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True Story of Colorado's Felix Sparks, Hero of Netflix's The Liberator

A World War II-era photo of Felix Sparks, and as he's portrayed in Netflix's The Liberator.EXPAND
A World War II-era photo of Felix Sparks, and as he's portrayed in Netflix's The Liberator.
Friends of the National World War II Memorial via YouTube/Netflix via YouTube

To mark Veterans Day on November 11, Netflix is debuting The Liberator, one of the most unusual miniseries yet for the ubiquitous streaming service. Originally envisioned as an eight-episode, live-action look at what Variety describes as "a remarkably treacherous 500-day march through Europe in the waning days of World War II," the project was ultimately transformed into a four-part animated effort that puts a high-tech gloss on rotoscoping, in which filmed images are essentially traced (as seen in the Richard Linklater flicks Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly).

At the center of the tale is the late Felix L. Sparks, one of Colorado's most unsung heroes — although Westword gave him a well-deserved salute in our 1994 Best of Denver issue. The blurb for "Best Disarmament Campaign" offers a brief overview of Sparks's incredible life:

General Felix L. Sparks lived through World War II to lead the U.S. Army brigade that liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Nearly fifty years later his sixteen-year-old grandson was shot to death on the streets of Denver by another teenager with an automatic weapon. The general, also a former Colorado Supreme Court justice and director of the state's Department of Natural Resources, became active with the group PUNCH! (People United — No Children's Handguns!). For his efforts, he was named the 1994 winner of the Community Champion Award by the Civil Justice Foundation in Washington, D.C.

An even more detailed look into his background was assembled by the Anti-Defamation League and the USC Shoah Foundation to accompany the following 1996 video, in which Sparks, who died eleven years later, at age ninety, shared his memories for posterity.

The bio notes that Sparks was born in San Antonio in 1917 and later moved to Miami with his family. In 1936, after graduating from high school with no money to attend college owing to the Great Depression, he joined the U.S. Army and served for two years before enrolling at the University of Arizona. But in December 1940, a year before America's entry into the Second World War, he was ordered back into uniform.

In the years that followed, Sparks, who ultimately rose to the rank of colonel, took part in the Battle of the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge before leading the 45th division of the 7th U.S. Army, which helped to capture Nuremburg and liberate Dachau.

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After the war, Sparks attended the University of Colorado Law School, from which he graduated in 1947. He subsequently put down roots in the Western Slope town of Delta, where he transitioned from his own law practice to serve as the local district attorney. After a stint on the Colorado Supreme Court, he returned to Delta while serving as a member and, later, commander of the Colorado Army National Guard. When he retired from the service, he was a brigadier general.

Here's a preview of Netflix's version of Sparks's story:

The miniseries is getting a big push from Netflix. As a result, Sparks will become known by many more people in his adopted home state and beyond.

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