On a Friday in the waning months of the 20th century, a Macromedia employee was getting ready to meet with the creator of Beavis & Butthead
the next Monday to demonstrate Flash v.4's new feature, synchronized audio tracks – a feature he needed to learn over the weekend. So he put together the simplest model he could: a floating skull sans
lips, tongue or physique. The meeting was postponed, so the employee continued to spitshine the animation and put it on his website. His friends e-mailed their friends, and soon, everyone met a heavy-metal animated floating skull demon and his adorable little devil pal. Sparks had created Radiskull, who will kill you one by one
Nowadays, one can throw a rock and hit about 40,000 web cartoons. However, Radiskull and Devil Doll
was one of the very first web cartoons out there, and is still considered one of the best by many nostalgic Internet "old-timers."
As Sparks introduces the character in the Radiskull book
later released (yes, there was a book, as well as three issues (1
of a comic), Radiskull – a portmanteau of "radical" and "skull"
– is "a huge disembodied skull with glowing eyes, thick black eyebrows, a mouth full of long, sharp teeth, and a spiky purple Mohican that magically always seems to be side-on. He's got a taste for boiling coffee, refers to himself in the third person, likes pain, and dreams of ripping up small towns with his mighty jaws. Since he's just a skull, he moves around by levitation, which he finds extremely tiring. That means he needs a lot of sleep."
As for his little red-suited pal, "Devil Doll is short and bubbly, with a cute grin, button eyes, a big yellow head, and horns. He's enthusiastic and outgoing, grins compulsively at the thought of mayhem, and rides a growling Harley-Davidson. He can breath fire – and fireworks – and he's a cool dancer. He's got lots of energy, and can never get enough of rocking and rapping with Radiskull."
The initial episode, wildly popular (and noticed on Metafilter
), soon had its follow-ups:
- Hella Weenie (Atom), in which the pair bring justice to a Ned Flanders-esque neighbor with a cruel streak;
- Radiskull Hate Snow (Atom), in which Devil Doll and Candy Angel first meet (Mefi);
- Love 'n' Stuff (Atom), in which the pair independently pine after each other in Hades Minor and Heaven Academy #999, respectively (Mefi);
- Angel This is Wrong (Atom), in which Candy navigates from Heaven into the ether in-between the universes, warned off by the Rappin' Dishonorable Judge Radiskull;
- Wicked Nikki (Atom), in which Nikki the Succubus attempts to corrupt Devil Doll and Candy finds Hades locked tight;
- Radiskull's Cave (Atom), in which Devil Doll tries to make his buddy okay with his angelic crush; and
- Candy in Hell (Atom), the last produced episode of the series, in which Nikki learns that marshmallows and cotton candy aren't to be taken for granted, but manages to get in one last act of malice.
The series ended up having a hugely creative fan base. A.V. Phibes
' "I was a Teenage (Give or Take 8 Years) Radiskull & Devil Doll Addict
" is one of the more amusing, but there were also handmade dolls
, and tattoos
The series had a sad end in real life: when dot-coms crashed
, Macromedia laid Sparks off in the summer of 2001 along with almost the entire staff of AtomShockwave at the time – but, as Radiskull and Devil Doll was created by Sparks while Senior Designer there, the company owned the copyright to Radiskull and Devil Doll – and proved spectacularly unwilling to work with Sparks on somehow releasing to or cooperating with him in continuing the series, or even getting out the partially completed ninth episode, "Hot Date." USA Today briefly touched upon
Sparks' story in a 2002 news story. (In fact, Sparks receives no money even from the book, unless you buy it at his site and he gets the small Amazon referral fee.)
Sparks released a music video preview for what was supposed to be his next endeavour, Dickie & Jackie
, but nothing else was seen of the series. Sparks had a brief flurry of activity on three online repositories at the beginning of this year – Post-It Note Art by Joe Sparks
, his blog
, and Sparkmical
– but none have been updated since February 2009.
Fans interested in the back end of things might be interested in Sparks' production notes for Episodes 1 & 2
and Episode 3
, as well as some notes on how he works
, it's time to kick it
with some Sparks-supplied Radiskull and Devil Doll MP3 jams (YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!)
(For some retro nostalgia, check out the "preloading notes" before each video, in which you're told to avoid 8-bit color if possible!)