The Strange Saga of Spark Man in Sparkler Comics, Up for Auction

Newspaper comic strip syndicate United Feature had an extensive presence in the comic book industry since the early days of the Golden Age.  They published their flagship Tip Top Comics for 188 issues from 1936-1954 before licensing the title to St. John, featuring a variety of their comic strip characters reprinted in comic book format.  Sparkler Comics was their other long-lasting title, running from 1940-1954 from United Feature before again being handed off to St. John (who renamed the title for regular feature Nancy and Sluggo at that point).  But Sparkler Comics was relatively unique among United Feature's output.  In addition to reprinting comic strips like Tarzan, Nancy, and others, Sparkler Comics introduced a non-newspaper strip superhero called Spark Man.  A wonderfully strange and unjustly forgotten hero of the Golden Age, there's a Sparkler Comics #1, Spark Man #1 and a bunch of issues of Sparkler Comics up for auction in the 2022 October 2-3 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122240 at Heritage Auctions.

Sparkler Comics #4 Group (United Features Syndicate, 1941)
Sparkler Comics #4 Group (United Features Syndicate, 1941)

Spark Man explained the basis of his powers in his debut in Sparkler Comics #1 as essentially being controlled usage of static electricity, which he was able to wield via gold balls in his gloves at the tips of his index fingers.  The symbol on his chest is an equals sign "=", which is confirmed in a caption in an early issue, as he initially used the symbol to mark the foreheads of criminals he defeated, and also signed off with it in notes to authorities.  Fans have long wondered about the meaning of the equals sign in the context of Spark Man's adventures, and the notes seem to imply that he is an "equalizer" against more powerful forces for victims in need.  There was a high degree of issue-to-issue continuity in these adventures, as Spark Man's identity was unknown even to the reader in the early going, with several cast regulars considered candidates.  His identity was ultimately revealed in Sparkler Comics #10.

The character was created by writer Fred Methot and artist Reg Greenwood, who also created the obscure superhero feature Mirror Man and the super-powered team Triple Terror for United Feature's Tip Top Comics around this same time.  Notably, Methot was also the original author of a 1949 Season 2 episode of the television series Suspense called The Comic Strip Murder which featured artwork by Dick Ayers in the episode.  The story had originally been an episode on the radio show Mystery Theater in 1944.  The 1945 Spark Man one-shot is a collection of the character's early adventures.  Spark Man's adventures are well-written and drawn and the epitome of Golden Age weirdness, and there's a Sparkler Comics #1, Spark Man #1 and a bunch of issues of Sparkler Comics up for auction in the 2022 October 2-3 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122240 at Heritage Auctions.

Sparkler Comics #1 (United Features Syndicate, 1940)
Sparkler Comics #1 (United Features Syndicate, 1940)

 

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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