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  • Community Interview: Archie Reviewer Dan Drazen

    The most mature Sonic fan? Most likely. The Archie reviewer gives us an exclusive chat.

    Dan Drazen is a seasoned figure in the Sonic community, having reviewed the Archie Sonic comic since Issue #29 and forming experienced opinions on the series and its future. He's basically the Roger Ebert of Sonic comic reviews among the internet community, and having met Ken Penders he's also well connected to the roots of the Archie team. Read on for our exclusive chat with him.

    TSS: It's Halloween night - Andrew here. Thanks for giving The Sonic Stadium an exclusive interview, Dan Drazen.

    DD: My pleasure.

    TSS: I'm sure most Archie Sonic The Hedgehog fans know who you are, but tell the ones who don't know your importance in the Sonic Internet Community.

    DD: Well, for one thing, I'm probably one of the oldest Sonic fans in the community -- I turn 50 at the end of the year. I've also become a regular reviewer of the Sonic comics since ... well, since about #30. I've also written a number of fanfics that have been well-received.

    TSS: Wow, one of the oldest Sonic fans and he also makes excellent fiction and reviews of Sonic The Hedgehog. I've read a few of your reviews, explain what makes yours just about the best on the web.

    DD: I like to think I have age and experience going for me. I've done a lot of reading and a fair amount of writing, so I've always had more to say than "That was kewl!" or "That sucked!"

    TSS: Well that's why most Sonic fans love to read your reviews. How do you like how Archie's going with the series as of now and what's the difference from its start?

    DD: Well, I came in with S18. The stories were one-issue stories or short arcs. It was just starting to make the transition to being more SatAM-styled in artwork (thanks to Art Mawhinney) and story (thanks to Mike Kanterovich and Ken Penders). I thought the book really had potential... I don't know when it started wandering, but "Endgame" was a major turning point; anything that could have gone wrong with that arc did go wrong, culminating in S50, which was cut to ribbons so badly it had to be redone as SSS5....

    TSS: It fell apart mostly because of the death of the first Dr. Robotnik?

    DD: No, because the comic could always have had another focus until Buttnik was revived or reincarnated or whatever. There just seemed to be no plan as to where the story was going - a situation made worse as the characters slowly began to be more and more lifeless. By Sonic #100 the narrative was a shambles! I'm glad Karl has closed down the story line and is prepared to try something else; let's just hope he's given it a lot of thought.

    TSS: What's with Ken and his work with the Knuckles part of the comic? Will he do more work for the Sonic area of the comic and will its art get better in that section also?

    DD: That's a nerve ... I've long admired Ken's work on the Knuckles stories when Knux had his own book. He didn't misstep very often; I wasn't thrilled with the Dark Alliance and King of the Hill arcs. Now that he's doing back stories, though, it seems as if he's lost his way.

    Face it, for all of this year Knuckles has done nothing but suffer -- first from the effects of the so-called "evolution" by Chaos energy, and now he's been suffering psychologically by going on three failed errands in the past for Dimitri. I have a feeling that Ken's trying to cut his original story ideas for the Knuckles comic so they'll fit in the Sonic comic. It doesn't appear to be working.

    As you can probably tell, I dwell more on the writing than the artwork. So long as Ken gets healthy and relies on great fan artists such as Chordsy, the art will improve; heck, just about anything is an improvement over Ron Lim! But the whole "Tails isn't Tails" plot point -- that really made me hate the book. Ken broke faith with the readers by introducing that plot point. It was absolutely unforgivable.

    He should have rethought the entire Chosen One arc due to circumstances beyond his control; he's done just that with his Lost Ones, scrapped 50 pages of material due to the Sep 11 terrorist attacks and a change in story direction.


    Image of Sonic drawn by Ken Penders at Motor City ComicCon, March 1997

    TSS: What do you think of the….. Rad Green Knuckles? I’d like to see Knuckles in his original color. Does Sega have control over Archie’s storylines? If they do something wrong will Sega jump on them?

    DD: If Sega had total control, they wouldn’t have let Ken get away with “killing” Robotnik in S21’s “Three Phases of E.V.E.” Ken did feel their corporate wrath when they rejected his initial script for the Sally miniseries — whether on the merits of the story or just out of spite, I can’t say.

    And now that Sega is only a shadow of its former self, it’s hard to know just how much pull they still have. Ken has probably promised to revert Knuckles at some point; until then, he’s stuck in nightlight mode.

    TSS: You haven't missed a review for a comic since you started (#29). Which comic is your favorite and which issue would you rather not say is the best?

    DD: All-time faves: the Forbidden Zone arc (K19-21) because the situations and characters were so rich, had so much potential (most of it unutilized, sadly). And the all-time worst issue ever: no question, Special #15. “Naugus Games” … just thinking about the lame script and lamer artwork sets my teeth on edge!

    TSS: Stepping out of the Archie Sonic Universe for a second, what do you think of the UK’s Sonic Comic made by Fleetway? Have you ever read an issue? Also, how much SEGASonic do you play, did you ever get into the games?

    DD: Sadly, I’ve only seen a few pages of the Fleetway Sonic comic, and that was a photocopy. It would be interesting to see some of the real deal. As for the games, I can only play what’s on CD for computers. I’ve played Sonic CD through the Starlight Skyway or whatever it’s called. I also have Sonic 3 and Knuckles CD, which after dying an untold number of deaths in the Carnival Night and Sandopolis Zones I’m actually starting to get good at.

    TSS: Well it’s good you get into a few Sonic games, you should buy Sonic R and Sonic 3D Blast too. Also, I’ll send you an issue of Sonic The Comic in email tonight so you can get a glimpse of what that’s like. It has interesting art but it only runs re-prints nowadays. How long do you think Archie’s Sonic will last? It seems to get more popular and I heard Ken say it was in 90% of the best comics?

    DD: Thanks for the offer on the comic. Frankly, I’d have bet the Archie comic would have died by now the way it was going. Depending on how it gets written from here on, it could conceivably stay in print for a couple few more years at least. But with Sega out of the hardware war and Sonic games getting fewer and farther between, the writers are going to have to work hard to retain fan love and loyalty. To tell the truth, I’m not sure what being in “90% of best comics” means.

    TSS: 90% of sales I guess. Well the Sonic games aren’t really getting farther apart, if you look at it this way Sonic will get more popular jumping to other hardware. For example, you have SA2 Battle and Sonic Advance coming out around same time. Will you keep reviewing the comics until they die off?

    DD: I guess so. I still retain a love for the characters as I’d come to know them; I like to think that that’s one of the reasons my fanfics have been well-received — because I can see through their eyes, bring them to life in my own small way. So I’ll still follow the comic, if only to say “I can’t believe you introduced such a boneheaded plot point!!!”

    TSS: What are your thoughts on the characters of the series? There’s so many characters in the comics and sometimes characters disappear into the background. Who would be your favorite background character, a character who stays on the sideline the most?

    DD: I had been hoping something could be done with Elias; unfortunately, Karl apparently couldn’t think of anything, so he was let go in S102. Rosie has been a secret favorite of mind; I think I sort of identify her at times with Grams Bear, my favorite of the Care Bears (a guilty pleasure of mine back in the ’80s). Again, nothing much was done with her.

    Right now I want to see Hope get a larger role in the comic, ideally get rescued by Sonic and brought to Knothole. Unfortunately, the story demands highly-defined characters and this is where both Karl and Ken appear to be lacking. Nate Morgan was another example of a character, far from a favorite, who basically languished because nobody seemed to know what to do with him.

    Lupe, the Chaotix, Constable Remington … the landscape is littered with lifeless bodies.

    TSS: How long have you enjoyed Sonic, was Archie the start of your love for Sonic?

    DD: No, the SatAM Sonic gets the credit. Everything about the show worked for me: the premise, the mix of seriousness and comedy, the character modeling, the unsurpassed vocal work (Jaleel White, Brad Pierce, Kath Soucie, Christine Cavanaugh), it just plain worked! It raised the bar and Archie has only rarely demonstrated that it could jump that high.

    TSS: Though it was cancelled by the sad, sad… kids show, Power Rangers. Do you think DiC with return it to the TV or at least replay the episodes? Also, will you be buying the SatAM DVD’s?

    DD: I have some of the old eps on tape … somewhere … gotta organize my video cassettes one of these years … DiC tried resurrecting Sonic via “Sonic Underground,” but that show just didn’t have the same heart as the original. My guess is DiC isn’t all that interested. The best they can do is sell the rights to someone like Toon Disney or Cartoon Network. At only 26 eps, though, that’s going to be a hard sell.

    TSS: They did sell the rights of AoSTH to Toon Disney, though it’s for the young ones – did you watch any of those?

    DD: Yes, and I liked a few: “Tails’ New Home” was great for its flashback to a baby Tails. And it featured one guilty pleasure: “Zootropolis,” probably the most perverse ep of the lot. It featured the Mobians being captured by a hotty huntress from outer space who [get ready to suspend disbelief] falls for Robotnik! Something about that ep was just so freakin’ weird!

    TSS: Woah, a hotty huntress in love with Robotnik? What about the Sonic Anime, have you bought the dub version of it and did you enjoy that?

    DD: I actually received a dupe of the Japanese original, and if it weren’t for a transcript of the action available on Tyro’s Sonic site [one of the best Sonic sites out there, IMHO], I don’t think I’d be aware of all that was going on. It’s a different continuity, but you can still see how they worked to put the characters across as having definite personalities. I like the part where Tails gets freaked by lightning and clings to Sonic.

    Some of it is pure anime that’s been done countless times : Metal’s death is almost a cliche by this point, but it still was moving. See, this is what I don’t like about the Archie comic: I don’t feel that the writers and artists are working that hard to move us, to communicate a feeling, to even make us care!

    TSS: Since you were a SatAM fan, did you ever review the episodes like you do the comics?

    DD: No, I actually started out providing summaries of the eps as well as of the comics on a Sonic FAQ File. At some point, though, summarizing gave way to reviewing.

    TSS: Is it okay if later tonight I post all your reviews on the site? I’ll be sure to add each one as you put more out. Have you heard SEGASonic’s voice and what do you think of his to SatAM’s Jaleel voice?

    DD: Feel free to post whatever you want. I have to credit Andrew Sautter for supplying me with a videotape of his Sonic Adventure game play, so yes I’ve heard the SEGASonic though I’ve never played the games. It’s close to White, which I take as the definitive Sonic, but it’s not jarring. It works for me, though being a writer at heart I’d notice the dialogue itself before I pick up on the voice saying it.

    TSS: Ryan Drummond is an excellent voice of Sonic (he never got back to me on an interview), though it sounds close to Jaleel, he said it was all him and when he stepped in he just thought this is what his Sonic voice should be like. Will you buy future game systems to play SEGASonic?

    DD: Only if they’re on CD; our finances don’t justify my buying a videogame system. My wife wouldn’t be too crazy about it, either.

    TSS: Off of that subject, lets get into your fiction. Where can we find your fan fiction at and could it be posted on The Sonic Stadium to give people an idea of what’s like?

    DD: Go to http://www2.andrews.edu/~drazen/sonic.html for the front page of my Sonic site. Stroll around, link to whatever you want, download it if you’ve a mind to. Just don’t try taking credit for it yourself. 

    TSS: I wouldn’t do that Mr. Drazen, knowing your skill in kick boxing, it would be a mark of death on myself. Tell us why your fiction gets good marks of admiration.

    DD: I think I write well because I read a lot. Being exposed to different styles, seeing how the great authors handle plot and character — it gives me something to learn from. The other day I found myself watching “Jaws” and analyzing how the script was put together. I know a lot of fanfic writers are just kids starting out and I don’t want to discourage anyone, but a would-be writer should definitely make time to read.

    TSS: I’m also a author of fiction, though I put more comedy in my writing and I’m no great author, most first work was a script for a possible Sonic (in person) movie. When’s the last time you updated your website? Do you post your reviews on it and what are your thoughts on kick boxing?

    DD: Unfortunately, I haven’t updated my site except to post new reviews. It’s been so long I’ve forgotten how to use PhotoShop to scan in graphics. I know some of the stuff is probably in need of maintenance. I’ve let a number of people link to my reviews; that’s what makes the Web a web. And no, I don’t kick box. My preferred martial arts style is based on a line from Karate Kid 2: “Best block, no be there.” In other words, avoidance.

    TSS: Well this has been a very good interview Mr. Drazen, it could go on and on in my head but we gotta cut it short and end when were ahead. Thanks a lot for taking your time Dan, and I hope you keep up the excellent reviews.

    DD: You’re welcome, and Happy What’s-Left-Of-Halloween.

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