So many branches of the franchise, you can’t help but step on one.
Sonic Boom! Exciting prospects, huh? Officially its own branch in continuity with a huge media push behind it. It’s far from the first time that the series has dealt with alternate media though. Currently active is the Archie Sonic comic that gets covered on our site, and in the past there have been programmes like Sonic X (pretty much as big as Sonic Boom when it was announced), the Sonic OVA and the western cartoons. But aside from these, there are yet more branches along the path where either original Sonic stories have been told or other stories have been altered so much that they become their own thing. In this article, I will be covering five pieces of alternate media that may not be so familiar to the average person.
1. Sonic the Comic
1993 was quite a busy year for alternate media. SatAM and AoStH came out and managed to get video game tie-ins in some form, and the Archie comic was launched toward the end of the year which combined the setting and tone of the two cartoons together, at least at first. While this was all well and good for America, what could be used to fill the void for Britain? Enter Egmont Fleetway and their own comic adaptation of the property called Sonic the Comic.
Unlike the Archie comic, Sonic the Comic was a weekly instalment. In return, the individual Sonic stories were generally shorter than their American counterparts, which meant more space for other character stories (sort of like a mini-Sonic Universe) and even stories on other SEGA franchises like Kid Chameleon and Decap Attack (although for this overview, I will not be covering them). It lasted for 223 issues until its eventual cancellation in 2002, although the comic had become mostly reprints by as early as the 180’s which was more due to the management of the company.
The tone from the very start varied between shorter comedic pieces and more serious story arcs, and stayed consistent with the entire run. The setting for the comic has far more game elements in it than Archie did at the time, but it also has a very unique British flair (not that surprising). The art matches that setting to a tee, although whether you like it or not really depends on your taste for the “surreal” interpretation for a lot of the material. The writing also matches the British edge…which means that there are times that characterisation and tone are quite a bit more cynical than other media, to the point that it can come off as strange (for example, Sonic is less social and friendly here than most other interpretations, to the point that his best friend Tails is often the outlet for his verbal frustration).
Speaking of which, talking about the game characters here first is warranted to go at length about the differences of the adaptation of elements.
- Sonic, despite his more Marmite personality, is ironically the most similar to the games in every other respect. He is a hero from Mobius who opposes Dr Robotnik’s schemes to take over Mobius, and his super form works differently to other media. What differs most is the origin; he used to be a normal hedgehog who gained his colour and power through an experiment done by the kindly (and thin) Ovi Kintobor.
- The downside is that not long after, an accident (set up by Sonic and the Chaotix in the future) made Ovi Kintobor into the mad AoStH-looking Dr Robotnik. Despite looking more like the clownish cartoon incarnation, this man is not to be messed with.
- Sonic’s best friend is Tails, a fox from the Nameless Zone who has to prove himself a hero to his peers back home since he claimed to be the hero of Mobius (not unlike game Tails wanting to prove himself). His real name here might as well be Pixel Brain.
- Amy used to be the helplessly smitten fangirl before she took up the crossbow part way through the run and became part of the girl power movement. She is also good friends with a comic-exclusive character, Tekno.
- Knuckles is an Echidna from the ancient past, reincarnated through various vessels. He also has a neck ring in place of a marking. Tikal summoned Sonic from the past and told him this, while Chaos was a Drakon (Fish monster thing) Prosecutor who was unrelentingly evil.
- The Chaotix herald from the Special Zone, which contains important locales like New Tek City. Mighty and Espio are hot-headed rivals, Vector is the leader, only sane man and technical planner, and Charmy is…dumb, hyper and hated by everyone else (this was in 1995, remember. Not something Sonic Heroes influenced). Fang was a member in his comic début, but he quickly showed his true nature by betraying them to Dr Robotnik. They also have a powerful computer-like being with them called the Omni-Viewer.
- Metal Sonic isn’t one character. Instead, they’re a whole army of them called the Brotherhood of Metallix. Their power here cannot be overstated, and in one story the only way to stop them was to go back in time and make sure Ovi got caught in the transforming accident (ain’t time a harsh mistress).
Outside of the game cast carried over from the games, there’s a huge array of exclusive characters to add to the mix. Forefront of the lot are the other Freedom Fighters of this continuity; Tekno the Canary, a gadgeteer who is best friends with Amy and often supports Shortfuse both in and out of his armour. Johnny Lightfoot the Rabbit, a friendly rival to Sonic (as friendly as Sonic can be) who is (was) generally a nice guy. Porker Lewis, also a tech expert later on, but is foremost a bit of a scaredy-cat. Finally, Shortfuse the Squirrel Cybernik, a hot-blooded scrapper and good friend of Tekno who was used in an experiment which had him fused with cybernetic armour, although this was reversed near the end. Robotnik’s right-hand man, maintaining the similarities to SatAm (likely because they’re derisive of the same American concept bible), is Grimer. Intelligent and slimy, he’s often the voice of reason for Robotnik, although he’s also very intelligent and loyal to his master. This is probably why he was allowed to shine when Robotnik was out of commission for a while. Dr Zachary is the only other surviving Echidna and is purely out for his own gains. He makes a powerful adversary to Knuckles through how tricky his tactics are. These are just the tip of the ice berg of the cast, which is absolutely huge in part due to how many one-time characters there are.
As said before, the plot varies between a comedic tone (usually in one part comics) and larger, more narrative-based arcs. To sum up the story throughout the comic, the first few issues had Sonic doing his usual job of going around zones and freeing his fellow animals from Badniks, which is revealed to have been a result of him being stuck in a six-month time warp due to shenanigans which let Robotnik conquer. Over this period, a lot of the recurring cast are introduced and there are plenty of lighter stories and game adaptations. It also introduced a fair few of the oddball villains of the comic. The first big game changer was the arrival of the Metallix (which forced Sonic and the Chaotix to go back in time to make sure the accident occurred and thus stopped the evil army’s time meddling) which made Porker Lewis leave the Freedom Fighters, a super Badnik called Brutus being allowed to strike out on his own and forcing Tails to stop him on his own, and Sonic’s super side going a little out of control and leaving him trapped in the Special Zone as Omni-Viewer held said super side.
With Sonic out of the equation and dealing with problems in the Special Zone (mostly New Tek City), Robotnik was free to wreck even more havoc, with only the remaining Freedom Fighters left to control things. Knuckles was occupied with the newly introduced Dr Zachary so couldn’t really help lest Zachary boy got his way and annihilated Mobius. While the Freedom Fighters led on with a rebellion, the situation eventually got resolved when Super Sonic (still separate from Sonic) was sent back to Mobius and the energy shorted out Robotnik’s entire army. This led to a new Robotnik-less period with many minor villains and crooks trying to get a piece of the action, and a group called DRAT working to revive Robotnik back to power. Robotnik himself had gone to the Drakons for help, and was successful in getting the Chaos Emeralds and becoming a god. Sonic won the ensuing fight and Robotnik was assumed dead. After this, the other Freedom Fighters got to branch out and do their own hero work (including the Amy and Tekno stories that led to a running gag about them).
Eventually, it turned out that Robotnik had been sent to a planet called Shanazar, with Sonic on his tail while being made an outlaw there. Despite his plan to merge the two planets together coming to fruition, the actual event didn’t do anything, which left Mobius in another calm period where the heores explored new zones and time periods from the formed portals…but left Robotnik completely homicidal and wanting to destroy Mobius instead of just taking it over. The next plan ended no better for him and left him down in the dumps. As a result, Grimer released Chaos to try and make things better, only for him to bail when Robotnik gathered the Chaos Emeralds with intent to destroy Mobius. The fight between Perfect Chaos and the Freedom Fighters left Johnny Lightfoot dead, Sonic knowing about Knuckles’ ancient past, and Super Sonic (who had been rendered pacifist by the time of being sent back to Mobius) back to being less savoury and forced to merge with Sonic once again to take down the monster. The resolution of the Sonic Adventure adaptation was the final new story in Sonic the Comic, and it would be exclusively reprints for another fifty issues before finally getting the axe.
During its run, the comic gained quite a large fan following. After it went out of print, several fans have come together to keep continuing the stories they loved through online fancomics. The most famous of these is Sonic the Comic, which still updates to this day and has backing from Sonic the Comic writers and artists alike (as well as being able to get in Archie artists for one of its features). It’s notable for continuing the tone of the original comic while integrating later game characters and adding their own spin to the world. Whether it’s this or other continuations about, even though the comic stopped over a decade ago, it’s certainly lived on afterwards quite healthily.
Accessibility: While the issues aren’t super common, they can turn up on eBay a bit since Sonic the Comic was pretty popular while it was in print. Alternatively, there are users online who sell on occasion through message boards.
This particular overlooked media (which is from the company who also made an adaptation of Sonic 1 which marked Vector’s first publicised appearance) is an oddity amongst its brethren; amongst all media that isn’t the games, the earlier series is far and away the single most influential of them all. Debuting in 1992, most people know that it brought with it two characters that are well known to Sonic gamers; Amy Rose and Charmy Bee. What they were like, how the design process went for them and many other features of the Manga are otherwise elusive even to the most dedicated of media researchers. For example, the regular Shogakukan series had one set of designs, while the CoroCoro specials had different designs which were muck closer to the SegaSonic standard (indeed, that’s where CD Amy’s design is taken from). But we do know quite a bit at least, so here are some of the many oddities that this important piece of history has.
To start with, Sonic is Superman…sort of. Nicky is an ordinary hedgehog boy who ends up crashing into a stand of bottles during one of his regular beatings. After this, a strange thing happens in times of futility; he turns into Sonic the Hedgehog and is ready to deliver pain upon whoever wronged him! This is partially tied into the Mary Garnet story that’s mentioned in the Japanese Sonic game bible, as Sonic is revealed to be the spirit of the pilot in the story, who also worked to bring Nicky’s parents together in war.
Speaking of which, we might as well run down the character cast and setting. Aside from Nicky Kent, we have his sister Tania (or Anita based on the story) and parents Paulie and Brenda. Paulie is a pilot whose plane was brought down in an undisclosed war, who gives life advice to Nicky and even joins him on the occasional escapade. Brenda was a mechanic in the same war, although in the present time she acts more as a housewife. Tania is mostly just a handful who even makes Eggman suffer when he abducts her. They live in a town called Hedgehog Town (creative) where the majority of the residents are the same species. Amongst them is Amy Rose, a hedgehog Nicky is in love with, which is problematic when Amy is in love with his alter-ego. Little Jon exists.
Some non-Hedgehogs round out the cast of oddballs, the latter three of which may be familiar. Anton Veruca is the bully of the cast, not unlike 80’s Saturday morning villains like Catchem or Croc (brownies if you know those dopes). Sometimes he’s merely a nuisance with his brothers/gang (one of who, Matt, is named), other times he’s being an
accomplice with Dr Eggman, and sometimes he’s trying to date Amy ala Bowser. Dr Eggman is the main villain. As per the games, comes with traps and machines to eliminate Sonic, who he quickly works out is connected to Nicky. The plots involving him are as zany as you’d expect from the mad doctor. Tails is here too, and he’s slightly more…punk than usual, at least for a while. At first he’s more insistent on being cool and distant, but as soon as Anton acts up he’s willing to pitch a hand, and he’s more than enthusiastic about seeing Sonic. Finally, Charmy Bee is Silver the Hedgehog. Or he might as well be since he was so different. In his début, he was able to control time, and exclusively helped out the super side when he was in peril. Of what we know of CoroCoro’s adaptation of Sonic 2 that would have included Charmy, he acted more like a helper for Sonic and Tails and much more closely resembled his Sonic Heroes design.
Plot-wise, the early Manga series isn’t that plot heavy. Usually it’s either Eggman having come up with a machine to terrorise Sonic (and as a result the other residents of Hedgehog Town), or Anton trying to push his affection onto Amy in some way, or sometimes even both! The stories do come with some nice character moments though, and the aforementioned exposition on how Nicky’s parents met and its link to the Mary Garnet story is a touching read (it’s Archie equivalent is how the now non-existing Jules and Bernie met in the Great War). That said, the Manga is still very light-hearted in tone, and while there are moments of peril, it never gets dark (unless you find Bowser’s obsession with Peach dark, anyway).
Before we finish up with this section, I want to make a nod to Shogakukan’s later Sonic Manga series, Dash and Spin. Spanning two volumes and released between 2003 and 2005, these Manga were far removed from their then-decade old forerunners. They were very loosely based on Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2 and the Advance games released prior to 2003. By which I mean they has the characters from the Adventure games while Cream and Rouge made a cameo in the second volume. The premises for these stories (both the short strips and the longer stories) were downright nonsensical and not linked by any particular plot. It’s easily one of the most out-there pieces of media ever made under the official Sonic name. And it’s a barrel of fun for it.
Accessibility: Good luck trying to get any pages of the 1992-1993 series from even Japanese sources, this thing is super rare! There used to be a dedicated site hosting scanlations, but it has since become defunct. If you want to read them, pretty much the only option now is Youtube which has the ones scanlated up. In this case, I don’t think going there is such a big deal.
Dash and Spin is pretty rare, but not as rare because it’s more recent. You can probably find it through Japanese sources or some seller who’s imported it.
PS: The old chestnut about the old Manga appearing in Shogaku Yonensei is a bit off; the Manga was in books with grades, but ironically enough it seems it was never present in Yonensei. A younger grade like Ninensei was more likely to have them.
3. Man Of The Year
An animation from a video game that’s somehow forgotten.
Man of the Year is a short animation feature that was present in Sonic Jam, the Saturn’s compilation of the classic Mega Drive games. When you ask Sonic fans what Sonic Jam’s most distinctive feature is, most will point to the 3D overworld that acts as a hub to play the games, view the galleries and complete challenges.
However, tucked away amongst the galleries is this little cartoon. Surprisingly, the animation for the most part is very Western in style, to the point that the humans look like they stepped out of a Warner animation. It’s a very simple premise; Sonic is voted Man of the Year (should really be ‘Hog of the Year), Eggman gets angry about it, tries to defame Sonic. Set to a score of both public domain music and Sonic CD music, what sets it apart is just how bombastic and fantastic Eggman is in this short. He’s always emotive and energetic. At the start he’s in his pyjamas (a reference to the concept art?) and simply raging like a maniac until he gets his big idea. In the city, he lets loose and becomes a ball of fun as he terrorises the citizens with face-drawing, spindashing (!) and car-jumping antics, showing agility that not even outrunning Super Sonic can match.
Furthermore, despite the “To be continued” text, it never was finished, so technically Eggman won in the same way he won Sonic Chronicles. Who says you have to be super serious to be a success.
Accessibility: Unlike the other entries, this one is super easy to gain access to; it’s on Youtube as of writing. Otherwise, you need a SEGA Saturn and a copy of Sonic Jam, which are pretty hard to get hold of now.
4. Sonic Adventures: Dans Les Griffes De Robotnik
In the mid-nineties, everyone was having a go at adapting the games into comic format in their own way. Archie and Fleetway had various ones under their belt, faithfulness varying, and even Shogakukan had some parts of Sonic 2 adapted. Not ones to be left out, French publisher Sirène had their own shot at adapting Sonic 3 and Knuckles with two volumes as part of a series called Sonic Adventures. While this wouldn’t seem so odd at first, there are a few subtle changes that propel this from just a plain comic adaptation to a strange continuity in its own right.
Being that this was European, Sonic Adventures has much in common with the British Sonc the Comic. For example, the designs of Dr Robotnik and Amy are very similar to that of their Fleetway portrayals, and the grey Chaos Emerald has a heightened importance here that’s not in the games. Plot-wise, the comic starts out very simply; Robotnik has Sonic in his hands (the title, “Dans Les Griffes De Robotnik”, translates to “In the Clutches of Robotnik”), Tails helps Sonic escape, Robotnik kidnaps Amy as bait, Sonic and Tails have to go rescue her. While not entirely faithful to Sonic 3, it starts out benign enough. Sonic and Tails travel through environments with game elements while avoiding peril, then get knocked into water, follow the river course and come across a tribe of Echidnas working on the cliff face by the waterfall they’re about to go down.
This is probably the big thing about this particular alternate media. The Echidnas aren’t all dead, they’re alive and well! At least Knuckles is leading the tribe, right?
Meet Princess Alucion, Knuckles’ replacement for the duration of the first issue. She’s the leader of the Echidna tribe, and is pretty similar to Knuckles in almost every personality aspect aside from being able to tell Robotnik isn’t such a good doctor much more quickly. At least she has that rocking outfit to go with it.
Why did Sirène make this change? Beats me. The rest of the comic, while dealing with the Echidna tribe as well, ultimately follows a game-faithful path of getting the Chaos Emeralds, earning Knu—I mean Alucion’s trust so she helps them, and just saving the day in general (although Tails does think Sonic and Amy died at one point). You even get special stages and the typical Super Sonic ending here (something which they got from the games and not from Fleetway). Even though the changes are minor, they give this comic the honour of being the first to introduce the ideas of both a Knuckles tribe and a named female Echidna, pre-dating Archie by about three years (both volumes came out in 1994).
As a little addition, Sirène also published a guide for Sonic and Knuckles with its own little comic. Knuckles is present this time…but it’s not exactly a big adventure. Sonic and Knuckles are playing the video game in a home. That’s about it. Thrill a minute, isn’t it.
Accessibility: Tricky, but not impossible. I’m sure copies turn up on occasion on eBay, but it might be better to just check French auction sites instead.
5. Storybooks. Lots Of Them.
The written word is likely the most overlooked media out of all of them. When you think of characters from outside the games, you’d be more likely to find mentions of characters from all of the above than the likes of, say, Digger the Woodchuck or Whiffy the Skunk. And yet, there have been several series of story books and game books in both the UK and the US. Some are more like side stories to other media; others are worlds all to themselves.
Firstly, there are the stories from Golden Books. These are US-based and are essentially tie-ins to SatAM/Archie. Their tone, however, was more akin to AoStH or, more accurately, the pilot episode of SatAM. This is probably why the series had nonsensical plots about secret admirers and missing shoes, and why the designs were of the beta looks. Very simple stuff that’s more geared toward SatAM fans (if you like slapstick though). Otherwise, they’re not particularly that significant.
Also from America are the novels from Troll Associates publishing. This series is also set within the SatAM/Archie setting, although this time it takes its cues from the more serious side. That is, when it’s a story and not just a fact book. Notable for this story series is the fact that a book was made called Sonic X-Treme, although it has zero association with the cancelled game of the same name. Otherwise, the books are typical children’s novels with the occasional picture thrown in for good measure. They also try to expand on the SatAM universe, using original characters and concepts, like the idea of there being a master list of all the Freedom Fighter members. There’s even one book which brings Knuckles into the equation, something not done in more famous alternate media until Sonic Underground! It also sometimes contradicts things established in the cartoon series itself, and other times gets things flat-out wrong (Rotor is not a Sea Lion…). Simple stories, but the better option if you want some SatAM reading.
Ladybird, a big name in British publishing, produced a number of both story books and game books between 1994 and 1995. The story books are like the Golden Books in tone, but the setting is very firmly based in the games and not SatAM or even Sonic the Comic. The stories themselves are for very young readers so there isn’t much to them aside from Robotnik making a plan and Sonic and Tails stopping him, since both are based on Sonic 2. The game books are in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style and are for a slightly older audience. These books are bigger in length and feature later games in their narratives as well. Overall, these books aren’t big on differentiating themselves, but they’re the closest to adapting the games faithfully of pretty much any alternate media ever made for Sonic.
The Virgin Publishing books, written by three people under one name, are text-based, which is unique amongst the alternate Sonic media. It is a mix of comedy and serious narrative which is…not particularly set in any other media. The origin story is shared with Sonic the Comic, but the characters from other media that appear (Johnny, Porker, Sally, Tux) are more based on the game animals than their comic selves. And there’s also extra supporting cast although none that are particularly memorable. Even if the new characters aren’t that memorable, the stories are; for example, Sonic and the Silicon Warriors is Sonic and Tails jumping between video games and fighting their characters (knock-offs of real ones like Tetris and Mario) to beat Robotnik, and Sonic in the Fourth Dimension is about Sonic going back in time to stop Robotnik from being formed only for some sort of Mythos Creature to catalyse the change anyway (which isn’t how StC dealt with it). Quite the bizarre premises. There’s also a little flipbook animation in the corner of the pages, how quaint.
Finally, there are the Penguin Fantail game books. These are also in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style, and steeped very much in Sonic the Comic lore (to the point that they published Stay Sonic, which is Sonic’s origin in the Fleetway comic). These are longer and darker stories at about 200 pages each. While the stories can sound pretty basic, there are some dark moments in them (for example, in the Zone Zapper, Tails can end up roboticised and Sonic has to leave his friend with tears in his eyes). It has Knuckles and Amy in later books, and even a doppelgänger of Sonic called Zonic in-text (Zonik on the cover)! If you like game books and more heavy hitting moments, these might be up your alley.
Accessibility: Actually quite easy for the British books. You’ll probably need to go to Amazon and eBay, sure, but they’re more common than the comics. You can probably pick up a used copy from a general book seller for cheap. You can get the American ones via the same avenues…but for quite a bit more.
Note: I was unable to look over the Virgin Publishing books myself (that’s how overlooked they are), which is why that section was written under guidance from Doctor MK, who owns all four books. He enjoys the books.
As you can see, there’s a plethora of alternate media that’s been tucked away and left out of sight for a long while. Part of this is likely due to the age in which they were released; things were harder to keep tabs on in the 90’s when there was little to no internet available. As such, it’s unlikely that such overlooked alternate media will spring up in the future of the franchise. But if it somehow does, it’ll be quite fun to discover and explore it as we should do!