Dawn Best works on the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comic series, but before that was a prominent artist in the Sonic fan community. She was the mysterious fan artist that 'levelled up' to Archie in our news article here. Dawn's skills quickly helped her get formally recognised by Archie, and since making introductions she has been working alongside Ken Penders and co since Issue #101. It's a real community success story, and we're happy to chat with her today about her story. Find her personal website here.
TSS: Hey, Andrew here, and I'm with Dawn Best. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.
Dawn Best: Glad to be here!
TSS: Now, why are you important in the Sonic community?
DB: I've never really thought of myself as being important. I always imagined myself to be just another fan. I've been around the 'net community for a good long while... 1996 or 1997 is when I first came into the online fandom, so I got to know a lot of the people in it since then. Now that I work for the Archie comics, I don't think of myself as any more important. I'd rather be looked at as a fan than a professional.
TSS: What Issue did you start working on Archie Sonic comics and how did you get picked as an artist to work on them?
DB: The first issue I did was Sonic #101's 'Knuckles' story. There are many different stories flying around about how I got the job at Archie, so I'd like to set the record straight now - Ken [Penders] asked for help in an online chatroom, so I inquired and received an invitation to submit a sample. If my sample was good enough, he would give me the chance to work for Archie. Ken later opened up the contest to everyone, with a post on his message board.
When I submitted my portfolio, he liked what he saw, so he told me that the contest was at that point between myself and one other person. I had to submit another page of work for a "face off". I sent my submission in that same day, and the next day - after driving 2 hours in bad weather - was floored to find Ken had called and I had got the job!
TSS: Well, I'm glad he picked you! What's it like working on the Sonic comics? Are there deadlines to get the work done? Tell us how you help to create the comics.
DB: Yeah, there are deadlines, but you get a lot of time to work on your assignments. Ken trusts me with setting my own deadlines. I get about a page done a day, so because of that I can better plan out when I can submit them. I just do the pencilling at the moment, but Ken wants me to start inking soon, and maybe a little more after that.
TSS: How do you get the work to Ken? Do you send it through mail or are you located near him?
DB: I send things to him through the mail. Usually, I send it directly to the letterer, which is almost always Vickie Williams, and she sends it to Ken or whoever is on the roster to ink.
TSS: When did you first learn you were great at art and drawing?
DB: Haha! I'm still wondering if I am, really. All I know is that I've been drawing since I was really young, and I never once got negative criticism from anyone I knew. It's been that way ever since, and only since I've been in college have I really received a negative critique with a solid basis.
TSS: Have you always wanted to be an artist, and get a job in that kind of field?
DB: Ever since grade school I knew I wanted to draw for a living. I find a lot of enjoyment in illustration. It never feels much like work, anyway.
TSS: How long have you been a Sonic the Hedgehog fan? How did you start out liking him, or other characters from that universe?
DB: I became a Sonic fan after playing the first game on the Genesis back in the day. Although I admit that before I had taken the Archie gig, I hadn't picked up an issue of the Sonic comic for about two or three years!
TSS: Were you a fan of the comics two to three years ago?
DB: I was, actually. I got into it mostly because I fell in love with [Patrick] Spaziante's artwork, and I was surprised because I kept with it for a good long while after that. It must've been my Sophomore year of high school before I stopped buying them regularly. Even then, I picked up a few issues from time to time.
TSS: Why did you stop collecting them?
DB: I really don't know. Maybe because I was on the verge of developing my own art style, and I didn't think to pick up the books because I didn't need Patrick's guidance any longer. Or maybe because I was just too busy, in general. Not that it interfered with my social life or anything: a lot of folks at school knew I collected the books, and they found it cute. They'd come over and ask if they could see the latest Sonic issue.
TSS: Tell us why you think Sonic the Hedgehog has become so popular over the last 10 years. Why do people fall for the blue blur?
DB: I think Sonic appeals to people for the same reason Mickey Mouse does. Only Sonic has this whole 'attitude' thing going on, and this super power which immediately makes him that much cooler.
TSS: Tell us about your happiest Sonic-related moment.
DB: My happiest moment involving Sonic, besides landing the pencilling job of course, was when I got my Knuckles plush. I take him everywhere with me, and he's been abducted several times by my friends who like to hide him and do horrible things to him. But he doesn't seem to mind too much!
TSS: Poor Knuckles... Now that Sonic is going to appear on other game systems like the Nintendo Gamecube, what would you like to see in the near future of Sonic gaming?
DB: My college roomie has a Gamecube at the apartment. I really like the graphics, sound, and all that, but I would like to see Sonic put into a side-scrolling game again. Like, we were playing the Mario level of Super Smash Brothers Melee, which is set up like an old-school Mario game. I was thinking, "Hey, they should just stick with the good old side-scroller games. Maybe make a Sonic game like that." I really miss the classic look and feel of the Genesis games. I do have a Gameboy Advance - pretty much for the sole purpose of getting Sonic Advance.
TSS: Sonic Advance will have the classic feel of the good o' Genesis days. It's going to be great! When did you start posting your fan art on the internet? Tell us about the unique characters you created and drew.
DB: I did my first piece of fan art for a 'Save Sally' webpage - when everyone was all worried about a piece of news we got about Sonic #47. My first pics weren't scanned, because I didn't have that capability at the time, so I just drew them with a mouse. The first character of mine to get into the fandom was, of course, 'Ruby Echidna'. She's had about three hundred style changes, but I still like the character. You never know, someday she might make it into the books - at least for a cameo, anyway.
TSS: Maybe Ruby will make it into a future 'Sotsu' episode someday... or at least a cameo in Law and Order. When did you start your website? What plans do you have in the future for your site?
DB: I first came up with Ruby's Sanctuary about the same time I did my first pics on the web. It seemed to be a good idea at the time, as there was a definite need for Sonic webpages. I tried putting news on there from the Sonic newsgroups and mailing lists, along with my art, character info and other things. I kept my identity as 'Ruby' for privacy reasons, but as I got older, and got to know people better, I started to use my real name online.
As for the future of my site, it'll hopefully stay the same as it is now - built more like a fan site than a corporate site. However, as I'll be entering the real world as a graphic designer in the next 3 months, I might end up changing it to better market myself online, and it would need to be more professional for that reason.
TSS: At first, did you also have things about Sonic the Hedgehog on the site? Or has it always been about your art, with a few news tidbits here and there?
DB: When I started out, I really only had Sonic things on it. I didn't know whether I could post the other things I did and have people go for it, like I knew they would with the Sonic stuff. Eventually, I ended up getting on a couple of other archives and threw artwork of non-Sonic related things on there instead.
TSS: What will your future be as an artist for Sonic comics? Has your Archie experience opened more opportunities as an artist?
DB: As far as Sonic goes, I thoroughly enjoy it. The work is fun, the staff is great. It's definitely opened doors. The way Ken talks, he wants to get me more work after I finish college, so I'll probably get more 'Knuckles' pages done in that time. Of course, he could always put something off-the-wall in there too, like maybe an illustration for something other than Sonic. Additionally, I might be heading to the SFCC this year with Ken, so if I get offers out there or whatever, it'd be cool.
TSS: Have you looked up to any other artists? Who's your god? Who has influenced you the most?
DB: Like I said, I always looked up to Spaziante. A lot of the folks at Archie use his stuff for model sheets, so it's not just me. I like the works of J. Scott Campbell too, Joe Madureira, and lots of others.
TSS: What do you think of Knuckles' green look compared to his regular red look. I think he looks way-past-funny as a rad green echidna.
DB: Hehe, yeah, I'll agree with you there. But I should talk... I've dyed my hair about a million times over, so I won't harass him on his colour change.
TSS: Leave the harassing to me sister! Although, my hair is actually a certain aqua color... Can you give us any spoilers, or are you not allowed?
DB: I don't know what I can reveal that isn't already common knowledge! Um... you're going to get a big dose of 'Knuckles 20 Years Later' sometime down the road, I can say that. And I'm not just talking about what starts in Issue #106, either.
TSS: Any word on Knuckles deciding to buy red dye any time soon?
DB: He'll be losing the green fur tones a little before Sonic #112, I think.
TSS: I'd better not make you spill all the beans - don't wan't Mr. Penders running at you with a bat or a bag of cats! Have you been a fan of SatAM, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic OVA or even Sonic Underground?
DB: I loved watching Sonic on Saturday mornings. I even have some AoStH tapes lying around from a couple of childhood summers, when I'd wake up early just to catch them. I watched the Sonic anime through a friend when it first came out in Japan, and I really enjoyed it - despite the slightly poor quality of the video.
TSS: What do you think of the way the storylines going in recent issues of Archie Sonic comics and how would you make the story improve if you could?
DB: Well, I can't say much about that. I would like to see more single-issue stories. Especially with Knuckles. Just start and finish them in one issue. It's kinda hard to do in 6 pages, but I'd like to see it.
TSS: Thanks a lot for your time, Dawn Best.
DB: Thanks for having me. Cheers!