Tuesday, June 25, 2024



Here's an open question for anyone familiar with DC Comics in the 1970s, specifically for those who know a lot about DC's revival of the original Captain Marvel in the pages of the Shazam! comic book series.

And the question concerns a recurring Shazam! recurring character named Sunny Sparkle.

Our boy Sunny was introduced in Shazam! # 2 (1973), in a story called "The Nicest Guy In The World!" The story's title refers to Sunny himself, a kid so doggoned nice that everyone just wants to give him stuff. The "everyone" in this example even includes criminals, like the crooks who run into Sunny while making their getaway from a robbery, and feel compelled to turn their ill-gotten goods over to Sunny. 'Cuz Sunny's so NICE!

Sunny Sparkle made a total of five appearances (Shazam! # 2, 5, 11, 13, and 26), and I'd have to go back and re-read all of those to see to what extent young Mr. Sparkle was featured in those subsequent stories. I confess I've never been much of a fan of the character--nice kid or not--so my question today isn't driven by fond nostalgia for a mostly-forgotten comic book creation.

No. I'm curious about Sunny Sparkle's appearance, his look. Because I think Sunny looks an awful lot like actor Robbie Rist.

In the '70s, Robbie was a child actor rackin' up scores of credits in TV commercials and guest appearances. He was most known in that Me Decade for playing Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch and Ted Baxter's son David on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both of those credits came after the 1973 debut of Sunny Sparkle.

But Robbie was already on TV in commercials by then. So I wonder: 

Did Captain Marvel artist and co-creator C. C. Beck base the visual of Sunny Sparkle on Robbie Rist?

It seems likely to me, but maybe it's a stretch based on timing. I dunno. Perhaps someone out there does know...?

It would be nice to find out.

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1 comment:

  1. In 1973 when SHAZAM! #2 came out, Robbie Rist had only had had one acting job—a 1972 episode of LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, which would have been a half hour segment (minus commercials) since each episode had two segments.

    I doubt C.C. Beck watched LOVE AMERICAN STYLE. Even if he did, I would doubt one eight-year-old boy in one 1972 left a huge impression.

    Robbie Rist didn't become "famous" until he played the much-disliked "Cousin Oliver" on THE BRADY BUNCH in 1974—too late to be the inspiration for Sunny Sparkle.