Here are some updated answers to the questions from thousands of emails I have received over the years.
Since my musical-animation days I have been working in software and advertising, supporting my family, living an interesting life, and developing my skills. I’m grateful for all the jobs I have taken. After more than a decade of work in creative agencies and big corporations, I left my full-time job to become an indy creator/publisher again. My career history is on my LinkedIn profile, if you need all the details!
Overview of my Creative Career 2001-2017
After the dotcom crash of 2001, shockwave.com fell apart and all employees (including me) were let go. I moved my content to joesparks.com and continued as an independent publisher of original music and animation on the web. I didn’t last very long.
My plans were put on hold because it was very expensive to serve media in the early 2000’s. I was not prepared for the true cost of serving “rich media” to a large web audience in 2002. And I’m not even talking about VIDEO files yet. The golden age of video was still years away. Video was not widely supported on the web until Flash MX 2003, via browser plugin, while cheap network speed, native browser video support, and wide adoption would come much later ~2008-2010.
In July of 2002, the AP News published a story about my plans to launch a new series (Dicky & Jackie) and it ran in hundreds of newspapers around the world (and still appears on some news archives like this).
I made this ridiculous graphic (just for this page) in celebration of the closing quote:
After this story hit worldwide, a small fraction of my shockwave audience showed up at joesparks.com. My hosting bill jumped up over a $1000 USD/month. If my entire Radiskull & Devil Doll audience showed up (of 1 million unique visitors per month) my web hosting could go over 25k per month. I was deeply troubled at the time and I couldn’t see a solution (I realize now I could have teamed up with another entertainment site or found another solution. It is hard to see the obvious when you are feeling down or develop a victim mentality).
I was never able to release that highly-publicised Episode 1 of Dicky and Jackie, yet my website held promos for the show for over a decade. I would only share the episode with people who requested directly through email (remember: “Show Me DJ Episode One – MEET DICKY” ??)
Now that I’m back in Indy-Publisher Mode, I will finally give D&J a proper release, remastered in HD1080 for 2018:
(Back to the past) By 2003, I would start the first of many jobs, mostly in creative advertising agencies.
During these many years of working and saving, video went from entirely impractical on the web, to free-flowing like water (even on phones!). Wacky alternative internet content flourished. My underground goofy style had gone mainstream. During my last years at Google, publishing costs dropped to next-to nothing and cartoons similar to mine were getting hundreds of millions of views. Were my 2002 problems essentially solved?
I was beginning to believe that I could make another go of it. But how could I convince myself to leave the great comfort of the big G? I needed more reasons.
My old shows are pirated all over YouTube. Bad for my rights, but encouraging to see growing interest in my work. It is really quite amazing for me to see the widespread adoption of my work out there. I should be publishing my own work instead of watching other people publish it, right?
My old games (Total Distortion and Spaceship Warlock) have received a lot of attention, especially on YouTube. Just one of my songs from Total Distortion (“You Are Dead”) has motivated people to make dozens of videos about it. Imagine seeing your work from a lifetime ago being made into popular videos?
- “Total Distortion – You Are Dead – Best Game Over Ever” – 404,181 views
- “Total Distortion!” walkthrough/game play by Jerma598 – 513,621 views
- INCREDIBLE! “Top 10 Game Over Themes – Guitar Medley” – 153,878 views
- “Total Distortion You Are Dead” (JUST MY SONG ALONE on someone else’s channel)- 428,267 views
- (How does copyright work on YouTube for independent creators/copyright holders?)
All of this was encouraging. Yet, I was so well-employed!
Google was my home for 8 years and I was a devoted Googler. It was hard to imagine life “on the outside.” (Shall I brag about my accomplishments? Of course!) I was achieving new heights in my career. I scored in the top 5% of managers at Google. I started and managed my own team of creators (“Sales Animation”), and recruited amazing talent. We helped close thousands of deals ($Billions) across Google and YouTube, simply by helping our advertisers create ads quickly.
While my career was solid, my best talents were not really needed there. I was creating a business service. I was remixing other people’s creative work. Fans of Radiskull or Total Distortion would never see my hand in the work I was doing (except for a few fun internal videos I made). After 8 years and hundreds of projects, I’m probably only proud of 5 of them. That doesn’t sound especially healthy for the long term, does it?
I knew had to return to the creative life at some point — why not now? My wife (JJ Sparks) encouraged me to stop wondering and just go for it! (Thanks babe!)
I’M BACK AND I’M MAKING VIDEOS AGAIN
Leaving the best big-corporate gig of my life was scary, but I am happy to be living the creative life once again. It is a strange psychological journey. I left Google in summer of 2017 to create original music and video animation again. Within weeks I produced my first music video in years (Staring me and JJ): “Too Much.”
This video was noticed by Boing Boing, and they published this announcement:
Thanks so much for checking out “Too Much” and see all of my recent works at youtube.com/joesparks
If you want to know more about how I created this strange puppet/live action video, I wrote a long article about it:
This page is one of several page I wrote in mid-2018 about my career and creative work, in part to answer questions from thousands of emails I have received over the years.
“But you didn’t answer my main question, dude!”
What is the number-one question? “Where is Radiskull & Devil Doll Episode 9?”
~ Joe Sparks, San Francisco June 2018
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