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How DC is reviving The Authority's Jenny Sparks with the September 11 attacks (and how its personal for writer Tom King)

When Jenny Sparks died, she told us if we didn't "Save the world" she'd return and "kick our heads in" and now she is.

Jenny Sparks #2 cover
Image credit: Jeff Spokes (DC)

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The DC Comics character Jenny Sparks hasn't been seen in in the mainstream DC Comics universe in 24 years, but in just two years she's set to be a star in the DC Studios film The Authority. There's only one problem - she died at the end of the 20th century, and her origin is inextricably tied to that date given her backstory was she was born at the beginning of the 20th century and would die at the end of it. So... how is DC solving this problem?

Jenny Sparks #2
Image credit: Ben Oliver (DC/Black Label)

By calling on the sacrosanct promise that superheroes save the world. Or, as Sparks said in 2000's The Authority #12, "Save the world. They deserve it. Be better. Or I'll come back and kick your heads in."

Apparently, she wasn't posturing when she said that last bit.

In the new Jenny Sparks comic book series debuting this August as part of DC Comics' adult-oriented Black Label imprint, Sparks is having her first new story in over 20 years - and its not a flashback. She's back, and living in 2024. When Popverse initially broke the news of this in May 2024, some fans chided DC as if they somehow forgot Sparks' central tenet as the 'Spirit of the 20th Century'. They didn't forget, and for writer Tom King, he's now tying Sparks' origin to his real life origin story.

According to the solicitation for September's Jenny Sparks #2, Sparks is returning in the 21st century because of what happened in New York City on September 11, 2001.

How 9/11 changed Tom King's life

Tom King
Image credit: Tom King

Tom King was 23 years old when 19 terrorists commandeered four commerical airliners and diverted them to crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a fourth diverted into a Virginia field. A reported 2,977 people died as a result, and it triggered something in the United States, the world, and a 23-year-old philosophy and history grad who was working at the Department of Justice while preparing to enter law school.

"It was our Pearl Harbor. It felt close to home, sure, being right across the street from me, but it had less to do with being close to it than just someone attacking the country," King told Newsarama's Vaneta Rogers. "You know, you're raised on… like I said, I was half-raised by my grandmother who was a Rosie the Riveter in World War II. And her stories of her generation and my grandfather going off to fight. And you just kind of think, 'OK, Pearl Harbor happened. What do you do after Pearl Harbor? You join up.' You know?"

King, had just completed his LSAT and was prepared to enter law school at the University of Virginia - and had late '90s internships at both DC and Marvel under his belt - suddenly found a new direction. He joined the CIA.

"I was an operations officer and a counter-terrorism operations officer," King explained of his seven-year tenure with the CIA. "It was sort of my job to recruit people to penetrate terrorist networks and to design operations that would stop terrorism."

Following the birth of his first child, King left government work to pursue his writing career which has flourished with works such as The Vision (which Marvel Studios' WandaVision was based on), a successful run on DC's flagship franchise title Batman, and now being part of the braintrust developing DC Studios films for the next decade - including a movie based on his and Bilquis Evely's comic series Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow.

How 9/11 revived Jenny Sparks, DC's Spirit of the 20th Century

Jenny Sparks #2
Image credit: Jeff Spokes (DC/Black Label)

As revealed in the advance marketing for the second issue of King and artist Jeff Spokes' new limited series titled Jenny Sparks, the electricity-based hero was "woken by the horrific events of September 11th, 2001."

She was briefly returned once already in the 21st Century in an electro-spiritual form in the 2003 Authority storyline 'Transer of Power,' although that may no longer be in continuity.

(Notably, the new Jenny Sparks miniseries itself is outside of mainstream DC comic book continuity, being a Black Label project; all Black Label series are non-canonical to DC's mainstream comic book lore.)

The comic book itself will explain what the revived Sparks did in the years between 2001 and 2024, but as the marketing copy tells us it has to do with a DC superhero named Captain Atom who has gone wrong in a "murderous wrath" and Sparks working with "four seemingly random strangers in a bar."

Those "four seemingly random strangers" could be the four other members of Authority - Midnighter, Apollo, the Engineer, and Swift - seen in the background of the cover to Jenny Sparks #1.

This isn't the first time Sparks' story has been linked to major historical tragedies. In her original incarnation, her entire family died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, leading her to live with her godfather Albert Einstein.

Did the September 11, 2001 attacks happen in the DC comic book universe?

Yes, the 9/11 attacks happened in DC's comic book Universe. Although not addressed immediately at the time of the attacks, the tragic events began to be referenced about a decade later in DC Comics stories; it even made it into the origin of some characters - especially Green Lanterns such as Jo Mullein (who joined the army as a result) and Simon Baz (who was a child when it happened). By that time, DC's sliding timeline made it so heroes such as Superman and the Justice League weren't active in 2001 when it happened in storyline.

What about Jenny Sparks' spiritual siblings, the other 'Century Babies'?

Jenny Sparks #1 cover
Image credit: Jeff Spokes (DC/Black Label)

In the original comic book stories running in The Authority and Planetary, two concurrent series co-created by writer Warren Ellis, Jenny Sparks was one of several characters born at the dawn of the 20th Century, then dying at the end of it, to be followed by another generation of heroes born in the 21st Century, who would also then die at the end of it. For Sparks, she had a direct descendant in a new character called Jenny Quantum.

But with Sparks resurrected, the obvious question is the whereabouts of Jenny Quantum, and the possibility of other 20th Century Babies such as her returning.

Jenny Quantum, who had changed her name to Jenny Quarx as she became a teenager, was written to have died in the 2008 crossover event Number of the Beast. In DC comic book continuity, she hasn't been seen since. But if Jenny Sparks can make it, its not impossible other Jennys (Jennies?) can also do the same - including her twin sister Jenny Fractal, as well as two other known 21st Century Babies.

As for the Class of the 20th Century of which Jenny Sparks is a part of, such as Elijah Snow (of Planetary fame), Axel Brass, and others, they too have not been since the end of the 20th Century (yet) in DC storylines, outside of flashbacks - although Snow has recently appeared as an important presence (albeit in the past) in DC's current Outsiders comic book series, which relies heavily on Planetary lore. Could he be a second Century Baby to make an unexpected return...?

Jenny Sparks #1 (of 6) goes on sale August 21 from DC's Black Label imprint, with the second issue now set fpr a September 18 release - both circling the 23rd anniversary of September 11, 2001.

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Chris Arrant avatar
Chris Arrant: Chris Arrant is the Popverse's Editor-in-Chief. He has written about pop culture for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel, Newsarama, CBR, and more. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. (He/him)
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