Friday, 22 July 2016

A Long Look at Sonic the Comic 1-100 Part 5.5: Odds & Sods*

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. 
Right, I was going to do the Sonic 3 adaptation story-arc next, but I reconsidered and decided to do the odds and ends instead because a) I realised I’d forgotten to do a strip b) Pirate STC ends pretty much as that adaptation starts so it wouldn’t make much sense to do it later c) If I keep putting off reviewing Pirate STC I’ll never do it and d) Sonic Poster Mags.

We’ll start with what I forgot: I realised when writing the BARF strip, the second Sonic’s World strip, that I’d forgotten to do the first Sonic’s World strip, which is just called Sonic’s World with no story title. 

Sonic’s World (Sonic’s World strip, issues 25-27)
I don’t know why I forgot about this, I‘m going to say it was because of the Sonic Terminator but it could also be because it isn’t really a story, it’s sort of a recap. Quick Summary: part 1 introduces us to Mobius (which is 117, 63222 light years from Earth), introduces us to its landscape, once again says that South Island is home to the Emerald Hill Zone in this reality, introduces us to Sonic and Dr Robotnik and it also explains about the Miracle Planet wherein Mike Hadley draws the Time Stones correctly, then draws the Chaos Emeralds wrong, the mysterious narrator is revealed to be the Kintobor Computer. Part two is more of a story, Kintobor recaps what happened between Eggman’s transformation and the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, we see Porker Lewis discovering the Kintobor Computer – who is stored on a Mobius ring, and the arrival of the Badniks in the Green Hill Zone, before a very nice montage of the levels of Sonic 1. In Part 3 the birth of Super Sonic leads to Sonic meeting and saving Tails, before Mike Hadley draws the Death Egg Robot and I squee. That’s about it.

I don’t dislike the strip, in fact I think it’s quite nice, it’s just Kitching doing some world building really, but as the comic began (in its timeline) between Sonic 2 and Sonic CD it’s nice that some time and pages was put into making up for that and showing the events of Sonic 1 & 2 rather than just referring to them and assuming you’d played the games all the way through to know all of what happened. The same goes for the birth of Super Sonic, when we meet him in ‘Super Sonic’ he can already transform, it’s not new to Tails, so seeing the events of the actual first transformation makes up for it just being thrown at you the first time out of nowhere, which it was, even if that story rocked. It also gives us a good look at Kintobor’s personality for the first time and that’s pretty nice in itself, showing us what a nice bloke Eggman was before he transformed just adds an additional piece of tragedy to the monster he’s become. If someone ever reprinted STC (yeah like that’ll happen) this should be the first strip in the first volume. I am surprised that Hadley got the art job though, if you haven’t noticed I like Hadley’s art, quite a bit, but with a project like this you’d’ve thought Elson would have gotten the gig, maybe because he was drawing the Sonic strip at the time? But these strips aren’t very long, even drawing both wouldn’t equal one monthly 22 page American comic.     

The Kid Cruel Caper (Sonic the Poster Mag issue 3)
StC had a short spin-off in the form of Sonic the Poster Mag, Poster Magazines were a big thing once over here, lots of franchises had them (I had Gladiators ones, for instance) they’re a large poster folded so it looks like a magazine, one side has the poster, the other has articles and in some cases, a short comic strip. The first two Sonic Poster Mags didn’t have a strip, but the first issue did include the shots of the ‘infamous’ (in certain Sonic circles anyway) Mystery Cartoon:

I was fascinated by these as a child btw, I drew Sally in this style from this issue coming out until I started getting into the Archie comics heavier and had some physical reference for how to draw her SatAM look, a good few years later. Anyway Issue 3 was the first Poster mag to have a strip and its… racist. Quick Summary: Walking, talking (possibly unintentional?) racial stereotype Kid Cruel is taking kids and making them into Coconuts (which are actually Monkey Brains) so Sonic’s called in. He tracks down the racial stereotype who has turned the Coconuts into suicide bombers by strapping dynamite to them, Sonic grabs all the TNT off them at super speed but is too slow to stop them exploding, he appears to blow up. BUT THEN in a complete Crowning Moment of Awesome he jumps Kid Cruel, still on fire, and kicks his arse, leaving him for the Eggman ship that was coming to get Sonic and co.

Yeah, Kid Cruel is just…just…you know what, have this picture:

I very much doubt Mike Hadley is a racist or meant to draw him to look like something out of a 1940s Captain Marvel comic but…how could he not know? How could no one look at this and go…”wow that’s not on”? How? Also (and far more importantly, obviously) Hadley draws the wrong bloody Badnik again, this time drawing Monkey Brains instead of Coconuts, still at least they look something similar, unlike Buzzbombers (flying wasps) and Motobugs (non-flying lady bugs). So other than that one moment of awesome, this story should be really avoided, and I’ve posted that awesome moment here, so you can avoid this. Oh, yeah, this issue was published between issues 20 and 21, meaning it takes place after Hill Top Terror, which is forgettable, while this just should be forgotten, forever.

Ocean of Horror (Sonic the Poster Mag issue 5) 
The forgotten Super Sonic story! (Issue 4 had a Shinobi story, not a Sonic story, btw.) Quick Summary: Sonic and Tails return to the Oil Ocean Zone to stop The Pump, a huge oil pump, but it’s just a set-up, Eggman has installed a Super-Bomb in the zone with a 30 second count down, and it’s been activated, with time running out Sonic actually isn’t fast enough to search every nook and cranny and the stress turns him to Super Sonic, who stops the bomb.

A straight-up sequel to ‘Super Sonic’ and Elson’s on art for it in a rare team-up with Lew Stringer. The Chaos Demon returns to the Oil Ocean and Stringer actually concocts an appropriate sized menace – a bomb may not sound too special, even when it’s called a Super-Bomb (it’s also egg-shaped, which is wonderful), but a bomb in the Oil Ocean Zone, a Zone filled with so much flammable oil that it actually makes up a land-locked sea? Imagine a huge bomb setting fire to that. Super Sonic does something straight-up heroic this time out, I was a little iffy when I re-read that but Super Sonic usually does finish up whatever Sonic was doing before his transformation, it’s afterwards he smashes anything he can find, and as Sonic was trying to find a bomb and smash a bomb, it makes sense that Super Sonic would do that, and it involves smashing, Super Sonic likes smashing.

Pirate S.T.C. (stand-alone strip, issues 28-33)
Oh god, I’ve put it off long enough, time to do Pirate STC. When I decided to do these Look Ats I decided I’d do both Megadroid strips and the Pirate STC Strip because although they weren’t Sonic’s world strips, they were ‘STC originals’ and thus closer to them than the Sega Superstars strips that made up the rest of the content in the series (which I’m not doing). Actually Pirate STC is kind of based on something, two characters – Fez Head and Skull - are based on some telly adverts that were running at the time but I still felt it ‘counted’. The Megadroid strips are harmless; Pirate STC may actually be dangerous to your health. It’s a…surreal parody of video game and TV advertising tropes by Stephen Bliss, know him? No, how about I tell you that he’s the senior artist for Rockstar Games now and is the bloke who’s drawn all those famous Grand Theft Auto covers, the ones with all the panels? Yeah, those. He drew those. But this was a long time ago and everything he draws here looks like it’s being squeezed out of a toothpaste tube (or perhaps, a bubble bath container). Ok, let’s go, I’m so sorry:
Quick(ish) Recap: Skull, a liquid metal skull who lives in cyberspace eats some TV viewers during a… Poodle Noodle commercial. He then communes with his creator Fez Head who tells him to bring the chosen ones, the most worthless, lazy, stupid Couch Potatoes he can find, because…satire? So he goes and eats some more people via their TV set, this time teens (I think?) Sackhead, Flame, Bob and Grrr (who’s a girl) and Dog, who’s a talking chicken because of course he is. Once inside Cyberspace inside a TV they’re sent inside a Mega Drive (get all that?) once inside they hit some cute animals who they turn into bubble bath containers (when struck they metamorphose), some obvious knock offs of Blanka and M. Bison think they’re there for a tournament but Granee 8 Ball arrives, a giant geriatric who drinks bubble bath – and the M. Bison-knock-off talks really strange, a comment on bad dialogue in video games? Racism? Whatever. Grr, Bob and Dog deal with Granee, who also spits 8-balls when she drinks bubble bath because… I don’t know, they get her to slip on Bubble Bath and she cracks her head on a giant egg. Sack Head and Flame Boy meanwhile are part of this fighting game tournament and Fez Head (who’s ‘playing’ them via the Mega Drive they’re inside) upgrades them with, amongst other things, a Space Hopper, some chips (fries) and some y-fronts. All of this is interspersed with ‘satirical’ adverts for a cardboard box and a metal band.
Sackhead, Bob, Flame, Grrr, Dog, Stupidity
So the egg Granee 8 Ball cracked her head on breaks open and Ren & Stimpy-esque ice-cream monsters called Kamikaze Whippysnappers* come out and deck Grr and Bob, Dog escapes. At the tournament M. Bison-Alike defeats every other character but Sackhead and Flame because…because fucking Pirate STC. But Fez Head has left them to their own devices because Avacado Mexican Bandit Punters (must be a Ninja Turtles parody) is on, so they defeat the M-Bison-Alike with a rubber glove and what the fuck am I reading? Dog arrives to get Sackhead and Flame. While rushing to rescue Bob & Grrr the boys find the Chronic Twins, hedgehog-y things hanging from fish hooks, they free them and all warp down a pipe to fight 8-Ball who wants to infiltrate Supermarkets or something, then Skull sucks in an earlier Y-Fronts joke (because Y-Fronts are hilarious) to fight…everyone?   So there’s a massive fight but the Y-Fronts Boxer beats up himself because Pirate STC, some ear-wax monsters are released (yuck), Granee 8-Ball turns into pigs, Fez Head arrives and sprays everyone with Love Spray and OH THANK GOD IT’S OVER.

Two fucking paragraphs! Two! On that shit! I’m sure Bliss thought he was writing some great indie comic piece of satire there but…it makes no fucking sense. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe I just don’t get it, maybe a giant old person who drinks bubble bath, spits 8-balls and turns into pigs when hit with a space hopper is actually a biting comment on…something and I was too young to realise it when it was published and the meaning is now lost to time or maybe it’s just a series of ‘ran-dumb’ things that the bloke who draws the GTA covers thought was funny. Actually it can’t be that I don’t get it, because I do understand what a lot of the things are parodying (because they’re obvious as fuck) they’re just not funny and often completely nonsensical and come at points completely inappropriate to the narrative, and even if Bliss was a comedy genius (he’s not, which I guess is why he works at Rockstar) the story isn’t very interesting, the characters are unlikable and it makes no fucking sense. I think the ending is a jab at happy endings?

I was all geared up to write a big long rant about this but after re-reading it (I haven’t read it in years for the very reason that it makes my head want to explode) but I’m just so… exhausted by reading it, it’s like Bliss put me, a bunch of cliché anti-commercialism statements, a crap Sunsoft video game and huge kaleidoscope in a tumble dryer and spun us all ‘round while throwing Ren & Stimpy cartoons, Y-fronts and ice cream at me. Sorry did that make no sense? Was it unfunny? Now you know what it was like reading Pirate fucking STC!!

Anyway next time we’ll have Knuckles and good stories, promise.

Part 6 > 
* there’s a type of soft ice cream sold in the UK called Mr Whippy, hence the play on words: ‘whippersnapper’ and ‘whippy’    

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