After several months of uncertainty, SEGA and Archie Comics finally confirmed they’re cancelling the Sonic the Hedgehog comics. I don’t know about you, but for me this is the end of an era.
I’m not gonna try to argue about how good the comics actually were for the 24 years Archie did them, but I am going to try to impart a sense of how and why they meant so much to me as well as other readers. In most news stories about Archie’s Sonic comics you’ll probably hear that the mainline Sonic the Hedgehog series was the longest-running comic based on a video game, but for readers it was really a story in itself, one that in many ways went above and beyond everything that happened with the games.
If you don’t know, the main Sonic series, which started way back in the 90’s, mysteriously stopped late last year at issue 290. There was no word from Archie for a while, but rumblings from fans suggested SEGA and Archie were in some kind of disagreement about what they wanted to do with the Sonic license in comics. The announcement linked above even says there will still be Sonic comics, just not the series Archie ran.
If you don’t know about the Sonic comic at all, it went far beyond just an adaptation of the games years ago. If I tried to explain some of its storylines to you you’d probably think they were insane. It really was its own whole world with a massive cast of characters who never appeared in the games, with its own tightly-woven plots and intrigues. There was a spin-off comic about Knuckles for a while too that felt at least as inundated with intrigue as Sonic.
If you remember the Saturday morning Sonic cartoon — the one with the “Freedom Fighters,” Archie’s comic started off with that as a base. It turned the basic concept of the games into a dystopian world where Sonic and all his friends waged an insurgency against Eggman’s (then Robotnik) regime of robots, and there was this whole thing about the furry kingdom Eggman supplanted. After that show’s two seasons Archie took that setting and ran with it… for almost 25 years and 300 issues (not counting spin-offs). From there the comic got into stuff like the old king being lost in an alternate crystal dimension (with a wizard who was actually going to be the main villain of the TV show’s cancelled third season), a succession crisis arising from there, Knuckles dealing with intrafamilial politics stemming from the ancestors who guarded the Master Emerald before him, a lot of crazy stuff that’s probably in a wiki somewhere.
The later issues leading up to the cancellation were a good time to hop in too. Legal troubles with one of the artists forced the comic to abandon a huge chunk of its characters and reboot. From there Archie was able to markedly improve its writing and start to build what seemed like a whole new interesting universe of characters. That’s what’s so disheartening about this Sonic comic — it was clearly on the road to recovery and ultimately something better than what it was.
Through most of the run the art was, to be honest, all over the place. Archie had a whole bunch of artists working on Sonic who had vastly different styles. I still remember my early art hobby being partially based however around the comic’s greatest artist — Patrick “Pat Spaz” Spaziante. You may remember his GameFan magazine covers, but he was the main cover artist for Sonic for probably most of its run, and occasionally did entire issues whenever there was a special — he was the big gun Archie would roll out then.
Through the most tumultuous years for Sonic video games the comic actually felt like one part of the license that could keep it together. It had its problems certainly, but it never seemed to completely melt down the way the video games did. Most importantly, since the Sonic comic wasn’t as well-known as the other parts of the property, it didn’t get mud slung at it like the general Sonic fan community did. Maybe that’s how I managed to remain a Sonic fan all these years without getting deep into the mainline online Sonic fandom.
Sonic the Hedgehog is just about the only comic book I consistently followed through most of its run. I wasn’t there at the very beginning but pretty close to it. I still have huge stacks of issues. I have friends with whom I grew up reading the comic. I still don’t really know where it stood critically in the grand scheme of comic books, but honestly I don’t care.
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