2016 is Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th Anniversary and I’ve been around since (almost) the start, in celebration of Sonic lasting so long I’m going to be posting a Long Look At Sonic the Comic issues 1 to 100, my favourite time period on one of my favourite comics and one of my favourite things about one of my favourite things – that’d be the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise- and this is that Long Look At.
< Part 19
Ok so we’re doing something different here with this one (look at me, talking like I have readers and/or friends); issues 97-99 include three separate story-arcs1 that all converge into one book-length story in issue 100 but issue 100 is still separated into four strips, it was very well co-ordinated and everyone involved should feel bloody proud of themselves for pulling it off so well but it does mean my usual format of Quick Summaries for each story-arc in rough chronological order won’t work because they’re all taking place simultaneously and all really make up one big arc, so we’re gonna just have ourselves a countdown instead. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Sonic the Comic issue 97
Quick Summary: In New Tek City (Doomsday Part 1, Sonic strip) Lord Sidewinder is raging over not being able to find Super Sonic, across town it seems like business as usual for Sonic & The Chaotix even when Doctor Plague seems to snap and be willing to kill himself to wipe out everyone in the city, Sonic even gets to show off stopping him. Then a panicked message from Porker Lewis is cut off, then two suns appear in the sky, Mighty says this is the start of doomsday in Planet Meridian legend, a weak Omni-Viewer then arrives to prove him right. On the Floating Island (Victims Part 1, Knuckles strip) Knuckles finally returns home but the Mushroom Hill Zone is deserted – where are all the Emerald Hill Folk? Heading down to the Emerald Chamber Knuckles finds Porker Lewis hiding and building a transmitter and we see the message from the other side a Porker desperately tries to send a call for help before Dr Robotnik, Dr Zachary and a bunch of guardian robots cut them off. In the Chemical Plant Zone (Boiling Point, Sonic’s World strip) Shortfuse & the Freedom Fighters are there to free some slaves but Shorty ruins the plan when Vermin shows up and he runs off to give him some payback, it only gets worse when Shorty leaves Johnny in mortal danger over a boiling chemical vat so he can continue fighting Vermin, it turns out ok and the villains get away but Amy and Shortfuse argue and Shorty storms off, leaving the group, also a pun on the title because Lew Stringer wrote this.
Not to rag on Stringer again (I really hate how anti-Stringer this Look At has become) but his Sonic’s World strip is easily the worst of the three, a needless jokey ending and just being really obvious, coming after the dramatic build-up we’re getting in Kitching’s two outings makes it seem even weaker, Corona and White do some of their best work and we do get a nice Cybernik vs Cybernik brawl but yeah, the weakest of the three. The other two are just preludes so I don’t have much to say, I did like Sonic showing off catching the vials of virus from Plague though that was great fun, and both are really effective at their jobs of building tension – Knuckles being the best of the two I thought.
Sonic the Comic issue 98
Quick Summary: in New Tek City (Doomsday Part 2, Sonic strip) Omni-Viewer’s back and suddenly everything’s coloured by Steve White, he explains that the second sun is Super Sonic who became aware while trapped in Omni-Viewer and has now heated up the Black Asteroid and is driving it towards Planet Meriden. Sonic is quite happy to leave Planet Meridian to its fate (!) but Omni-Viewer couldn’t take him anyway, then Lightmare arrives and White forgets to colour Espio as invisible but he stops her anyway, yeah Lightmare is a her, Sidewinder’s daughter, and has come to tell them Sidewinder’s plan so that Sidewinder and his gang don’t get killed. Sonic, Mighty, Espio and Charmy set off to stop him while Omni stays with Vector, with Lightmare back the Sidewinder Gang take off for space. On the Floating Island (Victims Part 2, Knuckles strip) Knuckles and Porker Lewis are being frog-marched and Zachary explains how he survived his fall, Badniks found him and Eggman patched him up in exchange for information on the Emerald Hill Folk’s location, whom Robotnik has hooked up to a giant computer, which their minds will be part of: permanently, when he throws the switch. Omni-Viewer observes this. In the Metropolis Zone (Solidarity, Sonic’s World strip) Grimer is being even more dictatorial than his master while he’s away in a desperate bid to impress him, sending out Troopers to arrest anyone for anything, the Freedom Fighters intervene but get caught, with no one to save them and still the need to be saved a small group of Metropolis Zone residents attack the Troopers, leading more to join them, and uprising has begun.
This is the weakest of the four chapters, but thankfully Lew Stringer’s strip is far better than last issue, in fact I’d go so far to say the Sonic strip winds up being the weakest, there’s a lot of clunky ‘your power is this’ exposition dialogue in that one and Steve White forgets to colour Espio as invisible, making it look like he’s standing around like a knob and Lightmare is so stupid she can’t see the BRIGHT PURPLE chameleon right behind her. Oh yeah, Lightmare is a girl, not sure what that was about but it seems to have always have been the plan with her, it shocked me at a kid and there was some foreshadowing, or I guess hints, that Lightmare was more loyal to Sidewinder than a normal henchmen would be, certainly more than Mr Fry and Bio-Hazard. Cyborg Zachary is awesome, that’s my entire comment on the Knuckles strip. Solidarity is really nice, the residents of Mobius have been far too passive far too often and it’s great to see them standing up for themelves, it’s a pity Stringer felt the need to force in some crap humour in the Trooper attack and I hate Prichett when he colours himself, it looks like everything’s made of biscuits.
Sonic the Comic issue 99
Quick Summary: in the Special Zone (Doomsday Part 3, Sonic strip) Sonic and the Chaotix are desperately searching for Lord Sidewinder as the detonation of the Black Asteroid grows nearer. In New Tek City Vector learns from his crocodile allies at Equinox that the Black Asteroid will release an electromagnetic pulse when it blows, Omni-Viewer returns from his cameo in last issue’s Knuckles strip with the bad news he saw there. Sonic and the Chaotix pull no punches when the find the Sidewinder Gang, who are already beginning to rebel against their mad leader (who plans to lure Super Sonic to him with the power of his mind, he’s good loony), battering them before Vector and Omni can relay all they’ve learned. After a moment of indecision Sonic decides to have Omni teleport the Black Asteroid to Mobius. On the Floating Island (Victims Part 3, Knuckles strip) Knuckles breaks out of the super computer because… sheer will and desperately tries to stop Robotnik only to fail each time, being knocked to fuck by the Guardian Robots and eventually shot by Dr Zachary, then a huge explosion happens in the sky. In the Metropolis Zone (No Exit, Sonic’s World strip) Cat Aide (GROAN!) reports on a huge demonstration by residents and the Freedom Fighters that quickly turns south as acting tyrant Grimer panics and sends just about all the Badniks down on them, civilians are determined to stand their ground even after Tails is injured but in the chaos Amy and Johnny Lightfoot are cornered by a squad of Newtrons lead by Vermin the Cybernik, when a huge explosion goes off in the sky.
It kind of took me a minute to realise it, mostly because due to page length many battles are quite short in StC but Sonic and Mighty REALLY hit the Sidewinders hard - they really aren’t fucking about. Anyway my one complaint with this issue is having the Black Asteroid explode at the end of each strip, it makes a nice cliff-hanger and a way of connecting the three stories but it ruins all tension. Maybe it’s just because I’ve always understood what an electromagnetic pulse is and does (I was a naive child but not a unintelligent or poorly read one) but I think the whole cliff-hanger would have worked better without the explosion, with an indecisive Sonic, an unconscious Knuckles and Tails and a surrounded Johnny and Amy and Eggman on the cusp of final victory, it would have left things near unbearably tense for readers, hmm perhaps that’s why they didn’t do it, this was aimed at kids right? Speaking of tension, my feeling is that Sonic’s strip does it the worst, probably because it’s clear that Sidewinder’s Gang have no chance of making things worse for the heroes, they’re just in the way and with the exception of Lightmare they’re unrepentant bastards so it’s hard to fear for their safety too much, but also it’s just not as well paced and the events just don’t slot together to build tension as well as the other strips, how vague is that? Its five to 2 in the morning, shut it. Knuckles builds tension the best, with him just going at it over and over out of desperation and failing each time, I also laughed at Zachary being proven wrong instantly and Knuckles mocking him for it. No Exit is a great strip, pointless parody and Andy Pritchett’s horrible boiled sweet colouring aside (Kate Aidie is a journalist, she used to be on BBC 2) and it’s so nice to say nice things about Lew Stringer.
The Final Victory (Sonic the Comic issue 100)
Quick Summary: The Black Asteroid has detonated, letting out an electromagnetic pulse that ruins all of Eggman’s technology, Vermin is paralysed and Robotnik’s computer on the Floating Island is ruined but Super Sonic is free. Sonic arrives in the Metropolis Zone for a beat down from his alter ego until he runs out of power, turns out Supes can no longer store energy and because Nigel Kitchen doesn’t want to deal with it at the moment, even Omni-Viewer doesn’t know quite why yet. On the Floating Island Sonic joins Knuckles to defeat Dr Zachary and take Robotnik into custody, but while parading him through the streets of the Metropolis Zone Grimer saves his master using a steam powered machine he robbed from a museum. Meanwhile Super Sonic is taken in by a kindly old lady. Sonic correctly deduces that Eggman and Grimer have returned to his citadel and finds the villains trying to use hand-power to get things up and running, well I say ‘they’ I mean ‘Grimer’. The fastest thing alive winds the hand crank so fast he overloads everything, destroying the citadel, as the Mobians rejoice at this final symbolism, Robotnik and Grimer crawls out of a sewage pipe, swearing revenge.
Hmm. The Final Victory was a BIG deal when it was published, at least for Sonic the Comic readers, it was big, it was long, it was completely changing the status quo of the book and having to actually sit down and think about this, this story is pretty important to me personally. It came out as I was moving up from Junior School to Senior School (a huge jump in the UK) and silly as it sounds as an adult talking to (imaginary) adults Sonic the Comic was the backbone of my year, I subscribed and every fortnight it was there, a constant, and the fact that now it was going through this huge change just as I was going about a huge change did not go unnoticed. Doomsday was really an important part of the soundtrack to the end of my childhood and one of the last hurrahs of being a child and being, well, happy. If that sounds over-the-top it honestly isn’t, Senior School was miserable for me from the start and by the time it stopped being continuously nothing more than oppression and loneliness and I’d found friends and even a (brief) girlfriend I was suffering from Depression and I’ve been suffering from it ever since, so while I’ve obviously been happy since I was 10 it’s always been with that taint of the Depression, I’m not trying to drum up some sympathy here – I’m well used to it and I’ve had some lovely times and some great friends (I still have a selection of great friends) and some great lovers - but there’s no doubt that that switch to senior school had a horrible effect and one of the last good things from the good times was Doomsday.
But I really wouldn’t be able to rave about The Final Victory with a clear conscience, it has issues – the biggest being a general feeling of anti-climax, especially when it comes to Super Sonic. Now the beat-down we get when the chaos demon gets out is great but it doesn’t last and really feels like he was being quickly shuffled to one side to get on with focussing on Robotnik. Focussing on Robotnik in the issue that brings his downfall form power is not a bad thing but Super Sonic’s escape had been built up since Sonic had entered the Special Zone, and the pay-off really doesn’t feel equal to the build. Vermin suffers a similarly anticlimactic fate, a whole panel is given to him playing possum (and the letterer mistakenly used a speech bubble rather than a thought bubble so it seems like he’s announcing his secret plan to everyone in the vicinity – which includes four Freedom Fighters) only for him to be rounded up off-panel by Tails and shown roped up in the final part of the same issue, what was the point? And Sonic and Robotnik never have a physical confrontation, one of the things EndGame did right as give us a Sonic on Eggman battle, I’m aware that it doesn’t make much sense really but is so satisfying for the reader and cowardly though StC Eggman can be it seems strange that he wouldn’t at least pathetically lash out. The Knuckles portion is the best, with a satisfying defeat for Dr Zachary that, despite Sonic interfering, actually comes from Knuckles (as it should) and for all my complaining the artists are all as good as they ever are with the choices of Elson, Dobbyn, Corona and Kitching being perfect for the celebration, they really were the four biggest artists of the first 100 issues. Writing isn’t bad but the differences in Kitching and Stringer is even more noticeable when they swap writing duties mid-way through a story, especially when the jump happens between the Knuckles portion (which is the strongest) and the Doctor Robotnik portion (which is easily the weakest, though with an awesome final panel from Rob Corona), the jump from a dramatic battle with your evil equivalent to clunky exposition from a random comedy character and Super Sonic is pretty jarring, though I do really like the ever faithful and every clever Grimer coming to his master’s rescue with a steam-powered machine, it just seems so in character. I personally would have liked it better if Robotnik had been imprisoned for a few issues and subsequently escaped, this would have (to me) made the Freedom Fighters victory more absolute and also made Robtonik look much stronger overall, but then I would have had Sonic and Eggman slug it out for the final chapter and Amy celebrate by kissing Tekno and Carl Fucking Flint publically flogged in the feature pages so what I want isn’t always what’s best for everyone.
And there you have it, I have written 21 posts on Sonic the Comic and we’ve only Looked At the first 100 issues, I wish I had some dramatic conclusion for this but in honesty I don’t. I actually really enjoyed doing this and enjoy seeing it online even more, but it was a big bastard job and I’m glad it’s over; I’m going to spend the next few days doing nothing but drinking Ribena and watching anything but Sonic the Hedgehog, probably Pixar films and I recommend this. Thanks for reading all this waffle if you did, if you didn’t then you don’t deserve Ribena and Pixar at all, nothing but diet lemonade and DreamWorks sequels for you!
1 Issues 97-99 also had Decap Attack strips because children will surely turn inside out if exposed to a whole issue of action strips, you won’t believe how many children were inverted reading issue 100.