Interview: Ken Penders

Interview: Ken Penders

At the San Diego Comic Con in aisle 3900, across from Konami’s booth, lies Floating Island Productions. There, the head of the production company and former writer of the Archie Sonic series, Ken Penders, sits.  He is drawing a commissioned art piece of Captain America for a fan, the occasional ping-pong ball flying in from the booth next door.  To the left of his booth, a preview is shown for his upcoming internet show, “The Republic.”  The rest of his booth shows his past history with the blue hedgehog. Boxes of Sonic comics can be seen, while piles of original cover art lie at the front center of his table.

What you won’t find is the promotional poster for the upcoming Echidna book, a book involving Locke, Julie-Su and other characters related to Knuckles. “With what’s going on at the moment, I decided it would be best to leave them behind.” Chalk one up to common sense.

Ken Penders is a hard man to peg. When you meet him in person, he’s always friendly and outgoing.  Though I’m not too happy with some of the things he has said and done this year, I have a hard time being mad at him. I still see the man who greatly helped develop what Sonic and Knuckles’ world has become today.  The man who signed at my store, who loved the job he lost and is very optimistic about his future endeavors. The man who recently lost someone near and dear to him.

There is another side to Penders, however.  A side that seems self-absorbed.  A man who doesn’t seem to want to share, like a child playing in his own corner of the sandbox. He himself says he never read any of Ian’s work and only read the other writers’ works when it might affect one of his stories.  Penders only seems to care about Penders’ world.

Although he does not want to bring up the current copyright case, he did have this to say:

“I just want to let you and everyone know, these copyrights are official. I own these stories and characters. The U.S. Government recognizes it as such… Whatever some of the fans have been saying on the forums, they don’t know everything. They are misinformed on some things. That goes for what Ian posted as well.”

I decided to push the subject a bit and asked if he had signed a “Work for Hire” contract while at Archie. “No comment” was his reply.

Here is the 3-part interview. Sorry for the poor audio. It’s actually much better than what we had for the Aaron Webber interview (which was so horrible that it ended up as a transcript), but the background noise is still pretty bad.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw0L3e7EUmk&feature=channel[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWQgy9Q9QVY[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVchbfzNGX8&feature=related[/youtube]

Although I gave Penders ample time to talk about his future projects, I was surprised at just how much he wanted to focus the conversation on Sonic and Knuckles. You can tell he truly loved that world with a passion and was hurt to be taken from it. It even shows in the title of his production company. No one can read “Floating Island Productions” and not think of Knuckles’ home.

Off camera, Penders had this to say

“I hope that in the end, we can come to an agreement that will be beneficial for both myself, Archie Comics and Sonic fans.”

Let’s hope so.

(P.S. I honestly do like Ron Lim’s work on Silver Surfer and X-Men 2099. I just think his art on Sonic is horrible.)

8 Comments

  1. Hmm I get what you meant in your text.
    This guy really is a double edged sword.
    Interesting interview nonetheless.

  2. @PM

    I did have somewhat of a “lol what” reaction to that statement, but in the end, it does all come down to “People have different tastes”. Granted, I cannot understand what there is to dislike about Tracey, but Ken is just having an opinion.

  3. Man, seeing what looks like a giant Magikarp in the back makes me think Penders is trying to use his copyrights to evolve… I’ve been playing too much Pokemon.

  4. I was really disappointed that Manny Galan wasn’t in his favorite artists list, but that’s cool. I personally think that Yardley is better for Sonic art than Art, but that’s not meant to discredit Art.

    Overall, I did get the impression that Jason posted. He sounds like he is rather nice, but he is too self absorbed. Despite all his recent crazyness, I’d still very much like to meet him.

    @PM and Will

    I think I understand Ken’s argument. he just has people that he thinks, in his mind, would best be able to handle what he wants to portray. Yardley isn’t one of him. Yardley, however, seems to do just fine by Ian. Yardley’s able to portray what Ian wants, just like some other dudes are good at portraying what Ken wants. The big problem, professionally, with Ken’s argument is that he doesn’t have to work with Yardley, though, even if he did, I don’t think it’d be as bad as Ken thinks.

    Sadly, I think if Ken started writing tomorrow, and Ian quit, I’d be able to tell the difference with too much ease. Same with Karl Bollers. What’s worse is if I didn’t read the text, I MIGHT be able to tell who wrote it by looking at the art. The difference between Ken and Ian’s styles is rather….. distinct.

  5. If you ask everyone in the whole world who their favorite Sonic character is, there is only one who would say a toss up between Geoffrey St. John, Julie-Su and Locke. That one person can be seen above. He is a nice guy, but he is a little full of himself. I think most people would say their favorite character, without thinking is Sonic or Knuckles or Shadow or Tails or maybe even Robotnik, Amy, Silver or Wallace A. Ditso. I don’t know anyone who would say one of Penders’ characters is their favorite. Tell you the truth, I hated Geoffrey St. John until recently, when Ian brought him back and made him cool. Anyway, Ken is nice, I’ve got like a dozen Sonic and Knuckles comics that he signed for me like 12 years ago. But you know what sucked, “Sonic Live!” that was a truly terrible comic, and it makes me not like Penders.

    So, did Ken Penders draw the cover for the SatAM box set?

  6. @sonictost

    I have to agree. I after actually seeing him talking in person (as opposed to how I percieved him by what he types online), my attitude towards him has softened a little bit more. He definatly seems like a nice guy, but he does have a tendancy to be big-headed, full of himself, etc.

    And yes, he did draw the cover for the SatAM boxset.

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