Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Women in Comics that are More Than Skin Deep: Number 8.
Name: Jenny Sparks.
Creator: Warren Ellis.
Appearances: Storm Watch, The Authority, The Secret History of Jenny Sparks.
Occupation: UN Sponsored Supper, Rouge Supper, Spirit of the Twentieth Century.
Quote: “Maybe we did what we said we were going to from the beginning. Make things better. One Earth down one to go.”
The mid nineteen-eighties to the late nineteen-nineties were known as comics “iron age”. This was when comics became grittier and more realistic. The nobility and Boy Scout like ways of Superman, and his like, were replaced with morally ambiguous anti-heroes, who were willing to do whatever it, took to get the job done. Most comic book historians (and yes that is a real thing) say that the iron age began with the publication of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. New comics like the one about amoral Spawn, became finical rivals to established heroes, whose writers felt that they had to make existing story lines darker to compete. From this time however came an amazing heroine, Jenny Sparks.
Created by Warren Ellis and fleshed out by Mark Millar, Jenny Sparks was one of a handful of post-humans born on the first of January 1900, known as century babies. After they turned about twenty or so they stopped ageing. Most of the century babies had some kind of additional power. Jenny’s was twofold, first the power to control electricity and secondarily she was the living embodiment of the twentieth century.
This gave the writers a hundred years of real and fictitious supporting characters to play with. Famed barrister Rumple of the Bailey is her family’s solicitor. Her godfather was Albert Einstein, and Hemingway was one of her many lovers. She even teleports in to an alternative universe during the thirties and seduces a golden age Superman. Her partner in covert ops during World War Two is Indiana Jones, (And this prior to The Crystal Skull giving Indy a back story as an OSS agent.) Though one encounter she would live regret was in Munich when she told a street painter that despite his love for painting he has no talent and should maybe focus his passion and energy into local politics. That man was of course Adolph Hitler.
Jenny’s life and psyche were effected by the time she lived in, so she was giddy and lived in a near perpetual high during the roaring twenties and she was depressed during the depression and didn’t get out of bed during pretty much all of the seventies. Jenny though a dreamer at her core, had many vices, Alcohol, chain smoking and sexual promiscuity, which were toped off with feeling of guilt and depression. In essence she is as messed up as the rest of the twentieth century.
By nature an anarchist and idealist, as the twentieth century begins to close she decides that extreme measures have to be taken to stop the threats that endanger Earth. When she forms a hero team she names it The Authority. That their strength and powers give them the right to decide what is right for the world. This is exasperated by the fact that she feels that the world had been betrayed by its governments.
As the spirit of the twentieth century, Jenny Sparks died on the thirty-first of December 1999, battling a near god-like alien menace. But in the ruins of Singapore her team mates found a new hero Jenny Quantum (Latter called Jenny Quarx). Destined to be the new spirit of Twenty-First Century. Latter we discover that earth has always had a Jenny to guide protect and embody the period of time she lives in.
If you get a chance check out Superman Vs The Elite (Availed now on Netflix) based on Action Comics #775, Supes fights Manchester Black, a thinly disguised version of Jenny, if she was turned in to a male psychic football hooligan. Of course Superman’s ethics and morals save the day, but even The Capes most ardent supports find it hard to explain all the damage that is done when imprisoned super villains escape.
A dark and troubled hero during a difficult time, Jenny Spark’s idealism (though sometimes place aside to kick butt) and desire for a better world, no matter what the personal cost, makes her one of comics women who are more than skin deep.