Review by Ian Keogh
Sparky O’ Hare may be a master electrician, but he’s short. Very short. Short enough that it’s detrimental to his trade as even standing on a ladder he can’t reach some light fittings. It also seems to be the case that he’s doing more damage than good, as electrical devices just go wrong in his presence.
Cartoonist Mawil tells a complete story as a series of four panel gags, beginning with Sparky’s arrival and ending with the result of a final accident. He turns up at a small office run by a boss who’s uncertain about hiring an electrician when he only has three staff, but is rapidly convinced he’s worth the wage, while his staff like their boss and don’t want to bring up that Sparky only makes matters worse. Like all good gag strips, it’s an enclosed world and the possibilities appear limited, but Mawil’s creativity overcomes the restrictions, and once he hits on the idea of machinery breaking down in Sparky’s presence the possibilities are well mined. The prize sequence sees Sparky accompanying Marianne on a business trip, which is improbable, but work with it. Beginning with her realisation of being on plane with someone who inadvertently wrecks machinery, Marianne has a nightmare time in Majorca, including the emergence of long-hidden Nazis. Separate flights home deliver more comedy gold.
Perhaps it’s just that Mawil’s art just doesn’t colour well, but as with We Can Still Be Friends, Mawil does himself no favours with a cover lacking the refinement of the cartooning to be found inside. It’s loose, busy and detailed, and wonky figures work far better embedded in a background. He also playfully includes puzzle pages scattered throughout, inviting us to spot the difference, join the dots or help Sparky through the maze.
That the four panels are presented in square format rather than a row, is different interpretation of what’s in effect the equivalent of the daily newspaper gag strip. Sparky O’Hare has a spontaneity and a freshness and there’s an almost empathetic reaction as a new variation on a theme occurs to Mawil. These become increasingly surreal, yet remain funny, and the possibility of repetition is acknowledged with a good gag that shops in a photo of Mawil working on the strip.
Sparky O’Hare is a small format book, roughly four inches by three, which presumably caused difficulties with retail display. It’s a steal at a cover price of £4.99 for ninety pages of hilarity.