrowed, very heavily from `Lion` comic’s `Jungle Jak` 1967 storyline. The artist for the first season was Andy Tew. I am afraid I don’t know who drew the 1971 series.

A plane carrying youngster Terry Bradley and his parents on a sightseeing ride over the central African jungle gets into trouble and crashes. The youngster clambers out of the plane and wanders some distance before collapsing.

He is found by a gorilla that carries him away as both the pilots and his parents regain consciousness. A search is made for him without success. Finally, they give up the search and radio for help.

Young Terry grows a few years to become `Boy`. He can communicate with the jungle creatures and often helps them against game hunters. His constant enemy is Loki; the witch doctor of the N’ Gani tribe, with whom he clashes wits with quite often.

Here is a sample of Boy’s vocabulary, the terms he uses for different jungle creatures. A lion is `one who roars`. Elephants are `mighty ones`. `Ostriches` are `proud ones`, `Hippopotamus` are `heavy ones` and leopards are, not surprisingly `spotted ones`.

The first series of `Bush boy` ran to issue 275, 25th April 1970. It returned in 1971. Amazingly, Terry’s parents never came looking for him after that initial search which rings very unbelievable.

`Wyatt Twerp and Bugsy` was a one page return of sorts for Wyatt Twerp, this time with nemesis, one Bugsy Muldoon. Muldoon was the sort of fellow who would be thrown out of a gutter for lowering the tone of the place! Twerp was slightly redrawn by artist Ron Spencer for this outing, losing the large cleft chin of his first series.

The strip featured Bugsy’s many attempts (some successful) to clobber Twerp, or to perfect bank robberies (with no success). It was barely funnier than the original `Wyatt Twerp` series. As with that series, Ron Spencer was the artist.

One of the more inventive new fun pals was `Ali and his Baba` (later to be just `Ali’s Baba`). This concerned the adventures of a young toddler called `Baba`. Nothing unusual there-but! Baba had a invisible `bodyguard` the `Ali` of the title.

Ali was invisible to all, even Baba. He existed on a small cloud floating a few feet above ground. Ali could fly and was always busy preventing Baba from getting into trouble, well most of the time! It was a very inventive strip indeed.

Also new in the January 1970 intake was `I. Fly`. An update of `Freddie the Fearless Fly` and with a titular nod to the immensely popular `I. Spy` series, I. Fly was constantly hunted by his nemesis `Spider`. Spider was a really repulsive character who my (ten year old) sister was scared of. Perhaps those `Sir` rumours are true!

On 11th April 1970 starting with issue 273, the publication date changed again for the final time to Mondays.

In issue 276 (2nd May 1970) `Bush boy` made way for `Rudolph the Red Coat Mountie`. The premise here was that all other mounties in the force had failed to catch master of disguise, dangerous Dan McGurk and so it fell to assistant cook, Rudolph (we never found out his second name) to get his man!

It was drawn by Mike Lacey who is possibly best remembered for his version of `Smash` comics `The Swots and the Blots` circa 1968 to 1971.

Rudolph set out after McGurk on his horse, who it turned out, had more sense than his master! The chase took him right across the globe with many bizarre episodes ensuing. The strip ended in issue 299 (10th October 1970), with Rupert still chasing McGurk. The strip was repeated in 1976 but only in black and white then.

Here is a line up from issue 262.


SPARKY 262 24th January 1970 price 5d

“Free Inside, `Flicker Pics`.

Page 1
Barney Bulldog

Page 2
We Are the Sparky People

Pages 3 & 4
Invisible Dick

Page 5
Wyatt Twerp and Bugsy. This was a follow up to the Wyatt Twerp strip, now featuring Bugsy Muldoon, a sort of ninth rate cheesy slob! It wasn’t a great success.

Page 6
Hungry Horace

Pages 7, 8 & 9
I. Spy. Now at three pages this strip was the highlight of the comic. This adventure introduced new `deadly` adversary, `Mr Mastermind` a villain who would actually conquer the world (this story) and turn out to be quite as formidable a foe to I. Spy as Mr X`.

Page 10
Top Half- Sam’s Snake. The comic adventures of young Sam and his intelligent snake, Snodgrass. Bottom half, `I. Fly` an updated `Freddie the Fly` type strip with title character I. Fly always staying one step ahead of his horrendously ugly nemesis `Spider` (`Did` Ian Chisolm know about this characters resemblance?)

Page 11
Peter Piper

Pages 12 & 13
Bush Boy. This was a sort of `Junior Tarzan` strip. `Boy` seemingly never went back to civilisation.

Page 14
Spoofer McGraw

Pages 15 & 16
Mr Bubbles

Page 17
Pansy Potter

Pages 18 & 19
L. Cars

Pages 20 & 21
Fun Fare

Page 22
Keyhole Kate

Page 23
Ali and his Baba Little `Baba` doesn’t know that he is `sort of`` protected by `Ali` his invisible bodyguard. Bit like a guardian angel I suppose!

Page 24
Puss and Boots. This strip was by this time fast becoming an all time great!


The marvellous `I. Spy` strip ended (only temporarily, thank goodness) in issue 279, 23rd May 1970. It was replaced by two strips in issue 280, 30th May. One was the return of an old pal, `Klanky`.

The new `Klanky` two page strip was without `Faithful Hound` whom I presume either got rust or was sent home (to planet J) as punishment for some misdemeanour too awful to tell!

The strip was called `Around the World with Klanky`. Klanky won a world cruise for four (so he could take Ernie, Sis and Dad Huggins). The differing adventures in each country they visited made up the series. It ran to issue No 299, 10th October.

The other strip replacing the three page `I. Spy` strip in issue 280 was fun strip `Trouble Bruin` (brewing-geddit?). It concerned Bruin bear; he lived on a national park and was always attempting to get honey from one particular hive.

The bees who were led in military fashion always thwarted poor Bruin no matter how hard he tried to obtain the precious honey. The strip was drawn by John Geering who produced Puss and Boots. I enjoyed it very much.

On the back page the Puss and Boots strip was going from strength to strength, rapidly becoming the comic’s most popular strip ever. The Pansy Potter strip had become very funny in this period and was very enjoyable indeed.

In the 15th August `Puss N’ Boots` episode in issue 291, the word `Nirdle` was uttered (by a harassed policeman) for the first time. The comic would become a bit obsessed by `Nirdle`. Over the years readers would be invited to send in drawings of what `Nirdles` looked like or to debate their purpose!? The `We Are the Sparky People` strip often used the word. Seemingly `Nirdle` became quite a fixation at the Sparky offices.

Here is the line up of a mid 1970 `Sparky`


SPARKY No 282, 13th June 1970.

Page 1
`Barney Bull dog`

Page 2
`We are the Sparky People`

Page 3
`Hungry Horace`

Pages 4 & 5
`Invisible Dick`

Page 6
`Trouble Bruin` Fun strip adventures of a bear who just cannot succeed in raiding one particular hive.

Page 7
`Wyatt Twerp and Bugsy`

Pages 8 & 9
`Around the World with Klanky`

Page 10
Top half, `Sam’s Snake` Bottom half, `I. Fly`

Page 11
`Peter Piper`

Pages 12 & 13
`Rudolph the Red Coat Mountie` Rudolph chases dangerous Dan McGurk around the world to little avail.

Page 14
`Spoofer McGraw`

Pages 15 & 16
`Mr Bubbles`

Page 17
`Pansy Potter`

Pages 18 & 19
`L. Cars`

Pages 20 & 21
`Fun fare`

Page 22
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 23
`Ali and his Baba`

Page 24
`Puss N’ Boots`


On August 1st, issue No 289, the cover price rose to 6d, the comics first hike in price since it began, it wouldn’t be its last.

Many fans dearly missed the `I. Spy` strip and as far as I know the comic received its greatest ever feedback via letters regarding the `demise` of `I. Spy`. The first sign of his return was a letter published in the `Funfare` pages in issue 289, 1st August 1970. The letter was one of the questions put to character `Spoofer McGraw` in the sub-section of `Funfare` titled `Spooferama` where readers could send in any question to the `know-it-all` schoolboy character.

Haydon Jones of Flintshire asked if `I. Spy` had survived? Spoofers answer was then rubbed out by what looked very much like I. Spy’s hand and suited arm.

Issue 296, 19th September saw a little figure clambering about the `Sparky` letters on the front cover. He was barely visible, but keen eyed readers knew who it was. The following week’s issue 297 saw the figure bustling his way through more of the `Sparky` letters on the cover. Inside in the regular `Funfare` letters page, reader J. White of Glasgow asked if other readers had noticed the figure the week before. `Sparky` replied “Hundreds!”

Issue 298 had the figure back on the `Sparky` letters. Inside in `Funfare` another reader guessed who it was; but most of their letter and their name was ink blotted out by a familiar hand and arm!

Issue 299s cover had the figure zoom out of the cover leaving only a word balloon stating “see you inside” It was in the `L.Cars` page where he finally surfaced.

The L.Cars boys Frederick and Cedric are amazed to find that every crook in the area is being caught and delivered to jail by a `phantom crook catcher`. Their inspector feels they are redundant and sacks them! (There were no unions in the `Sparky` world obviously!).

They decide the only way of confronting the mysterious figure who put them out of work is to become crooks themselves in a ruse to catch him. However, the public aren’t fooled saying “It’s only those nice officers Frederick and Cedric”. Observing them from a post box a pair of eyes weighs up the situation!

The Inspector catches the pair thinking they are really crooked. As they explain to their unbelieving, former, boss the character in the post box speaks out confirming their story. To the trio’s shock, `I. Spy` pops out of what was a disguise post box telling them he was just getting some practise catching the crooks!

The overcrowded jail bursts open releasing all the crooks, leading to the inspector begging Frederick and Cedric to re-join. I. Spy walks away stating he is ready to work.

The following week of 17th October 1970, issue 300 saw the first story of the second I. Spy series. I. Spy is seen telling Boss how he was just getting out of a window in Mastermind’s H.Q when the detonation occurred. He was blown clear but injured and his devices badly damaged. He spent the last few months repairing his devices and recuperating. This series was drawn by Brian Walker. Walker was better than Les Barton in drawing machinery or intricate detail on objects, but not as able in portraying facial detail on characters.

The first story, issues 300 to 305, pitted I. Spy against `Fatman`, a fellow in what looks like a version of the suit Russ Abbot would wear to comic effect.

The `Fatman` device was to be the replacement for I. Spy who Boss had believed dead. It was discovered that the inventor of the suit, one professor Froghoppit was putting it to criminal use. It was a fair opening story that contained the most elaborate `death-trap` ever seen in a `fun` strip when I. Spy and Boss are connected to a intricately booby trapped bomb by their enemy.

The second story running from issue 306 to 311 (2nd January 1971) was a beauty! `The Ghost of Mr X` saw what seemed like Mr X` (he had seemingly drowned in the Thames in their last encounter) ghost threaten to `vanish` the U.K piece-by-piece`

Mr X could vanish at will and started to carry out his threat starting with the Isle of Man. As chunks of the U.K started disappearing I. Spy and Boss got on the case, which I. Spy soon started to solve. Mr X `wasn’t` a ghost but had seemed to be due to a super fuel which could make objects-and people-zoom about at incredible speed! X had kidnapped the fuel’s creator, `Professor Fixit` and used his invention to evil ends.

Mr X final threat was to start pushing the world towards the Sun. He had constructed two huge fuel burners at each of Earth’s poles and on firing the one at the South Pole was pushing the planet closer to the sun. He would only relent if the United Nations would sign over full world control to him. In the nick of time I. Spy clobbered Mr X and set the world back on keel. `Aye McSpy` made an appearance in this story in helpful mode to I. Spy. For me, this was the best `Mr X` story.

After that superb offering, the story that ran in issues 312 to 314 `The Voice` is in my opinion, by far the poorest of the black and white series to date! This tale brought back `Granny Spy` and the story’s villain `Fingers` was easily the most forgettable `I. Spy` villain in the canon.

Happily, following that poor show, the season concluded on a tremendous story that ran from issues 315 to 321 (note! Due to a numbering error there were two sets of Sparky 316-319, more of that later!)

A plush Rolls Royce pulls up outside an army compound and the chauffer cuts a hole in the wire fencing. This allows a ball-like device that has been released from the Rolls to trundle inside. By implementing two snake-like appendages the device copies both security guards and a tank and its complement.

The `copy` tank and crew obeys the mysterious figure in the car and carries out a bank raid. The real tank crew are quizzed by the police (the `copies` have been `switched off`) one guard swears he saw his own double.

I. Spy hears of these perplexing events and Boss and he investigate. Soon I. Spy is battling his own double! He wins, but further pursuit of the mystery villain is thwarted by numerous helicopters –which one is real?

The main man behind all this turns out to be none other than `Mr Mastermind`. He too had survived their last encounter though injured, and now wears a flesh toned glove over an artificial right hand, the index finger of which can fire bullets!

Mastermind succeeds in copying the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the chiefs of staff of both the armed and security forces. I. Spy and a captured Boss are branded attempted murderers and traitors. Thankfully, I. Spy eventually wins out. A tremendous season finale, this was in my opinion the best ever drawn `I. Spy` story.

Issue 300 also saw the `Mr Bubbles` strip move to the two centre pages in full colour to issue 314. After that `Mr Bubbles` moved back to two black and white pages for the rest of its run in the comic.

One very strange strip from 1970 was `Four Legged Fred`. Drawn by James Fox, this was the adventures of a 400 year old Centaur! Fred had been trapped inside a big rock for all those years (we were never told how he got into such a fix!) until a bolt of lightning set him free. Unusually, the strips initial introductory episode was as a one page simply drawn `fun` strip. But from the second episode onward it became a better drawn two page effort. Fred only ran from issues 299 (10th October 1970) to 314 (23rd January 1971) never to return.

The `Sparky Book 1971` appeared in September 1970. The cover which was mainly red saw `Keyhole Kate` and `Hungry Horace` fighting over a pie with a keyhole shaped hole in its crust!


SPARKY BOOK 1971 Contents.

Barney Bulldog
L.Cars
Meddlesome Matty
Ali’s Baba
Invisible Dick
Esky Mo
The Alley Cats #
Spoofer McGraw
We Are the Sparky People
Rudolph the Red-Coat Mountie
Hungry Horace
Kings of the Castle
Keyhole Kate
I. Spy
Pansy Potter
Peter Piper
Wyatt Twerp
Oh Crumbs +
Harry Presto
Puss N’ Boots
Klanky
Davey Spacer and the Iron Men

# = Non Sparky strip
+ = `Oh Crumbs` though not in the Sparky comic at the time of the Sparky book 1971 release (September 1970) did appear from August 1972 to April 1973 as `Captain Cutler and his Butler` The butler being `Crumbs`.

The `I. Spy` strip saw him encounter Slinky Snitchovitch who has stolen a rocket!

1970 saw the comic enter perhaps its greatest period of creativity. Both the `Puss N’ Boots` and `Pansy Potter` strips improved in leaps and bounds. The `I. Spy` strip reached its apex and the comic really seemed to be going from strength to strength that year. The following year of 1971 would see it reach it’s peak-certainly in my opinion it did.

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1971

Post by alanultron5 on Sat May 29, 2010 11:10 am

And now! It's 1971 time!

1971 Sparky at it’s peak.


Issue 314 saw the final `Trouble Bruin` strip. Though inventive, and quite funny in my view, it hadn’t really taken off with the majority of readers. This strip and the final `Four Legged Fred` made way in another re-haul with two weeks of free gifts! This duly occurred on the weeks of 30th January and 6th February 1971, issues 315 and 316. The comic’s logo still remained unchanged.

As well as `Trouble Bruin` and `Four Legged Fred` ending, the `Sam’s Snake` and `I. Fly` strips were rested to issue 322, 20th March 1971.

Here is the list of strips dropped and those introduced.


SPARKY RE-LAUNCH 30th January & 6th February 1971

Issues 315 & 316

OUT

`Trouble Bruin` (1 Page)

`Four Legged Fred` (2 Pages)

Rested to issue 322 (20th March) `Sam’s Snake` `I. Fly` (both ½ Page)


IN

`Ma Kelly’s Telly` (1 Page)

`King’s of the Castle (2 Pages) #

`Willie Getaway` from issue 316 (1 Page)

# = `King’s of the Castle` was a returning strip.


New fun pals were the returning Kings of the Castle and the brand new `Ma Kelly’s Telly`. In issue 316 the new `fun` pal was `Willie Getaway` (or will he not?).

`Ma Kelly’s Telly` was drawn by the first I. Spy artist, Les Barton. It was very similar to a 1966 I.P.C comics `Smash` strip `The Tellybugs`. Both concerned little men inside a telly set who were actually in charge of performing every programme chosen!

Pa Kelly was always thumping the set when things went wrong (which they often did). It was an inventive and fairly amusing strip.

`Willy Getaway`, drawn by Phil Millar, however soon became monotonous. The fun story of an heir to a fortune who, due to his short-sightedness, thinks he is wanted for a crime he is innocent of. His `man on the run` antics soon became tedious, up to near `Invisible Dick` monotony levels. Amazingly, the strip lasted for more than two years-Why!?

Here is the 1971 line up for issue 316.

SPARKY No 316, 6th February 1971, 2. ½ pence.

`Free inside, the `Whoopee Whistle`
Page 1
Barney Bulldog

Page 2
Peter Piper

Pages 3, 4 & 5
I. Spy. This was the second part of a seven part story in which I. Spy finds out that `Mr Mastermind` is still around and as deadly as ever, causing mayhem with his `Copycat` machine.

Page 6
Hungry Horace

Page 7
Ma Kelly’s Telly

Pages 8 & 9
Mr Bubbles

Page 10
Keyhole Kate

Page 11
Ali and his Baba

Pages 12 & 13
Kings of the Castle

Page 14
We Are the Sparky People

Page 15
Willie Getaway

Pages 16 & 17
L. Cars

Pages 18 & 19
Invisible Dick

Page 20
Pansy Potter

Pages 21 & 22
Funfare

Page 23
Spoofer McGraw

Page 24
Puss and Boots


For collectors of Sparky comic 1971 is a tricky year. This is because of a numbering error. There are actually two sets of issues 316 to 319. Only the dates are correct! The true 316 to 319 date from 6th to 27th February 1971. The second lot of 316-319 (which should number 320 to 323) date 6th to 27th March 1971. The issues are correct from issue 324 dated 3rd April 1971.

In May 1971 the issue dated 22nd May was numbered No 332, and the issue dated 29th May was numbered No 331, most confusing when re-collecting old Sparky’s.

Replacing `I. Spy` in issue 322 (though wrongly numbered 318) on 20th March 1971 was a sci-fi story titled `The Mini-Martins`. The Martin family, Dad, Mom young Janet and Alan are accidentally shrunk to six inches in height by an alien ray device.

The story consists of the tiny Martins trying to thwart a forthcoming alien invasion. Evil Earth scientist, one professor Slaughter, is in league with nameless aliens led by leader Shapiro (hope he never sang!).

Amazingly, the Martins win the day by alerting the authorities. The aliens flee as it is too soon for a mass invasion, leaving professor Slaughter to Earth justice! The Martins are returned to normality by reversal of the one device that Slaughter still possessed. It was a fair strip, drawn by the artist who had drawn the final `Davey Spacer` adventure. It ran to issue No 331 (which was really issue 332) 29th May.

Issue 323 (which was wrongly numbered 319) dated 27th March, introduced fun strip `Tom Kat`. It was drawn by first `I. Spy` artist Les Barton. Tom Kat was forever attempting to get away with purloining fish from his nemesis the fishmonger. It followed the same path as the Beano’s `The Three Bears`. Tom Kat won out more than the bears ever did.

Issue 333, 5th June, saw the very welcome return of `I. Spy`. `Tom Kat` was rested for five issues from this point to allow the first three paged `I. Spy` adventure.

This first five part story pitted I. Spy against the deadly `Dr Q` who had devised a method of physically liquidising down the elements of persons best representing the traits of Courage, Strength, Fitness, Intelligence and Leadership. One of Q’s small –time crook helpers was `Fingers` from `The Voice` adventure in a nice bit of continuity.

Issue 338 saw the return of `Tom Kat`. This was due to the second `I. Spy` story being reduced to two pages per episode from this point onward.

The second `I. Spy` story contracted the pages back to two. The six part story saw old nemesis `Mr X` escape from Jail (aided by accomplices) using a hypnotic musical coda. Mr X actually manages to hijack the inaugural UK space shot and pipes the paralyzing music right across the UK. It ran from issues 338, 10th July, to No 343, 14th August.

The third `I. Spy` story of the series was perhaps the most bizarre of the lot! Starting in issue 344, 21st August, running for six weeks to issue 349, 25th September, it told of the mysterious and seemingly 17th century `Skywaymen` who possessed an anti-gravity device that was powered by gold.

Incredibly, the Skywaymen were part of a community that were descended from 17th century alchemists who had discovered the anti gravity powers of gold when subjected to a certain chemical process. The second effect of the process neutralised all mechanical and electrical devices which put I. Spy at their (not too friendly) mercy.

They lived in a floating city always surrounded by cloud so as to be undetectable by the modern world. I. Spy won the day when aided by the friendly faction of townspeople who just wanted to be left in peace. I. Spy promised to keep their secret, not even letting Boss spy in on it. It finished in issue 349, 25th September, the final episode expanding to three pages.

The final story in the series opened with the awesome `Mr Mastermind` who was incarcerated by himself in one whole prison with a small army of warders as he was deemed that dangerous. He managed to get tiny transistor parts smuggled in to enable him to construct (in secret of course!) a small radio transmitter!

Sending a signal to the old headquarters where he and I. Spy had almost died in the great explosion, he contacted a deep underground chamber that housed six mark two `Matic Men`.

These mark two robots were even more powerful and indestructible than the first lot who had given I. Spy so much trouble. They soon freed Mastermind from his cell and all went on a rampage of destruction across London. Learning that the Royal family are holidaying in Balmoral castle, Scotland, Mastermind decides that Buckingham palace will make a fitting home for he and his metal servants.

He duly forges a path through the armed forces and ensconces himself at the palace. I. Spy counsels the prime minister and chiefs of staff that no amount of physical force can harm the Matic-men as they are invulnerable to such attack. He has a plan!

Pretending to Mastermind that he has given in, I. Spy states he wants to join the arch-criminal, something Mastermind had always hoped for. However, Mastermind has his suspicions and it is only when it is announced on all news channels that I. Spy has turned traitor that Mastermind relaxes his guard a little.

Boss spy acting on a secret code word from I. Spy, manages to surreptitiously tape enough of Mastermind’s bragging of how the Matic-men obey only him due to personal voice recognition. In a spare moment while Mastermind bathes in a specially constructed swimming pool that his Matic-men have built in the palace grounds, I. Spy edits together enough of Mastermind’s words in a form that turns over control of the Matic-men to he and Boss.

Mastermind is beaten, but before being returned to jail, there is the matter of filling in the swimming pool! A task the criminal is put hard to work at. Running for six weeks from issues 350 to 355 (2nd October to 6th November) this was the final story of the 1971 series and the last of the truly great `. I. Spy stories. The series would return very soon, but there would be big changes.

The Sparky Book 1972 was released in September. It featured `Keyhole Kate` and `Hungry Horace` for the second year running. This cover saw them each having a `Puss N’ Boots` glove puppet doing battle. The background colour was predominately blue.


SPARKY BOOK 1972. Contents.

Barney Bulldog
Hungry Horace
Puss N’ Boots
Mr Bubbles
L.Cars
Keyhole Kate
Wyatt Twerp & Bugsy
Invisible Dick
Peter Piper
Spoofer McGraw
Sam’s Snake
I. Fly
Pansy Potter
I. Spy
Trouble Bruin
Klanky
Esky Mo
We Are the Sparky People
Ali and his Baba
Kings of the Castle

For `I. Spy` fans this book is a treat. There is a really good story “Someone’s Eating the Moon” featuring arch villain `Mr X`. Further on there is a two page game where I. Spy has to reach Spy H.Q while avoiding Mr X, Mastermind, Mr Tempest, Mahairee Yogi, Aye McSpy, and most dreaded of all, Granny Spy!

Issue No 356, 13th November 1971 saw the commencement of what I find quite a nauseating strip titled `Tess of the Taoki`. The Taoki are a South American tribe who believe young Tess O’ Connor to be a Goddess when they see her alighting from a helicopter.

They send a raiding party to England to capture her!

The premise of this story is so absurd and the racial stereotyping would make the national front blush! The fact that this scurrilous bilge was commissioned, says a lot about UK comics, even in the early 1970s.

Thankfully, it didn’t bother the pages of Sparky for too long ending in issue 363, 1st January 1972, and good riddance!

Issue 356 also saw the `Keyhole Kate` strip rested for three weeks to issue 359.

`I. Spy` returned in issue 360, 11th December, replacing `Bush boy` in the two colour centre pages. Sadly, there must have been some editorial discussion regarding the tone of the strip as this series was very much aimed at younger readers, and subsequently consisted of less detailed plotted storylines and a change in the style of artwork to reflect this new move!

Most of the early weeks of the new `I. Spy` series featured a new criminal `Mr Ee` (mystery) whose face was never seen. (What was it with `Sparky` comic and this obsession in not showing characters faces? E.g. `Sir`, I. Spy` and now `Mr Ee`)

`Mr X` and `Mastermind` had a story each in this series. The `Mastermind` story was fair, with the villain escaping jail via his `age` device which could accelerate or reduce the age of any person or object fired at. Sadly, the `Mr X` story was woeful! Mr X has stolen every ice lolly and ice cream in the land. With the boiling summer (1972 had a poor summer in reality!) he is holding the country to ransom, oh dear!

Until I was corrected on the UK Comics site, I truly believed both a different artist and writer were responsible for this `rather more humour based` series. Peter Clark (writer) and Brian Walker (artist) were still at the helm, but I thought it had a new artist and writer. On the whole, I find the more `humour` based plots not to my liking at all in this series; far too much slapstick in my view. Brian Walkers artwork looks quite different to me in colour, but I know I am in a minority of one on this. One thing does seem clear to me, is the loss of detail in Brian’s portrayal of Mr X and Mastermind in the colour series as both can be compared to how he tackled them in his first two black and white series on the strip. There; he drew both to per-excellence! Quite outstanding detail on both villains! Sadly, in my own personal view, the colour depictions of both are not as detailed-but! This would be no fault of Brian’s as it would be deemed applicable to the new direction the strip had gone in. I am afraid I did not take too much to this new `direction`.

The series finished in issue 396, 19th August 1972, after a final four part, with three pages each part, story featuring `Dr Killjoy` and his `softener` sprays.

1971 was probably the comic’s peak both artistically and financially (good sales). After this a slow decline would set in.

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Sat May 29, 2010 11:11 am

I will be awat till Tuesday aft! The remaining year chapters 1972 - 77 are much shorter so I should be able to put two at a time on from Tuesday!

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1972

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:23 pm

Sorry for delayo-been upgrading the file!

1972. An uneventful year.


1972 continued in similar fashion to 1971. The first change to the line up was on 8th January, issue 364 with a western styled strip titled `The Wild West Kids` replacing the abysmal `Tess of the Taoki`.

The `Wild West Kids` was set in Memphis in 1848. Tom Kidd decides to join the California gold rush (as you do) and leaves his wife and children, Lucy and Billy in Memphis while he jaunts off to make his fortune!

Unfortunately, their mother falls ill and the children decide to join their father in California. The rest of the story tells of the adventures they have on the way. It was pretty standard fare that ran to issue No 376, 1st April 1972.

The 15th January issue, No 365, saw a racial `joke` in the `Willie Getaway` strip. Sadly, Sparky comic seemed to get `worse` in this respect as the 1970s progressed, in particular two `L. Cars` episodes were really crass, more on those later.

Issue 375, 25th March, saw what I believe to be the strangest `Mr Bubbles` episode, the one in which he brought peoples `Shadows` to life.

Issue 377, 8th April saw old favourite `Klanky` return for a very long run. This series saw another change of artist with James Fox taking over artwork duties. Fox drew many of the `Mr Bubbles` episodes and would draw the final `I. Spy` series from 1974 to 1976. This final series of Klanky’s adventures on earth ran to issue 499 a total of 122 episodes which was more episodes than his first four series together! Klanky is one of the most fondly remembered Sparky `fun pals` to this day.

The colour `I. Spy` series ended in issue 396, 19th August on what was a very good premise for a story. Villain, `Dr Killjoy` hates any signs of joy and is determined to force the country into a reign of `misery` controlled by he. To aid him he has two kinds of sprays: the first `rubberises` all it touches (for a short while) making even the ground like rubber! The second spray can liquidise anything, again including the ground! Thankfully, no persons are hit by this particular spray!

Killjoy and his men set out to `liquidise` London, but I. Spy manages to blow back the cloud onto the villains and their tanker of `liquefying` agent, rendering them useless. The series end’s on a daft note with I. Spy raising a smile from Killjoy via tickling him under the chin with a feather! Such a shame I felt, as the plot held much promise, but as with the rest of this colour I. Spy series, strength of plot gave way to slapstick humour; a great shame in my opinion.

The series was then replaced in the centre colour pages the following issue No 397 by `Captain Cutler and his Butler`.

Captain Cutler and butler `Crumbs` decided to search for the source of the river `Bungo`. The strip was pretty bizarre with many `in jokes` concerning the artist of the strip. The funniest part of each week’s adventure was the opening caption that detailed each of the captains exploits previous to the current caper!

With September approaching it was time for the next Sparky book. The 1973 book featured a `L. Cars` cover set mainly in blue.


SPARKY BOOK 1973. Contents.


Barney Bulldog
We are the Sparky People
Puss N’ Boots
Hungry Horace
Sam’s Snake
Ma Kelly’s Telly
Peter Piper
Keyhole Kate
L. Cars
I. Fly
I. Spy
Ali and his Baba
Mr Bubbles
Invisible Dick
Spoofer McGraw
Pansy Potter
Bush boy
Klanky
Willie Getaway
Kings of the Castle

The `I. Spy` strip saw him tackle a spy ring `At the Hotel Paradiso`


The 30th September issue No 402, saw the final `Ma Kelly’s Telly` fun strip.

Sparky underwent another logo change from issue 403; October 7th 1972 it now put two star shaped holes where the normal holes in the P and A letters would be. The sparking Y was now elongated and no longer sparked! Two weeks of free gifts and new `fun` pals were ushered in.


SPARKY issue 403, 7th October 1972


“Free inside: The Super `Big Noise` Actually an updated `Rackety flier!

Page 1
Barney Bulldog

Page 2
We are the Sparky People

Page 3
Peter Piper

Pages 4 & 5
Klanky

Page 6
Hungry Horace

Page 7
Snip and Snap. A new strip featuring two vicious dogs (breed uncertain) who terrorised their local postman. The artwork was very strange in this strip.

Pages 8 & 9
Mr Bubbles

Page 10
Puss and Boots Temporarily in B/W as their back page slot was utilised for advertising next weeks free gift.

Page 11
Ali and his Baba

Pages 12 & 13
Captain Cutler and his Butler. A new strip. Captain Cutler and his Butler `Crumbs` set out to darkest Africa to find the source of the river Bungo! Best bit about this strip was the comic text introduction each week with a superbly funny opening prologue

Example = “When Captain Cutler discovered an India Rubber he spent the next ten years on his hands and knees trying to rub out India!”

Page 14
Dreamy Daniel A new strip. Daniel suffered daydreams and delusions! This wasn’t an update of the `Dreamy Dave and Dora` strip as Daniel would be wide awake-just in his own dream world. I can’t say I find it funny.

Page 15
Top Half. Sam’s Snake.
Bottom Half. “Get This!” Sparky Book 1973, advert.

Pages 16 & 17
L. Cars

Page 18
Keyhole Kate

Page 19
Willie Getaway

Pages 20 & 21
Invisible Dick

Page 22
Funfare. Now reduced to one page.

Page 23
Spoofer McGraw

Page 24
Advert for next weeks free gift, the `Punchy Pete` balloon.

Here are the strip changes issues 403 and 404.


SPARKY RELAUNCH 7th & 14th October 1972.

Issues 403 & 404


OUT

`Ma Kelly’s Telly` (had actually terminated in issue 402, 1 page)

Tom Kat (1 page)

IN

Dreamy Daniel (1 page)

Snip and Snap (1 page)


The two new fun strips, both debuting in issue 403, 7th October, were differing affairs. `Dreamy Daniel` concerned a young boy `Daniel` who spent most of his time in a world of his own. He would believe himself on differing weeks to be a spy, soldier, hit man, Viking, etc and on one occasion, the only survivor of a world catastrophe!

His waking `day dreams` would set the action for the strip. Can’t say that it does much for me, but it lasted right through to the papers last issue.

`Snip and Snap` were two small but vicious dogs that belonged to an old lady. Their `prey` was the postman who they regularly tormented. He did sometimes win the odd tussle though!

The strip had some truly funny and inventive episodes, and is one of the comic’s most underrated offerings. The artwork was unusual in having an `airbrushed` look and took a bit of getting used to. I am afraid that I don’t know who drew the strip.

The 1972 `overhaul` in terms of strips in & out, was the smallest of the comic’s nine in it’s tenure, so it is rather surprising that a change of Logo took place as well. Possibly, by the 1970s, changing the comics logo was less of a `big event`.

Sadly, from late 1972, the comic went into a gradual decline. The comic seemed to lose the `magic touch` it had from 1969 to 1972.

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1973

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:24 pm

And now! 1973!

1973 The Decline Begins.

1973 would see a gradual decline in the fortunes of Sparky leading to cancellation in 1977. It wasn’t just a lack of entertaining strips that caused this though. Rival company I.P.C had been flooding the comic market over the past few years and all sales were down with so many titles around. There was a general decline in comic sales anyway and all companies would suffer.

1973 saw no more `serious` adventure strips, only fun styled ones such as `Klanky` `Invisible Dick` or `Mr Bubbles` would continue.

The first real signs of a decline in strip quality came after the `Captain Cutler and his Butler` strip ended in issue 426, 17th March 1973. The following week a two page effort titled `Jumbo and Jet` began in the centre pages, issue No 427.

`Jumbo and Jet` was the supposedly funny adventures of an elephant and mouse. It occupied the centre pages in colour. Artwork was by the artist who drew Snip and Snap. Unlike that strip though, none of the humour was replicated.

In all honesty, I can confidently state that I find it about as entertaining as a `blind boil! How this woefully dull strip came to be commissioned is one of the remaining unanswered questions of all time!

Issue 427, 24th March, saw the very final `I. Fly` and Sam’s Snake` strips and the `Funfare` page back to two pages.

There was a change to the title of “We are the Sparky People” from issue 436, 26th May. The “We are” was dropped leaving just “The Sparky People”

Issue 447 saw another logo change. The `Sparky` became a `block lettered` affair which looked very dull indeed! The front cover `Barney Bull Dog` strip now became a one page panel titled `Barney`. It was unusual in that this was the only time in the comic’s history that it changed it’s logo `without` free gift offers or new `fun pals`, yes, quite strange!

Issue 447 saw the `Peter Piper` strip expand to two pages (it would vary between one and two pages for some months before settling as a two page strip). This issue also saw the `Spoofer McGraw` page dropped for one week.

Issue 448, returned `Spoofer` but dropped `Willie Getaway` to issue 451, 8th September 1973 (no great loss there). The `Peter Piper` strip reverted back to one page for that week, becoming two pages again in next weeks issue 452.

The utterly unfunny `Jumbo and Jet` finished in issue 455 (hooray!) to be replaced next issue No 456, 13th October, in the centre colour pages by the comics (by this time) best strip, `Puss N’ Boots`. Issue 455, 6th October 1973 also saw the start of back page `pin-up’s`. The first one being `Frederic and Cedric` from `L. Cars`

On 15th December 1973, issue No 465, `Peter Piper` took a weeks rest as `I. Spy` came back for three weeks. The three adventures were old strips from original `I. Spy` artist Les Barton. It was lovely to see these very early works.

In issue 466, `Klanky` made way for a week to accommodate the second `I. Spy` adventure, with `Peter Piper` returning. Issue 467 saw `Invisible Dick` take the final one-week sabbatical for I. Spy`.

Issue 466, 22nd December saw the very last reference to the `Sparky` character when the `Funfare` paged changed to `Dear Sir`. These two pages allowed readers to send in letters, cartoons and jokes to Editor, Sir! Unlike the way he treated his staff, the tyrannical `Sir` always remained polite to the readers!

The `Dear Sir` page introduced a quarter page strip called `Minnie the Tea Lady`. Minnie had appeared occasionally in the `Sparky People` strip. Her `Tea` could strip paint off walls-and sometimes did!

On the whole 1973 seems to be a year when Sparky comic seemed to run out of steam a little.

Here is a line up for a late summer 1973 issue.


SPARKY No 447, 11th August 1973.

Page 1
Barney Bulldog.

Pages 2 & 3
Peter Piper. This strip was now two pages, it did return to just one page at times, but by 1976 it was a regular two page offering.

Pages 4 & 5
Klanky

Page 6
Hungry Horace

Page 7
Snip and Snap

Pages 8 & 9
Mr Bubbles

Page 10
Pansy Potter

Page 11
Ali and his Baba

Pages 12 & 13
Jumbo and Jet Surely the dullest `fun strip` in the comics history. Thankfully, someone in the Sparky office must have woken up, because it didn’t last too long.

Page 14
Dreamy Daniel

Page 15
Keyhole Kate

Pages 16 & 17
L. Cars

Pages 18 & 19
Invisible Dick

Pages 20 & 21
Funfare

Page 22
Willie Getaway

Page 23
The Sparky People

Page 24
Puss and Boots


The Sparky Book 1974 which went on sale early September 1973 saw `I. Spy` on the cover crossing a busy road! An odd cover! It was mostly white in tone. Here is the line up.



SPARKY BOOK 1974. Contents.

Barney Bulldog
Peter Piper
Puss N’ Boots
Mr Bubbles
Ali and His Baba
Hungry Horace
L. Cars
Keyhole Kate
We are the Sparky People
I. Fly
I. Spy
Sam’s Snake
Pansy Potter
Spoofer McGraw
Dreamy Daniel
Ma Kelly’s Telly
Invisible Dick
The Time Kidds #
Jumbo and Jet
Klanky
Snip and Snap
Tom Kat
Kings of the Castle
Bush Boy

The `I. Spy` strip called `Wellington Boot Esquire` In which Mr Boot and his colossal mechanical shoe go on a crime spree.

# = A non comic strip.

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1974

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:25 pm

And now! 1974!

1974 More Gifts and A Final Re-Launch.

1974 saw the comic start another series of changes in what were possibly the final efforts to reactivate sales. It may have staved off closure for a year or eighteen months but the decline had set in.

`Peter Piper` was back to one page from issue 468, 5th January 1974. The by now very monotonous Willie Getaway` strip now returned (boo!).

Issue 473, 9th February, saw `Peter Piper` expand again to two pages with Willie Getaway dropping out again (hooray!). The series of pin-ups on the back pages ended with `Mr Bubbles` as the final one. The back page then became home, from issue 474 for `Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding`. This strip about the comic exploits of a German world war one flying ace has its fans of later period Sparky readers. Myself? I just see it as yet another tired excuse for racial stereotyping with not much humour at all. How can any `fun` strip find humour in the first world war?

Issue 481, 6th April saw the first `non` `Barney` cover. He would slowly be eased off altogether.

Issue 485 saw the cover price rise to 3p.

Issue 489, 1st June 1974; saw the final ever `Keyhole Kate` story. By the mid 1970s young readers would be stumped as how anyone could look through a keyhole such was the prevalence of Yale locks by then. Even in 1965 when Kate was reactivated in Sparky, she seemed an anachronism.

`Keyhole Kate` was replaced in issue 490 by the Phil Millar drawn `Herman’s Horoscopes`. Young Herman looked like a young Elton John with no hair except one strand sticking up and wearing star shaped glasses. Herman’s day would revolve around whatever his horoscope predicted. The first run of this strip was very short indeed, only lasting to issue 499.

Issue 499, 10th August 1974 saw fun and adventure strips `Herman’s Horoscopes` `Willie Getaway` (at last!) `Klanky` `Invisible Dick` and `Snip and Snap` all cease. `Invisible Dick` would later return, but only as repeated adventures from 1968-89. `Herman’s Horoscopes` would also return with new fun adventures.

As stated, `Barney Bulldog` slowly departed through 1974/5. He had been reduced to just a one frame page filling panel titled `Barney`. He went `missing` for weeks at a time on the front cover in this period, finally leaving the comic altogether.

The 500th issue saw some big changes. For the first time since the comic debuted in 1965 there were `three` weeks of free gifts and another logo change. The logo had rounded letters in bright red.


Scattered amongst the title letters were the (cartoon) faces of smiling, laughing children, who we presume were happy readers (they had obviously avoided `Jumbo and Jet` then!) There would be variations of the logo over the months, but it stayed basically the same up to the final issue.

Here now are the strip changes for issues 500, 501 and 502.


SPARKY RELAUNCH 17th, 24th & 31st August 1974

New Strips issues 500, 501 & 502

OUT

`Snip and Snap` (1 Page)

`Willie Getaway` (1 Page)

`Herman’s Horoscopes` (1 Page)

`Klanky` (2 Pages)

`Invisible Dick` (2 Pages)


IN

`Thingummyblob` (2 Pages)

`Superwitch` (1 Page)

`I. Spy` * (2 Pages)

* = `I. Spy` was a returning strip.


The I. Spy character returned in issue 500 and lasted, apart from a break between issues 521-526, to issue 586, 10th April 1976. The strip was now drawn by James Fox; it was ever more juvenile in its approach and nothing like the amazingly inventive series of 1969 to 1971. There were some good ideas, especially the final story, but it was, sadly, a pale shadow of its former self.

`Mr X` returned a few times looking very `horse faced` but he did regain his hair! (Previous artist, Brian Walker had sported old X with a balding pate!). The only other character to return this series apart from Mr X was a fellow called the `Time Traveller`. He owned a time machine and got up to all sorts of naughtiness with it! In the second `Time Traveller` story, the villain sends I. Spy and Boss back in time; but I. Spy manages to assemble his own time device and returns to deal with the traveller.

Many of the `Mr X` stories (there were seven) in the series weren’t very special except for two! The final story which will be covered in the 1976 chapter and a superb two-part effort in where Mr X concocts a `dream spray` that gives I. Spy and Boss some awesome hallucinations!

Also in issue 500, we were introduced to `Thingummyblob` A fantastically funny strip. Professor T. Potts had condensed the `elixir of life` into a few drops of liquid. While rushing to phone the scientific institute, he tripped and the phial containing the elixir flew into a partially filled (with water) fire bucket.
There came a hissing of steam and up popped the blobby `Thingummyblob`.

Horrified, the professor tried to get rid of it, but no luck, it was indestructible! Each weeks saw many an effort by Potts to lose or destroy the friendly `blob` creature! The creature never spoke, but had some intelligence, often becoming aware when Potts was about to try the latest in a long line of unsuccessful attempts to dispose of it.

For me, this hilarious strip was the last real success the comic produced. It was drawn by current `Hungry Horace` artist Albert Holroyd.

The final new strip in issue 500, `Superwitch`; featured an old lady who could transform into a hag-like witch and cast spells. One episode had her do `her turn` on her own sister who was stunned by events, so it definitely wasn’t hereditary then! The `Superwitch` strip was mildly amusing, nothing more.

Old stalwarts `Puss N’ Boots` were pushed from the centre pages to two black and white pages, a demotion strangely. The `Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding` strip was awarded the two colour centre pages, not deservedly in my opinion. The `Peter Piper` strip was now back permanently at two pages.

Here is the line up from the 500th issue


SPARKY No 500, 17th August 1974

Page 1, A Full page advert for free gift, the `Super Tooter`.

Pages 2 & 3
“Dear Sir” Send your letter, cartoons and jokes for Sir’s approval.

Pages 4 & 5
Puss and Boots

Pages 6 & 7
I. Spy. Now drawn by James Fox lasted, with one break of five (Issues 521 – 526) weeks, to April 1976.

Pages 8 & 9
Thingummyblob Superb new fun strip, drawn by long time Sparky artist Albert Holroyd. This is one of the most genuinely funny and inventive strips in the comics history.

Page 10
Pansy Potter

Page 11
Dreamy Daniel

Pages 12 & 13
Baron Reichs Pudding`

Page 14
Ali’s Baba

Page 15
Superwitch Another new character, `Superwitch` was a seemingly normal little old lady who, upon seeing perceived injustice would utter the word Superwitch” and transform into an ugly crone of a witch with magic powers. It was fairly amusing.

Pages 16 & 17
L. Cars `Illegal Immigrants` Possibly the most crass, bad taste, episode of a `fun` strip in history.

Pages 18 & 19
Peter Piper

Pages 20 & 21
Mr Bubbles

Page 22
Hungry Horace

Page 23
The Sparky People

Page 24
Advert for next weeks free gift, the `Punchy Pete` balloon.

I have to mention the `L. Cars` episode in issue 500 titled `Illegal Immigrants`. The using of cultural stereotyping in the way this episode portrayed is in my view the very lowest the comic ever sank to. Four years of the `Sparky` characters miss-humour were completely surpassed in this example of pig ignorant cheap hit humour! By the mid 1970s they should have known better. Even worse! The strip repeated the theme in an August 1976 episode.

Issue 502 saw the `Spoofer McGraw` strip move to the colour back page.

Issue 506, 28th September; saw the `Pansy Potter` strip dropped until issue 509, 19th October.

Issue 508, 12th October, saw another price hike to 4p. The inflation rise in the UK economy was hitting comics hard too.

The Sparky book 1975 came out in September. For the first time, the front and back covers were not identical. The front cover sported assembled Sparky characters on a bridge looking up at `Frederick` and `Cedric` the `L. Cars` boys, in mid leap after a crook, who has just leaped across the bridge. The back cover sees the folks on the bridge following the line of chase that the `L. Cars folk are taking. It is along the roof of a train that has just passed under the bridge. I think it is quite innovative.


SPARKY BOOK 1975, Contents.

Peter Piper
L.Cars
Barney Bulldog
Dreamy Daniel
Spoofer McGraw
Hungry Horace
Keyhole Kate
The Sparky People
I. Spy
Pansy Potter
Klanky
Ali’s Baba
Jumbo and Jet
Snip and Snap
Puss N’ Boots
Mr Bubbles
Invisible Dick
The Space Kidds #

The `I. Spy` strip called `The Master Phoney` in which oriental villain, `Wong Numba` uses a special phone/transporter to steal vital plans.

# = Non comic strip.

1974 had been a year where one final effort had been made to invigorate the comic. Not only were there two regular weeks of free gifts in issues 500 and 501, but issue 502 saw any of eight different gifts scattered through every comic. This meant for those readers who wanted all eight free gifts needed to buy at least eight issues, most probably more!

It was always good to see `I. Spy` back, albeit in poorer stories, and the new `Thingummyblob` character was just superb! Unfortunately, a decline in all comic sales was setting in and Sparky was quite vulnerable.

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1975

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:26 pm

And now! final one for today! 1975!

1975 `Telly Fun` and `Pop Mad`


Into 1975 and we see some rather strange attempts to garner the comic more readers. Firstly in issue 521 (11th January) a back page (and on some front pages as well) T.V related strip called “Telly Fun”. Representations of various T.V celebrities would get up to silly antics. The names had to be altered slightly in case of legal action. The `Peter Piper` strip also began using representations of celebrities. Both `Telly Fun` and `Peter Piper` strips favoured using Telly Savales `Kojak` character quite often.

My favourite entry in this series was the final one in the series. It occupied the front and back page entry of issue 544 (21st June 75) with the front page close up of Tommy Cooper mentioning that people ask him why he wears a Fez! (This was the bucket shaped tasselled hat he always wore on stage). On the back page he removed it to reveal he had a Fez shaped head!

Issue 521 also saw the `I. Spy` strip dropped until issue 526. `Spoofer McGraw` moved from the back page to page 23.

Issue 523, 25th January 1975; saw the return of `Herman’s Horoscopes` for just that one episode, but `Herman` would return again for a third and final time.

Issue 526 saw the `Dear Sir` page truncated to just that; one page! `I. Spy` returned that issue after its short break.

The 1st March issue, No 528 saw the very final `Barney` cover. Barney, previously, Barney Bulldog (not forgetting `John Bull Dogg`) had been the comics longest lasting cover star.

Issue 531, 22nd March, saw `Telly Fun` now occupy the front and back covers.

Issue 533, 5th April caught out readers by having the front cover upside down, making it seem as though the comic was opening from the left (rather than the usual right) A nice April fool prank!

Let us now take a look at a 1975 issue line up.


SPARKY No 542. 7th June 1975, 4p.

Page 1
`Telly Fun` The `Goodies` sing “The Funky Gibbon”

Page 2
`The Sparky People`

Page 3
`Dear Sir`
Pages 4 & 5
`Puss N’ Boots`

Pages 6 & 7
`I. Spy` I. Spy faces up to `Supercharge` a criminal armed with a gun that shoots bolts of electricity.

Pages 8 & 9
`Thingummyblob`

Page 10
`Pansy Potter`

Page 11
`Dreamy Daniel`

Pages 12 & 13
`Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding`

Page 14
`Ali’s Baba`

Page 15
`Superwitch`

Pages 16 & 17
`L. Cars`

Pages 18 & 19
`Peter Piper`

Pages 20 & 21
`Mr Bubbles`

Page 22
`Hungry Horace`

Page 23
`Spoofer McGraw`

Page 24
`Telly Fun` part two, The `Goodies` are `stomped` on by `King Kong`


Issue 543, 14th June 1975 saw the final price hike to 5p. The comic managed to keep at this price to its final issue in July 1977.

Issue 544 was the final `Telly Fun` with the `Tommy Copper` look-alike `Fez-Head`` covers.

The following issue, No 545 was the debut of `Ah- Choo!` an inventive strip about a sneeze waiting to happen. It was on the back page to years end then moved to an inside page. It was drawn by Les Barton.

By now the serious `adventure` strips were discontinued leaving only Klanky and Mr Bubbles to represent that type of strip. The final original Mr Bubbles strip was in issue 546. In 1976 the old 1970/1971 Mr Bubbles adventures were repeated.

In issue 546 the two page “Pop Mad” strip commenced. Basically it was a series of photos of current pop stars such as `Mud` `Bay City Rollers` `Alvin Stardust` etc affixed with `funny` captions. Can’t say it impresses me! It ran to issue 563 (1st November 1975) to be replaced by repeats of `Invisible Dick` (wasn’t one series of `I. D` enough!?) As stated in the last paragraph, Issue 546 also saw the last original `Mr Bubbles` story.

Issue 547, 12th July saw `Pop Mad` occupy pages 1, 4 & 5.

Issue 560 11th October saw `Baron Reichs Pudding` rested for a period, being replaced in issue 561 by a new series of `Kings of the Castle` on the colour middle pages. I think this break of over four years between the `Kings` `fun` strips (the previous series had finished in August 1971) was the longest in the comics life.

Issue 562, 25th October saw the final `Pop Mad` entry. The move to gain readers by using current pop star images hadn’t really worked.

A terrible move in issue 563 was the use of old `Invisible Dick` reprints from 1968. Was the comic on a suicide mission?

Issue 565, 15th November saw the beginning of a readers write in with `nutty nicknames` for their schoolteachers which the comic would then present as a half page of illustrations to fit the names given. The winning entries also won senders a cash prize. One might argue this led to disrespecting authority-but who knows? The competition carried on right through to the comic’s final issue.

Issue 567 29th November saw another long running character depart, `Pansy Potter` who had debuted in issue No two. This now left only Hungry Horace` and `Peter Piper` as original stalwarts; Horace from issue one, Peter from issue No three.

Issue 568 (6th Dec 1975) saw the re-introduction of a new front (and continuing on the back) cover strip, “Some Mummies Do `Ave `Em”. It was about three (Daddy, Mummy and Baby) Mummies who came to life for fun adventures. It lasted to the final issue.

The Sparky Book 1976 also had slightly differing front and back covers. The front had `Puss N’ Boots` both glaring `real` daggers at each other while in the distance a group of other Sparky characters looked nervously on. The back cover showed Puss N’ Boots both ducking the daggers. Colour scheme was light blue.
Here is a list of contents.


SPARKY BOOK 1976. Contents.

Barney
Puss N’ Boots
Mr Bubbles
Dreamy Daniel
Pansy Potter
L. Cars
Spoofer McGraw
Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding
Peter Piper
Kings of the Castle
Klanky
The Sparky People
Hungry Horace
The Space Kids #
Invisible Dick
Snip and Snap
Ali’s Baba
# = Non comic strip

1975 had seen some unusual moves to try and halt the sales decline by using television and popular music photos and representations but to little avail. Sadly, things did not improve in 1976.

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1976 and 1977

Post by alanultron5 on Tue Jun 08, 2010 2:22 pm

My apologies for delay-been a bit unwell last few days, but here now are final two years of the file!

1976 Goodbye `I. Spy`, Hello `North Sea Oyl?!!


Into 1976 and the I. Spy strip moved to the centre pages on 21st February to see out its run in colour; ending on issue 586 (10th April 1976). The final story of the run was a good one to finish on.

Mr X has devised himself a very special helmet. It can control or immobilize all machinery and every electrically operated device. Even I. Spy is affected as Mr X can not only, switch off many of I. Spy’s devices, but can control them too! The concept was a little similar to the device that the `Skywaymen` possessed back in 1971!

Anyhow, Mr X is seemingly set to take over the UK, but I. Spy uses a cunning stratagem to defeat the naughty rogue. Dressing up as an old `granny` I. Spy demands Mr X raise his hat upon meeting an elderly lady. Mr X’ one act of good manners becomes his undoing as when he raises his helmet, I. Spy can clobber him! Poor old Mr X is put on trial, given 30 years hard labour and fined twenty pounds!

I. Spy was not quite finished after the demise of Sparky, but more on that later!

Issue 575, 24th January 1976 saw the temporary departure of `Ah –Choo` and `Minnie the Tea Lady` strips. Issue 578 published the very final `Kings of the Castle` episode.

The following week of 21st February with issue 579, `I. Spy` moved to the two colour centre pages where it would finish its final stint in Sparky. New strip `Atrocious` began this issue. This Phil Millar drawn effort featured a long haired fellow actually called `Atrocious` who introduced cartoon puns sent in by readers. It was very correctly named!

Issue 578 saw new strip `Planet of the Nirdles` begin. The `Nirdle` word had been bandying around the pages of Sparky since 1970, now there was a strip dedicated to it. I think the characters in it were based on an old Tex Avery cartoon `Cat on the Moon` in which many bizarre `Moon` creatures appeared. It was drawn by George Martin whose most remembered strips was Toppers `The Hillies’ and the Billies` and `Send for Kelly`. The `Ah-Choo` strip returned this issue.

No 580, 28th February, saw `Minnie the Tea Lady` back, with `Ah-Choo` returning the following week. Both strips would alternate bi-weekly in the comic for a few months!

Issue 582, 13th March was the final original `Spoofer McGraw` strip. Obviously not enough readers were writing in questions for Spoofer to answer (proof of how bad things were by then) that from issue 644 old Spoofer strips were repeated, those ones prior to readers questions.

Issue 583 saw the introduction of an American import called `The Circus of P.T Bimbo`. If I thought `Jumbo and Jet` was woeful, this strip beat it hollow! What on earth were editor and staff thinking of running this insomnia cure? It was sparsely drawn with match stalk type characters, quite the poorest `fun` strip in the comic’s history.

Issue 586, 10th April 1976 saw the end of an era, the very final `I. Spy` strip in Sparky. In its hey-day circa 1969-71 the strip had been truly innovatory and utterly captivating. It is now regarded as one of the comic’s very best creations. However, `I. Spy` wasn’t quite finished in Thomson comics.

A very strange move, was the six week run of a four page `horror` strip, from issues 587 to 592 (April 17th to May 22nd 1976) Titled “North Sea Oyl”, it concerned a sentient mass of oil that emanated from the North sea and devoured all life in its path. Shades of 1950s sci-fi film “The Blob” but more closely based on a story from a `Pan book of Horror stories` issue from the previous year (1975) I have the `Pan` book and it is an almost identical copy in the storyline.

Having probably driven away many younger readers with such a gory offering, Sparky comic didn’t present any further stories in this idiom. A good thing too in my opinion!

Issue 587 also saw `Puss N’ Boots` promoted back to the colour centre pages and the `Invisible Dick `reprints rested to issue 594, 5th June 1976.

Issue 593 saw the return of `Herman’s Horoscopes` for a third and final run to issue 602.

Issue 602 saw the final `Atrocious` which was! It also saw the final `Herman’s Horoscopes` which was just average.

Issue 603, 7th August saw a repeated run of `Rudolph the Red Coat Mountie` which was only in black and white (the original run back in 1970 had been in colour). Issues 603, 4 and 5 saw a tie-in with confectionary manufactures `Cadbury’s` in which the comic included cut-out coupons with all of 1p off on selected Cadbury products. This overwhelmingly generous promotion seemingly did little to halt the continuing sales decline.

It’s time to look at a typical 1976 issue line up.


SPARKY No 604 14th August 1976 5p

Page 1
`Some Mummies Do `Ave `Em`

Page 2
`The Sparky People`

Page 3
`Dear Sir`

Pages 4 & 5
`Thingummyblob`

Page 6
Top half, ads for 1p off coupons on selected sweets. Bottom half, `Minnie the Tea Lady`.

Page 7
Top half `Ah-Choo` Bottom half `Teachers Nutty Nicknames` Readers send their pictures of teachers as pictured by their nicknames.

Pages 8 & 9
`Peter Piper`

Page 10
`Hungry Horace`

Page 11
`Dreamy Daniel`

Pages 12 & 13
`Puss N’ Boots`

Page 14
`Ali’s Baba`

Page 15
`Planet of the Nirdles`

Pages 16 & 17
`L. Cars` “Curry on L. Cars” This episode was another example of crass stupidity involving racial stereotyping.

Pages 18 & 19
`Rudolph the Red Coat Mountie` Repeat in black and white.

Pages 20 & 21
`Invisible Dick` repeat of 1968 episodes.

Page 22
`Superwitch`

Page 23
`The Circus of P. T Bimbo` All I say is `WHY? `

Page 24
`Some Mummies do `Ave `Em` part two.

The next Sparky Book arrived in September 1976, this one having the unfortunate `Thingummyblob` creature in a Roman arena surrounded by Lions. An assembled crowd including assorted Sparky characters looks worriedly on as `Emperor` professor Potts gives the thumbs down sign.


SPARKY BOOK 1977. Contents.

`Pansy Potter`
`Thingummyblob`
`Puss N’ Boots`
`Hungry Horace`
`Spoofer McGraw`
`Ali’s Baba`
`The Great Horse-Man in the Sky` #
`Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding`
`L. Cars`
`Mr Bubbles`
`Superwitch`
`Dreamy Daniel`
`The Stone Men` #
`The Sparky People`
`I. Spy` I. Spy faces eastern European spy, `Knitting Nora`

The # sign means non comic strip.

The two `non` comic strip offerings in the 1977 book were odd fellows. The `Great Horse-Man in the Sky` offering was a wild west story in which aliens conjoined a red Indian warrior to his horse creating the one amalgamated creature! What was going on in the Sparky office?

The `Stone Men` story gave a possible, and very far-fetched, explanation to the mysterious Easter Island statues. This was the better strip.

The `I. Spy` strip in where he faced eastern European spy `Knitting Nora` was the first of three James Fox drawn Sparky book `I. Spy` strips! Sadly, they weren’t much to write home about.

By late 1976 a good proportion of the comic consisted of repeats of old strips. Was this conning the readers? For long term readers, it certainly was. The repeats of the `Rudolph` strip in black and white was a mean penny pinching move as was the cheap import of the abysmal `P.T Bimbo` strip. Clearly, the comic was in terminal decline.







1977. “Great News Folks!”,The End At Last.


As 1977 dawned Sparky comic was almost `dead on its feet`. The market for comics had been shrinking throughout the 1970s and for Sparky the end was soon to come.

The 15th January issue No 626 saw the last of the `Rudolph the Red-Coat Mountie` repeats. These were replaced the following week by `Mr Bubbles` repeats.

`Planet of the Nirdles` finished its stint in issue 642, 7th May.

`Minnie the Tea Lady` half poisoned her last victim in issue 642, 7th May 1977 and `Superwitch` cast her last spell in issue 643, 14th May 1977.

Next issue, No 644 saw the return (in new adventures) of `Baron Reichs Pudding`. The Baron moved to the two centre colour pages, bumping `Puss and Boots` from their home there to two black and white pages. As stated earlier in issue 644,`Spoofer McGraw` repeats from 1969 began as these were `pre` reader’s questions episodes.

Things were becoming desperate! The `Sparky People` strip now became a reprint from issue No 646 4th June 1977.

Issue 650 saw the last sneeze from `Ah-Choo`.

The end was nigh! On 16th July 1977 issue 652 it all ended! Well, not quite all! An announcement on page 11 sounded the great (?) news, that some of your Sparky favourites were moving to the new `Topper and Sparky` comic.

Here is the line up from the final issue.


SPARKY No 652, 16th July 1977

Page 1
`Some Mummies Do `Ave `Em`

Page 2
`We Are the Sparky People` (reprint)

Page 3
`Dear Sir` Letters page.

Pages 4 & 5
`Puss and Boots`

Pages 6 & 7
`Peter Piper`

Pages 8 & 9
`Mr Bubbles` (reprint)

Page 10
`Hungry Horace`

Page 11
Full page advert for next weeks `Topper and Sparky`

Pages 12 & 13
`Baron Reichs Pudding`

Page 14
`Ali’s baba`

Page 15
`Superwitch`

Pages 16 & 17
`Invisible Dick` (reprint)

Pages 18 & 19
`L.Cars`

Pages 20 & 21
`Thingummyblob`

Page 22
`Dreamy Daniel`

Page 23
`Circus of P.T Bimbo`

Page 24
`Some Mummies Do `Ave `Em` continuation.

From the following week in an innovative move; Topper and Sparky comic had a fold up pull out insert, which when folded, read like a small magazine. In this insert were Sparky strips, `Puss and Boots`, `Ali’s Baba` `Hungry Horace` `The Sparky People` `Thingummyblob`, `Peter Piper and `L. Cars`.

This insert survival of the seven Sparky strips lasted to 1981. After this date, only `Hungry Horace`, `Peter Piper`, and `Ali’s Baba` continued in the pages of Topper.

The Sparky books still continued to be published up to September 1979. Here is the line up of Sparky books 1978, 1979 and 1980.

The 1978 book had a strange cover. It showed the mother of `Baba` of `Ali’s Baba` strip opening the fridge door to find a snowman inside! Baba tries to look innocent while Ali just looks puzzled. Other Sparky characters look on from outside. It was a very strange cover indeed.


SPARKY BOOK 1978 Contents.

Hungry Horace
The Sparky People
Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding
Ali’s Baba
Puss N’ Boots
Peter Piper
Dreamy Daniel
Brainless #
Some Mummies do `Ave ‘Em`
Planet of the Nirdles
Thingummyblob
I. Spy. I. Spy partakes in the `Spies Annual Outing`
Arfur #
Peter Piper
Ma Fia and her Mob #
Mr Ackroyd #
Superwitch
L. Cars
Order of the Boot #
Horrible Hobbies #
The Circus of P.T Bimbo
Korny Klassics of the Wild West #
Atrocious
Ah-Choo
The Station Now Standing #
Sir on Holiday

# = non comic strip

There were many non comic strips in the 1978 dated book (# sign) with the `Ma Fia` strip relying on cheap racial stereotyping for humour! Yet another case of scraping the barrels bottom again.

The 1979 book had the best cover of all. It shows the Sparky people quivering before the sight of a pair of great boots worn by `Sir` who is out of shot as usual. Perhaps he borrowed them from Elton John after the `Tommy` film.


SPARKY BOOK 1979. Contents.

The Sparky People
Mr Ackroyd #
Puss N’ Boots
Hungry Horace
Dreamy Daniel
Thingummyblob
Ali’s Baba
Brainless #
Superwitch
Horrible Hobbies #
The Great Atomic Camera of Pluvius 11 #
Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding
L. Cars
Arfur #
Planet of the Nirdles
Ah-Choo
Peter Piper
Planet of the Nirdles
The Circus of P.T Bimbo
Some Mummies do `Ave ‘Em`
I. Spy. `I. Spy` in his strangest case yet faces the unusual character, `Baba Coward`
Minnie the Tea Lady
Birdman of Alsace #

# = non comic strip.


The 1980 book (published September 1979) had a sky blue cover with the word `Sparky` dotted with assorted `Sparky` characters. The book was a mixture of repeated (from the comic) and new stories. Some characters such as `Puss N’ Boots` had both repeated and new strips.


SPARKY BOOK 1980 Contents.

Puss N’ Boots
Mr Bubbles
The Sparky People
Spoofer McGraw
Kings of the Castle
Cap’ N’ Hood and his Merry Men
I. Spy
Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding
Mr Ackroyd #
Brainless #
Hungry Horace
L. Cars
The Juggler #
Peter Piper
Ali’s Baba
Bush Boy

The practise of repeat strips in the 1980 book gave first ever appearances in a Sparky book for 1969 `fun` strip `Cap’ N’ Hood and his Merry Men` and 1970 adventure series `Bush Boy`. The following year there was a 1981 `Topper and Sparky` book, after this no more Sparky titled annuals.

In February 1984 a new Thomson comic `Champ` appeared. It was based around a football story titled `United`. The comic had a four page centre `fun section`. In this were reprints of Toppers `Send for Kelly` and Sparky favourite `Puss and Boots`.

Best of all though was a new `I. Spy` strip which initially ran along the bottom four pages of the fun section. It was drawn by the artist Brian Walker who had sketched the strip in Sparky from October 1970 to August 1972. This I Spy strip was far more humorous in content and the plots were virtually non existent.

It was still great to see this old Sparky character, even in this format. Old, once deadly villains such as Mr X and Mastermind were now more akin to naughty children rather than deadly adversaries. Aye McSpy also made appearances.

Champ comic and I. Spy ended at issue 87 (16th October 1985). I. Spy’s last known appearance was in the Dandy Fun Size special No 63 in 2000. This one off appearance was drawn by Lew Stringer.

Peter Piper made a few appearances in 1994 Dandy comics, but drawn radically different. Ali’s Baba became `Jimmy’s Green Genie` in Dandy for a while too. `Snip and Snap` were reprinted in `Dandy Extreme`.

Finally; Sparky comics greatest success; Puss and Boots, transferred to Dandy comic in 1993 as `Mutt and Moggy`. It was clearly `P&B` as the artist was the one who drew all their Sparky adventures. Sanity prevailed and Mutt and Moggy reverted back to Puss and Boots to see their days out in the Dandy up to 2000.

The great news that Puss and Boots have only just re-emerged in the Dandy, means that happily, a little bit of `Sparky` comic still lives on. If only the `I. Spy` strip could be resuscitated then this comic fan would be very happy indeed!



IN CONCLUSION

Sparky comic had led an eventful twelve year lifespan. Its early years were a mixture of surreal fantasy and animal based stories. From 1969 it moved relentlessly to a more `whacky` `Zany` style, but never really gained a large readership.

For fans of free gifts it was the perfect comic, having more promotions during its 1965-77 tenure than any similar D.C Thomson comic.

Before I move on to the appendix section I would like to give credit to members of the `Comics UK` forum site for their superb help with factual data for Sparky comic and its content. Thanks to Rab (I. Spyshhhguy) Smith, Lew Stringer, Kashgar, Phoenix4ever and Peter Gray in particular. To all others on the site, a big “Thank you!”

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Tue Jun 08, 2010 2:23 pm

Now! I have a `Special Chapter` to add soon, regarding the `free gifts` the comic gave out! Do that soon!

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`Special Chapter`

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:22 pm

Here is an added bonus!? My experiences regarding `Sparky Free Gifts`

Special Chapter`

SPARKY COMIC `FREE GIFTS`


It was Phil Shrimptons wonderful “Jump Froggy Jump” in Crikey No 6 that gave me inspiration to compile a similar `Sparky free Gift` article! Unlike Phil with Dandy and Beano free gifts, I have only managed to track down two so far (the `Flying Snorter` and the `Zoomer Boomerang`) of the free gifts from Sparky’s tenure-but I’m hopeful of more! However! I did enjoy many of my Sparky free gifts of the time and will give my views on them here!

All comics give free gifts from time-to-time, but `Sparky` comic in its twelve year life of 1965 to 1977 must have given away more gifts in that period than any other DC Thomson (or IPC) title.

All comics when they commence have free gift promotions for the first two or three issues. What with adverts on television as well, it is a sure-fire way of getting market attention.

Long term companion titles `Dandy` and `Beano` gave away free gifts in their first few years up to the outbreak of WWII. After 1945 both titles only very rarely continued the practise in subsequent years. Only in 1960 and 1971 when re-promoting the comics did this occur. The previous free gift promotions had been 1940, which meant just two sets of promotions/free gifts in over `Thirty` Years!!

Why was this? The only reason I can discern is strange though it may sound; is good sales. Both the `Dandy` and `Beano` from the post war years, to the mid 1970s enjoyed massive sales, especially in the 1950s. Only in 1960 when both comics changed their logo and brought in new strips were free gifts offered as part of these `overhauls`. So, for both titles there was no need to try and entice readers when sales were soaring.

`Sparky` comic however, struggled with its sales and therefore was far more generous in this area in having `Nine` sets of offerings between 1965 and the final ones in 1974. All its free gifts came about when the comic was undergoing one of its rather frequent `overhauls`. `Sparky` comic never enjoyed such healthy sales as Dandy or Beano and was constantly re-inventing itself with logo changes, strip turnover and free gifts for most of its life! So for a long time reader such as I was, it meant a bountiful time for getting free gifts!

`Sparky` comic entered the marketplace in late January 1965, its first issue dated 23rd January 1965. It had been promoted with a few telly adverts just after the New Year! There were also `pink flyers` those four page loose pink slips in the previous weeks Beano and Dandy informing readers of the new comic. This is how I became aware of it, via my Dandy `flyer`. The Telly `ads` showed children playing with the free gift called the `Flying Snorter` balloon.
The `Flying Snorter` was a red and yellow balloon with an aeroplane motif. Once blown up and released it would happily `rasp` away via its specialised mouthpiece until the air ran out! I kept mine for about two weeks. Note! I have very recently acquired Sparky No 1 with `Flying Snorter` gift in superb condition at cost of £395.00.

Inside issue No1 there was a full page advert for next weeks gift in issue No2, 30th January 1965 the “Big Banger” This was one of those cardboard and paper hand propelled efforts where the paper `cracked` with a popping sound if you could whip it through the air fast enough! The paper on mine only lasted about six or seven goes! Inside issue two was another `ad` for 6th February issue No3s free gift of the “Red Racketty”.

The “Red Racketty” was one of those `whizz on a string` affairs that made a noise through its cardboard struts. It was a nicely designed toy which worked quite nicely. The `rackety` flier had a half inch circle design on its front end for (as it stated in very small writing) a halfpenny piece to be glued on! This would then give the flier more speed and stability when whirled around! Of course, after decimalization a new penny would suffice equally well. Sadly, it was fairly fragile, but mine lasted a good three months before colliding with a lamppost and crashing to ground in bits!

The next set of Sparky free gifts arrived in September 1965, barely nine months into the comics run. Obviously sales were none too good and another promotion had to be advertised on television and in other `Thomson` comics via more `pink flyers`!

Issue 34, 11th September 1965, in an inside page, announced that next week there would be the free gift of the `Squeezy Wheezy` squeak balloon. Also illustrated were four new stories that were commencing in issue 35 (next week). Another new story would appear in issue 36.

Issue 35 arrived with a logo change, four new strips and the `Squeezy Wheezy`. It looked a bit like a `kangaroo`. It had a small `squeezer` on the bottom of the balloon that gave the `squeak` sound when squeezed!

Issue, No 35 then ran an inside page advert for the next free gift, the `Spin-Din` in issue 36, 18th September. This was a cardboard constructed jet like plane which made a whirring sound when spun on its string attachment! It was a lovely designed affair in bright blue and red. It was though, a pretty difficult toy to construct properly; I could not get it all folded and looking correct however hard I tried! Thankfully, my Dad, in a rare good mood assembled it for me.

It was a pretty complex design for a cardboard toy, and out of all the variations on `whiz on a string` toys it was the finest looking flyer I ever owned. I can’t recall what happened to mine back then; lost along with other toys and items I was careless with I suppose. I would certainly pay a lot for one now.

The next set of free gifts soon arrived in early 1966, with, again, television advertising and `pink flyers` as the comic tried again to rejuvenate itself with three new strips in issue No 60 and another in No 61, accompanied by free gifts! Issue no 59, again in an inside page ran an ad for the `Sparky Spinner` which arrived in issue No 60 dated 12th March 1966.

This toy was one of the better Sparky gifts in my experience. It consisted of a wheel like disc with three propeller-like flattened `spokes`, a long threaded plastic stick and a small plastic tube (all in bright orange) You slipped the tube onto the stick all the way to the base. You then carefully wound the disc via its centre hole (which had a similar thread) down the stick till it rested on top of the tube!

Grasping the tube-you then pushed upwards! This caused the disc to spin as it rose on the sticks screw-like thread! By the time it exited the top it was spinning fast enough to fly a good few yards! You had to get the speed at which you pushed the tube just right! Too slow and it barely `flew`; too fast and it jammed on the thread! But once you mastered it, it was great fun indeed! Some rotter nicked mine after a week when I was daft enough to take it to school!

The following weeks gift in issue No 61 (19th March 1966) was the `Crack-Bang`. This was virtually identical to issue No 2’s `Big Banger` except that the `Crack-Bang` featured the `Sparky` character who was illustrated with fingers in ears on the toy! Again, like the `Big Banger` the brown paper `bang` section quickly broke!

The next set of free gifts arrived in just under six months in September 1966 as yet another overhaul (with television ads etc!) was attempted by introducing three new strips in issue 86 and another in issue 87. Issue 86, 10th September 1966 gave away the `Tweek Squeek` which was virtually identical to 1965’s `Squeezy Wheezy`. Issue 86 ran an ad for next weeks gift, the `Bizzy Buzzer`

The `Bizzy Buzzer` in issue 87 dated 17th September 1966, consisted of a disc made of card, with a small hole at its centre! It had a design on it which made a buzzing noise and a hypnotic display when spun! You spun it via the two lengths of string that were threaded through the centre aperture! I wish I could recall the `design` on the disc, but until I find one, just can’t! Yet again, mine soon got lost, if only I had kept hold of my toys in those days!

The next set of free gifts took a bit longer, about a year, to arrive. In what was one of Sparky comics biggest overhauls the comic changed nine of its strips and its logo. Six new strips in issue 140 and another three in No 141. Yet again, television promotion was paid for by D.C Thomson, plus `flyers` in other Thomson titles and promotional material to newsagents.

The comic also gave away in issue 140, 23rd September 1967, the `Rip-Snorter` balloon. This fellow was nearly identical to issue No1’s `Flying Snorter` except fhe `Rip-Snorter` carried a logo of a rasping `flying pig`!

Issue 141 the following week of 30th September 1967 gave away a rather novel gift! This was the `Target Tiddley-winks` set. It was a scored cardboard sheet that could be made into a sort of raised Dias. It had concentric circles marked with points to be scored and a `bull’s eye` hole at its centre!
You also got six small coloured plastic counters and a larger fellow to flick them onto the board or through the centre hole! The flip side of the `box` had a Ludo game on it so that when it was `unfolded` you could have a game of Ludo (you had to provide your own dice though!) It was a very enjoyable gift indeed!

1968 was `gift free` so fans of Sparky free gifts had to wait a good year and four months for the next lot! In comparison to Dandy or Beano fans it wasn’t very long at all as they only got gifts in 1960 and 1971!

Anyhow! Issue 210 on 25th January 1969 announced on its back page a whole new set of five new fun pals`. However; there were actually eight in issue 211, and the ninth joined in issue 212. It also gave an illustration of next weeks free gift the `Flip-Frog`. I don’t know for certain if there were Telly ads for this promotion, but there were still pink flyers!

Another logo change, a lot of new `fun pals` (nine), and the `Flip-Frog` all came in issue 211, 1st February 1969. It was the biggest overhaul of the comic alongside the September 1967 changes. Unlike the 1940 Dandy `Flip-Frog` which I think was bakelite with a metal spring and a blob of tar that sufficed as a spring `holder`. You pressed down the spring into the `tar` which would hold it for a few seconds until it `sprang` loose causing the frog to jump. The 1969 Sparky fellow was only a cardboard affair with a plastic `spring device`. `Thunder` comic issue No 1 (17th October 1970) gave free a similar `Kangaroo` designed `jumper`. Sadly, with the Sparky `Flip Frog` being only cardboard and plastic this meant it was a bit fragile and liable to break-as mine soon did!

The back page of issue 211 gave a full colour ad for next weeks gift, the `Zoomer-Boomerang` in issue 212 dated 8th February 1969. This was basically two strips of card that could be interlocked to look like a large `X` shape! When thrown correctly it did come back a little in its flight path, but not much! It had the Sparky character `Pansy Potter` painted on each strip. I have only just tracked down this gift! The cardboard wasn’t really very strong so I won’t try assembling it. It is in pretty decent condition though with the coloured artwork still quite eye catching.

Though the big overhaul of 1969 was supposed to usher in a rejuvenated comic the sales could not have been that good as in only eleven months yet another two weeks of free gifts and new `fun pals` were offered to readers! This overhaul was not as big with four new `fun pals` over the two weeks introduced this time.

Issue 260, 10th January 1970 gave a full back page ad for next weeks free gift the `Rub-A Dub-Dub!` `Biff-Balloon` in issue 261, 17th January. It was not the most inspired of free gifts being basically a balloon on a string! You just `bounced` it on the string! That was all! It didn’t even carry any logo on it.

Issue 261 itself carried a full colour ad again on the back page for free gift, the `Flicker Pics`. Arriving free with issue 262, 24th January 1970, the `Flicker Pics` free gift, is in my opinion, the finest free gift the comic ever presented its readers with.

The gift consisted of a plastic handle with two curved prongs, a little like a catapult in shape! Both prongs ended with little plastic pins that were carefully attached to a moveable plastic disc (it swivelled on the axis of the pins).

Along with this came a set of three glossy sticky-backed sheets of pictures of `Sparky` characters; `Hungry Horace`, `Puss and Boots` and `I .Spy` Each strip had two pictures painted for front and back of the disc! Sheet one saw `Hungry Horace` about to eat a pie and then eating it. The second sheet carried two pictures of `Puss and Boots` in almost similar fighting poses. Sheet three portrayed `I. Spy` about to appear with gun at the ready. The two pictures on each sheet were linked by a small collar of sticky paper. Each of the two pictures was circular and able to fit over the disc section, back and front.

Page 21 in that issue of Sparky showed you how to peel and unpeel each sheet of pictures. If you kept your backing sheet where they peeled from, each could be placed back on to it ready for the next time you wanted to play with it. To do this you then spun your disc to see one of the three characters in action as it revolved.

It was a really superb free gift and quite easily the most original the comic gave away! And yes! I went and lost mine within the year!

Free gift time came around again virtually one year later with another minor influx of new stories / fun pals , totalling three in January 1971. By this time stable mates `Dandy` and `Beano` were doing likewise as all comic sales-particularly D.C Thomson titles-were falling.

A full colour back page ad on issue 314, 23rd January 1971 displayed next weeks free gift of the `Sky Squeaker` rasping balloon. Arriving in issue 315, 30th January 1971, this all yellow balloon was just like the `Snorter` balloons of the 1960s except it was sausage shaped! It did not carry any logo or design.

Issue 315 advertised on its back page next weeks free gift of the `Whoopee Whistle`. It duly arrived in plastic sections inside issue 316, the following week of 6th February 1971. Inside on the “Sparky Funfare” letters and puzzles page readers were instructed (by illustration) how to assemble their whistle. The thing did tend to fall apart though, unless you used glue to cement it firmly in place! It was a fair gift, but nothing special. Issues 315 and 316 do turn up fairly frequently (sadly minus gifts though) on E.Bay-so sales must have been good comparatively.

These were the final Sparky free gifts that I got as by June of 1971 at age 15 and nine months I was about to leave school and start work! Comics were a school kid’s thing back then! I can however give what descriptions I know of later Sparky gifts!

In 1972 yet another two weeks of free gifts, along with two more new `fun pals` and another logo change arrived, this time in October of that year. Issue 402, 30th September 1972 gave a full back page ad for next week’s free gift the `Wot-A-Racket` flyer.

Arriving with issue 403, 7th October 1972 the `Wot-A-Racket` is basically the same design as issue three’s `Red Racketty` though this time in black! As with the 1965 device you stuck or glued a small coin on the front of the flyer to give it speed when spun! 1972’s coin being a 1p piece as opposed to 1965’s old halfpenny!

On the back page of issue 403 was a full page ad for next weeks free gift, the `Punchy Pete` biff-balloon! Going by the photo given, `Pete` looks an odd fellow! He was a large yellow balloon with the rather `punch-drunk` features of a boxer etched on its surface! Pete had two attached cardboard feet that `stabilized` him when inflated. You could then presumably give him a right going over! What fun!! `Pete` came with issue 404 dated 14th October 1972.

It would be almost two years before the next set of free gifts, which in Sparky terms was an age! By 1974 the comic was obviously struggling again for sales and a pretty large overhaul, and final logo change, was planned beginning with the 500th issue! Issue 499 dated 10th August 1974 gave a full back page advert for three new `fun pals` and a new free gift!

The gift in issue 500, 17th August 1974 was the `Super Tooter` a small plastic `organ like flute. These had often been one of the toys in `Lucky Bags` (does anyone remember them?). I recall that the `Super Tooter` made a pleasant enough sound as I do remember hearing a friend’s younger brother playing with one! Back page on issue 500 was another full page ad for next weeks free gift, the `Sparky Whirrrr-lers`

Coming free with issue 501, 24th August the `Sparky Whirrrr-ler` was yet another version of 1965s `Red Racketty` and 1972s `Wot-A-Racket` so not much innovation there! Amazingly, on the back page of issue 501 there was yet another full page free gift ad!

For free gift collectors who are completists, issue 502 dated 31st August 1974 must be an utter nightmare! Why? Well, going back to issue 501 (back page) it announced eight! Free gifts! But hold! Before we all jump for joy! A small notice said “Sorry, only one per reader” Ah-ha! So in order to get all eight free gifts you had to buy at least eight issues of Sparky and most probably more!

The gifts were (1) the `Spin-A-Ring` a sort of flattened Frisbee like hoop. (2) A `Pop-Gun` (3) The `Zoomer Balloon` Identical to issue 315s the `Sky Squeaker` (4) The `High Flyer` Another `flyer` only this one was a three pronged affair! (5) A `Kazoo` Plastic of course. (6) The `Squeaker` This was similar to issue 35s `Squeezy Wheezy` squeaking balloon. (7) No seven was two different sets of painting sets which you had to buy more than one Sparky comic in a hope of getting.

The whole set were called the `Sir Prize` relating to Sparky’s `Sir` character! Big deal! It was still a sales ploy rather than any beneficial gesture to readers. It didn’t really work as Sparky comic was still on a downward sales slope.

The only other sort of `offering` to readers after these gifts was a three week run in issues 603 to 605 of 1p coupons inside each comic which readers could cut out and then get one pence off selected Cadbury sweets! I don’t believe this was any sort of success either as every copy of issues 603/4/5 I have seen still has the coupons inside untouched!

Unlike Dandy or Beano, Sparky never gave confectionary free gifts in all its promotions, only those 1p off Cadbury products as mentioned.

As well as the `Flying Snorter` with issue No 1, I have also recently acquired the “Zoomer Boomerang” gift (for £30) and hopefully, I might come across one or two more of the Sparky free gifts; I would certainly pay well for a full `Flicker Pics` set.

Here now, in table form is a list of all free gifts from Sparky comic.


No1 (23rd January 1965) the “Flying Snorter” Balloon.

No 2 (30th January 1965) the “Big Banger”

No 3 (6th February 1965) the “Red Racketty”


No 35 (18th September 1965) the “Squeezy Wheezy” Balloon.

No 36 (25th September 1965) the “Spin-Din”


No 60 (12th March 1966) the “Sparky Spinner”

No 61 (19th March 1966) the “Crack-Bang”


No 86 (10th September 1966) the “Tweek Squeek” Balloon.

No 87 (17th September 1966) the “Bizzy Buzzer”


No 140 (23rd September 1967) the “Rip-Snorter” Balloon

No 141 (30th September 1967) the “Target Tiddle –Winks”


No 211 (1st February 1969) the “Flip Frog”

No 212 (8th February 1969) the “Zoomer Boomerang”

No 261 (17th January 1970) the “Rub-A-Dub-Dub” Biff-Balloon.

No 262 (24th January 1970) the “Flicker Pics”


No 315 (30th January 1971) the “Sky Squeaker” Balloon.

No 316 (6th February 1971) the “Whoopee Whistle”


No 403 (7th October 1972) the “Wot-A-Racket”

No 404 (14th October 1972) the “Punchy Pete” Biff –Balloon


No 500 (17th August 1974) the “Super Tooter”

No 501 (24th August 1974) the “Sparky Whirrrr-lers”

No 502 (31st August 1974) the “Sir-Prize” (eight gifts scattered throughout issue 502 of Sparky. This meant you needed to buy at least eight copies to even hope of getting all eight!))

For his help, I give many thanks to Dave Willesden of `Wolverhampton Books & Collectibles.

Alan Smith © 2010

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:25 pm

The final `additions` will be the appendix section! I am not sure if they will transfer ledgibly to this thread as they feature `tables` logging `Fun` & `Adventure` strips! Still, must give it a go!

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Appendix (1)

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:26 pm

Appendix (1)

Appendix (1) `Sparky Fun Strips`


The Sparky `fun` strips are not easy to catalogue as there were so many `rotated` ones in the first few years and some strips popped out for a week or two so often any attempt to log every single issue they appeared in would make this appendix gargantuan! The worst culprits were `Pansy Potter`, `Tom Tardy` `Meddlesome Matty` `Charlie Chutney` `Sam’s Snake` and `I. Fly` with countless ins and outs in their runs!

What I have done instead is log the year and issue number each strip began and its final issue of appearance! Where fun characters such as `I. Spy` or `Big Billy` Bigg` return after a gap I have put all their run in year they first appeared. I put each year separately and log those new strips/fun pals that commenced that year. Of course 1965 has the most strips!

If there is a gap of ten or more issues I have counted these, but no gaps less than ten. Repeats where part of a continuous run such as `The Sparky People` and `Spoofer McGraw` are included this way as they ended their Sparky life as repeats! A repeat when it appears a long while after the original strip finished is omitted. Only the `Rudolph the Red Coat Mountie` strip was repeated a few years after its original run and then only in black and white, it had been colour the first time around.

With the `Sparky` and `Moonsters` strips I have distinguished which episodes each strip was on the front or back covers. With `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` I have highlighted where the strip changed from colour to black and white. I have also applied this distinction when the `Puss N’ Boots` strip went to two colour pages and back to two black and white in its later days in the comic.

I will first list each year, e.g (1965) then those strips that commenced that year. I shall list the issue No each strip started in and the issue it terminated in. Gaps of ten or more will be noted and when strips have separate runs such as the `I. Spy` strip, I shall highlight these! Here is a example using the `I. Spy` strip

(1969)

`I. Spy` (1969 – 1976) 211 – 279. 300 – 321. 333 – 355. 360 – 396 (colour)


Here we go!

SPARKY `FUN` PALS.

(1965)


`Sparky` (1965 – 1969). 1. (back cover). 2 – 34 (front cover). 35 – 139 (back cover). 140 – 210 (front cover)
`The Moonsters` (1965 – 1968). 2 – 34 (back cover). 35 – 139 (front cover). 140 – 199 (back cover).


`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` (1965 – 1968). 1 – 34 (colour). 35 – 56 (B/W). 57 – 59 (colour). 60 – 78 (B/W). 79 – 87 (colour). 88 – 106 (B/W). 107 – 160 (colour). 161 – 204 (B/W).


`Hungry Horace` (1965 – 1977). 1 – 652.


`Keyhole Kate` (1965- 1974). 1 – 489.


`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo` (1965 – 1967). 1 – 77. 138.


`Freddie the Fearless Fly` (1965 – 1966). 1 – 74. 91.


`Jeff ye Jolly Jester` (1965- 1966). 1 – 70. 89.


`Hockey Hannah` (1965- 1966). 1 – 78.


`Minnie –Ha –Ha` (1965- 1966). 1 – 55.


`Flubberface` (1965 – 1966). 1 – 59.


`Hairy Dan` (1965). 1 – 29.


`Dick Turpentine` (1965). 1 – 8.


`Nosey Parker` (1965 – 1967). 1 – 29. 83 – 139.


`Stoneage Steve` (1965). 1 – 5.


`Pansy Potter` (1965 – 1976). 2 – 8. 24. 41 – 57. 80 – 567.


`Frosty McNab` (1965). 2 – 4.

`Cuckoo in the Clock` (1965 – 1967). 2 – 139.


`Black Jack, the Chimney Sweep` (1965). 2 – 5.


`Grandma Jolly, and her Brolly` (1965). 2 – 7. 17.


`Peter Piper` (1965 – 1977). 3 – 652.


`Winnie the Witch` (1965 – 1967). 25 – 122.


`The Slowdown Express` (1965 – 1967). 25 – 137.



(1966)


`Fireman Fred` (1966 – 1967). 63 – 131.


`Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer` (1966 – 1967). 79 – 85. 132 – 139.


`My Grockle and Me` (1966 – 1967). 86 – 140.



(1967)


`Harry Carry` (1967 – 1969). 123 – 209.


`Meddlesome Matty` (1967 – 1969). 140 – 224.


`Deputy Dawg` (1967 – 1968). 140 – 165.


`Snapshot Sid` (1967 – 1968). 140 – 191.


`Tom Tardy` (1967 – 1968). 140 – 175. Note! The `Tom Tardy` strip appeared bi-weekly, alternating turns with the `Pansy Potter` strip.
`Charlie Chutney` (1967 – 1969). 141 – 209.



(1968)


`Big Billy Bigg` (1968 – 1969). 161 – 169. 179 – 210. 232 – 243.


`The Snooks` (1968). 166 – 205.


`Clever Claire` (1968). 170 – 178.


`Cheating Charlie` (1968 – 1969). 192 – 210.


`John Bulldogg / Barney Bull Dog` (1968 – 1975). 200 – 528.


`L. Cars` (1968 – 1977). 205 – 652.


`Spoofer McGraw` (1968 – 1977). 206 – 652.



(1969)


`Esky Mo` (1969 – 1970). 211 – 259.


`Harry Presto` (1969). 211- 224.


`We are the Sparky People` (1969 – 1977). 211 – 652.


`Wyatt Twerp` / And Bugsy` (1969 - 1970). 211 – 229. 261 – 298.


`Helpful Henry` (1969). 211 – 230.


`I. Spy` (1969 – 1976). 211 – 279. 300 – 321. 333 – 355. 360 – 396. (centre colour) 465 – 467. 500 – 586. (579 – 586 in colour).
`Cap’ N` Hood and his Merry Men` (1969). 212 – 231.


`King’s of the Castle` (1969 – 1976). 230 – 260. 315 – 345. 561 – 578.


`Puss N` Boots` (1969 – 1977). 231 – 652. Centre Colour, 456 – 499, and 587 -
-642.


`Sam’s Snake` (1969 – 1973). 244 – 427.



(1970)


`Ali and his Baba` (1970 – 1977). 261 – 652.


`I. Fly` (1970 – 1973). 262 – 427.


`Rudolph the Red Coat Mountie` (1970). 276 – 299.


`Trouble Bruin` (1970 – 1971). 280 – 314.



(1971)


`Ma Kelly’s Telly` (1971 – 1972). 315 – 402.


`Willy Getaway` (1971 – 1974). 316 – 499.


`Tom Kat` (1971 – 1972). 319 – 401.



(1972)


`Captain Cutler and his Butler` (1972 – 1973). 397 – 426.

`Snip and Snap` (1972 – 1974). 403 – 499.


`Dreamy Daniel` (1972 – 1977). 403 – 652.



(1973)


`Jumbo and Jet` (1973). 427 – 455.


`Minnie the Tea Lady` (1973 – 1977). 466 – 642.



(1974)


`Baron Von Reisch’s Pudding` (1974 – 1977). 474 – 560. 644 – 652.


`Herman’s Horoscopes` (1974 – 1976). 490 – 499. 523. 593 – 602.


`Thingummyblob` (1974 – 1977). 500 – 652.


`Superwitch` (1974 – 1977). 500 – 643.



(1975)


`Ah! Choo!` (1975 – 1977). 545 – 650.


`Some Mummies do `av’e `em` (1975 – 1977). 568 – 652.



(1976)


`Planet of the Nirdles` (1976 – 1977). 578 – 642.

`The Circus of P. T Bimbo` (1976 – 1977). 583 – 652.

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Appendix (2)

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:28 pm

That seemed to go well! Let's try No 2!

Appendix (2) `Sparky Adventure Strips`

Here is a list of all `adventure` strips carried by the comic. It is in numerical order and repeats are not included.


(1965)

Title.& Year Issue Issue No of Issues
Commenced ceased


`The Young Castaways` 1 16 16

`Wee Tusky` 1 22 22

`The Kidnapped Kids` 1 15 15

`The Palace of Secrets` (Text) 1 14 14

`Will O’ the Well` (Text) 15 25 11

`Watch` 16 35 20

`McGinty the Goat` 17 29 13

`Kipper Feet` 23 34 12

`Riddle of the Roughlands` 25 34 10

`Lonely Wood` 26 34 9

`Raiders from the Red Planet` 30 34 5

`Gilpin the Lost, Lost Boy` 35 49 15

`Wee Tusky` (Series 2) 35 42 8

`Year of the Vanaks` 35 56 22

`The Flood that Mother Remembers` 35 47 13

`Floating Along, Singing A Song` 36 47 12

`The Downside Donkeys` 43 52 10

`Goldie` 48 61 14

`Lost Children of the Forest` 48 55 8
(1966)


Title Issue Issue No of Issues
Commenced Ceased

`Quest of the Wandering Wingates` 50 59 10

`Will O’ the Well` (Series 2) 53 59 7

`Pocahontas` 56 60 5

`Lonely Wood` (Series 2) 57 59 3

`Seven at One Blow` 60 72 13

`Huffy, Muffy and Tuffy` 60 74 15

`City Under the Sea` 60 78 19

`Children of the Secret Pool` 61 76 16

`Rory, the Horse of Many Masters` 62 74 13

`Boy in the Forest of Fear` 73 83 11

`Big Klanky` 75 87 13

`Police Horse Hadrian` 75 85 11

`Balloon Family Robinson` 77 85 9

`Prentice Pete` 84 84 1

`Willy the Woeful Wizard` 86 116 31

`Terry had a Little Pig` 86 97 12

`Nine Hundred Years Ago` 87 94 8

`The Horse with Wings` 88 106 19

`Little Davey Spacer` 95 107 13

`The Island from the Past` 98 109 12




(1967)


Title. Issue Issue No of Issues.
Commenced Ceased.


`Keepers of the Dancing Drums` 107 122 16

`Invisible Dick` 108 123 16

`The Lost Ponies of Thor` 110 119 10

`Greedy Gus` 117 127 11

`The Cave Kids` 120 131 12

`Prentice Pete` (series 2) 123 140 18

`The Lonely Lad of Blue Lagoon` 124 183 60

`Titch, the Pup that Grew 128 137 10
and Grew`

(Series 2)
`Balloon Family Robinson` 138 139 2

`David Copperfield` 140 158 19

(Series 2)
`Davey Spacer in Giantland` 140 157 18

`Big Ossie` 141 155 15

`Klanky` (Series 2) 141 160 20




(1968)


Title. Issue Issue No of Issues
Commenced. Ceased.


`The Magic Sword` 156 168 13

`The Floating Farrells` 158 170 13
`Uncle Tom’s Cabin` 159 178 20

`Blondel, the Wandering 169 181 13
Minstrel`

`South Seas Suzie` 171 186 16

`The Old Curiosity Shop` 179 198 20

`Invisible Dick` (Series 2) 182 499 317

`The Captive Kidds` 184 195 12

`Sacramento here we Come` 186 197 12

`Sailor Brown’s Schooldays` 196 210 15

`The Boyhood of Deadwood 198 210 13
Dick`

`The Coral Island` 199 210 12



(1969)


Title Issue Issue No of Issues
Commenced Ceased


`Klanky` (Series 3) 211 239 29

`The Jungle Ark` 211 226 16

`Davey Spacer` (Series 3) 227 240 14

`Mr Bubbles` 240 546 306
(note! Between issues 300 and 314 this strip was placed in the middle pages in full colour!)

`The Jungle Walkers` 241 254 14

`The Misery King` 255 260 6



(1970)
Title Issue Issue No of Issues
`Bushboy` 261 275 15

`Around the World
with Klanky` (Series 4) 280 299 20

`Four Legged Fred` 299 314 15



(1971)


Title. Issue Issue No of Issues
Commenced Ceased


`The Mini – Martins` 322 332 11

`Bushboy` (Series 2) 346 359 14

`Tess of the Taoki` 356 363 8



(1972)


Title. Issue Issue No of Issues
Commenced Ceased


`The Wild West Kids` 364 376 13

`Klanky` (Series 5) 377 499 122




(1976)


Title. Issue Issue No of Issues.
Commenced. Ceased.

`North Sea Oyl` 587 592 6

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:29 pm

Afraid that one not so clear! Sorry!

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Appendix (3)

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:30 pm

Und Jetz! Appendix (3)

Appendix (3), Sparky `Overhauls`

Though these have been highlighted in the year by year survey, this appendix will show at a glance the relative size of each Sparky comic `overhaul` when, not only free gifts, but new stories / fun pals, were inducted into the comic over the two weeks of each `promotion`.

Because Sparky struggled for sales in its life, this resulted in nine separate `renewals` from September 1965 to August 1974. Pink Flyers in sister publications, displays to newsagents and television advertising trumpeted these two week promotions with free gifts and-sometimes-new logos.

Table 1. Will give dates of each promotion in the left column, while across the page a week one and week two columns will show the amount of new strips brought in on these weeks! (Week three of the August 1974 overhaul is not included as no stories entered on that week or week two!). The right hand column will show the full total (in brackets) for each `overhaul`.


Table 1.

Date. Week 1. Week 2. Total.

September 1965. 4 1 (5)

March 1966. 3 1 (4)

September 1966. 3 1 (4)

September 1967. 6 3 (9)

February 1969. 8 1 (9)

January 1970. 3 1 (4)

January/February 1971. 2 1 (3)

October 1972. 2 - (2)

August 1974. 3 - (3)


It is clear from comparison that the 1967 and 1969 overhauls were (by number of new strips) by far the largest with nine new strips / fun pals each.

The 1972 and 1974 revamps brought all new strips on in week one; in fact, week one saw the major proportion of the new intake with every other promotion bar September 1967 only bringing in one story in the second week. Only September 1967 bucked this trend by introducing three new strips in its second week.

The 1960s `overhauls` were rather larger than their 1970s counterparts. The 1960s ones were accompanied by television adverts and pink flyers in Sparky comic and sister publications, Dandy and Beano. By the 1970s D.C Thomson seemed to realise that it wasn’t worth the cost in trying to increase sales; and seemingly, they just tried to hold the decline to as little as possible.

Lew Stringer raised an interesting point in his surprise that Sparky did not try further `promotions` after the August 1974 one; if you discount the 1976 Cadbury’s chocolate discounts of issues 603-605. Probably, by then, it was considered too costly to try and reverse what was obviously a long slow decline in sales. We must not forget that this was the era of `hyper inflation` 1973-1977 and all comics were having to increase their cover price in amounts unthought-of of only five years earlier. Sales were bound to be affected.



Ratio of `Adventure` strips to `Fun` strips.


The adventure strips were those strips drawn to higher detail and usually more serious in tone; though `Klanky`,`Wee Tusky` `Invisible Dick` and many of the early animal based strips were more like `fun pals` in essence! They were always two page efforts. The fun strips were a half, one, two-or in `I. Spy’s` case, three page offerings and were mostly for fun. From the 1967 overhaul, the term `fun pals` was coined!

Table 1a will show the ratio in each overhaul of `adventure` to `fun` strips introduced. As with table 1 the left column is the date of each overhaul. Across the page are, firstly the TOTAL of strips, then (A) `Adventure`, and a (F) `Fun` strip columns.


Table 1a.

Date. Total Strips. (A) (F)


September 1965. 5 5 -

March 1966. 4 4 -

September 1966. 4 3 1

September 1967. 9 4 5

February 1969. 9 2 7

January 1970. 4 1 3

January/February 1971. 3 - 3

October 1972. 2 - 2

August 1974. 3 - 3


The marked change from introducing only adventure strips in 1965-66 to only fun strips in 1971-74 is quite clear in table 1a. The 1967 and 1969 overhauls set the change from the majority of strips from `Adventure` to `Fun`.

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:31 pm

Ooh! A bit `wonky` never mind!

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Appendix (4)

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:32 pm

Appendix (4) now enters, stage left!

Appendix (4). List of Sparky Strips New In Each Issue.


Appendix (5) will list each issue of Sparky where new `Adventure` (A) or `Fun` (F) strips entered! It will include the first three issues and those issues where many strips entered in the comic’s many `overhauls`. Those issue numbers are marked with #.

Left hand table is issue number. Across the page is (A) = Adventure strip; (F) = Fun strip. The number of each strips in will be logged by these.


ISSUE No. (A) (F)

1 4 14

2 6

3 1

15 1

16 1

17 1

23 1

25 1 2

26 1

30 1

35 # 4

36 # 1

43 1

48 2

50 1

Issue No (A) (F)


53 1

56 1

57 1

60 # 3

61 # 1

62 1

63 1

73 1

75 2

77 1

79 1

83 1

84 1

86 # 2 1

87 # 1

88 1

95 1

98 1

107 1

108 1

Issue No (A) (F)

110 1

117 1

123 1 1

124 1

128 1

138 1 1

140 # 2 4

141 # 2 1

156 1

158 1

159 1

166 1

169 1

170 1

171 1

179 1 1

182 1

184 1

186 1

192 1

196 1
Issue No (A) (F)

198 1

199 1

200 1

205 1

206 1

211 # 2 6

212 # 1

227 1

230 1

231 1

232 1

240 1

241 1

244 1

255 1

261 # 1 2

262 # 1

276 1

280 1 1

299 1

300 1
Issue No (A) (F)

315 # 2

316 # 1

319 1

322 1

333 1

346 1

360 1

364 1

377 1

397 1

403 # 2

427 1

465 1

466 2

474 1

490 1

500 # 3

523 1

545 1

561 1

568 1
Issue No (A) (F)

578 1

587 1

593 1

644 1



From this table we can see how the change from primarily adventure strips, 1965 -1968, to fun strips, 1969 and onward, progressed. Only once, in issue 25 was there a time when more than two new strips was introduced `without` a free gift promotion!

There is no doubt that Sparky comic constantly changed it’s adventure and fun strips in a bid to find a `winning formula`. Sadly, it didn’t really work; otherwise it would still be on sale today!

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Appendix (5)

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:36 pm

Finally! Appendix (5)

Appendix (5) Collecting Sparky comic.

If any fans of the comic wish to acquire as many old copies as they can, here are my own experiences as what I hope will be a useful guide.

E.Bay is the most obvious place to start. Copies often pop up on there. You have to put your bid on and hope it wins. Of course if someone out-bids you and there is still time, you can pop on a higher bid!

I have gained quite a few copies this way with 1965 issues averaging at about £6 each, apart from the first two issues. Unlike Dandy or Beano, Sparky has never been as `collectible` as those two comics and even very early issues do not fetch the prices of similar Dandy or Beano issues would. Of course it helps that Sparky did not appear until 1965.

The 26 Pigs site has comics at a set price. You `buy` the ones you want, if you accept the price and checkout your basket! An automatic buying order goes to the seller and they in turn send you an invoice with all postage and packing charges included. I was able to get Sparky No 2 here for £25.

Comic auction sites can sometimes throw up Sparky comics. I recently won quite a few on the Compal site! This site in summer 2000 presented the first five issues with issues 1, 2 & 3 with free gifts intact! All said to be in fine plus condition! They sold for £220. Wish I’d caught that one!

I have found that the 1966 and 1967 issues must be pretty rare as they rarely come up for sale. Conversely, issues from the years 1970 and 1971 do come up for sale pretty regularly. There are also comic fairs. The venues for these are on E.Bay. They do deal with mostly American comics, but sometimes British ones can be found there now and again.

Of course, if by some miracle copies are still accompanied with their original free gifts then expect to at least double the cost. Another rarity is the `pink` sheets from other Thomson titles (such as `Beano or Dandy`) that advertised Sparky comic when it re-promoted itself.

I have the `pink` from a 16th January 1965 Beano which advertised the debut of Sparky the following week. It cost £25 on E.Bay. Later pinks also came with Sparky comic itself. I have three of these now; one from issue No 34, (11th September 1965), one from issue No 139 (16th September 1967) and I have just recently, acquired the flyer from No 210, 25th January 1969. The pinks opened to a four sided advert for the following new stories and free gifts to come. These are ultra rare indeed!

As mentioned in the `free gifts` chapter, I have recently won (On E.Bay), Sparky No1 with it’s Flying Snorter` free gift; both in excellent condition. I think I now hold the record for highest price paid for a copy of No 1 with free gift at £395.00!

So far, I have collected 640 issues since January 2009, so it can be done!

There are just 652 issues to get to complete the set-so “Happy Hunting!”


© Alan Smith. May 2010 .

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:37 pm

Got to be the longest thread on here with ne'er a reply! Very Happy

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by Sheepsville on Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:13 pm

Hi there Alan,
I just want to say how wonderful it was to read your rundown on the sparky comic series. I too was an avid fan of the sparky comic and annuals and up until now I thought those days were long gone, but to read your info was fantastic knowing there are others who remember it so fondly. Smile

My original search online for the comic was to try and track down an edition that 'I' was featured in...well a questiion I had submitted to Spoofer McGraw and they wrote a strip to answer it. (I asked how chocolate was made and in the strip they made out chocolate was actually chalk from the White Cliffs of Dover and at the end of the strip Spoofer McGraw's gullible mate (can't remember his name) bought him a packet of chalks instead of a bar of chocolate. I was awarded 50p for my pubished question and was so proud when a school pal came over to me in the playground with their copy to ask if the Suzanne Huntbach (maiden name) mentioned in the comic, was me. Don't suppose you recall that story or have the edition it featured in do you?

I can not remember the date of the edition this featured in only an appoximate time scale...worked out by the junior school I was attending at the time and my age.
I left junior school in 1974 and from what I can work out, the years I was getting the sparky was between 1970 - 1973.

Anyhow, would love to hear back from you if you can shed any light on my investigations...

Regards

Suzanne Jones

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:50 am

I have replied to Suzanne on P.M. I will sift through my Sparky's for that episode - but it might take me up to a week! Alan.

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by Splanky on Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:50 pm

Hi Alan,

I too was a fan of Sparky comic although I was allowed to have both TV 21 and Sparky. Never seemed to get much in the way of Thunderbirds merchandise, however, and I envied a schoolmate who did.

Your article was very useful - in fact today, armed with the dates you provided, I went to a reference library to read the David Copperfield strip in particular once again. I'd forgotten just how early it ended: once he meets up with his aunt Betsy and the evil Mr Murdstone is repelled, that's it. Steerforth figures in one school-based episode. As you say, the strip is well drawn. From vaguest memory, I wondered whether it might have been a Dudley D. Watkins reprint, but up close it clearly isn't that, though the images of Murdstone and Betsy Trotwood have lingered with me nevertheless. Barkiss (as in "Barkiss is willing", the coach driver who fancies Peggoty) is nicely conjured up, too, though Micawber is a bit odd. The time at Aunt Betsy's only covers two or three strips but in memory it seemed like the bulk of the tale.

Interesting to read the captions, too: I haven't compared them, but I'd guess that a fair amount of Dickensian style, if not substance, survived in them. And they are quite substantial, so that the action covered is occasionally too much for the image decided upon.

I suppose the story couldn't have included the later Steerforth stuff, and David's rescue from a life of Murdstone-enforced drudgery, and his making his way to Aunt Betsy's is indeed a story in itself, but I do wonder why they didn't attempt to continue the tale, even if bowdlerised. It's certainly engrossing enough.

Other thoughts: I remember the issue with the introduction of Winnie the Witch as being heralded as a major revamp at the time. Also an odd detail in the Letters page: I remember being puzzled by one so-called "Star Letter" because I couldn't understand the concept of kindness on the editor's part. It was from a kid who'd had an operation or something and ended something like: "The nurses were nice and we had orange juice." Which didn't seem dazzling wit or anything else to me at the time.

Anyway, many thanks for guiding me to this nostalgiac wallow!

Splanky

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Re: The `Sparky` File!

Post by alanultron5 on Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:54 pm

Thanks for kind comments Splanky! I am glad the file was able to help you track down that strip. Sparky comic was the only major Thomson comic that Dudley Watkins never contributed to! Two religious strips by him though were in Sparky Books 1968 1969 - which I certainly though a bit of a `con` when getting them back in the 60s.

My file is pretty subjective which I hope won't mar the documentary side of it too much! I'm upgrading it just now!

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ARTIST JON FOX (MR BUBBLES /KLANKY THE ROBERT

Post by ethanejd on Sun Nov 09, 2014 3:27 pm

alanultron5 wrote:I have-sort of- completed my history of `Sparky` comic on word document!  I will try to put it on the site year-by-year as it is too large to go on in one great chunk!

THE SPARKY FILE. 23 January 1965 – 23 July1977.

This revised and greatly expanded `Sparky File` will correct (I hope!) those errors in my earlier abridged article for `Crikey! `. This version is more detailed on dates where possible and far more comprehensive in description where possible, of adventure stories in the comics early years.

I have striven to list ever issue number and date where a strip begins and ends in the comic. I have also supplied names of artists where possible and of 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.

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 few gaps in both. However, I do think this is the `definitive` guide to the history of Sparky comic so far.

                        *                            *                               *                             *


             SPARKY, The `Forgotten` comic.


Now, almost forgotten, apart from those devout fans such as members of the `Comics U.K board (like myself) `Sparky comic, when remembered, is thought of as the `odd-man-out` in the stable of D.C Thomson `fun` comics.

It was the last of the D. C Thomson big five fun titles to appear (23rd January 1965) and the first to founder on 16th July 1977. Its twelve year life seems to be poorly recalled by many U.K comics’ aficionados. Graham Kibble White has sadly got virtually all his factual data incorrect concerning Sparky in the small chapter on it in his book.

I hope to give readers as comprehensive as possible history of Sparky comic and its assorted strips, both `fun` and `adventure` Sparky comic has been sadly neglected by many comic historians, here’s hoping that the balance can be redressed somewhat. 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

The comic had a different look to its strips as many of the artists had not worked on those sisters `fun` papers. The first Editor was Willie (Bill) Mann who had previously helmed `Victor` comic.  Sparky in its early years carried strips that featured surrealistic themes not seen in the other Thomson stable of comics. There was also a high preponderance of animal themed adventure strips in the first two and a half years of its life.

It possessed a mixture of `fun` strips, which were, at one or two pages,  simply drawn (in comparison with the `adventure strips) and the `adventure` strips which were drawn to a higher degree of artwork; these were always two page efforts. The comic also ran a text (with some illustrations) strip for its first few months. Anyhow, that’s enough introductions, now on with the show!













































                       1965. The new comic is launched.


Sparky No 1 entered the market on Friday 16th January 1965 (Note! The cover date was 23rd January; but all U.K comics were dated a week ahead of publication. I’m afraid I don’t know why this was).  Sadly, it turned out to be one of the worst cases of bad timing in a commercial sense. Why? Well, also coming on sale the very same day was City Publications title “T,V 21” It was rather like the Monkees pop group releasing their “Headquarters” LP at the same time as Beatles “Sgt Pepper”. Sparky comic was quite overshadowed by the flashier TV 21 and this inauspicious start did not auger well for its sales.

One aid to Sparky though was fellow Thomson titles, `Dandy` and `Beano` issues of 9th January 1965, both carrying four page `pink flier` inserts that advertised the new Sparky comic. I had the Dandy one at the time and have recently bought (on E.Bay) the Beano edition with `pink flier`

Both comics (Sparky and TV 21) had been advertised just after New Year’s Day 1965 on the telly. The Sparky ad showed scenes of youngsters playing with the free gift, the “Flying Snorter”. This was a yellow balloon with a flattened red coloured air hole which let the air out in sort of controlled way to give a rasping sound! You blew it up, and let if go, and there it went, rasping away till all the air inside was depleted. Sparky No2 gave away the `Big Banger` and No3 the `Red Racketty`

I was only allowed one of either `Sparky` or `TV 21` and I chose `Sparky` (I bet I was in the minority there!) My Mom bought me the new comic (I was Eight years of age in early 1965) The “Snorter” was great fun indeed! Wish I’d kept it. Anyhow, this was the start of a long and happy association for me with Sparky comic. In fact, I had purchased (and later bought myself) all but four Sparky’s (and kept them) to about June / July 1971. Oh! How I wish I’d still kept them.

At a cost of 5d (old pence) it was 2d dearer than Dandy or Beano; but it had a page content of 24 pages instead of 16 as with Dandy, Beano or the A3 sized Topper and Beezer (they were 5d in price too). Unlike Dandy and Beano, who increased their price (to 4d) in 1968, Sparky stayed at 5d right up to issue 281, 1st August 1970 when it increased to 6d. Friday was the day Sparky came out and it stayed Friday until late 1969.

The comic was aimed at a slightly younger readership than Dandy or Beano for the first three or so years of its life.

At the time, I didn’t know Sparky had updated many old 1940s strip and conceived new adventures using old characters! My Mom wasn’t pleased with the content, but I begged her to please continue buying it as I was quite happy with it.

By 1967 I was buying the comic (and Dandy, Pow & Smash) with my pocket money. Friday’s was Sparky day and after school, I would have my tea, then I would change out of my school clothes and dash to my local newsagents (With my street clothes on of course!)  For my Sparky!
                                 
My early favourites were “Flubberface” (the friendly monster), “Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora” (whose dreams led to wonderfully surreal adventures). I also liked the “Jeff Ye Jolly Jester” strip too! In all, I thoroughly enjoyed my Sparky comic each Friday. After reading, I would store my Sparky along with my Dandy’s and other comics in my wall set clothes store! No sunlight got in, so they were in superb condition.

The `Sparky` character was drawn by Ron Spencer and Jimmy Glenn. He has caused some debate in his years as `cover` star regarding his supposed race and colour. Only issue seven gave a hint to this in his treatment, but I can see why he is deemed Non P.C today. Speaking personally, I find two 1970s `L. Cars` episodes were far worse in this respect.

`Hungry Horace` and `Keyhole Kate` were drawn by George Drysdale who would sadly pass away in 1967. George also drew the `Me and my Grockle` strip in 1966/67.

`Flubberface` and `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` were drawn by Bob Webster. He would also draw strips `The Slowdown Express`, `Fireman Fred` and from 1968, the Pansy Potter` strip, taking over from Bill Hill who had drawn her from 1965.

The covers (first & last pages) and the middle colour ones were full colour.
Pages 2, 11, 14 and 23 were always a mix of Red, Black and White. All other pages were in monochrome.

The `Sparky` Logo was curved similar to the `Dandy`. Colours of Logo were the same as Dandy too. The word Sparky was in bright red on a yellow surround. This was complimented by a royal blue background which made it an identical colour scheme to the Dandy.

The comic was a repository for old Beano and Dandy strips such as Pansy Potter, Keyhole Kate, Ma Jolly and her Brolly, Hungry Horace, Freddie the Fearless Fly, Frosty McNab, Black Jack the Sweep, Stoneage Steve, Dick Turpentine, Peter Piper, Hairy Dan etc! even though these were `updated` versions.

Frosty McNab, Black Jack, Stoneage Steve and Dick Turpentine all vanished by issue eight, Ma Jolly ended at issue 17 and Hairy Dan to issue 29. These strips were very poor fare indeed!

Thankfully, some new strips such as `Flubberface` and the Moonsters were also included. The wonderfully surreal `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` which occupied the middle two pages (in colour) was perhaps the best of the early strips.

The comic had a letters page titled “Write to Sparky” and also a puzzles and conundrums page.

Sparky comic never enjoyed the sales of Dandy or Beano; in fact Topper and Beezer seemed to better it here as well. The comic seemed to be the `oddball` of the Thomson output and really struggled to find an identity or a loyal readership!

The first two years plus of the comics life saw the unusual mode of `strip rotation` which meant that strips such as `Flubberface` `Minnie Ha-Ha`,`Joe Bann` `Freddie the Fearless Fly` and `Jeff Ye Jolly Jester` were taking turns to appear. No wonder the comic struggled early on as it was difficult to get readership identification with characters if they didn’t appear every week! In fact, this bizarre practice was still in operation in late 1967-early 1968, rotating the `Pansy Potter` and `Tom Tardy` strips.

Issue No 25, July 10th 1965 saw the addition to the comic of `fun` strips Winnie the Witch` and `The Slowdown Express` `Winnie` became a weekly regular while  `Slowdown` went into the rota system after issue 65 in 1966. There was also a new `adventure` strip that issue too, `Riddle of the Roughlands`. The `Slowdown Express` fun strip, drawn by Bob Webster was a bit of an anachronism in that it was strange that the comic run a strip about a steam train service just as they were ending in real life. `Winnie the Witch` featured the fun adventures of a novice witch. Sadly, the artwork on this strip was quite poor indeed.

The rotation system affected all fun strips except for `Sparky`, `Winnie the Witch`,`The Moonsters`, `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora`, `Hungry Horace` `Cuckoo in the Clock` and `Keyhole Kate`; who were the only regular weekly fun strips.

The Moonsters strip was in the style of the early `Bash St Kids` when that strip was `When the Bell Rings` circa 1954. Similar to the `Bell Rings` strip, the Moonsters had one or two (sometimes none!) small panels leading to one large panel featuring several the Moonsters trying vainly to achieve that weeks subject. It soon became obvious this Moon had oceans, forests, and many other similarities to Earth. Until the late 60s `space-race` this lack of scientific accuracy didn’t matter much. It was drawn by Bill Ritchie.

Other `fun` strips were `Minnie Ha-Ha, and Running Kick, her pet talking Raven` the fun adventures of a young Red Indian squaw and her talkative pet. There was `Cuckoo in the Clock` A wooden, but living clock cuckoo who would often leave his clock to get up to mischief!

There was `Hockey Hannah` The fun adventures of a schoolgirl and her hockey stick. It wasn’t a very inventive strip and I must admit that I barely recall it at all. It was drawn by Andy Tew.

One character who I recall in his debut issue, No 3 was `Peter Piper`. The strip began with Peter taking a stroll in a park. Suddenly two bullies began picking on him (a regular hazard for `fun` characters). A nearby statue of Pan came to life and scared the bullies away (never?). Pan then gifted Peter his set of pipes. He told him they would bring any icon to life; be it statue, sculpture or any drawing if he blew the pipes at them.

This done, Pan popped back on his plinth and became a statue once more (sans pipes). Only years later did I find out that Peter Piper was an old comic character. Yet another old two characters updated were `Pansy Potter` the strongman’s daughter and `Nosey Parker` (drawn by Bill Hill), an interfering old busybody. They often shared one page split between them. Nosey Parker departed after issue 29, 7th August 1965 for over a year till issue 83, 20th August 1966; but Pansy Potter stayed as one of the `rotated` strips.

Now! Here is an example of a very early `Sparky` line-up.


                          SPARKY No 2, (30 January 1965, 5d)

Page 1
(Cover) Heading “Free Inside `Big Banger` (it was one of those `Crack-Bang` efforts which the brown paper always split after about three `bangs`

Sparky clears the snow with his Vacuum cleaner, hitting a policeman with a burst of cleared snow. (Full Colour)

Page 2
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`. Comic adventures of Cowboy Joe Bann and his all-purpose Banjo! (This page in Red, Black & White)

Page 3
`Keyhole Kate. ` I had no idea, that Kate was an old character, now updated.

Pages 4 & 5
`The Young Castaways` Story concerned two babies from a shipwreck who were raised by friendly occupants of a South Seas island. Drawn by the artist (Tony Speer)who would later sketch Invisible Dick`.

Page 6
`Cuckoo In The Clock` Comic adventures of a wooden, but living, Cuckoo.

Page 7
`Hockey Hannah` The comic adventures of a schoolgirl and her hockey stick. This is one strip I have virtually no recollection of at all!

Pages 8 & 9
`Wee Tuskey` Adventure strip, light hearted, which was about a young Elephant and his life in the jungle of south Asia. The Sparky comic had a real taste for animal based stories in its early years.

Page 10
`Hungry Horace. `This was the only strip to be ever present from Sparky No 1, to 652 (final issue). At the time I had no idea he was an old Dandy character.

Page 11
Adverts for next weeks free gift, the `Red Racketty` and for a choice of Ten shilling postal order or a transistor radio if readers wrote to the comic and letter was published. B/W & Red.

Pages 12 & 13
Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` One of my favourites; I loved the early adventures which could get really surreal. Unlike later stories, the early ones did not often turn into nightmares! This issue sets Dave and Dora to rescue the children of Hamlin Town. In full colour.

Page 14.
`Minnie Ha-Ha` Comic adventures of a young Red Indian Squaw, and her pet `talking` Raven; `Running Kick`. In B/W & Red.

Page 15
`Sparky’s puzzles` As it says, a page full of puzzles. Maze, spot the difference, etc.

Pages 16 & 17
`The Kidnapped Kidds`
A very strong (for 1965) story of two children who witness a train robbery and are subsequently held captive by the crooks. This was pretty gutsy stuff for Sparky! Gang leader Gus is not averse to physical violence to children or of holding his gun to their heads. I have no idea; but I would not be surprised if parents complained about this strip.

Pages 18 & 19 and top half of 20.
`The Palace of Secrets` This was a text story, along with a few illustrations, concerning the adventures of young Mary at the palace of Kra.  This story is definitely aimed at female readers.

Page 20, bottom half.
The Editor and the rest of the Sparky staff introduce Pansy Potter to the readers, stating she will begin her adventures from next week’s issue.

Page 21
`Jeff Ye Jolly Jester `. The comic adventures of medieval Jester, Jeff!

Page 22
Freddie the Fearless Fly. Another rejuvenated old character. Again, I had no idea he was an old character until my Mother stated so.

Page 23
Top third, `Frosty McNab` A sort of `Jack Frost` character.
Middle third, `Grandma Jolly and her Brolly`
Bottom third, `Black-Jack` Chimney Sweep.  You could tell these were old characters because, though the stories were contemporary, they were drawn in 1940s style. Even to me then, they looked terribly old fashioned! It was a stupid move by the staff and `Frosty` and `Black-Jack` departed very quickly.

Page 24
`The Moonsters`. In issue No2 Penny and Peter Pleasant are about to land on the Moon. Peter had pressed a button while he and Sister Penny were exploring at the Rocket Ship exhibition (as you do). They land safely and are greeted by little green `Moonster` people who lay on a big feast for their Earth visitors. Note! One of the Moonsters has pointed `Spock-like` ears. This was not apparent in later adventures.

The final three inches of page 24 consisted of adverts for next weeks new pal `Peter Piper`. Also, the comic asks “Have you written to Sparky Yet?”  All page 24 in full colour.

A very varied comic indeed! I had no idea that some strips were updated adventures of old characters. The `Kidnapped Kidds` was very strong stuff indeed! The text story was for girls only in my view! I looked forward to next Friday’s comic.

The `Young Castaways` strip is etched in my memory. It ran from the first issue to No 16, dated 8th May. The story featured on two babies who barely survived the sinking of the yacht their mother and father seemingly perished on.
The babies were washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Akavu. They were found by the friendly natives who took care of them. The native leader, Queen Lemba, had worked as a nurse in Australia and had after some years had returned to the island she was born on.

The Queen taught the babies as they grew to children, English and gave them the names Mark and Marina. The youngsters believed their parents must be dead as did the Queen who looked after them as best as she could.

Mark and Mary had many adventures on the island. One day Mary was badly injured by a falling tree and though Lemba had some medical knowledge, she knew that a surgeon must operate on the child to save her. The island was often visited by a plane from nearby Australia and a message was relayed regarding Marina’a condition. A surgeon, Mr Maxwell, agreed to fly to the island.

Amazingly, the surgeon turned out to be the Childs father! Both he and their mother had survived and both had believed their children had drowned. It all ended happily with Mark and Marina finding out their real name was Charles and Mary Maxwell. The strip was drawn very ably by Tony Speer. He would later draw the abysmal `Invisible Dick` strip.

Running from issue No 1 to No 15, 1st May 1965, was a story that was anything but `fey` or `twee`. `The Kidnapped Kidds` saw two children John and Mary Kidd, witness a train robbery. They are caught by the husband and wife leaders of the gang, Gus and Betty.

Gus in particular is a very nasty piece of work. In episode seven he hits young John severely across the face. The tenth episode has the very harrowing sight of Gus walloping John with his trouser belt, a scene no fun comic today would dare display. This was no `Dennis the Menace` type spanking, it was graphic child abuse! Gus also holds the gun to the children’s head on more than one occasion. The final time he did this in issue 15 when the police have them cornered, Betty comes to her senses and knocks his arm away and the children are then rescued.

It was a very hard hitting strip which was drawn by artist David Ogilvie who succeeded admirably in giving Gus a very cruel look indeed. Had this story been mooted for inclusion a few months later it may not have been accepted for publication due to the real life horrors of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.

As it was, it still stands today as the most harrowing adventure strip in the comic’s history. Nothing like it was ever attempted again and I think that maybe concerned parents wrote to the editor about the content and the fact of the `Moors Murders` hitting the headlines just after publication of the story must have given D.C Thomson pause for thought!.

A possibly controversial (by today’s standards) front cover story was issue No 7 dated 6th March, Page 1. Cover `star``Sparky` gets pushed into vats of coloured paint (for snooping) Police can’t scrub all the colours off, so they paint the rest of him with black paint!!   If a comic did that storyline today, we would all be hearing about it in the resulting prosecution! What incredible stupidity.

There was a surfeit of animal based strips early on. Some were humorous such as `Wee Tusky` (young Burmese elephant), `Kipper feet` (young walrus) both drawn by Jack Monk, and `McGinty’s Goat` (regimental mascot) drawn by Bob Webster. Others were more serious in tone such as `Watch` who was a Newfoundland rescue dog, and `Rory` the horse of many masters. There were fifteen of these animal themed stories from the comics inception to September 1967, a case of `overkill` me- thinks!

`Wee Tusky` ran from issue No 1 to No 22, 19th June 1965. It relayed the `fun` adventures of a young Burmese elephant. Wee Tusky had a higher I.Q than many humans if any of the `adventures` are to be believed! Tusky was replaced, in issue No 23 by `Kipper Feet` who was a young walrus. It was basically the same style of nonsense; both strips were drawn by the same artist, Jack Monk.

`Kipper Feet` left for good on issue No 34, 11th September, being replaced by another stint of `Wee Tusky`. The second series of `Tusky` only lasted eight issues to No 42 dated 6th November 1965.

The far more serious strip `Watch` drawn by George Radcliffe concerned the adventures of a Newfoundland rescue dog at a 19th Century fishing community, stands up far better today. It had many well executed storylines and is enjoyable to me on current reading. It ran from issue No 16, 8th May, to No 35, 18th September 1965.

The comic also had a text strip `The Palace of Secrets` from its first issue to No 14, 24th April. It was most certainly aimed at girl readers. Replacing this text story in issue No 15 was another text story `Will O` the Well`. This was a bizarre effort about a pixie like boy who lived at the bottom of a wishing well (and never got wet!); who granted wishes to whoever threw coins into the well and made a wish. Will spent all money `earned` on ice lollies.

Those wishing unselfishly on behalf of others fared best, while those wishing with selfish or cruel intentions got their wish; but in a manner that taught them a lesson! It was a very inventive series and an early favourite of mine.

I was sad to see the text stories of `Will` end at issue 25, 10th July as it helped my reading ability and made me use my imagination to great effect. `Will` did return in comic strip form from No 53, 22nd January 1966, but that wasn’t as successful as the text story as the text leant to the imagination being used. The cartoon version only lasted to issue 59, 5th March 1966, a mere seven issues!

Yet another comedy based animal strip was `McGinty the Goat` drawn by Bob Webster who also drew the `Joe Bann` fun strip. This strip was the fun adventures of a very aggressive Army regimental mascot. My nomination as possibly the worst animal styled story of all time. For me, it is abysmal. It ran from issue No 17, 15th May, to issue 29, 7th August 1965, fifteen issues.

Now, let us take another look at a 1965 line up; this time from issue No 20.


                         SPARKY No 20, (5th June 1965, 5d)

Page 1
`Sparky` joins a brass band.

Page 2
`Joe Bann and his Big Banjo`

Page 3
`Keyhole Kate`

Pages 4 & 5
`Watch` The Victorian period adventures of a Newfoundland rescue dog and the fishing community he worked for. One of the more serious animal based stories in Sparky and quite a good effort indeed.

Page 6
`Hockey Hannah`

Page 7
`Freddie, the Fearless Fly`

Pages 8 & 9
`McGinty the Goat` The fun adventures of a regimental mascot. For me, this was one of the worst examples of how very poor many of the `fun` animal stories in the comic were.

Page 10
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Page 11
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Pages 12 & 13
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` This week the twins meet a king who never smiles.

Page 14
Top half, `Pansy Potter` Bottom half, `Nosey Parker`

Page 15
`Write to Sparky`

Pages 16 & 17
`Wee Tusky`

Pages 18, 19 & top 2/3 of page 20
`Will O’ the Well` Delightfully inventive text strip about a strange elf-like boy who lives in a well and grants wishes to whosoever throws coins into the well and makes a wish.

Page 20 Bottom 1/3
`Hairy Dan` Another updated old character. Unbelievably old-fashioned stuff!

Page 21
`Hungry Horace`

Page 22
`Jeff Ye Jolly Jester`

Page 23
`Minnie-Ha-Ha! And her talking Raven`

Page 24
`The Moonsters`

                               
The comic also gave readers two sci-fi, alien invasion adventures in 1965. The first titled `Raiders from the Red Planet` was a `blink and you’ll miss it` affair commencing in issue 30 (14 August 1965) to issue 34 (4 September) just five episodes! It was in black and white and drawn by the artist who drew the 1965 `Peter Piper` strip. The `Martians` themselves, looked identical to humans in every way (except for their space suits).

These Martians were armed with `gas` guns that could immobilise. They also set up parabolic shaped devices that operated as `heat` rays. Thankfully for the human race, the Martians were susceptible to the common cold, so that as in `The War of the Worlds`; mankind’s saviour was a microbe.

In issue 35 (11 September 1965) the far better `The Year of the Vanaks` appeared in colour on the middle pages (bumping Dreamy Dave and Dora to black and white).

The strip looks like it could be a reprint from an earlier Thomson comic as it has a 1950s look to it. There were three different classes of Vanaks. The humanoid types were small (about four foot) fellows who were bright purple and possessed large bulbous (and bald) heads with pointed ears. Their robotic counterparts were cylinder like creations, also around four feet in height, but could hover above the ground. The third, rarely seen Vanaks, were large cumbersome humanoid shaped Robot types, crimson in colour.

The Vanaks were armed with weapons that fired either green paralyzing rays or red death beams. Most of the earth had been conquered by the Vanaks in a surprise attack, before nuclear weapons could be utilised.

However, a resistance movement gathered itself together and slowly the Vanaks weaknesses were uncovered. They could be immobilised themselves if their green rays were transmitted at a slightly higher frequency. This was achieved by humanity by turning a Vanak world link-up television broadcast against them.

Earlier, it had been discovered that the aliens were very susceptible to wasp stings, dying in seconds on receiving stings. The humans then concocted formic acid devices (Wasp stings are basically formic acid) to use against them.
It was an entertaining strip which ran to issue 56 (12 February 1966).

The `Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` fun strip which inhabited the two centre colour pages through September 1965 produced some of the best and innovative surreal stories I have ever seen in any comic.  Many of the early and most surrealistic stories were drawn by Pam Chapau. As with the characters in the 1935 film `Peter Ibbotson` Dave and Dora` would always experience each others dreams. An example of how inventive this format could be is the example from issue No 30 (14th August 1965)  

Dave and Dora are in their beds trying to sleep, but they just cannot nod off! They imagine sheep, and lo and behold! A flock of sheep appear in their bedroom. They have to imagine up a shepherd to remove the sheep. They realise that whatever they think of will appear so they think up an elephant.

It fills their bedroom so they `think` it smaller and then into a porcelain figure. Enjoying this power of thought, they then think themselves onto the seaside. However! All the people on the beach laugh at them as they are still in their pyjamas.

Upset at this derision Dave and Dora think everyone away! Now finding themselves alone on the beach they don’t care for it and Dora wonders if it will rain. It then does to Dave’s chagrin! Dave wishes they were back in their beds and so they are-but! They are both in their beds on the beach with rain falling on them.

Before anything else happens they are being woken up by their Mother who tells them it is time for school. Dave and Dora realise they had been dreaming about `not` being able to sleep all along!

Other themes were trips by rocket to the centre of the earth. Adventures at the end of a rainbow, trip in a time machine. Visits to the places where time and weather are made. There were also trips to a mirror world, to the land of lost children and other strange dimensions.

Storylines such as these made this strip a truly captivating read and one of the early successes from Sparky comic. I loved the more surrealistic plots very much indeed. Other artists took turns in drawing the strip in rotating order through 1966 to 68; these were James Malcolm, George Ramsbottom, Ian Makay, Ian Judge and more entries from Pam Chapau.

As mentioned earlier, issue No 25 dated 10th July 1965 saw the debut of the Enid Blyton styled `Riddle of the Roughlands`. This story featured youngsters Frank and Pat Freeman encounter smugglers while on holiday on a area called the `Roughlands`.

They encounter a young lady that they think is part of the gang, but it turns out that she is an undercover policewoman who rescues the children and their dog `Nip`. With her help, the smugglers are captured in issue No 34, 11th September.

The following week of 17th July, issue 26, there commenced an adventure strip that mixed education with adventure. `Lonely Wood` featured youngsters Dick and Cherry Grainger who helped their father who was a warden for a nature reserve called `Lonely Wood`.

The strip often gave many interesting details on wildlife and flora and fauna of the region. I learned many interesting facets of the natural woodland from this strip.

Despite serving up such interesting offerings (to me at least!) the comic was struggling sales wise. By late 1965 sales were obviously sluggish so the first of many promotions took place, hence =


                           SPARKY No 35 (18 September 1965, 5d)


This issue saw something of a `re-vamp` to the comic. Issue 35 saw the first Logo change. It was the colour red in the word Sparky, which now changed place with the yellow surround. Hence, Sparky in yellow on a red surround. The blue background stayed the same though. The `Sparky` character strip and `The Moonsters` swapped front and back cover places from this issue up to issue 140.

The comic gave away a free gift; the `Squeezy Wheezy` balloon.

Page 1
`The Moonsters`. They swapped places with the `Sparky` character, who now took over the back page. The Moonsters decide to make a film.

Page 2
`Keyhole Kate`

Page 3
`Peter Piper`

Pages 4 & 5
`New Story`. `Gilpin, the Lost, Lost Boy`. A strange offering this! Set in the 16th century, it concerned the adventures of a `sprite` (Gilpin) who had a spell placed upon him (by whom it was never revealed) that compelled him to become the servant of the first mortal he met. Gilpin looked human except for his large eyes. He possessed some magical powers to help him in his tasks. He finally achieved his aims and was no longer `lost` which is more than can be said for many a puzzled young reader of this strip.

Page 6
`Hungry Horace`

Page 7
`Winnie the Witch`

Pages 8 & 9
`Wee Tusky`

Page 10
`Write To Sparky`

Page 11
Top two thirds are an advert for next week’s free gift, the `Spin Din` (illustrated). The bottom third of the page showcases both this weeks new stories `The Year of the Vanaks` and `Gilpin, the lost boy`, with a panel from next weeks adventures in both.

Pages 12 & 13
`New story`, `The Year of the Vanaks`. This was another space invasion, but in a much more serious mode.  In full colour, we see an advance guard of crimson robots who prepare the earth populace for the arrival of their masters; the Vanaks!. These turn out to be about four foot tall with large bulbous heads. They are bright purple in colour.

Page 14
`Cuckoo in the Clock`

Page 15
`Sparky’s Puzzles`

Pages 16 & 17
`Watch` This was the final episode.

Pages 18 & 19
`New story`, `The Flood that Mother remembers`. This story featured a coastguard and his family who were stationed in Southampton in 1953. I think it was loosely based on the true story of the great flooding of 1953.

Pages 20 & 21
`Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora` The pair find themselves in `Topsy-Turvey` land. For the first time, the strip was moved away from the centre pages and was now illustrated in black and white.

Page 22
`Freddy the Fearless Fly` Bottom of the page “Next week; Jeff Ye Jolly Jester”.

Page 23
` The Slowdown Express`

Page 24
Top three quarters, `Sparky` Who was now on the back page. Bottom quarter of the page was devoted to illustrated advert for next weeks new story `Floating Along, Singing a Song`. The adventures of a musical family; who live on a canal barge.

Issue 35 was the first in a series of `re-vamps` for the comic through the sixties. It probably gave away more free gifts 1965 to 1969 than any other Thompson comic in this period. My guess for this move was due to none too healthy sales. Here is a list of new strip and those replaced over weeks of 18th and 25th September 1965. All were adventure strips, no change in `fun pals`.


   New Strips Introduced, issues 35 & 36, September 18th & 25th 1965.

In

`Gilpin, the Lost, Lost Boy` (2 Pages)

`The Year of the Vanaks` (2 Pages)

`The Flood That Mother Remembers` (2 Pages)

`Floating Along, Singing A Song` (2 Pages)

`Wee Tusky`* (2 Pages) * = Returning Strip.
Out

`Lonely Wood` (2 Pages)

`Kipper Feet` (2 Pages)

`Raiders from the Red Planet` (2 Pages)

`Watch` (2 Pages)

`Riddle of the Roughlands` (2 Pages)

There were five new `adventure` strips over issues 35 and 36, these were `Year of the Vanaks` `Wee Tusky` on his second run in Sparky. `The Flood that Mother Remembers` and `Gilpin the Lost, Lost Boy` in issue No 35 and `Floating Along, Singing a Song` in issue No 36.

The `Gilpin the Lost, Lost Boy` strip which began in issue No 35 was a pretty strange affair indeed! Readers were introduced to Gilpin as he addressed readers bemoaning his plight! A spell had been cast upon him (we never found out by whom as far as I know!) so that he must be the servant of the first human he encountered. Gilpin was what was known as a `sprite`, an elf-like creature, but not of the water variety.

He encountered Henry Cranstoun and insisted he become Cranstoun’s servant! The power in his eyes made Cranstoun accede to this. Gilpin’s task was to bring about a marriage between Cranstoun and young lady Mary Scott. The Cranstoun and Scott families had been at war for years and only such a marriage could bring about peace.

A major problem for Gilpin was Mary’s mother, Lady Janet Scott. She was a witch who could read Gilpins thoughts. She was against any peace between the families as the war suited her purpose. It ran to issue 49, 25th December, when Gilpin eventually worked things to a happy resolution.

`The Flood That Mother Remember` which also commenced in issue 35; was loosely based on real life flooding that had happened in the 1950s. The strip also mixed in a smuggling theme to liven things up a bit! It was drawn by Tony Speer. It ended issue 47, 11th December 1965.

As previously mentioned, “The Year of the Vanaks” was also part of the new intake along with a second series of the comedy adventures of  young Burmese Elephant “Wee Tusky”.

Issue 36 brought the strip `Floating Along, Singing a Song` to readers. It concerned a family who travelled the country on the `Nancy Lee` canal barge. The children formed themselves into an amateur pop group who entertained towns and villages they stopped at. They were followed by two mysterious characters that seemed like villains. The `villains` turned out to be friendly and informed the children that one of them was actually heir to a Dukedom! To me, it was most unlikely fare, but enjoyable; it was drawn by Edward Drury and also finished in issue 47.

Issue No 43 brought us `The Downside Donkeys` which concerned a donkey reserve owned by the father of Mick and Cathy Murphy. Two silver donkeys they had purchased were wanted by foreign crooks, which was the base of the story. Rather dull stuff to me. Tony Speer took artistic duties on this one. This story lasted to issue 52, 15th January 1966.

In the 18th December issue, No 48, yet another animal based story commenced. `Goldie` was a golden eagle who became a pet of sorts to children, Steve and Betty Martin. It ran to issue No 61, 19th March 1966 and for me was utterly tedious! Yet again Tony Speer helmed the pens and pencils.

Also in issue 48 was `Lost Children of the Forest` which was set in the Second World War. Linda and Barry wrights London home is destroyed by a bomb and they believe their parents were killed in the blast. The homeless children team up with fellow orphans Peter, Robin and Sue Miles.

All try to survive in the New Forest region but find it very tough going. Salvation comes when they discover their parents had indeed survived the blast! They and their new friends make a new life away from London. It lasted to issue No 55, 5th February 1966.

1965 wasn’t quite the roaring success that had been hoped for the new comic as a fairly comprehensive overhaul with free gifts had to be promoted in September that year. The new comic had survived its first year and entered 1966, hoping for better sales. It was to be a tough struggle though!

THE SPARKY FILE. 23 January 1965 – 23 July1977.

This revised and greatly expanded `Sparky File` will correct (I hope!) those errors in my earlier abridged article for `Crikey! `. This version is more detailed on dates where possible and far more comprehensive in description where possible, of adventure stories in the comics early years.

I have striven to list ever issue number and date where a strip begins and ends in the comic. I have also supplied names of artists where possible and of 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.

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 few gaps in both. However, I do think this is the `definitive` guide to the history of Sparky comic so far.

                        *                            *                               *                             *


             SPARKY, The `Forgotten` comic.


Now, almost forgotten, apart from those devout fans such as members of the `Comics U.K board (like myself) `Sparky comic, when remembered, is thought of as the `odd-man-out` in the stable of D.C Thomson `fun` comics.

It was the last of the D. C Thomson big five fun titles to appear (23rd January 1965) and the first to founder on 16th July 1977. Its twelve year life seems to be poorly recalled by many U.K comics’ aficionados. Graham Kibble White has sadly got virtually all his factual data incorrect concerning Sparky in the small chapter on it in his book.

I hope to give readers as comprehensive as possible history of Sparky comic and its assorted strips, both `fun` and `adventure` Sparky comic has been sadly neglected by many comic historians, here’s hoping that the balance can be redressed somewhat. 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

The comic had a different look to its strips as many of the artists had not worked on those sisters `fun` papers. The first Editor was Willie (Bill) Mann who had previously helmed `Victor` comic.  Sparky in its early years carried strips that featured surrealistic themes not seen in the other Thomson stable of comics. There was also a high preponderance of animal themed adventure strips in the first two and a half years of its life.

It possessed a mixture of `fun` strips, which were, at one or two pages,  simply drawn (in comparison with the `adventure strips) and the `adventure` strips which were drawn to a higher degree of artwork; these were always two page efforts. The comic also ran a text (with some illustrations) strip for its first few months. Anyhow, that’s enough introductions, now on with the show!


hi all i've just joined the forum
my father is jon davis M.B.E or better known to sparky fans as jon fox who drew mr bubbles and klanky in the 1970s
my father was awarded an M.B.E on the 18th march of this year for services to children's literature
he has many fond memories of working for D.C THOMPSON .
i remember as a child when my father would post the rough drawings to D.C THOMPSON and then have to wait for them to be returned to see if they were happy with them
my father would then finish them and then repost them up to dundee
if anyone has a copy of four legged fred by my father ,i would love a scan or email
kind regards
ethan davis


ethanejd

Posts: 1
Join date: 2014-11-09

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