Stolen ‘Sonic 1 Bootleg’ Shadow Fan Art Gets Revisited By Original Artist

A piece of Shadow the Hedgehog fan art, which unexpectedly became the face of a series of bootleg Sonic 1 Mega Drive cartridges, has been updated by the original artist into high resolution – and now looks better than ever!

Blaze’s Shadow fan art: the updated version from 2020 (left) and the original from 2011 (right). You can visit Blaze’s Tumblr to see the differences in larger size.

Sonic fan writer and artist BlazeHedgehog originally created the ‘Classic Shadow’ artwork for a video review he developed nearly ten years ago. Working on a video thumbnail for a Sonic Generations piece, Blaze wanted to create an image that looked like official key art, drawing from 1990s Sonic Mega Drive promotional works and adapting it to look like everyone’s favourite ‘edge hog.

However, since that video was published Blaze’s artwork saw a lot of attention online – to the point where many unauthorised game sellers were stealing the artwork he made and slapping it onto bootleg Mega Drive cartridges and packages. The specific bootleg? A ROM hack inserting Shadow into Sonic 1 (of course).

Initially, the image appeared on certain Etsy outlets, but then use of the stolen art quickly spread to multiple other ‘marketplace’ sites, both US-based and abroad. Blaze said that the surreal history behind his art’s proliferation amongst bootleg sellers was part of the reason why he wanted to return to the original and spruce it up.

“A friend on discord mentioned finding a repro cart for ‘The S Factor’ (a hack from Sonic Retro) on AliExpress, and I mentioned how I found somebody using my Classic Shadow artwork on an Etsy listing for a repro cart for “Shadow the Hedgehog in Sonic 1,” Blaze told TSS.

“I think Etsy swept through and cracked down on a lot of that stuff… I remember trying to report it to Etsy and Etsy’s policy on that was basically, ‘It’s not our problem, that’s between you and the seller and whoever ACTUALLY owns the copyright to the character you made fanart of’,” he added. Which doesn’t sound very helpful if we’re being honest, but at least Etsy woke up in the end.

Speaking about his feelings upon discovering that his art had been stolen for the bootlegs, Blaze revealed that he went through a range – first one of “frustration, to be sure. No effort was made to credit or contact me at any step of the process… [But] it’s complicated because I figure there’s probably some amount of effort that goes in to making a repro cart. You have to have a way to burn ROMs on to something a Genesis can read, you have to size and print and cut and assemble all the physical materials for the cartridge labels and box inserts…

“But in the end, they are literally just stealing work that I made – as well as the work done to create the Shadow the Hedgehog ROM hack – without compensating me or anyone else for their work. Not even with ‘exposure’.

“Every part of what they are doing is wrong, and I think they know that, and are trying to get away with it for as long as they can.” Despite all this, Blaze did say he had been tempted a few times to pick up a copy of one of these bootlegs, “just so I could have something like that with my artwork on it.”

But we’re now looking at a brand new version of the Classic Shadow artwork, and Blaze  explains on his Tumblr post all about the process. “I decided to go back and redo that artwork at full-size print resolution – 4864×6832, exactly 800% of the original image file. It took me most of yesterday to put together, and taught me a lesson about the limitations of the software I use to render pictures like this.”

Art theft – taking someone’s work and claiming it for your own or worse, commercialising it without permission – is one of the most pervasive crimes to happen in a fan community, and sadly it happens all too often in the Sonic fanbase as well. It’s a real shame that Blaze had to deal with this situation, but hopefully by returning to his original piece he’s found some solace in the fact that nothing can compare to the OG art. It’s freaking cool as all heck.

See more of Blaze’s updated Shadow fan art – as well as some insights from him – on his Tumblr post.

Published by

Dreadknux

Founder of The Sonic Stadium and creator/co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic convention. Loves talking about Sonic the Hedgehog in his spare time. Likes Sonic Colours a little too much for his own good, apparently.

2 Comments

  1. It’s super interesting (and sad, didn’t know it was stolen) to learn about the origins of this art, particularly in the context of the physical Shadow romhack bootlegs, because I’ve actually seen such a bootleg being sold in a local second-hand game shop. If I owned a mega drive I would’ve been tempted to pick it up for the novelty factor for certain.

  2. About the games on Etsy.. They’re all drop-shipped from Chinese sellers on Ali Express. So the game manufactures are not actually the Etsy sellers; they are Chinese bootleg video game manufacturers. The Etsy sellers buy the games for about $5 USD and then they re-sell them on Etsy for $20+ and make a profit. Etsy has a no dropshipping policy so if they catch the sellers doing that, they will ban their accounts. That’s why a lot of the sellers’ accounts with Shadow in Sonic 1 games have disappeared. They either got caught dropshipping from Ali Express or if they haven’t gotten caught yet, they haven’t been able to order games from China the last few months because of coronavirus. Anyway, this is where the art theft probably originated from: Chinese bootleg game manufacturers on Ali Express.

    It’s so stupid that Etsy wouldn’t help the artist over their stolen art work. Frankly, they’re not a good company to deal with as far as customer service goes.

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