Sonic’s legacy in comics is almost as old as his legacy in games. From 1991 onward, Sonic’s stories have been depicted in sequential art, from one-shots to decades-spanning series. From a little promo comic to IDW, and with three different series from three different companies running at the franchise’s height of popularity in the 90s, the breadth and length of Sonic’s comic legacy is nearly unmatched in the video game space.
What better way to compliment celebrating 30 years of games then going over 30 years of spin-off comics?
Sonic the Hedgehog Story Comic
Sonic’s very first appearance in a sequential art story of any kind was in the Sonic the Hedgehog Story Comic, a manga published in the Mega Drive Fan magazine around June or July of 1991. The manga ran for three chapters, and largely centered on adapting and promoting Sonic 1.
The story starts with Eggman establishing a fortress on South Island, intent on finding a chaos emeralds so that he’ll finally have enough power to boil the world’s largest egg. In his search for the emerald, he crashes Sonic the Hedgehog’s rock concert, leading to their first confrontation. Sonic easily bests him, of course, saving the concert goers and stopping him from getting the emerald. Fun fact: the manga also has Sonic’s scrapped band members from Sonic 1, which would be their only appearance in a comic for nearly two decades! You can find them in the selection of pages I have posted below.
The other two chapters have Sonic running through the rest of Sonic 1’s stages, freeing his animal friends from Eggman’s machines, evading his traps, and finally beating him at the end. Overall, this is a pretty straightforward adaption of the Japanese canon, which actually makes this manga kind of unique amongst Sonic’s comic catalog.
Given that these were basically just promotional stories in a game magazine, they’ve never been re-released officially. Luckily, fans have scanned and posted all three chapters online which is how I got the above pages. Unfortunately, the only place I have been able to find them is a place we’re not comfortable linking to. This article will not be helping you pirate, sorry!
Sonic the Hedgehog Promotional Comic
Sonic’s first American comic book was a 15-page one-shot issue written and drawn by Francis Mao, who may be best known for his work on GamePro covers at the time. This comic was released in the fall of 1991 for $1.50, and also given away at SEGA promotional events. Portions of it were also included in various magazines and comics, including EGM’s October 1991 issue, SEGAVisions #8, Disney Adventures Volume 2 #1, Action Comics #672 and Justice League Europe #33, among many others in ’91 & ’92.
The comic gives us an origin story for Sonic’s color and shoes, Dr. Robotnik, and even the chaos emeralds. In the beginning, Sonic was a super fast anthropomorphic brown hedgehog, Robotnik was the kind Dr. Kintobor, and the emeralds were to be used for ridding the world of evil. Things go wrong, of course, giving Sonic his powers and turning the kindly Dr. Ovi Kintobor into the evil Dr. Robotnik. Through the comic, Sonic traverses various areas taken directly from Sonic 1. We’ve got the first six pages of the story below:
This story was based on the SEGA of America Sonic bible, an early effort by SoA to establish a continuity for spin-off media to follow. Of course, virtually all American would ignore much of what the bible established, including this origin. This origin wouldn’t go completely ignored, though, as it would later be used by Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic over in the United Kingdom.
Like much of what we’ll be going over, there is no official way to read this comic. Because of this comic’s status as promo material, we can at least link you to a place where you can read the whole thing. Go check it out here. Don’t get used to this, though!
Sonic the Hedgehog Manga
Sonic has had a lot of manga over the decades, but the most well known of these, at least in the west, is easily Shogakukan’s Sonic the Hedgehog. This manga was developed by Kenji Terada, and ran in a multitude of Shogakukan learning magazines between April 1992 and August 1994. Different versions of the manga actually ran six separate learning magazines, targeting grades 1-6, until August of 1993, after which it appeared in the bi-monthly Bessatsu CoroCoro Special comic until August of 1994. Each of these manga lasted for 17 chapters, said from Bessatsu, which ran for 12.
Each of these concurrently running manga series featured their own writers and artists. Sango Morimoto and Hirokazu Hikawa were the two most prolific, with Morimoto handling the manga for grades 2 and 6, as well as some of 1, while Hikawa did the manga for grades 3 and 5. Terada himself actually handled the manga’s writing for grade 4, while Koichi Tanaka would handle the bi-monthly book.
While each of these manga featured different creators and art, they all shared the same basic world and premise. The comic stars Nicky, a normal young hedgehog who, without his knowledge, can transform into the hero Sonic the Hedgehog whenever he’s in trouble. Nicky has a family, including his dad Paulie, his mom Brenda, and his sister Tania. He’s also got a best friend, an obese hedgehog named “Little John.” While the manga does feature Dr. Eggman and Metal Sonic, it also features school yard bully Anton Veruca as a recurring villain for Sonic to best.
What might be most notable about Shogakukan is that it featured the first appearances of both Amy Rose and Charmy Bee, years before their first game appearances. Despite this, Amy was initially created by Naoto Oshima for the games.
This manga was largely focused on humor and gags. The stories were usually only a few pages long, with Nicky trying and failing to save characters like Amy or his dad from Eggman or Veruca, before later turning into Sonic to save the day. Tails is the only character who is actually aware of Nicky’s transformation, often acting as Sonic’s sidekick.
Unfortunately, only portions of this manga has been scanned, and even less of his has been translated by fans. This makes reading (and researching) this manga rather difficult. Nevertheless, if you want to check out what’s available, you can find everything here.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie)
Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog debuted with a 6-page promo issue, Sonic the Hedgehog 1/4, distributed by SEGA. This comic contained the first part of “Don’t Cry for Me Mobius,” a story featuring writing from Mike Gallagher and art by Scott Shaw! Then on November 24, 199, “Sonic 2sday,” the story was released in full in the pages of Sonic the Hedgehog #0, which launched Archie Sonic’s limited four issue mini series. Then, on May 11, 1993, Archie finally debuted the Sonic the Hedgehog regular monthly series, launching what would eventually become the longest running licensed American comic of all time, as well as the longest running Sonic spin-off media ever. Archie Sonic would run for 24 years and 290 issues, spawning numerous spin-off series, until it was finally canceled, releasing its last issue in December of 2016.
There is just…so much to cover when it comes to this series. Archie Sonic could easily spawn dozen so articles on its own. Alas, we don’t have that kind of space today, so we are going to have to abbreviate things significantly. We’ll only be covering the most prominent creators, and discussing the plot in only the broadest of strokes.
Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog primarily focuses on Sonic and his fellow Freedom Fighters combating the tyranny of Dr. Robotnik and trying to liberate the planet Mobius. Princess Sally Acorn is the team’s intelligent tactician and leader, Rotor Walrus acts as the team’s laidback inventor, Antoine is Sonic’s wannabe cowardly rival and eventual courageous friend, and Bunnie Rabbot is the team’s sassy, upbeat muscle. The comic’s cast expanded significantly over the decades, introducing characters like singer, speedster, and one-time Sonic love interest Mina Mongoose, the cocky and supremely hateable (but ultimately loyal to the crown) Geoffrey St. John, and the long-winded and power hungry Mammoth Mogul among many, many MANY others.
Early Archie Sonic’s tone and writing style was established by Mike Gallagher, who filled the book with gags, puns, and dad jokes. The art of Shaw! and Manak complimented this style well, adding plenty of visual humor to the mix as well. Eventually, however, the comic took on a more serious tone, thanks to the work of Ken Penders and Mike Kanterovich, who wrote the comic’s earliest serious stories. This is also around the time Patrick Spaziente came onto the book, whose detailed and fluid art style would help the book become more action packed and serious. By the 20s, the comic was beginning to lean much more on action and drama, with sci-fi and fantasy elements becoming much more serious and lore-focused. This initial run of more serious stories culminated with End Game, a four issue story arc initially meant to end the comic.
End Game saw the death of Robotnik and the apparent liberation of Mobius. In its aftermath a new writers Karl Bollers, took over the book. He was effectively the book’s primary writer from issue #51 all the way until #141, giving him a 90 issue run. Over the course of these 90 issues, Bollers would see the book through significant changes. He’d introduce bad guys like Ixis Naugus to fill the villain role after Robotnik’s death. He oversaw the Sonic’s transition from classic to modern Sonic, and the introduction of a new Robotnik. He also introduced new characters and significantly shifted the status quo multiple times, to the point that by the end of his tenure Knothole was technologically advanced city ruled under the rule of Sally’s returned father, Sally was no longer going on missions, and she and Sonic were no longer on friendly terms.
The comic would undergo a final change of hands with Ian Flynn, who took over with issue #160 and remained head writer until the comic’s final issue, #290. Flynn introduced many changes to the book, killing off a multitude of minor characters, a handful of larger runs, and removing or recontextualizing a lot of plot points from past writers. He also brought many more game elements to the book, including locations and how chaos emeralds worked in Archie’s universe. A law suit brought against Archie by Ken Penders would lead to Archie rebooting the book with issue #252. This reboot brought the comics closer to the games, and adapted a few game stories such as Sonic Unleashed and Sonic the Fighters into multi-issue story arcs. The comic was in the midst of a Sonic CD adaptation when it was canceled.
Archie would also publish a boatload of other Sonic comic spin-offs and series, including:
- Three Issue Mini Series: Four of these were published. Three starred Princess Sally, Tails, and Knuckles, while the last focused on Sonic taking down the Death Egg
- Quarterly 48-page Specials: These either featured game adaptations or major story events (or weird stuff like Sonic Live!, which just had Penders’ niece and nephew meeting Sonic).
- Sonic Super Specials: This was a series of numbered 48 page specials that did everything from elaborating on characters’ pasts to featuring crossovers with Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Sonic Undergound. These ran from April 1997 to November 2000, and were canceled with issue #15
- Knuckles the Echidna: This was Archie’s first ongoing monthly spin-off series. It focused on Knuckles as he learned more about himself, his family, and his people. It was written entirely by Ken Penders. It ran for 32 issues, from February 1997 to February 2000. I wrote an article about it, which you can find here.
- Sonic X: A comic based in the Sonic X universe. It was a comedy-centric book, though did feature ongoing plotlines and original ideas, like Dr. Eggman’s wrestling persona El Gran Gordo. It ran for 40 issues, from September 2005 to December 2008. The final issue tied into the Archie books, leading directly into Sonic Universe.
- Sonic Universe: The longest lasting spin-off book, it mostly featured four-issue story arcs that centered characters other then Sonic. Shadow featured in the first arc, though Silver, Knuckles, Sally, the Chaotix, and others would also get their spotlight. It ran for 94 issues, from February 2009 to January 2017, and technically outlasted the main book.
- Free Comic Book Day Issues: A series of one-shots released for free on Free Comic Book Day. Sometimes they were reprints, but they often contained original material. Ran from 2007 to 2016.
- Sonic Boom: A comic book series based on the cartoon. It was a comedy book, and ran for 11 issues, from October 2014 to September 2015.
- Sonic Mega Drive: A trilogy of one-shots based around Classic Sonic. The first issue came out in July of 2016, and the second came out in November of 2016. The final issue was, unfortunately, canceled.
Archie Sonic is an absolutely massive body of work, which makes it all the more unfortunate that it is all currently inaccessible (legally). For anyone who wants to buy the comic legally, much of the series is available via graphic novel collections on Amazon, though cost and availability can vary wildly. Hopefully, SEGA and IDW will rectify this one day.
For anyone interested in reading a continuation of pre-reboot Archie, fans have been working on a fan comic, Archie Sonic Online. You can find it here.
Archie Sonic is a massive series with a huge legacy of its own. It played host to dozens of writers and artists, and is the primary reason why comics are such an important part of Sonic’s past.
Sonic the Comic
Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic debuted in May of 1993, at the same time as Archie’s Sonic series. And just like Archie, Fleetway’s series would also find a lot of success. Unlike Archie Sonic, however, Fleetway’s comics were released fortnightly, were the size of magazines, and contained four comic strip stories, often spanning a multitude of other SEGA games like Decap Attack, Shinobi, and Golden Axe. The comic also sported certain magazine-like elements, such as game reviews and news, as well as special items like sticker packs. The comic was also hosted by a CG robot named Megadroid, who was basically an anthropomorphized SEGA Mega Drive. Sonic the Comic would run for nearly nine years and 223 issues, though its actual end game earlier than that.
Despite the comic’s success, in 1998 one of its strips was used to reprint older stories, and by June of 1999 only one of the comic’s stripes was being used to tell news stories. This is because of a belief Fleetway had in “5-year reader cycles,” assuming that readership would drop off after 5 years. The comic would stop printing new material all together after issue 184, released in June of 2000. The final issue of reprints was released in January of 2002.
Early Sonic strips in the series tended to be pretty light and comedy driven, but this all changed after writer Nigel Kitching and artist Richard Elson began working on the book. Beginning at issue 7, they introduced a more serious look and tone to the book, and began writing multipart story arcs that would go on for months. They would eventually be joined by others, most notably writer Lew Stringer.
Stories would broadly involve Sonic the Hedgehog fighting against Dr. Robotnik with a group of Freedom Fighters, but that was where the similarities to the US Archie comics ended. For the most part, the stories and the worlds stayed true to the video games – Emerald Hill Zone is often the key battleground for control/liberation of Mobius. Casino Night is home to a huge Robotnik-owned gambling operation. The Floating Island the Death Egg are the main stages for an incredible Sonic & Knuckles story arc, inspired by the events of the Mega Drive classic.
Sonic and his rag-tag band of misfit woodland creatures – from pugil-stick wielding biker Johnny Lightfoot to crossbow expert Amy Rose, sensitive tactical savant Porker Lewis, mechanical wizard Tekno the Canary and everyone in-between – take on Robotnik’s game-inspired badniks against familiar backdrops from Sonic’s Mega Drive adventures. Even when Robotnik took a back seat, the Fleetway writers found even more inspired ways to build on sinister threats. Such as Knuckles and the Chaotix crew (plus Nack the Weasel… for a while) fighting against the Brotherhood of Metallix, an entire army of Metal Sonic robots led by a giant, vicious, AI-powered red variant. Later issues would blend the Sonic Adventure universe with an original enemy; an alien fish-like race called the Drakon.
Sonic the Comic also had a handful of spin-off comics. Sonic the Poster Mag ran for 9 issues from December 1993 to December 1994, and contained magazine articles, a poster, and one original feature story. There were also a trio of annual 48-page Christmas specials, which ran from 1994 to 1996. Finally, Knuckles received a one-shot, Knuckles Knockout Special, in April of 1996.
Though Sonic the Comic’s life was cut short by Fleetway, it has continue to live on for nearly 20 years thanks to its strong fan following. In 2003, fans launched Sonic the Comic Online, which is still running and released its 55th issue just a few weeks before article was posted. No Sonic other Sonic fan comic has lasted this long or amassed this much material, making StCO just as much of an institution as Archie Sonic used to be.
Unfortunately, just like with Archie Sonic, there is no legal way to read these stories, and they are even more difficult to buy legally, especially for those outside of the UK. Hopefully, these comics will eventually be made available to fans again.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Sunday Comic Strip)
If Sonic the Comic wasn’t enough, UK Sonic fans also had a weekly comic strip, which ran in the News of the World newspaper from October 10, 1993 to April 1, 1995. There were a total of 78 trips, the first 51 of which were drawn by Sonic the Comic artist Richard Elson, with Sandy James drawing the remainder. All of the strips were written by Barrie Tomlinson.
The Sonic Sunday Strips maintained a light, comedic tone, and focused almost entirely on Sonic’s fights with Robotnik. Robotnik would set up various traps and schemes, that Sonic would inevitably foil. No other characters appear in the strip save for Tails, who appears for the first time towards the end of the strip’s run.
The strips have never been officially re-released of course, but nearly all of them were made available by the Richard Elson back in 2016. They were then made available here. Only two strips are currently missing.
Dash and Spin Super Fast Sonic
Returning to the world of manga, we have another Sonic series published by Shogakukan! Written and drawn by Santa Harukaze, Dash and Spin ran in the bimonthly Bessatsu Corocoro Comic Special for 19 chapters, from December 2001 to December 2004.
The stories were very slapstick and self contained, primarily focusing on Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles, Shadow, and Dr. Eggman. Sometimes the characters need to stop Eggman, sometimes they just run into him while doing something else, like treasure hunting. Either way, hijinks ensue.
The comic as briefly made available to Japanese fans last year to promote the Sonic movie, but has otherwise never been made available digital. The manga has also never been officially translated, though parts of it have been translated by fans. The first 5 chapters were translated years ago, while chapters 6, 17 and 18 were all translated more recently. As is so often the case here, we hope these will eventually be re-released digitally, and translated into English.
Dengeki Nintendo DS Sonic Manga & Sonic Comic
We’ve now reached what might be some of Sonic’s most obscure sequential stories: the video game adaptations made for the monthly Dengeki Nintendo DS magazine. From September 2008 to April 2012, the magazine ran a Sonic manga written and drawn by Makoto Hirono. These manga adapted the latest Sonic games.
Sonic Unleashed (or World Adventure), Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations all received adaptations. Unfortunately, most of these manga have never been scanned, and fan translations are basically non-existent, making these manga incredibly inaccessible. Hirono also did a Sonic 4koma comic for Dengeki Nintendo DS, though I can’t seem to find any information on what they actually were
These weren’t the last Sonic manga, however. A few years later, in 2016, SEGA produced and published a series of Sonic 4koma comics for Sonic Channel, to commemorate Sonic’s 25th anniversary. 4koma stands for “four panel manga,” and are brief, single page affairs. These comics were made by someone from Sonic Team itself, developer and Sonic Forces writer Eitaro Toyoda. They are accessible and fan translated, and you can check them out here.
These comics were later officially translated and released by TOMY in 2018, in a Tails and Metal Sonic 2-pack. This contained Tails and Metal Sonic figures, as well as two comics containing all 25 strips.
Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW)
Finally, we’ve reached the most recent Sonic comic series, and the one I probably need to talk the least about. Nevertheless, to paint a complete picture, we must go over IDW’s series. IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog launched in April of 2018, with four issues released in the first month. The bulk of the series has been written by Archie Comics veteran Ian Flynn, though Evan Stanley became the comic’s lead writer with issue 33.
The series stars in the aftermath of Sonic Forces, building on the game’s ending for its storyline. It references various modern games, including Sonic Heroes, Sonic 4, and Sonic Adventure. It’s an action adventure book, with storylines often mixing drama with plenty of light moments. In addition to the game characters, which make up the bulk of the cast, comic also has a growing list of original characters, including Tangle, Whisper, and Starline.
In addition to the main series, the comic has also spawned multiple spin-offs. This includes the Tangle & Whisper and Bad Guys four-issue mini series, the 2019 and 2020 48-page annuals, and the recently released 80 page Sonic 30thAnniversary issue, which is the first IDW comic to focus on the Classic Sonic continuity. There is also a Free Comic Book Day issue coming in August starring Classic Amy, as she attempts to create a comic book.
IDW is easily accessible via Comixology, and its graphic novel collections can be purchased on Amazon, or from most book and comic store retailers.
The continued strength of IDW Sonic shows that Sonic’s 30 year comic book legacy is still running strong. Through all the ups and downs, the cancellations and disappointments, Sonic remains the most prominent video game character in comics. With creators like Flynn and Stanley still at the helm, and with the IDW comic still selling well enough to get spin-offs, that legacy isn’t stopping any time soon.