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If you have walked by the ASU bookstore in the past week or so, you probably felt an odd shiver as you ambled by the new ASU merchandise featuring the redesigned Sparky.

The new Sparky isn't cute. The new Sparky is creepy. He looks ridiculous, with bugged-out eyes and weirdly misshapen horns.

He looks like a villain from a Disney movie the kind of villain that scares the hell out of you as a child and haunts your dreams. It's like a cross between Jafar from "Aladdin" and the honey bee from the Honey Nut Cheerios commercials, with a little bit of Buzz Lightyear thrown in. He definitely doesn't make you want to take pictures with him at football games.

The problem isn't Sparky's new unsettling appearance, but that students seemed to have very little say in the decision to revamp our beloved University mascot.

It would have made more sense for the University to hold a contest allowing students to submit their own ideas, or even a chance to vote for different options.

Better yet, we could have just stuck with the older version. What was wrong with the previous incarnation? Too impish? Too frightening? If the latter is true, there was not much of an improvement.

Outsourcing the redesign was a bad move, unless of course ASU had been able to convince Stan Lee, creator of many a beloved comic book series, to take the helm. Then Sparky would be in some good company with Tony Stark, Peter Parker and Professor Xavier.

But now, the ASU bookstore is crowded with the hideous new Sparky T-shirts and coffee mugs. It's rather odd that the merchandise was rolled out so quickly after the debut of Sparky's redesign. It's almost as if the only reason we adopted a new mascot was to have a chance to a few more ASU notebooks, water bottles and "Proud Sun Devil Parent" jerseys, but surely ASU isn't capable of such a cynical marketing ploy.

If it truly wasn't a cheap trick to sell more ASU merchandise and was meant to, say, appeal more to children, it was still a mistake. Sparky isn't supposed to be cutesy or overly happy, but he sure isn't supposed to look quite so evil.

University mascots can be extremely ludicrous — take Scottsdale Community College's "Fighting Artichoke" or Rhode Island School of Design's "Scrotie" — but Sparky was a badass mascot, if there ever was one.

We want him back.


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