On this much shorter episode of Sonic Talk, Jason discusses Apex Legends (that other game with Roger Craig Smith) only for GX to suffer a power outage which results in about half an hour of our discussion being cut off. We still have plenty of Sonic news and a review of the first dozen issues of IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog. So prepare for 45 minutes of Sonic-y goodness!
When I was a kid, I had a special appreciation for media that didn’t talk down to me and tried to tell a good story with interesting lore and backstory. Knuckles the Echidna, a 32 issue monthly comic series from Archie Comics, did just that. Given Knuckles’ 25th anniversary, I thought it would be nice to revisit the comics in some way. I haven’t read them in some time (due in large part to their lack of easy digital availability) so I will be recounting my memories of the comic’s tone and themes somewhat vaguely and broadly. Hopefully, I will be able to do a deep dive into the comics in the future.
I had been reading Archie’s Sonic comics for a couple of years when the Knuckles the Echidna series got going. Knuckles was a character that got my attention before I was even exposed to his first game thanks to his cool design, his weird abilities, and most importantly his place in the story. Knuckles was that cool guest star character who only popped up occasionally, making his appearances feel special. He could not only could go toe to toe with Sonic himself, but often would, making him Sonic’s “rival,” at a time when that concept was still fresh to my young mind.
To me, Knuckles was the coolest Sonic character. I must’ve not been the only kid who thought that because Knuckles became pretty popular in the comics. His occasional appearances turned into regular back story appearances, which lead to a mini series, which finally led to a monthly ongoing…which was weird as all heck, but also very neat.
As I said before, the Knuckles series didn’t talk down to kids and tackled some subjects that most kids media didn’t put much focus on back then. The world had politics, including three distinct factions: the fanatical technophilic Dark Legion, the fascistic (and later racial minority) dingoes, and of course the citizens of Echidnapolis (who were predominantly echidnas, of course). The series even featured an entire arc devoted to the world’s politics and the tension building up between the factions. The comic also wasn’t afraid to deal with death and romance, going so far as to devote an entire three-issue story arc to Knuckles and Julie-Su’s budding love-life.
The comic also had a lot of backstory and lore. The tension between the Dark Legion and the citizens of Echidnapolis went back hundreds of years, to events involving Knuckles’ ancestors feuding over how technology should be used in echidna society. Before that, there was Enerjak, a power-mad entity created when one of Knuckles’ ancestors absorbed eleven of the island’s twelve chaos emeralds (yes, twelve) in an attempt to return Angel Island (called simply the Floating Island in the comics) to the planet. The series would often dive into this history to give the current day plot line a greater, more epic context, since the conflicts the comic covered often had roots going back centuries.
The comic also had loads of weird, often sci-fi concepts. The Dark Legion, who served as the comic’s primary villain faction, often sported loads of cybernetics to display their devotion to technology. These cybernetics could look kind of gruesome to me as a kid. Then there was the Brotherhood, a clandestine organization made up of Knuckles’ living ancestors, who as it turns out were inexplicably long lived, with the oldest being hundreds of years old at the start of the series (I’m not sure an explanation was ever given for that). The comic opened with the Dark Legion escaping from an alternate dimension known as the Twilight Zone, while the second arc focused on two dimensions holding the separate cities belonging to the echidnas and dingoes collapsing in on each other. Then there was Knuckles himself, who was genetically modified when his father, Locke, irradiated his egg with chaos energy to give him special powers.
So yeah, the comic was cool…and weird. Putting my childhood nostalgia aside, it was also flawed. The writing could feel stiff, and many characters often sounded like they were speaking with the same voice. The comic didn’t always make use of what should have been interesting plot revelations, such as when one member of the Brotherhood turned out to be a former leader of the Dark Legion.
This reveal did not have the emotional pay off one would expect: his son, who held a special hatred for the Legion, turned on him immediately, while the rest of the Brotherhood did not seem to express much emotional grief over their son/grandfather/great-grandfather/etc turning out to be a villain the whole time. We were also denied the satisfaction of a reunion between the Brotherhood and the man the Legionnaire replaced.
As I said before, its been a long time since I last read these comics. I don’t remember how pervasive the issues I mentioned above were, but they are there. As much as I enjoyed them as a kid, I couldn’t help but feel a bit…underwhelmed upon revisiting them.
That said, there’s still plenty about the comic that did age well. The interior art was mostly done by Manny Galan, one of the best artists Sonic comics have ever seen. He nails the look of a the comic’s characters and world perfectly, and his work is still a joy to look at. The comic also employed an interesting concept with its covers: each cover of the comic’s three issue story arcs could be combined together into a single image. These covers were mostly done by Sonic comic legend Patrick Spaziente, often depicting epic scenery and action.
It’s kind of unfortunate these comics are so inaccessible in an age when nearly any comic can be bought online. This does, unfortunately, bring us to one of the reasons why I have difficulties going back to these books even when I do have access to my old copies: the Ken Penders lawsuit.
This is something I’d rather not get into right here, so I will keep it brief: I think every artist should be compensated for reprints of their work, and I wish Archie had worked something out with Penders to make that happen. I hope IDW does what they couldn’t. I also think that, by copywriting the characters he created, Penders effectively destroyed this comic’s legacy. Its characters will never be able to grace any Sonic comic continuity again. They have already faded into complete obscurity and they will never again be able to interact with the game characters they were created to flesh out. I think this is very unfortunate.
Though, in a sense, the Knuckles series being inaccessible does feel right to me. Back when the Knuckles comics were being made, I had difficulties getting ahold of them. My local book store didn’t carry them and the comic book stores that did kept going out of business. So to get them, I’d have to go to a Books-A-Million in Potomac, Virginia, which was an hourlong drive. I didn’t get to go often, but whenever I did and I got to see that Knuckles comic on the rack, it was always special. That reflects my feelings on the comic as a whole: special, memorable, and a series that will always evoke my childhood to me. I do hope inaccessibility does not become this series’ fate. So far as I’m concerned, it at least deserves more than this.
Maybe one day.
Before you send me a ton of hate mail, let me explain.
First, we gotta go back to the beginning of cartoon adaptions of video games. It wasn’t always easy to do. In the early days of video games you had a protagonist that you played as, an antagonist but no real story tying them together. If there was one, it was VERY bare bones. With very little to go on so the cartoon creators had to come up with some kind of plot that could play for 13 episodes on a Saturday morning. Look at Pac-Man. How do you make a cartoon based on a series of games where the protagonist is a yellow ball that eats tiny, white dots in a maze while being chased by ghosts? If you’re Hanna Barbera, you rip off one of your own properties (The Flintstones) and make it about a family man who’s trust trying to get through his daily life while being chased by ghost-monsters who are trying to find the power-pellet forest because that’s the only thing they’re weak against. Somehow, that was enough for a few seasons and a Christmas special. That’s just one example. There was all kinds of crazy cartoon adaptions of games. Some faithful to the source material, some not.
Then, in the fall of 1993, DIC came up with two wildly different adaptations of Sonic the Hedgehog that could not be more different in tone. One was “The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog” that aired on weekday mornings. It was a silly, goofy take on the video game franchise. It took inspiration from cartoons such as Ren and Stimpy and Looney Tunes. The other was “Sonic the Hedgehog” otherwise known as “SATAM” by fans because oit played on Saturday mornings. Where Adventures was super goofy, “SATAM” was much darker and took a more serious tone.
Now at this time, there was only two Sonic games and both took place in fantastical lands with only Sonic, Tails and Dr. Robotnik (Knuckles and Amy did premiere in games that year, but that was after the shows had been released). Even the planet they were having their adventures on had no name. Just “zones”. Since like many video game adaptations there was little to go on, DIC (along with Archie comics) made a ton of characters and world-building of their own. Now, I’m not going into what they did with “Adventures” because that’s not important. “SATAM” is what we’re going to focus on. On that show, Dr. Robotnik basically won. He had taken over and polluted the planet to near devastation. The only ones in his way were Sonic, Tails (who was barely used) and the Freedom Fighters. Sally (co-lead character and Sonic’s love interest), Antione (love rival and comic relief), Bunnie (strongman and very encouraging) and Rotor (genius mechanic with the personality of wet toast). The Freedom Fighters were added mainly due to Sonic having a small cast of characters at the time of production.
Sonic fans LOVED this show and for most, it’s still their favorite and why not? Sonic and Sally’s constant struggle to end the grotesque and evil Robotnik’s reign of terror made for delicious drama. This series gave us a ton of Sonally fans (fans who ship Sonic and Sally) and who can blame them? Seeing these characters struggle so hard to defeat this tyrant only to fail or achieve very small victories was heartbreaking. They lost friends. They lost family. The only joy they seemed to have was in their comradery with each other and we loved seeing that relationship grow. For a while, Sally was HUGELY popular with fans. So popular that she was the third hero at the Sega amusement park “Sega World” in Australia, had a puppet musical show with her in it and she even got some of her own merchandise.
But all good things must come to an end and the series only lasted two seasons. From there, it continued on the in pages of Archie comics for nearly 25 years. Originally, Archie went the comical route with the book, but after the success of SATAM, they turned it into pretty much a continuation of the series, only now with game elements added in as well. However, after many adventures in the Archie comics, the series met it’s inevitable end. When the Sonic comics were picked up by IDW comics, it continued off not from Archie with the Freedom Fighters, but a non-cannon continuation of the 2017 game “Sonic Forces”. For those who didn’t play Sonic Forces, the same basic premise applies. Dr.Eggman (formerly Robotnik) won and had taken over the earth and a small band of resistance fighters led by Knuckles (Who’s brilliant idea was that?) fought back to end Eggman’s tyranny. Sound familiar?
But enough of the history lesson. While the IDW comic has introduced two new heroes, Tangle and Whisper, the Freedom Fighters are nowhere to be found. Why? Who knows? Could be they are tangled in some kind of copyright issue, could be Sega would rather focus on the cast that appears in the games rather than a 25 year-old cartoon. Whatever the reason, Sally, Bunnie, Antione and Rotor are gone….for now. But in my personal opinion, that’s fine. Maybe, just maybe it’s time to let them go. Why? Several reasons.
Reason #1: They are characters that only exist outside of the games.
Like I mentioned before, when SATAM premiered, there was only TWO heroes in the games, Sonic and Tails with Amy and Knuckles only premiering in brand new games that year. Nowadays, our heroes include Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles, Big, Cream, Blaze, Vector, Espio, Charmy, Silver, Rouge, Shadow and…did I leave anyone out? These characters exist in the games and the comic needs more focus on them rather than characters who are cartoon and comic exclusive with their only game appearance being a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Sonic Spinball. The comic exists to expand the world of the games. The CURRENT games. With a cast so huge that a lot of nerds bitch about it while hypocritically complaining that Luigi’s evil twin brother isn’t playable in Smash. My main point is that the comic’s are there not only to make a profit, but to help promote the games. Something the Freedom Fighters have never been a part of.
Reason #2: Thanks to shows like Sonic X and Sonic Boom, The SATAM fan base is shrinking.
Remember when I mentioned that the 90’s were full of Sonally fans? This was very true. If you browsed the internet on the Sonic fan base during the late 90’s early 2,000’s it was all about Sonic and Sally. Then Sonic X happened and there became more and more kids who grew up on that cartoon rather than SATAM and gradually a good chunk of Sonic discussion and fan art went from mostly Sonic and Sally to Sonic and Amy and that’s only getting bigger. In fact, I rarely see Sally or the Freedom Fighters in fan art on my Twitter anymore.
If you need any more proof that they are not needed anymore, just look at the reaction when the IDW comic premiered without them. There was no outrage. No controversy. Almost zero. The only thing close was an online article where they were upset about Ian being vague about their return and that’s it. Instead, the internet got flooded with fan art of the newest hero for the Sonic book, Tangle the lemur.
Reason #3: The comic has a new band of Freedom Fighters AKA “The Resistance”
As I said before, the IDW Sonic comic is a non-cannon continuation of the Sonic Forces story line. A story where Sonic has a new band of freedom fighters all based on game-related characters and is pretty much twice as big as the original Freedom Fighters. Knuckles is the leader this time with Amy as the strategist which allows Sonic the freedom to world travel and help build up the resistance to the currently-defeated Eggman and any new villains that may rise in his stead. This includes brand new characters to help freshen up things, making bringing back the original Freedom Fighters a moot point. They’re not needed.
Reason #4: Their stories have been told.
Let’s face it. Archie did just about everything they could with them. Twice, we’ve seen Sonic and Sally’s future where they were king and Queen. We’ve seen Eggman/Robotnik fall, rise, fall again then rise again like a rollercoaster. Antione finally gave up on Sally and eventually married Bunnie. Finally Rotor became more useless than ever after Tails became the mechanical genius. The character evolution was basically in limbo. Even in a reboot, what more can they do with them?
Now, all that said, does this mean they’re gone for good? Who knows? Just because they are not being used in the comics anymore doesn’t neccesarily mean IDW can’t use them in the future. Like I said, could be legal entanglements, could be they just have no current use for them. Maybe rebooting them and introducing them to a new audience would be great, but as I see it, it’s unnecessary.
Would I like to see them back? Sure! Who wouldn’t? But I think there NEEDS to be a reason to bring them back and currently, I just don’t see it. If you want more of the Freedom Fighters, there’s always other methods like fan-fiction or fan comics like Archie Sonic Online. A fan-created continuity of the Archie Sonic comics. Thing is, sometimes it’s good to let things go if it’s outlived it’s purpose rather than let things drag on. Here’s hoping to see more of the Freedom Fighters in the future but if we don’t, well that’s okay too.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not neccesarily those of Sonic Stadium.
With the popularity of Amiibo figures, it was only a matter of time before other companies followed suit. Gamestop saw the profit in this and with their “ThinkGeek” brand made their own line of exclusive, “Amiibo-ish”, non-electronic figures called Totaku. They don’t interact with your games in any way, they just look pretty on a shelf and they have a plus-shaped base that allows you to connect the bases together for a nice display. It’s a neat way to get non-Nintendo figurines to stand side by side with your Amiibo ones. There are many characters in the line-up including Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Parappa the Rapper, Sackboy, Lara Croft, Kratos and many others.
But of course, I’ll be focusing on the classic Sonic trio recently released. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are all here in their classic glory. Each one with their own fine details. I’ll be going over each one individually.
Sonic has his old finger waving pose with a 16-bit ring laying at his feet. There’s striped grass at the base with the checkerboard dirt underneath showing that he’s standing in the Green Hill Zone. This is the same for all three figures. The paint job is fairly well done with a few very tiny blemishes here and there. For instance, the white of the eyes bleed a tiny bit into the muzzle, but only if you’re looking at it from an upper angle. It’s a common flaw in Sonic figures. The ring has several different pixelated levels of colors to make it as exact to it’s game counterpart as possible which is a very nice touch.
Here he comes! Rougher than the rest of them! While he’s not guarding the master emerald, Knuckles is standing over a green chaos emerald. He’s got a cute smirk on his face and looks like he’s ready to enjoy a good fight at a moment’s notice. This is a real solid figure with no paint blemishes at all. Probably my favorite of the bunch.
Last but not least, Tails is seen flying just above the striped grass. Shown in a pose that says he’s ready to go and an adorable smile on his face, Tails paint job is also flawless. The only downside to this figure is that he has no extra object on his base. No ring, no emerald, just Tails.
Overall this figure set looks great. With the plus-shaped bases and striped grass, you can make a nice display that connects the three figures together. $10 American each isn’t too much for these quality figures. They also make a nice gift for the holidays. You can pick them up at Gamestop in the US, EB Games in Canada or GAME in the UK.
On October 17th 2017, Sega opened it’s own online shop which had many collectors of Sega merch screaming with delight, even prior to the opening to the opening of SonicMerchandise.Com, fans had been begging Sega to have a store which would be full of exclusive or hard to find merchandise. Continue reading The Spin: Why Can’t EU Order From The Sega Store?
On June 12, 2018 via their E3 2018 Direct, Nintendo finally unveiled Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to the world, coming to Nintendo Switch just in time for Christmas. The celebrated blockbuster franchise is back to reunite gaming’s greatest all-stars, this time with series creator and director Masahiro Sakurai going above and beyond to bring back every single playable character in Smash Bros. history, including one-offs like Pichu and Young Link and DLC characters like Bayonetta and Corrin. Continue reading The Spin: The Case for Shadow the Hedgehog in Smash Bros. Ultimate
If you look at some of the most popular debates between fans in the last 12 months, you’ll likely see issues with 2D Vs 3D rear it’s ugly head, the talk of tone in games being bashed around like a tired old deflated leather football, the popular debates are sadly the most tired and dull. Continue reading The Spin: How Do You Save, What is Already Doomed?
2010 was the year Sonic the Hedgehog came back. Yes, we all heard the stories about how the franchise had declined not long after the jump to 3D, how gaming news outlets and critics even now would begin their pieces with some variation of “Sonic has had a rocky history,” and how every new Sonic game released around the “dark ages” period couldn’t shake off the dreaded “Sonic Cycle.” Continue reading The Spin: How SEGA is Ignoring the Middle Children of Sonic’s Legacy
At the rate Sega is going, Sonic looks set to win back some old fans of yesteryear. And with Sega going multi-platform, Sonic is going to be able to spin dash his way onto all the upcoming next-gen consoles. Although hardcore Sonic fans won’t like the sound of that, Sonic will win back everyone and gain trust in Sega. To that end, it’s fun to think about what will be coming next: here are the current rumours surrounding future Sonic titles. Continue reading Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: What Will be the Future for Sonic the Hedgehog?
In the past, Sega has had tough competition from an old respected rival called Nintendo. Consequently, Sonic and Mario were constantly fighting for the Number One spot in people’s lives (of course, the hedgehog won). But aside from Ninty, who have been Sega and Sonic’s rivals, past and new? Well, here’s the lowdown on the bad boys. Continue reading Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: Sega’s Rivals
Ah, the joys of playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Doesn’t matter if it was on Master System, Mega Drive, NGPC, Dreamcast or any other Sega console in the past, it’s always been a wonderful time. The marvellous adventures that loyal Sonic fans have had playing through the Sonic Adventure 2 Demo; finally getting to the climax of Sonic 3 & Knuckles… Playing Sonic has brought nothing but fond memories for the casual, or even Sonic-fanatic, gamer. Continue reading Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: Unforgettable Moments
Sega has had its ups and downs – more downs than ups, but that was due to its consoles, not the games created for them. Sega tried to make the most out of every console they made (including the Sega Saturn, which was a mongoose to program for). So I believe that Sega is pretty good when it comes to making games. Just look in your local arcade for Christ’s sake! How many Sega cabinets do you see? Most of the games are made by them! Continue reading Feedback Forum: Give SEGA a Break!
Heard a rumour that the Dreamcast is dead? At first glance this may all seem like some sort of self-destructive pattern on Sega’s part , and that may make you lose your faith in the company as a fan. But, as this massive news special will soon explain, the odds are all in the favour of the Dreamcasters. First off, let’s address the rumours and stories and whatnot (that sounds SO English. Wait, I AM English).
Continue reading OPINION: Dreamcast Dead?