To Be This Good Takes Archie: History of Archie Comics' Sonic Series

173Going down in the Guinness World Records as history's longest running comic book series based upon a video game Archie Comic's Sonic The Hedgehog has gone from strength to strength. With Archie starting the series' biggest story arc ever to celebrate Sonic's 20th birthday with the just-released issue #226 now is a great time to look back at Sonic's four-colour adventures.

Cartoon Hedgehog

Debuting as a three- issue mini series in November, 1992 and then moving onto an on-going in May, 1993 Archie's Sonic comic series was originally released to coincide with the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated TV series. In fact original series writer, Michael Gallagher, had never even heard of Sonic before he was offered the job. His first look at Sonic came in the form of character model sheets from animation house DIC which had been developed for the Adventures TV series. Given the close relationship between the comic and the cartoon the look of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic closely resembled that of the TV show with the character designs from the cartoon being replicated on the comic page by artist Scott Shaw.

Interestingly the comic series featured characters from both the cartoon series and the Sonic series of games. Sonic, Tails and Robotnik where all present, as well as many of Robotnik's badniks. However, in order to flesh out the story  the TV and comic series also introduced original characters. Princess Sally Acorn, Rotor, Bunny, Antoine D'Coolett, Snively and Robotnik's Storm-Trooper like robots, the Swat-Bots, were all original. Given the large cast of characters Sonic's world was expanded greatly beyond what fans saw in the Mega Drive titles. Sonic and his friends formed a Freedom Fighters group to stand against the might of Robotnik and his armies and the Kingdom of Acorn was the area over which they fought.

Each story had to go through a strict approval process before it saw print. Archie, the Comics Code Authority (a kind of policing body for comics that ensured any content was not “offensive.” A remnant of the 1950s, most comic publishers stopped using the Code in the early 2000s with Archie discarding it in February, 2011,) Sega and, finally, DIC all had their say on the story content. 

The early issues of the series were very humour based. Sonic was shown as something of a prankster, often confounding Robotnik through some humorous plan. The book's humour was mostly pun based with a healthy dose of slapstick. Stories were mostly self-contained and continuity was at a minimum. The book  very much a young-readers title.

Issue #21 saw a new artist come onto the book. Patrick “Spaz” Spaziante's art exploded on to the pages of Sonic the Hedgehog to much applause from fans. Used to the simple, cartoonish pencils of Dave Manak, Spaziante's highly detailed, illustrative style had more in common with the art of Marvel and DC superhero books than what readers had seen in the Sonic title previously. Spaziante's art gave the book the feeling of growing up, something the now-older Sonic fans appreciated. Unfortunately,  Spaziante did not illustrate every issue from #21 on and this resulted in fans constantly writing in to Sonic's letters page asking for his return. The story content, too, began to mature in tone.


Continuity, Continuity

Not too long before this writer Ken Penders began work on the title. Starting out co-writing stories with others such as Gallagher, Penders began to be sow seeds for what could become the series on-going continuity. In issue #19 and the story Night of a 1000 Sonics the villain Robo-Robotnik, an alternate reality version of Robotnik that roboticized himself in order to defeat that reality’s Sonic, was introduced. Robo-Robotnik would appear in subsequent issues of the series, the most important being that of issue #75. The issues leading up to #75, however, built up the story that would appear in that issue. In issue #39 saw Sonic himself become roboticized into Mecha Sonic who heeded the commands of Robotnik. This flowed into a future special issue in which Knuckles roboticized himself in order to defeat Mecha Sonic. The fallout of this leads the Freedom Fighters to attack Robotnik with plans on defeating him once and for all. This battle plays out in the story line End Game which flowed through issues #47 to 50, penned once more by Penders. At the end of End Game Robotnik is defeated, killed by his own weapon of mass destruction and the Freedom Fighters concentrate on other threats to the Kingdom of Acorn. All of this comes to fruition in the aforementioned #75 which reveals that Robot-Robotnik somehow learned of the death of Robotnik. Robo-Robotnik takes the place of his other self and thus our Sonic once again must face off against the evil scientist. Cleverly, the writers used this opportunity to explain away the change in appearance from Classic Robotnik to the now familiar Doctor Eggman. It is explained that Robot-Roboknik's body was destroyed and so he needed to download his mind into a back-up body thus his change in appearance.

As can be seen, the comic has built its own unique continuity which has lead to a disclaimer at the beginning of each issue that reads “Welcome to the planet Mobius – a world unique and beyond what you know from the SEGA games...” Even so, the series still adapts in one form or another all of the games from Sonic's digital library. New characters to appear in the more recent games are also brought into the series, such as the Chaotix who act as a kind of secondary group of Freedom Fighters looking after areas outside of the Kingdom of Acorn.

In March, 2009 Archie launched a second on-going Sonic series to compliment the first. Entitled Sonic Universe, the series focuses on just that, the universe in which Sonic and his friends and enemies reside, more so than on any one character. The series came about as a result of fans asking for more stories focusing on popular secondary characters such as Shadow and Amy Rose as well as stories explaining what happened to characters who were off-panel in adventures appearing in the main series. Sonic Universe builds on what appears in the regular Sonic series. Secondary characters feature in their own story arcs with Sonic no-where to be seen and 'between issue' adventures that are only mentioned in Sonic the Hedgehog are fully explored in Sonic Universe. As such the  title acts as a kind of loose tie-in to the main book. Universe doesn't need to be read for readers to understand what's happening in the regular Sonic book, but if you do read it the book provides extra information and character exploration that can enhance the enjoyment of the main title.

The World's Most Way Past Cool Comic!

Nearing the landmark issue of #250 Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog shows no signs of slowing down. Current series' writer Ian Flynn, who also writes Sonic Universe, has pulled the series' past continuity as well as the continuity of the SEGA games and built and moulded it into a vast epic that would make Stan Lee plush. The depth to the characters and their interaction belies the series video game inspired, all ages heritage. The Sonic The Hedgehog comic series has become its own unique beast in the world of Sonic and his many incarnations, embracing all yet a slave to none. With the series most ambition arc yet, entitled, appropriately, Genesis, now on comic stands it's a better time than ever to check out Archie's series if you've not already. Constantly entertaining and consistently well written and drawn Sonic the Hedgehog is something every Sonic – and comics – fan should experience.

Last Updated ( 11 July 2011 )  

Joe Douglas

A lover of comics, sci-fi, fantasy and dusty old video games, Joe is a Sega man through and through. Combining his love of collecting and blue hedgehogs, Joe runs the site SonicCollectors on which he attempts to build a database of Sonic merch. He is tolerated by one cat, two dogs and his girlfriend.

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(Link to this comment) DerZocker 2011-07-12 12:30
Still, compared to Richard Elsons artworks, most Archie comics look like a childens drawing :D
(Link to this comment) JoeMD 2011-07-13 13:06
Elsons' good, but I much prefer the Archie artists myself.

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