Ken Penders answered a lot of our questions at his latest chat session yesterday. Here are the most interesting parts of the chat.
On the Chaos Syphon:
Regarding SONIC #94, Dan [Drazen], it's lucky that story came through even that well, considering everything that was going on behind the scenes. Regarding the Chaos Syphon, what happened there was my fault and that of plain ol' circumstances. I wanted to update the design of the Chaos Syphon, and I was supposed to draw #94 instead of just inking it. When matters changed and Ron [Lim] stepped in to do the drawing, it got lost in the shuffle.
On the accuracy of online comic previews:
Well, the write-ups in Diamond Previews aren't anywhere near able to keep up with everything that's happening these days. The Chosen One storyline runs in SONIC #95 through 97. It's not a 4-parter, as some have speculated.
On the Sonic Adventure 2 storyline:
First off, SONIC ADVENTURE 2 will be featured throughout the entirety of SONIC #98, interrupting the Sonic storyline in progress and forcing me to switch gears with Knuckles. As a result, the Ultimate Villain may or may not (most likely not) show up in SONIC #100.
On the SA2 storyline timing:
SONIC ADVENTURE 2 couldn't wait because the book comes out a week after the actual game comes out, so it's tied in with that. SA2 is only in SONIC #98. We tried to get it featured as a Super Special, but Archie is no longer publishing those, not even the giant size issues with their own characters.
On James Fry:
James Fry is off the book as of SONIC #97. 96 was his last issue, as I understand it. Ron Lim is taking his place and we'll see how that goes, since he had to change his style in order to get the assignment. (He's taking lessons from Spaz. :) Spaz will be drawing the Sonic story in SONIC #98.
On the Chosen One saga, and Ken's own timeline:
The Chosen One was affected by the cancellation of the KNUCKLES series. We're talking about whittling a 66-page story down to 24. That's major cutting. I'm finishing inking the Knuckles story for SONIC #97, then I jump onto inking 8-pages of the Sonic story for #97, as various forces have mandated a change in plans.
More of Ken's workload:
While I've written the 8-page back-up story for SONIC #98, I may end up inking some of the Spaz pages, then it's business as usual on Knuckles. As for SONIC #100, instead of a combined SONIC - KNUCKLES story as originally planned, each will have their own separate stories.
On what is causing the current issues at Archie:
No, don't blame Sega, as it's a lot more complicated than that [on what is causing the recent problems at Archie]. [It's] due to major problems with the magazine distribution across the country. It's not just comics that are affected, but major national publications as well.
On the planned Knuckles story that's upcoming:
The Knuckles story will be 8 - 10 pages, and will feature pretty much what I originally planned for KNUCKLES #50 instead. Julie-Su and the Dark Legion return in SONIC #99 in a story titled "What Goes Around Comes Around!"
On Sonic #100's content:
We don't like it that there are two stories in SONIC #100 as I'd rather do what we originally planned. I'm not saying what was originally planned for SONIC #100, as I'm talking with Justin to see if it can be done by SONIC #110, which would mark 100 issues of my involvement with the book.
On the feedback regarding Archie's current problems:
WB, I can understand your frustrations, but we live in the real world, and you'd have to be in our shoes to see we're not trying to turn out material you're not going to like. To give everyone an idea of what life on the frontlines is like, I'll use myself as an example. When Archie was publishing SONIC, KNUCKLES, and SONIC SPECIAL, there was more than enough work so that I could concentrate strictly on Sonic and nothing but.
Since the demise of the latter two series, that has resulted in less work, and thus forcing me to look elsewhere to make up the difference as far as pay goes. It also necessitated long dry spells because Archie had a backlog of stories that had to be published.
So when I was working on the KNUCKLES storyline that was featured in SONIC #91 through 94, I was working on Digimon and Pokemon covers for Beckett publications, pencilling an Emperor's New Groove story for Disney, illustrating an online comic for www.pajamaman.com and working on preliminary sketches for a romance comic to be published by a foreign company, to say nothing of reworking THE LOST ONES into a graphic novel.
On Sonic #100's cover:
Sonic #100 will have a cover similar to SSS #13 more than SONIC #50. I inked the cover for SONIC #98, and it will be done pretty much like SONIC #100.
On Ken's ability to answer questions regarding the Sonic stories:
Any questions about the ongoing Sonic stories are better left to Karl. I'm not going to rain on his parade. I don't write the Sonic stories at this time, but I do know what I'd do if I did. I don't pay much attention to Karl's unless I need to because I don't want him to feel I'm looking over his shoulder all the time.
I figured out a storyline that would allow me to address the Sonic - Sally situation as it has never been shown in the series yet. That line [Tails' comment in Sonic #94 about Sonic & Sally] addressed part of the problem, Ron, but I don't think it resolved the feelings on the part of many readers for seeing something to develop beyond what we have.
On the Sonic Team:
Sonic is still a very marketable property, and the comic only reinforces that concept. I've never dealt with the Sonic team. Only Justin has.
On the Chaotix:
No Chaotix for a while longer. Just not sure yet how long. For one thing, starting with SONIC #101, the Knuckles stories will be six pages long as opposed to eight, the trade-off being that it will now take four issues to complete a story. The reason for this is something special.
Beginning in SONIC #101, two pages every issue will be devoted to feature pages devoted to either the characters, maps of locations, diagrams, whatever the readers want to see of Sonic's world. The Chaotix will show up on the feature pages.
On 20 Years Later:
As for KNUCKLES: 20 Years Later, we'll see some of the developments leading up to that story sometime during SONIC #101 - 110, including the first official unveiling of Knuckles' daughter. The Survivor concept is part of an upcoming story plot, but it won't be a parody.
On upcoming previews coming soon:
Contrary to popular belief, I am getting ready to upload updates to [my] website featuring a sneak preview from the Chosen One storyline as well as an advanced look at my Lost Ones graphic novel, to say nothing of other projects in the works.
On the upcoming Knuckles story plot details:
If I told you the title for the KNUCKLES story in SONIC #100, I'd be giving way too much away. Suffice it to say things won't be the same for awhile as the Dark Legion will assume a major role. Wynmacher is not dead, but Lara-Le may have a surprise.
SA2 has not really influenced anything as we don't know enough about it to incorporate any story elements into the series properly yet. We were only given just enough to set things in motion. Yes, we will see what happened to everyone on the Floating Island, but I'm still rewriting a number of things to make any delcarative statements at this point.
Responding to WB's question: "So basically it'll [the SA2 adaptation] probably just be a full issue Sonic Shuffle-like preview then. Thats better than it dragging out for 6 months like last time I suppose..."
Pretty much, WB.
On the supporting content of the comic:
The contests may return now that I'm handling the letters pages, as everyone at Archie would always cringe whenever I suggested the same thing.
There's a major surprise concerning Tails that will blow everyone's minds. Tails is not a villain. That much I will say. He also doesn't die or anything like that. I really can't say because I don't want to spoil what Karl has planned.
On Bunnie or Tails meeting parents:
That's a very distinct possibility, Aurora, one that receives regular discussion all the time.
And no, I haven't decided on a color scheme yet. I don't think about such things until absolutely necessary, as I hate to lock myself in until then.