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Sparky's Golden Jubilee 
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One way in which the early Sparky more resembled the Thomson boy's and girls' adventure papers than the firms other comic output at the time was in the inclusion of a text serial.
The Thomson comics had of course included prose serials in their content in times past but it had been ten years since both the Beano and Dandy had ceased to publish them.
Why they chose to publish a text serial as part of the content every week was probably down to the nature of the audience they thought the Sparky would attract and that parents might have felt more encouraged to buy Sparky for their seven or eight year old if they felt it had some literary content to leven out, to a degree, its reliance on the picture strip to fill its pages.
In the end this 'experiment' lasted a mere 25 weeks and encompassed only two picture serials. 'The Palace of Secrets' (1-14) illustrated by an artist borrowed from the pages of the women's weeklies Jack Rawlins and 'Will o' the Well' (15-25) with accompanying illustrations by Graham Millar.


27 Jan 2015, 15:33
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When it came to Sparky's second issue all five of the 'new' picture strips it contained owed something, directly or indirectly, to Thomson's comic output from the past.
1) Pansy Potter - Pansy Potter -The Strongman's Daughter had a been a major comic strip in the Beano, on and off, for twenty years. Beginning with a first series that ran from Nos 21-325 with artwork by Hugh McNeill, Basil Blackaller, Sam Fair and even occasionally Dudley Watkins which was then followed by her adventures in Wonderland and latterly back home in Nos 369-590(Wonderland) and 591-652(Home)drawn by James Clark before a third series appeared in Beano Nos 812-854 illustrated in turn by Charles Grigg and Gordon Bell.
To be continued.


27 Jan 2015, 15:47
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Sparky No2 revivals continued

2) Frosty McNab - Originally a Beano strip that appeared in Nos 21-130 with a last Beano annual appearance in 1942. Original artwork by Sam Fair
3) Dirty Dick - a name change for Black Jack the Chimney Sweep who had first appeared in the Midget Comics given away with Wizard in 1930 and then subsequently within the pages of the paper itself (410-462). Original artwork by Allan Morley.
4) Grandma Jolly and her Brolly - Originally a Dandy strip in Nos 179-199 with artwork provided by John. R. Mason.
To be continued.


27 Jan 2015, 16:00
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Kashgar wrote:
In the end this 'experiment' lasted a mere 25 weeks and encompassed only two picture serials. 'The Palace of Secrets' (1-14) illustrated by an artist borrowed from the pages of the women's weeklies Jack Rawlins and 'Will o' the Well' (15-25) with accompanying illustrations by Graham Millar.
I don't have Alan's Sparky guide handy or I would check this, but in view of the accompanying comments, the claim that these two serials were in picture form doesn't seem to make sense.


27 Jan 2015, 20:03
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Sorry Derek. This of course should have read prose serials


27 Jan 2015, 22:40
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Amazing how many characters are from the past!!

Thanks Kashgar...if you have time later love to know about the editors for Sparky and what they went on to next..

Mike Lacey was fun to know in the early Sparky..

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28 Jan 2015, 00:58
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When I first had the opportunity to talk to DCT Editors in-depth, I did mention to them that Sparky had been my personal favourite childhood comic: however these experienced Beano and Dandy writers quite clearly gave the impression that within the hallowed halls of this creative powerhouse, the Sparky was regarded as something of an 'also-ran' concern.

They certainly both regarded I SPY as a memorable, quality character, though, even in comparison to the top Beano-Dandy creations.

I was saddened to hear about Editor Mr Chissolms' fate regarding his health as his publication brought me much joy in my formative years.

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28 Jan 2015, 10:11
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interesting data about artists on the early prose stories- thanks Ray.

I have Leo Baxendale's book regarding his work in comics- and you get the idea that when he was at DCT (To 1964) it was a pretty inflexible regime. Only Iain Chisholm comes over as somewhat easier to work with. He could be firm; but not without good reason. Of all senior management in Leo's time there Iain was the one manager to really see where Leo was heading with his work. (Leo spelled Iain's first name with the extra I throughout the text).

With the comic- yes! it was rather seen the `Runt-of-the-Litter` at Thomsons I think; but it was better than that in my view.

Trying to produce a comic styled on the old `Magic` comic by 1965 was -I feel a commercial mistake!. by 1965 the sixties were in full `Swing` and already the new style `Wham` was an initial success-leading to the new style of publications.

It didn't help either that Thomson's and City 21 publications were `cutting each other up` by releasing `Sparky` and `TV 21` on the very same day (Saturday 16 January 1965). Sparky must have struggled sales wise as in the period 1965 to 1974 it had NINE separate `Free gift` new story promotions outside its launch free gift weeks. No other DCT title had the same amount of promotions in that period and you don't do these unless you want to entice more readers! Beano and Dandy by comparison after their last `war-time` one of 1940 only did free gifts in 1960 and 1971; very sparingly because they were huge sellers in that period!

By 1967 Sparky did look very out of it's time and I think this is why the two huge revamps of September 1967 and February 1969 were undertaken -which radically changed the style of the comic.

Back to `Chiz` I think he may of begun his tenure at Sparky around October 1968. my reasoning? It was from this period old long established favorites such as "The Moonsters" and "Dreamy Dave and Dozy Dora! were terminated (Moonsters in issue 199, Dave and Dora in 203) That's my estimation when Iain took the helm.

Regarding Ray (Kashgar) fantastic info about identities of artists. I'm intrigued about one artist who at one period in 1968 was drawing three titles virtually consecutively "Big Billy Bigg, Clever Claire and The Snooks" Any ideas Ray?

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28 Jan 2015, 11:49
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Kashgar wrote:
In the end this 'experiment' lasted a mere 25 weeks and encompassed only two picture serials. 'The Palace of Secrets' (1-14) illustrated by an artist borrowed from the pages of the women's weeklies Jack Rawlins and 'Will o' the Well' (15-25) with accompanying illustrations by Graham Millar.
Will o' the Well also appears in the 1967 annual.

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28 Jan 2015, 16:17
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Sparky comic No2 revivals cont

The final inclusion here is perhaps a little more tenuous but, I think, still valid.

5) The Moonsters - with its large eyecatching slash panel, bursting with comic activity, the layout of the Moonsters more than a little resembled that of the earlier
Thomson boys' paper favourite Spadger Isle from the Wizard. Also the general set up of the strips in which the little moon-men would create all sorts of comic mayhem on the back of some suggestion by the two Earth children was certainly similar to the way the natives would respond to suggestions made by Spadger and Skipper Sam.
Further, Bill Blain the executive driving force behind Sparky, had been editor of Wizard through Spadger's heyday in the paper and certainly thought highly enough of the strip to see it appear in the paper throughout the 1930's and 1940's and, in the latter decade, as the front cover feature.
As drawn by Chick Gordon Spadger last appeared in Wizard, as a reprint in Dec 1957.
A strip that had appeared in the Beezer in 1956 Mick on the Moon drawn by Kan Hunter is also worth a mention as covering the same ground but in this instance in the light adventure strip format.


28 Jan 2015, 17:33
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just a bit tenous I feel Ray! what about "Cuckoo in the Clock" "Jeff ye Jolly Jester" and "Minnie Ha-Ha"? Surely they must have comic antecedants?

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29 Jan 2015, 11:12
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Hi Alan. I think, given the fact that Bill Blain was a major influence on Sparky's productiion, the connection between Spadger Isle and the Moonsters is not entirely without foundation, both in layout and in content. Although, of course, I do take your point that nearly every strip could be seen to have been influenced by and developed from something that predated it.
Re your query about The Snooks, Big Billy Bigg etc. These were all sourced from the Belgian art studio of Willy Vandersteen (1913-1990) which provided comic strips for publications across Europe. The artist on The Snooks and Big Billy Bigg aka De Familie Snoek and Jerom respectively were the work of one of Wildersteen's assistants named Edward de Rop (1928-2007).


29 Jan 2015, 14:59
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More Sparky comic strip revivals

Sparky No3 saw the publication of the first Peter Piper strip and this was, literally, a translation by a new artist, Mike Lacey, of the original produced by Dudley Watkins for the first issue of Magic comic published in July 1939 and many of the early Sparky Peter Piper strips would be panel by panel translations in this way from the original run of Peter Piper as he had appeared in Magic Nos 1-80. Before his Sparky appearances Peter Piper's last appearance had been in the 1951 Beano Book.

Other Sparky strips that owed something to earlier Thomson strips were, in order of their appearance, Winnie the Witch, My Grockle and Me, Meddlesome Matty, Charlie Chutney and Helphful Henry.
To be continued.


29 Jan 2015, 15:18
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Winnie the Witch had originally appeared in the Beano (326-343) drawn by James Clark with her last pre Sparky appearance having occured in the Beano Book for 1952.
Very liitle more than the the title was revived however as the Sparky Winnie, as drawn by Bernard Greenbaum, was a young trainee witch and nothing like as haggish as the original.
My Grockle and Me was a revival of the strip Jimmy and his Grockle that had appeared in the first 106 issues of the Dandy drawn by James Clark and before his reappearance in Sparky the Grockles last appearance had been in a text story published in the Dandy Monster Comic for 1948.
Meddlesome Matty had appeared in two series in the Dandy (39-120) drawn by Sam Fair and (377-421) featuring the first D C thomson artwork by Mal Judge with her last apppearance before her Sparky revival coming in the 1952 Dandy Monster Comic.


29 Jan 2015, 15:31
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Charlie Chutney the comical cook had originally been drawn by Allan Morley for the Dandy (278-340) between 1944 and 1947 before he clocked up a good run in the various Dandy annuals between 1947 and 1956.
Helpful Henry had been present in the Beano's first 35 issues drawn by Eric Roberts with his last pre Sparky appearance having come in the Beano Book for 1942.

I am also slightly tempted to include Snapshot Sid in this category as a revival of a popular Wizard strip from the 1930's The Exploits of Happy Harry the Camera Man (463-845) as drawn by Allan Morley but then I could just as easily see it as a comic strip version of the text story that had appeared in the early issues of Victor (1961)with the same title 'Snapshot Sid - the Camera Kid'. So with Alan's caveat ringing in my ears regarding being too tenuous I think, in this particualr instance, I better leave well alone.


29 Jan 2015, 15:44
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