It’s been a month since the announcement that the Archie comics will no longer produce it’s long-running Sonic the Comic, and that a new partnership with IDW will continue to keep Sonic alive in print. Information on the new incarnation of the comic is set to be divulged at New York Comic Con in October. Before we look to the future of Sonic the Comic, why don’t we take a look at the past? In this feature I would like to talk about the many aspects of the American comics, starting with my own 24-year experience with the comic strip adventures.
The Start of the Mobius Trek
For many American Sonic fans, their avenue into becoming a fan of the Archie Sonic comics will likely have been “I saw it in a store, picked it up and have been with it ever since”. As a British Sonic fan, the comics were more scarce with very few issues making their way across the Atlantic and into comic book stores.
I didn’t grow up with the Archie comics myself. I had most of the classic Sonic games for the Mega Drive and I liked playing Sonic 2 (before I got a Playstation and CTR dominated my life). I remember watching the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode “Tails’ New Home” on one particular rainy break time in Primary school. I swore I had fever dreams about Sonic having pink and green siblings until years later I learned that this was in fact Sonic Underground. Apart from the examples above, my childhood throughout the 90’s was not centred heavily on Sonic, and I had no knowledge of the comics.
Around 2002, my family got a desktop computer with internet for the first time. My time was limited with the machine, so I often spent that time playing games like Cartoon Cartoon Summer Resort or such like. In the summer of 2003, while googling information on some of the Sonic games I’d played in my childhood, I discovered the existence of the Archie Sonic Comics.
It wasn’t so much the overall story that drew me towards the comic as it was the characters. The now defunct Sonic HQ had a huge encyclopedia of all the characters that had appeared to date in the comic, including the swathes of Echidna characters (of which I tried to remember them all!). Certain characters stuck out to me (Fiona Fox being one), but I ended up becoming most attached to Charmy Bee and his regular cohorts.
I remember being initially confused as there was such a large number of fan characters around the cast that I ended up mixing them up with the official cast! These fan characters has been designed by a number of fans including Crazy Chameleon, who I will talk about again later.
Despite it getting me back into the franchise, I didn’t really stick with Archie after that summer. It was around the time that Sonic Heroes was getting pushed in marketing, so when I looked up the character I was getting most attached to, I discovered that game, and assumed that Charmy Bee being in the games was normal (and didn’t realise that this was the first time in 9 years he would have appeared in the games), and simply worked back from there. Mega Collection Plus and Heroes were got with pocket money saved up for a long while and eventually bought from ASDA, then I bought Sonic Adventure 2: Battle when it was still in the Argos, then got Sonic Adventure DX for cheap in the very early days of online ordering, and even got Gems while visiting relatives in Prestatyn. Otherwise, I got the latest Sonic games as presents or with birthday/Christmas money, and the Archie comics didn’t cross my mind at all.
I did hear drips and drabs about the comic from time to time. When I joined the SEGA Forums way back in May 2007, it was coming up to the House of Cards arc. I didn’t know what was going on, but all I knew was that it didn’t seem like the Tails I knew that I’d read up on and played as when I was three. This was still in Ian’s clean-up phase so the continuity was still a mess. This continued for about two years, as I heard bits about the Enerjak Reborn arc, and bore witness to one of my favourite Silver expressions during the tail end of Hedgehog Havoc.
It wasn’t until Sonic Universe started up that I started regularly following the threads on the SEGA Forums, around the time of the fall of Eggman’s Empire, the start of the Iron Dominion arc, and when the Shadow arc made way to the (abysmal in hindsight) M:30YL arc. But this was 2009, where the largest release that year was in Spring, the next game was sort of being teased at that point (it was Sonic 4, and as someone with little interest in the classics it obviously wasn’t going to attract my attention), and the comic talk was still rather niche on the SEGA forums. With a little research and a drive to talk more, I joined the Bumbleking forums in August 2009.
The Bumbleking forums were certainly an experience for me. Having been in an environment where others knew just about as much as me and heralded from all sorts of walks of life, I was suddenly thrust into a place where the membership was highly concentrated with American readers who had been reading the comic for most of their life. Naturally, in some aspects, I was a fish out of water as my knowledge base was far less than the average reader there (I was not going to guess the rise of the Iron Queen by subtle hints to the name Regina Ferrum if I knew nothing about Monkey Khan or his background), and I don’t think they were too warm toward my attitude of wanting things more like the games (especially not with the Chaotix, who were still portrayed in the old way at that point). It also gave me a chance to interact with official staff on a closer basis for the first time, including the likes of writer Ian Flynn, artist Jon Gray (aka Dub) and artist/writer Aleah Baker.
Fun fact about the last one; Aleah Baker is Ian Flynn’s wife. They actually met through their old days as fans, with Ian being a fanfic writer under the penname Ian Potto, and Aleah being a fan artist under the penname…Crazy Chameleon. I knew her sooner than I ever suspected!
Fortunately for me two of my personality traits are a dedication to researching and stubborn determination, so I wasn’t going to let my inexperience put me out of conversation. Mobius Encyclopedia was in full swing at that point, and it was a much more cohesive explanation of past issue events. I looked that up, tried to learn the gist of the story so far from it. I became more efficient at looking up and cross-posting spoilers between there and SSMB (which I joined in February 2011). I even learned the ins and outs of solicitation and preview posting.
One particularly funny moment through this phase was during the week before the release of Sonic #216. Before then, mail subscriptions and comic releases had been on the same day. However, because of some errors in the shipping department, this issue was sent out early, and one regular on SSMB got it a week before street date. I told the Bumbleking and…to say they were sceptical is a bit of an understatement. Even though I knew this guy was as reliable as they came, the Bumbleking crowd were pretty convinced he was making the spoilers he posted up (especially as the revelation about Silver being tutored by future Mammoth Mogul was so out of left field). It was only when he followed up the next day with pictures that they were convinced and completely shocked that this could happen. For icing on the cake, this shipping error persisted for over three years after that point.
Otherwise, the conversation was pretty consistent over the period between when I joined and the tail end of 2012. Sure there were a few scuffs along the way, but that was mostly due to conflicts of opinion outside of the comic setting. That would change with New York Comic Con 2012.
Of Reboots and University
In the year prior, the comic had seen Mecha Sally become reality and the Freedom Fighters brought to their lowest point. New York Comic Con 2012 was anticipated with enthusiasm by fans looking to see any clue of how the Mecha Sally arc would end. And it was there that Sally’s redesign was revealed. Naturally, plenty of fans who had been with the comic for years were kinda disgruntled by it, although I know plenty who were just as excited to see how it would play into the ending (and I was just excited for getting to the end of the arc). Unbeknownst to me, this would only be the start of a roller coaster.
After various shenanigans within Endangered Species and Chaotix Quest (which I will divulge on another time), the Worlds Collide crossover eventually hit. I was rather amused by all the chaos going on just before it, and while I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of a crossover Worlds Collide ended up being quite decently pulled off, even if not spectacular. It was during this crossover that I managed to finish my University course and move back home with newfound confidence and independence. With the resolve to head out on my own on a regular basis, I went out and discovered that someone in Stoke-on-Trent must have been a devoted fan, as they had spares of a lot of Worlds Collide issues, and they would have spares for pretty much all reboot issues to come. It’s from that summer in 2013 that I became a regular paying customer.
Things kept being interesting after the reboot as well. There was the thrill of seeing a new world pan out all of a sudden (as it was confirmed to pretty much be a reboot by that point), seeing how the characters fit in this universe, which characters would even make it back (we never technically saw the Babylon Rogues or the Woodland Kingsmen) and having the game characters start to occupy roles much closer to their game selves, especially for the older characters. On top of that, while doing my usual solicitation and preview posting, I was invited to join the staff of the Sonic Stadium with a mind to specialise in reporting on the comics.
Events from that point went smoothly for a couple of years. I started expanding my information retrieval by catching on unusual leads (but it got results; characters and events from those leads came to fruition in the actual comic months later). I found more to nitpick about the reboot universe, but that’s probably because I was more invested in its events. The next crossover came and went, and I really didn’t like it at all. Thankfully, after that point, the Shattered World Crisis decided to pick up the pace…or would have done if it hadn’t come to a screeching halt in December 2015. While weird, I didn’t really think much of it aside from being impatient as Archie were communicating the problem to readers, the issues kept being resolicited and there was no word to suggest there was a big problem. Same can’t be said about the next sudden stop…
The Christmas Present You Never Want
After the comic resumed in March 2016 (minus the Bumbleking forum, as that had been shut down in February), things seemed to be right on track. However, after September, graphic novels stopped being solicited. Strange considering that an issue of Digest was due to be released in that time, but that was nothing too serious, so it largely didn’t get noticed. Especially as new graphic novels were being solicited and issues were coming out.
Christmas Day came, and it was a pretty fine day. Rather quiet, but I still got a few presents, plenty of chocolate, and got to have pleasantries with the family. Having a huge Christmas lunch about the time of 1-2pm I was still in that lazy, comfortable mood after a large meal a couple of hours later when I noticed a staff thread had been bumped. As one of the only staff on hand, I thought it was only polite that I do a check of the news tips, expecting something like the Twitter doing a Christmas shout out or maybe some Sonic games on Steam having a Christmas discount.
It was none of those things. The staff member who had bumped had received a tip from an insider that the comic was being cancelled, with production “ceasing immediately”. That was one way to put a damper on Christmas.
As it so happened, a different person was reporting the same thing elsewhere. So three days later, under the guise of reporting on that rumour, I told the forum about it but told them to assume it false. This was easier to do as Sonic #290 came out on the same day, thus seemingly going against the idea that production had ceased. While I didn’t dwell on it further in public for a while, I kept tabs on any activity on Archie’s end. Sonic Universe #94 came out as usual, but the day after the planned Sonic Free Comic Book Day issue was canned in favour of a Riverdale one. Weird, but again not suspect from a general perspective as Riverdale was the big thing Archie were pushing.
Two days after that was when alarm bells really started to ring out. A member trying to renew their subscription by chance found out that Sonic subscriptions had been removed from the website. When people were able to contact the office three days later, the customer service rep first said that they had been ended, before changing the word later in the day (this we actually reported on). While things seemed to calm down when more solicits came, we always kept our eye on it, waiting for the penny to drop. Things flared again when the solicits stopped coming at all, but again eased when Sonic comic staff and Archie said that they and SEGA were in talks. Even a new source from the FCBD event claiming It was cancelled was considered false by May.
But finally, the wait for the inevitable was done with when SEGA themselves announced the comic’s cancellation, thus ending my time with the comic.
So there was my recount of my very wild and varied history with the Archie Sonic comic. From not knowing about its existence, to doing some research into it but dropping it when I came to learn of the games, to being an inexperienced whelp with them, to being this site’s main contributor of Archie updates. If you’d had told me 15 years ago that I would be in this position today, I would have never believed you.
Despite my overall preference for the games and my more nitpick-y points of contention with the comic, I have a lot to thank the Archie Sonic comic for. It gave me lots of stories and characters I ended up having investment in, it exposed me to some of the more obscure parts of the franchise that have led to many a research project done for fun, it gave me plenty to talk about over the year, and it’s arguably contributed to shaping me as a person considering the timing of my exposure to it.
So to all the staff who have worked on the comic over the years, whether as a writer, penciller, inker, colourist, letterer or even editor, I extend my thanks to you for all that work over the years and providing a comic that has kept fans engaged for decades.
This is not the end of our look back on Archie Sonic. On the contrary, this is just the start of a retrospective that’ll be lasting right up until New York Comic Con is upon us! Next time, we go back to the start as we look through the first fifty issues of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic, from the comedic early days to its evolution into a more serious affair.