Near his friend Elliot S! Maggin’s booth in the artist alley at the San Diego Comic Con sits a man who is currently criticized, respected and envied. Criticized by some Sonic comic fans who feel that his recent copyright case with Archie Comics is taking away many of their favorite characters from the Sonic book. Respected because in his tenure on the Sonic comics, he created such a legacy of characters that the comic suffers a bit with them gone. And lastly, envied by other comic creators who would give their drawing arm to have the chance of owning their creations back. To them, Penders is living out a dream come true.
With his famous mustache gone, replaced with long hair and a ponytail, also sits a man who some feel may be a bit too confident in his abilities than he realizes. His video and movie projects “The Republic” and “The Lost Ones” have still been unreleased for over five years and are still in production. Could the Lara-Su Chronicles (an upcoming series of graphic novels based on Knuckles daughter and relations set in an alternate future) suffer from the same fate? And what of his art? Many people have been very critical about his latest promotional pieces. How does he feel about that?
Read on to see Ken Penders side of the story.
TSS – Sooo…What’s new? (Laughs)
Penders – (Laughs) What’s new?!! That’s a very interesting question. Well, I’m waiting for the 9th circuit court to let me know if I’ve won my appeal yet so we can move forward with that case and I’m moving forward with the Lara-Su Chronicles as well as finishing up the Republic and still working to get the Lost Ones out there so yeah, I’ve been a pretty busy boy as of late.
TSS – It’s been almost three years that the case has been going on. Do you feel it’s been worth it?
Penders – Absolutely. I mean, could things have been done differently?….Yes, but the thing is, you don’t get a choice a lot of times in how things are handled.
TSS – Do you think the results of this case could help other comic creators who have lost ownership of their creations?
Penders – I hope so. Very much.
TSS – So tell us about the Lara-Su Chronicles.
Penders – Well, what that is, is a continuation of a lot of story ideas I’ve had with these characters ever since I first worked on the Knuckles series. There’s a lot of story ideas there just waiting to be told and I thought I’d have a chance with the Mobius: 25 years later stories and when that didn’t happen then maybe I figured I’d do that in another format. Maybe add a few new characters just to finish the story and once this case took off as a result of what happened, that’s when I realized I would have to move forward in my own way, in my own direction with these stories. Prior to this, I had been working with Sega on doing a Sonic movie. This is including after I left the comic books. I figured, maybe the ideas might pop-up in that. Once Bob Leffler (Sega licencing) passed away, that changed everything.
TSS – We have seen some promotional art for the Lara-Su Chronicles put out there that some fans have been very critical of. How do you respond to this and have you considered hiring a separate artist?
Penders – Well, no I haven’t considered hiring out an artist for the graphic novel. My response to the criticism is that it’s more emotional. That they are losing the characters in a way that they’re familiar with and going into something different and change is difficult to handle at times y’know? I’ve been getting support from fans who don’t wish to engage in the online vitriol. They’re very much looking forward to it. I’ve definitely been getting support among my fellow professionals who feel the artwork is pretty solid. As a matter of fact, if I had changed the characters too much, there might not be interest in the film project for example. So that’s been a huge impetus in my choices as far as designs go.
TSS – Continuing with that, we’ve noticed that in the latest promo art, Lara-Su looks fairly different from before. Was this dealing from anything from the case where maybe you couldn’t use Sega’s echidna look or something to that effect?
Penders – No, no, I had always intended with that design. Even with the legal situation, you don’t etch everything in stone and you certainly don’t before everything’s decided. You toss something out there and say “hey, this is where I’m going with this” and move on from there. There was no intent for example, to turn them into humans or like that whatsoever.
TSS – There are some fans who are very upset that some of their favorite characters may not be returning to the comics, what would you say to them to make them feel more at ease?
Penders – Well, I really can’t talk about that settlement per-se, but what I can say is that Archie has the ability to go forward with these characters if they so choose. That’s their option and that’s all I’m gonna say on that. I have the right to move forward myself. My copyrights, my characters and that’s what I’m doing.
TSS – Okay, one final question. What would you say, to get fans excited for the Lara-Su Chronicles?
Penders – I think this is going to answer a lot of questions about the characters and the storylines and where it’s all going. Questions they’ve been asking me for years. I’m finally going to get answer on a lot of stuff they’ve been asking since these characters were first introduced.
TSS – Alright. Well, thank you for your time.