“Sparky” Whitcomb

Sparky’s Page

In Loving Memory of Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb, 1956-2011

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[Photo ©1977, 2011 Fred Esposito, all rights reserved; posted with permission.]

This is a page dedicated to my friend Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb. I’ll be adding more artwork, photos, and memories—including those of his family and friends who are willing to share something with everyone—right here.

The Sparky Art Gallery is below. Like Sparky, much of it is bold, bawdy, and decidedly in bad taste at times. Sparky would have chastized me for even considering leaving anything out of the gallery due to possibly offending someone. That said, I’ve saved the most outrageous for the end of this page… so, proceed at your own risk, folks, beyond the “Sparky Memories” section. ‘Nuff said.

I’ll be posting photos and more images as time permits, and as they turn up.

If anyone has something they wish to share, please email me directly at msbissette@yahoo.com. Hard copies of anything sent will also be donated to Marina Whitcomb, Sparky‘s wife, for her memory book. Be generous, be kind.


Sparky, age 18 (soon to turn 19), visiting the Bissette home in Colbyville, VT (now a Chinese restaurant!), summer, 1975.

[Photo ©1975, 2011 David Booz, all rights reserved; posted with permission. Special thanks to Brenda Booz for photo prep for this post.]
Compliments of Laurie A. Clough; posted with permission.

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For now, with permission of his loving wife Marina, I share the obituary I wrote for Sparky.

Farewell, old friend. You made life better for so many of us, in more ways than you knew.
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Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb was born on October 5, 1956 in Portland, Oregon to Harold “Whit” Whitcomb and Mary Jo Whitcomb (Harris). Mark grew up moving a great deal throughout his younger years due to his father’s military service with the Air Force, traveling with his family to Europe and all over America until settling in Proctorsville, VT at the start of the 1970s. Living in Chester, VT, Mark graduated from Green Mountain Union High School in 1974, and studied art and majored in education at Johnson State College in Johnson, VT from 1974–1977.

He was beloved by many and an invaluable friend, willing to do whatever was asked of him. Long-time friend Terry Williams said, “Sparky had the perfect name: always ready to laugh, to animate any situation, turn the negative into a positive, and instigate a little harmless trouble. So honest and confident. Anyone who had Sparky as a friend knows what a true friend is all about.”

Mark was a gentle soul who worked all his life and loved to draw. He created logos for numerous companies in Vermont, did promotional artwork for local bands, organizations, baseball teams, and events, and priceless cartoons and cards for friends and family. His earliest published comics work appeared in Abyss (Johnson College Press, 1976). In 2010 and earlier in 2011, Mark contributed work to two anthologies published by the New England cartooning collective the Trees & Hills Group.

Mark was a pitcher for the Chester, VT-based Pioneer House softball team the Pioneer Muggers. He was employed throughout his life, most recently by Rauhau, and by Kiosko in North Springfield, VT. Mark continued to travel until poor health slowed him down, including recent trips to the Florida Keys in 2005 and 2007, fishing for tarpon and shark. In 2008 he reconnected with the love of his life, Marina Perkins of Quechee, VT. They were married on August 5, 2009, newlyweds to the end.

Mark died peacefully at 7:14 AM on Friday, April 22 in his and Marina’s home in South Woodstock, VT, following a long illness. He is survived by his wife Marina; his mother Mary Jo Whitcomb of Charlestown, NH; his father Harold “Whit” Whitcomb and stepmother Marilyn Charlton of Londenderry, VT; and his younger brothers, Michael Whitcomb, of Reading, VT, and Matt Whitcomb, of Bellows Falls, VT. He was predeceased by his grandparents, Hazel and Bob Wyman, of Proctorville, VT.

[Archival note: Calling hours were held at the Knight Funeral Home (93 Hartford Ave., White River Jct., VT) on Monday night, April 25th, from 6-8 PM, followed by a celebration of Mark’s life from 8-9 PM. The home assembled and projected samples of Sparky's artwork and many photos shared by family and friends; it was quite an event.]

Donations can be made to Bayada Hospice, PO Box 1590, Norwich, VT 05055

Artwork ©2011 Mark Whitcomb, posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb; all rights reserved.

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Mark wanted this song to be played after he’d passed. His personal favorite was the George Jones/Merle Haggard version, which I can’t share due to copyright restrictions. I hope this Peggy Lee cover of the song from a vintage Nat King Cole Show will do the trick, Sparky. Much love, old friend…

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Sparky’s Art Gallery!

Here’s a sampler of some of the comics and cartoons Sparky drew over the years… Enjoy!


Sparky drew a lot of t-shirt designs in his lifetime, and he pitched a lot of balls for the Pioneer Muggers team. Here’s Sparky‘s classic Muggers t-shirt artwork, which is posted proudly on the Pioneer House Facebook page.

Artwork ©1980, 2010 Mark Whitcomb, all rights reserved; posted here with permission of Marina Whitcomb.

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“Hunter and Moose,” image compliments of Julie (Hart) Strzyzewski; year of origin, unknown. Thanks, Julie, for sharing…

From the personal collection of Julie (Hart) Strzyzewski, posted with her permission. Artwork ©2011 and its respective year of origin Mark Whitcomb, posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb; all rights reserved.

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All artwork ©2011 and their respective year(s) Mark Whitcomb, posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb; all rights reserved.

The following trio were offered on Easter Sunday, April 24th, by Sparky‘s friend Linda LaBonte, who wrote:

“Here are a few selections from my Sparky folder. He and I shared many a good laugh over the last twenty seven years. My daughters adored him…as did I.”

Thanks for sharing these with us, Linda!


Linda adds, “The codpiece series was from the year that Sparky decided to become an honorary member of my fifth grade class and proceeded to complete all assignments with a twisted edge (I wish I still had the essays. My team teacher and I used to go into hysterics every time he emailed another collection of thoughts). The codpiece was his ‘project’ for our medieval unit. He even showed up at my house with one made out of a plastic milk container.”

The above three pieces are from the personal collection of Linda LaBonte, and are posted with her permission. All artwork ©2011 and their respective year(s) Mark Whitcomb, posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb; all rights reserved.

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One of Sparky‘s many t-shirt designs, compliments of his second wife Carolyn Muriel Hart.

Carolyn shared the story behind this artwork:

“In 1988, in preparation for our first family trip to Bermuda, my dad, Jac, asked Sparky to create a shirt commemorating this trip. The Gryphon was a symbol of the resort we stayed at and Mark used it well in creating our Vermuda Bermont tee shirts… I have always treasured mine [and I] am sure other family members still have theirs too. I will wear it tonight as the celebration of his life is being held, keeping my heart close to him, and to those that loved and cared about him…from near or far.”

From the personal collection of Carolyn Muriel Hart, posted with her permission. Artwork ©1988, 2011 Mark Whitcomb, posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb; all rights reserved.

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Sparky’s Salsa Labels!

A Special Bonus Gallery


Sparky told me about his work on a planned salsa company for years, and I’m grateful to finally see these examples of his efforts on the project. We can finally see what might have waited for us on store shelves…

Sparky was a great friend of mine. We shared many interests including mainstream comics, Frazetta, motorcycles and underground art…especially the large legged women of R. Crumb ;-) .

I started to make salsa many years ago, and Spark graciously designed a label for me. Actually, he designed several, but most of them were too ‘naughty’ (and that’s putting it mild) for anything other than the shelf of a porn retailer…although we had many laughs over them. As you may know, we actually attempted to mass produce the salsa and formed a partnership with a couple other friends just a couple of years ago… it never quite got past the scheming stage, but Spark is the creative force behind the label and I managed to spread thousands of jars around the country over the course of a decade. My classmate Sam Lloyd (Ted the Lawyer from Scrubs) handed out several jars to the cast of Scrubs at the final wrap party, so Sparks artwork has made the rounds and caught many an eye.

Hope these pieces of Sparky make it on the page you created for him….”

- Scott “Beam” Bemis (G. Scott Bemis)

They’ve indeed made it into the gallery; thanks, Scott, for sharing! Here’s everything Scott sent along with his email.





Salsa label artwork ©2011 Mark Whitcomb, all rights reserved; from the collection of Scott “Beam” Bemis
aka G. Scott Bemis, posted with permission.

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Sparky’s Sendoff

Trees & Hills Water Anthology Offers a Fond Farewell to Mark Whitcomb…

Just a quick note, and preview: working under instructions from, and with the kind permission of,  Sparky and his wife Marina, I worked in May, 2011 with the Trees & Hills New England comics collective to present a send-off showcase of Sparky‘s cartooning work, all appropriate to the Water theme of this soon-to-debut new anthology. This issue will include Sparky‘s last-ever cartoons, completed in his final days. Sparky had previously contributed to the Trees & Hills anthologies Play (2010) and Time (2010).

I’ll post ordering information and links shortly for those who wish to purchase copies.

  • For more on Trees & Hills and the Water anthology, click this link (PS: Sparky made the deadline, posthumously).
  • Special thanks to Marina Whitcomb, David Weinar, Daniel Barlow, and Colin Tedford.

    Note: The color dragon illustration, above, was a 2006 tattoo design Sparky custom created for a friend. If anyone knows who commissioned this artwork, and/or has photos of the actual tattoo they’d be willing to share, please contact me directly at msbissette@yahoo.com.

    Artwork ©2006, 2011 Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb and Marina Whitcomb, all rights reserved; posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb.

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    Sparky Memories…

    This is where I’ll post some of the stories folks have offered to share about their friendship with Mark. Again, please send any you’d care to share, too; be generous, be kind, and by all means… Enjoy!

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    [Photo ©1975–1976, 2011 David Booz, all rights reserved; posted with permission. Special thanks to Brenda Booz for photo prep for this post.]

    That’s Sparky daring to ride on the shoulders of unicyclist and long-time friend Dave Booz on the Dibden Theater stage at Johnson State College‘s Obysseus, circa the 1975–1976 semesters. What a show that was, and what a classic act this was! Dave and Sparky circled the stage a number of times (to Leon Russell music, if memory serves), and no, there were no mishaps…

  • PS: Click these two links to read more about Obysseus and these years we spent together at Johnson State College; here’s a March 2009 post on my daily blog Myrant which also features this photo and more details,
  • and check out this installment of my June, 2007 interview with fellow JSC compadre Tim “Doc Ersatz” Viereck, which touches on Obysseus and its origins.
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    L-R: standing, back: Kevin Baker, Debra Whitcomb (no relation), Bill Esposito (behind Whit and Mary Jo). L-R, front: Anne Davis (Sparky‘s first wife), Sparky, and Debra writes that “the little girl that Whit is holding is my daughter, Megan, who is now 32 years old and lives in Anchorage [Alaska]…”; Harold “Whit” Whitcomb, Mary Jo Whitcomb (Sparky‘s mom and dad).

    The photo below is from the same event. L-R, Mary Jo Whitcomb, Harold “Whit” Whitcomb, that’s Megan in Whit‘s arms, and Sparky.

    [Photos ©1977, 2011 Fred Esposito, all rights reserved; posted with permission.]

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    Sparky and Jen (Jennifer Graham), circa 1988.

    [Photo ©1988, 2011 Jennifer M. Graham, all rights reserved, posted with permission.]

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    A trio of photos compliments of Sparky‘s pal Lewis Barnes

    Above: Sparky getting some spoon-fed nurturing from Lewis Barnes; Below: Lenny “Musky” Petraska, Sparky, Lewis Barnes. These pix are from a camping trip the trio enjoyed just before Lewis shipped off for Marine training, circa 1974 (you know the Marine barber loved shaving off that head of hair!)…


    Here’s another photo compliments of Lewis:

    Sparky giving some sound late-night advice to Mike Farrar, at Lewis‘s bachelor party on Crow Hill back in 1982.

    [Photos ©1974, 2011 Lewis Barnes, all rights reserved; posted with permission.]

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    I’ve got a favorite memory to share: The day Sparky made it snow in an indoor movie theater!

  • For Sparky: here’s a story (click this link) I shared about Sparky and me first seeing one of our favorite movies, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), during its first-run theatrical debut in Morrisville, Vermont‘s Bijou Theater. Sparky loved that I’d written this story up for everyone to read. Here’s the link, at the original Myrant blog, circa January 26, 2006. Enjoy—and it’s all true.
  • [Bijou Theater, Morrisville, VT, circa 1999. When Sparky and I were going to the theater in the mid-1970s, it was still a single-screen nabe [neighborhood theater], just as it had been during the time I grew up in DuxburyWaterbury, and Colbyville, VT.]

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    Brian Sheldon and Sparky, at Brian’s 28th birthday, circa 1988.

    [Photo ©1988, 2011 Jennifer M. Graham, all rights reserved; posted with permission. Special thanks to Al Wesolowsky for photo enhancement.]

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    “The Subhumans,” circa 1976; Sparky is in the foreground, right, down on one knee. Behind him, L-R: Neil “Smitty” Smith, Lloyd “Chunky” Gabriel, Joe Mangelynx, Fred Esposito, Bill Esposito, Terry “Willy” Williams, Dave Booz, Steve “Roadside” Bissette. Photo compliments of and ©1976, 2011 Dave Booz, posted with permission; special thanks to Brenda Booz for getting it to us for posting purposes.

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    “Unfortunately I only saw Sparky a couple times after leaving JSC [Johnson State College] for brief visits. Sparky in my mind will always be ‘forever young.’  We met when I was 17 years old and where fast friends for the next two years. He introduced me to many new experiences as Sparky seemed to have already lived a lifetime. He was cool. Music: Leon Russell for sure but also Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks. I can never forget being in his dorm room, listening to Blood and laughing histerically to something Sparky said or did. He was one of the funniest people I ever met. … He kept a unique collection of fine ‘under garments’ in his dresser. In later years we kept in touch sporatically via letters and phone calls. We could let years pass by and then reconnect and feel as though the friendship was strong as ever. A friend through and through.”

    - Fred Esposito

    [Johnson State College, Governor's dorm, where Fred Esposito, Terry Williams, and many of us first met and lived with Sparky, circa 1974-76.]

    This shot is from a summer 1975 visit to the Bissette family’s Colbyville, VT home. Standing in back, left to right, is Fred Esposito and Steve “Roadside” Bissette (with the towel). On the diving board is Lloyd “Chunky” Gabriel, Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb (with his foot on the board), Neil “Smitty” Smith, and Dave Booz.

    [Photo ©1975, 2011 Fred Esposito, all rights reserved; posted with permission.]

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    Sparky with Terry “Willy” Williams, Neil “Smitty” Smith, circa 1976.

    [Photo ©1975–1976, 2011 David Booz, all rights reserved; posted with permission. Special thanks to Brenda Booz for photo prep for this post.]

    Sparky had the perfect name. Always ready to laugh, to animate any situation, turn the negative into a positive, and instigate a little harmless trouble. So honest and confident. Anyone who had Sparky as a friend knows what a true friend is all about. I will miss him more than I can tell.

    Into heaven may the angels lead you.”

    - Willy (nickname of Terry Williams; Sparky always called Terry “Willy”)

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    Loving the Life: Jennifer M. Graham, Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb, circa 1986.

    [Photo ©1986, 2011 Jennifer M. Graham, all rights reserved, posted with permission.]

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    [Photograph from the personal collection of Linda LaBonte, and is posted with her kind permission. Photo ©2011 Linda LaBonte; all rights reserved.]

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    “My fondest memory of Sparky is back in the ‘Old Days’ when we would cruise around in my 1941 Ford. It is so big that we could pull over in a rest area, sit in the back seat, and ‘jam.’ I would improvise words and music with my guitar and Sparky would Draw Comix. We came up with some wild stuff!”

    - Peter Guihan

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    “I was married to Mark from 1985-1994…we did not remain close over the years, but did keep in touch, through Jen Graham, and an occasional email. Mark attended my father’s funeral in October of 2006 and that was the last time I saw him. I have always felt blessed to have had his wisdom, wit and love as a significant part of my life, and appreciate the memories of our times together. …Please extend my love and condolences to Mark‘s family and friends…”

    - Carolyn Muriel Hart
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    “I spent lots of great times with Sparky over the years and am deeply saddened to know he’s gone….

    Sparky was my dear friend and brother-in-law. Years ago, Sparky taught that you will have good luck if you say ‘Rabbit Rabbit’ first thing when you wake up on the first day of each month and that it needed to be ‘Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit’ on New Year’s Day for good luck for the whole year. He even drew a rabbit on a paper bag for me to hang on my nightstand one New Year’s Eve to prompt me to remember the triple ‘Rabbit’ the next morning. When I saw him last at an Alumni day in Chester a few years ago, he came up to me and gave me a warm hug and told me he thought of me on the first of each month remembering ‘Rabbit Rabbit.’ So, Spark, know I will think of you whenever I say ‘Rabbit Rabbit’ as I always have, and that I remember you with great fondness.”

    - Julie (Hart) Strzyzewski (Carolyn Hart‘s sister, Sparky‘s former sister-in law)
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    [Photo ©1975–1976, 2011 David Booz, all rights reserved; posted with permission. Special thanks to Brenda Booz for photo prep for this post.]

    [Photo: ©1977 Fred Esposito, all rights reserved, posted with permission.]

    I know, it’s not Sparky, but he would have loved this photo. Lenny “Musky” Petraska as Leon Russell, at one of Sparky‘s late 1970s Chester VT gatherings.

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    A Parting Shot from Sparky…

    Warning:

    Not for All Tastes!

    For those of you who don’t wish to be offended,

    stop now!

    Mark was goofing on a then-new (1999) theatrical feature film from director Michael Leigh about Gilbert & Sullivan, entitled Topsy-Turvy. Here’s the one-sheet poster for that movie, so you know what Sparky was spoofing:

    This comes from Scott “Beam” Bemis (G. Scott Bemis), who notes, “this is something Sparky just dropped off one day… it was on my fridge for years…”

    A macabre bit of whimsy from Sparky, particularly given the context of his passing—
    —but I’m sure he wouldn’t not want this shared, especially under the circumstances. Anyone who really knew Mark knows I’m right!

    From the personal collection of G. Scott Bemis, posted with his permission. All artwork ©2011 and their respective year(s) Mark Whitcomb, posted with permission of Marina Whitcomb; all rights reserved.

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    To share any photos, images, artwork, or memories you may have about Sparky, please email me directly at msbissette@yahoo.com

    As you can see, I do copyright all photos in the name of the sender, and all artwork is copyrighted to Mark, noting whose collection it came from. Hard copies of whatever you share will be printed out and given to Marina Whitcomb for her personal memory book of Mark.

    Or—please, share your memories by posting directly to the comments thread, below. Please note that I do moderate the comments, if only to ensure this page/site honors Sparky in a positive manner. Be kind, be generous, and thank you!

    [Photo ©1988, 2011 Jennifer M. Graham, all rights reserved; posted with permission. Special thanks to Al Wesolowsky for photo enhancement.]


    Discussion (10) ¬

    1. debra whitcomb

      mark’s artwork reminds me of a good kurt vonnegut novel….wickedly funny but with an undercurrent of sweetness……like mark, himself. thank you, my friend, for those moments we shared…

    2. bill griggs

      what a great collection/tribute to Sparky. i was just cruisin the p house site wondering if there were any pics. i was suprised not seeing one of him, or Big Hank. mabey with the help of some of the former “patrons from the establishment across the street” an album of lost patrons can be created.

    3. srbissette

      Bill, we’d welcome any/all pix of Sparky from the Pioneer House days. That’s the FIRST place in Chester, other than his home, Sparky took me to visit back in the winter of 1975–76. And we all miss Big Hank.

    4. debra whitcomb

      the little girl that whit is holding is my daughter, megan, who is now 32 years old and lives in anchorage.

    5. srbissette

      Debra, THANK YOU! I’ve made the appropriate corrections to the captions, above. Thanks so much for seeing the note and responding. Much love to all of you.

    6. Marina Whicomb

      Thank you for all the support and memories of Sparky; I have a funny story to share. As I was clearing out Mark’s clothes and stuff I gave some of his things to my Son-in-law, He was grateful for the “new Duds” The first day he wore a Sparky shirt he; told his wife it was from the” DG Collection”. We chuckled because we could see Sparky designing a label for this…Dead Guy Collection!!!!
      It may sound morbid or less then tasteful, But, We can all appeciate Mark’s wit.

    7. srbissette

      Thanks, Marina; yep, Sparky would have jumped on that one, for sure. Much love to you and your family. It’s good to know they’re there for and with you, too.

    8. srbissette

      PS: The link for “Thirsty for comics? WATER is here!” from Colin Tedford will direct you to the online purchase site for the Trees & Hills Anthology featuring Sparky’s last comics work and my eulogy to our old friend. Recommended, and something Mark wanted me to make sure he was part of in his final weeks. Pick up a copy, folks!

    9. matt whitcomb

      the new Conan movie has come and gone, it hurt to know mark couldn’t see it at least in what we call eyes, now john carter warlord of mars is out, mark loved that series especially with the gil kane artwork. I miss discussing this stuff with you so much bro, tho i can’t imagine seeing it with out atonof tissue I’ll pass. maybe someday in a more celestrial theater. love matt

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