Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA
Website Link(s): Official Site
Sparks started in the late 1960s under the name "Halfnelson", and their debut LP was produced by Todd Rundgren. Unfortunately, it didn't go anywhere, as it wasn't promoted. However, following a reissue with a name change to "Sparks", the album did quite a bit better, having a couple of Almost-Hits. A few albums later, and a few more almost-hits later, Sparks were having much more success in the UK, so they moved to London for a time, doing their particular 1970s mixture of glam, rock, disco and, well, Sparksness. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they hooked up with Giorgio Moroder for a bit of a more electropop/dance sound, with a bit more of a rock tinge. In most cases, their lyrical sense of humor was intact, although Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat pretty much dropped all that, and suffered as a result, no longer sounding like a Sparks album but just a good, but generic 1980s Pop record. Their output has slowed in the 1990s and beyond, but they're still going strong, putting out some of their strongest work, in a more electropop vein, with the excellent Balls and Li'l Beethoven.
The spark is a physical entity which is safeguarded inside a Transformer body. If something harms the spark beyond repair, it is "extinguished" and returns to the Allspark (or sometimes the Well of All Sparks). The Transformer is then considered dead. A Transformer is able to survive an enormous amount of physical damage. As long as the spark is intact, it is possible to repair or rebuild the body and restore the spark to it.
|“||When a Spark goes online, there is great joy. When one is extinguished, the universe weeps.||”|
The concept of the spark as currently understood was introduced to the Transformers mythos in the Beast Wars episode "The Spark". In this episode, little is explained except that each spark is unique and that every "Cybertron" (here meaning, essentially, "Cybertronian") has one.
The later episode "Possession" dealt with the idea of sparks, but the spark in question—that of Starscream—is established as being aberrant, and thus the properties it displays are not necessarily characteristic of sparks in general. However, "Possession" was the first time it was claimed that characters from the Generation One series also had sparks, rather than sparks existing in Beast Wars only. Sparks remained prominent throughout Beast Wars, and events in seasons two and three further established the retcon that Generation One Transformers all possessed sparks.
In Beast Machines, sparks became central to the story, as Megatron had abducted the sparks from every Transformer on Cybertron. Megatron's own spark displayed unusual behaviors in this series, and again, it is probable these behaviors do not apply to all sparks. Still, Beast Machines contributed more information about sparks to the canon than any other series.
The The Transformers cartoon occasionally referenced a device called a laser core, which seemingly has a similar function to a spark. The tech spec bio for the Beast Rider Mechatron says that he is "outfitted with an upgraded spark-capture claw that can tear out the entire laser core of any Transformer defender." This implies, as some fans had speculated prior to Mechatron's release, that the laser core may be some sort of housing for the spark.
Since the introduction of the spark concept in Beast Wars, sparks have become an integral part of many Transformers fictions. They have been featured in new Generation One-based series and in later alternate-dimension tales such as the Unicron Trilogy's Armada and Energon.
Although the word "spark" does appear offhandedly in some Generation One comic stories (a "spark of life", a "life spark", and the phrase "For as long as a spark exists within a single Mechabot..."), these were clearly simply metaphorical statements. They may be retroactively seen as referring to the contemporary concept of a Transformer's spark, but did not establish anything of the sort on their own.
As seen in the image at the top of this article, sparks normally appear as semitransparent blue balls of energy with a pulsating center composed of smaller, blue spheres. The center spheres are engulfed in a reddish glow. An ever-changing pattern of "electricity"-like lines travels around the surface and through the interior. However, in Beast Machines, the sparks of the Maximal heroes who had been reformatted took on different colors (for example, Blackarachnia's was green). This was first visible in "Revelations Part I: Discovery". At the end of that series, after being infused with extra power from the Matrix (cf. Allspark), their sparks became visible, as if parts of their torsos were translucent.
Beast Era Transformers seem to have permanent "spark chambers" within their chassis where the spark can be seen simply by opening the chamber. Older Transformers within the same G1/Beast continuity family, such as those who lived before the Great Upgrade, do not seem to have this feature in most continuities. The G1 More Than Meets The Eye guidebook from Dreamwave specifically states that a spark is normally "suffused" throughout a Transformer's body rather than residing in any particular place. It may be that this is also true after the Great Upgrade, and that the spark chamber is merely a protected location for the spark to coalesce when needed. Meanwhile, making things more confusing, the cutaway diagrams of G1 Optimus Prime and Megatron in Transformers: The Ultimate Guide include spark chambers.
In the Beast Wars cartoon, there were two cases of Beast-era Transformers temporarily housing the sparks of G1-era Transformers in their own bodies while still housing their own sparks. In both cases, this resulted in the Beastie undergoing a mutation of sorts into a more powerful body: Optimus Primal, upon taking the spark of Optimus Prime, grew into his Optimal Optimus body; and Megatron, upon taking the spark of the original Megatron obtained his dragon form. However, based on the information from the series, there is no basis for determining whether this phenomenon is a result of a single body housing two sparks, a Beast-era body housing a G1-era spark, a body being implanted with an especially "powerful" spark (like those of Optimus Prime and Megatron could conceivably be), or some combination of these. When the disembodied spark of Starscream had earlier possessed Waspinator, the only physical change was the body's allegiance emblems shifting from Predacon to Decepticon, and was noticeably faster. (The later Beast Wars comic miniseries The Gathering implies that G1 sparks may be intrinsically more powerful than Beast-era sparks.)
Although Transformer memories and personalities are generally treated as if they are stored within the Transformers' computer brains, repeated canonical instances have established that a spark will (or can) hold all of an individual's memories, along with their "essence" or personality. Further, there is some evidence that sparks may even retain records of the Transformer's previous bodies (such as when Optimal Optimus, whose body originated with a blank protoform, regressed into a copy of the gorilla body Primal wore at the beginning of the Beast Wars). A Transformer's behavior can be modified through programming of their mechanical body (referred to as a shell program), but this is always a struggle between the programming and the "true" nature of the spark within. It may be that over long periods of time, a spark may begin to internalize some aspects of a programmed personality.
Many Transformers, such as Sky Lynx, G1 Omega Supreme, and the Duocons, simultaneously inhabit multiple mechanical bodies or components. The character bio for Magmatron mentions this ability of his, and categorizes his spark as a "mitotic spark" which is able of splitting and sharing itself between his three beast modes. It is unknown whether other multiple-bodied Transformers also possess mitotic sparks or if they are examples of something more mundane such as simple remote control.
Some Transformers are able to sense and communicate with the sparks of other Transformers through a process that appears analogous to telepathy. According to dialog from "Revelations Part III: Apocalypse", this ability is related to the sparks' mutual connection to the Allspark. Disembodied sparks are sometimes able to communicate through this same method. (See below.)
The radiation emitted by energon crystals is harmful to sparks, even when protected within a Transformer's body. Certain body types are better able to shield the spark from energon radiation. For example, the flesh-like beast modes adopted by the crews of the Axalon and Darksyde provided essentially 100% protection, allowing activity in environments that were practically forests of energon crystal, so long as those involved remained in beast mode. Direct contact between crystalline energon and a spark is highly dangerous. This is supported by the fact that Depthcharge used a shard of a raw energon crystal to destroy Rampage and his supposed inextinguishable spark, this however, created a massive explosion that destroyed Depth Charge, whether this was the destruction of the unstable energon or, less likely, a reaction of Rampage's spark itself in unknown.
In the Beast Machines episode "Spark of Darkness", Rattrap describes Megatron's disembodied spark as a ball of electrons. He goes on to say that normal sparks contain a large number of positrons. Based on his dialogue, it is possible, but not certain, that sparks are composed entirely of positrons. Rattrap also indicates, in "Revelations Part I", that when a spark is extinguished, carbon scoring is typically left on or within the Transformer's chassis.
Regardless of their composition, sparks are not insubstantial energy, but have some sort of physical aspect. This is clearly demonstrated in, again, "Revelations Part III", when Nightscream is seen attempting to push Blackarachnia's spark back into her body. His hands press against some sort of surface (or perhaps merely a force field, in which case the spark could be entirely energy) which is above the visible surface of her spark. Later in the series, in "Spark of Darkness", Megatron's spark is also shown to have physicality. Further back, in Beast Wars, the spark of Rampage/Protoform X would respond to being "crushed" by Megatron by flattening slightly inside its energon-lined carrying case. And even the spark of G1 Megatron was "grabbed" physically by a tentacle-like appendage of BW Megatron's. While some of these examples may be special cases, as they deal with sparks that have unusual properties, those properties are unique to each spark. The weight of evidence, then, is in favor of sparks being at least partially substantial.
In the Energon cartoon, sparks were shown to have the ability to be somehow augmented by Primus to become a Combination Spark. This allowed two Autobots to powerlinx together into a new form, allowing one Autobot to take command of the fused body while the "pants" remained dormant. Without the Combination Spark, a powerlinx between two normal Transformers could not be completed. It is not stated whether the combiner teams Constructicon Maximus and Bruticus Maximus also possessed Combination Sparks or if their ability to combine has some other origin.
Sparks are able to exist outside of a Transformer body, but the parameters of this phenomenon are largely unclear. In is unknown for how long a spark can survive under such conditions, although they are vulnerable to damage in this state. It is also unknown whether a disembodied spark is "conscious" and aware of its surroundings, or whether it is capable of moving under its own power. (There are unusual cases, as described under Aberrant sparks.)
It is hard to imagine how a spark could be aware of its surroundings when stripped of all sensory mechanisms. Indeed, in "Revelations Part III: Apocalypse", while Blackarachnia's spark was outside of her body, her consciousness did not remain in the "real world". Instead, she experienced a conversation with Optimus Primal—not a hallucination—which took place on an abstract "higher plane of existence," perhaps within the Allspark itself.
Most of the disembodied sparks in Beast Machines drift slowly and largely directionlessly. In many other cases, sparks seem to move with some sort of intent. However, aside from attempts of sparks to re-enter their "home" bodies, these are conceivably all "special cases" and may not be generalizable. In one example, the sparks of Tigatron and Airazor are seen following Tigerhawk to Earth in "Other Victories". While their sparks appear normal when this occurs, they later merge into a single white spark and then inhabit the (then-empty) Tigerhawk body. This is not normal spark behavior and may be related to the time they spent seemingly in stasis with the Vok. Also, in "Revalations Part III", when Blackarachnia becomes panicked during her telepathic conversation with Primal, her spark begins moving erratically and has to be chased down by Nightscream. However, it is unclear whether the spark was moving with intent—especially since Blackarachnia's consciousness was portrayed as still being on a higher plane—or simply zigzagging randomly. And, again, a reformatted spark may be different from a normal spark anyway.
Some sparks have exhibited properties or behaviors that do not seem to be generalizable to other sparks.
As established in the Beast Wars episodes "Possession" and "Bad Spark", Starscream possesses a "mutant" immortal spark. Even when his body is destroyed, his spark is not extinguished. This explanation retcons the appearance of Starscream's ghost in some season three episodes from the G1 cartoon; the "ghost" was in fact Starscream's disembodied spark.
Starscream's spark was able to move under its own power and seemingly travelled not just across space from Cybertron to Earth, but backwards through time from 2006 to human prehistory. It may be that the time travel was accomplished by "falling" through the transwarp hole left by the Axalon and Darksyde when they arrived on prehistoric Earth—Depth Charge's ship arrived there by that method later in the series—but this is uncertain.
Additionally, Starscream's spark was able to take possession of other Transformers simply by entering their bodies. While in another body, Starscream's will completely dominates that of his host. When Starscream possessed Waspinator, Waspinator's voice even changed to sound like Starscream's, and the Predacon insignias on his body changed to Decepticon insignias. Starscream either did not have, or did not seem to know that he had, this possession ability until he died during the events of The Transformers: The Movie.
The creation of Protoform X was an experiment conducted by the Maximal Elders to attempt to replicate Starscream's indestructible spark. Although they succeeded in creating such a spark, dubbed Protoform X (and later taking on the name Rampage), it was, unfortunately, psychotic.
Like Starscream's spark, Rampage's could not be extinguished through simple destruction of his body. In fact, Rampage's body—at least, the body he wore during the Beast Wars—had uncannily rapid self-repair functions. In one instance, Depth Charge pierced Rampage's body from front to back with a spear, and the damage disappeared in a matter of seconds once the spear was removed.
Megatron devised a way to split Rampage's spark by carving it with a blade of energon crystal. Amazingly, this did not destroy the spark, nor did it seem to weaken Rampage appreciably. Megatron kept part of the spark in a case lined with energon crystals. By squeezing the case, the crystals would pinch the spark fragment, and Megatron used this to torture Rampage into obedience.
Megatron later placed this piece of Rampage's spark inside his Transmetal II clone of Dinobot, who is usually referred to as Dinobot II. Dinobot II appeared to have a personality wholly independent of Rampage's, although he was similarly brutal. Dinobot II's personality, however, may have been imposed upon him through programming. Dinobot II could torture Rampage by compressing the spark fragment that he held, much as Megatron had previously done. This did not seem to affect Dinobot himself.
Rampage's spark turned out to not be completely indestructible. Seemingly as an extension of Megatron's splitting of the spark with an energon blade, Depth Charge eventually destroyed Rampage by piercing his spark with "pure" crystalline energon. Normally sparks "extinguish" somewhat peacefully, but when Rampage's was pierced, a powerful explosion destroyed the bodies of both Rampage and Depth Charge. It may be that Starscream's spark would be similarly vulnerable to being cut/destroyed by energon, but this is mere extrapolation.
When Rampage's spark was destroyed, the fragment within Dinobot II did not explode. It may have simply disappeared, or it may have remained there. However, through a process which is not clearly established, Dinobot II at that instant "reverted" to the personality of the original Dinobot, and even had a vision of Dinobot's last moments. It may be that this reversion was related to events scripted for an episode which was never produced, titled "Dark Glass".
Rampage's spark never displayed the ability to move under its own power.
In season two of Beast Machines, Megatron's spark does a number of unusual things.
As part of the battle between him and Optimus Primal at the end of season one, during which the Key to Vector Sigma and the Plasma Energy Chamber were pitted against each other, Megatron somehow was able to "split" his Beast body into two separate bodies, one entirely robotic and the other entirely "biological". (Whether the Beast bodies of the Beast Wars characters had any true biological components or whether they were faux-flesh composed of nanites is not consistently established in either series.) Contrary to his intentions, Megatron's spark ended up trapped within the biological body, which came to be known as Noble/Savage.
It is unclear how a biological body was able to sustain a Transformers' spark. Indeed, even the Maximals were surprised when they realized what had happened. It could be argued, based on statements made by the Oracle in the first episode ("The Reformatting") that all lifeforms in the universe have sparks, not just Transformers. However, this is never alluded to by any other canonical source, so most fans have seemingly dismissed it.
As shown in "Prometheus Unbound", using the biological Noble/Savage body, Megatron was unable to exercise mental control over devices in his citadel or interface with his control harness. Upon using a spark extractor on himself, however, his spark was freed and immediately flew to the harness, which it activated before "flowing" up to the ceiling through the harness's cables. His spark then took over the Grand Mal, an enormous, floating replica of his own head, as its new body and stayed there for part of season two. The Noble/Savage body appeared to be dead, but recovered. After Megatron's spark had left it, it seemed to be a perfectly "normal" animal which had the ability to change between a wolf-like form and a dragon form, possessing little if any sentience.
As soon as his spark had been removed from Noble, it took on an unusual appearance, having turned entirely red or orange in color (perhaps a change similar to that of the reformatted Maximals). Megatron's disembodied spark also seemed to be able to speak even though it had no physical body. It may be that this speech was telepathic, but the spark itself pulsated in perfect rhythm with the words.
While inhabiting the Grand Mal, Megatron's spark was sometimes seen floating freely and under its own power through the construct's interior, particularly in a large space that appeared to serve as his control room. (It was here that he addressed his Vehicon generals, usually manifesting as a holographic projection of one kind or another.)
Eventually, in the three-part "Sparkwar" story, Megatron's spark began consuming/fusing with the captured sparks of Cybertron's inhabitants. He claimed to have learned how to accomplish this after communicating with the Oracle.
To consume other sparks, Megatron's spark extended tendrils which ensnared victim sparks. These tendrils also had the ability extract sparks from occupied shells, much like a spark extractor. As each spark was absorbed, Megatron's spark grew larger in size.
Megatron was temporarily beaten when Nightscream attacked him with a sonic scream. The scream, according to Primal, depolarized Megatron's spark. This caused him to lose control temporarily and allowed the Maximals to escape. In the following episode, "Spark of Darkness", Megatron's spark exhibited additional strange behaviors which may or may not have been dependent on its depolarized state:
Rattrap was able to capture Megatron using a hand-held spark extractor, and using a control panel on the extractor, repolarized and thus stabilized his spark. Afterwards, Megatron's spark remained red and just as fast and agile as before, but became detectable by his generals' scanners again and became "trapped" in the next body it inhabited (that of a Diagnostic Drone). Upon entering this body, Megatron declared, "I live!" This was the first time he had spoken since being hit by the sonic scream. This implies that something about his prior "destabilized" state may have prevented him from fully utilizing the bodies he had visited. The only other clue we have is that when Optimus tried to contact Megatron's spark inside the Grand Mal, he discovered that it "was not a sentient mind." Whether this is a result of trying to find a spark that was not in the expected location or because of its depolarized state is ambiguous.
One particular alternate universe seems to be much more of a departure from the "regular" realities in the multiverse. In it, the semi-mystical ball of energy that gives the resident Transformers their lifeforce is an electron-charged "Ember". Aside from the polarity, there's no other difference noted from the positron-charged Spark that Cliffjumper brings into that universe.