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Back Issues: Getting up to speed on Sonic’s comics

Sega character headlined Archie series for 24 years

Sonic the Hedgehog is finally making the jump from video games to movies tonight, but he’s been thriving in the medium of comic books for more than two decades.

The hypersonic hedgehog sped from the Sega Genesis to the pages of Archie Comics with a four-issue limited series that began with #0 in November 1992. That led to an ongoing title in 1993 that grew into the Guinness World Record holder for the longest running comic series based on a video game.

The first comics seem aimed at younger readers, although there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments even for an adult (chronologically speaking anyway) who hadn’t played a Sonic video game in years and read them for the first time preparing to write this column. (That said, I still needed an assist from local Sonic fan Chloe Arnold to make sure I had my facts straight.)

Each issue included multiple stories, some only a page long, and all more or less self-contained. They feature Sonic and his Freedom Fighter friends battling against the villainous Dr. Robotnik, who turns the animal denizens of the planet Mobius into roboticized slaves. Familiar video game elements like the rings Sonic gathers and the Chaos Emeralds players pursue are integrated into the stories.

Sonic’s allies include Miles “Tails” Prower, the two-tailed flying fox from the video games; Princess Sally Acorn, the resistance leader and Sonic’s love interest; Rotor Walrus, the team’s mechanic and tech whiz; and Antoine D’Coolette, an uptight and easily frightened rival of Sonic’s who nonetheless proved his mettle as a hero. Later allies included Sonic’s video game frenemy, Knuckles the Echidna, guardian of the floating Angel Island, and Amy Rose, the pink hedgehog with a massive mallet and a major crush on Sonic.

As the series approached 40 issues, the stories grew a bit more serious and began to place a greater emphasis on continuity. Characters like Tails and Knuckles would earn their own spinoffs and ongoing series.

Despite the simple concepts that like standard Saturday morning cartoon fare (and there was a Sonic cartoon), the comics developed a complex history of Mobius in which the animal-like inhabitants battled the Overlanders, basically humans, in the Great War. The tide was turned when Overlander Julian Kintobor, the man who would be Robotnik, allied himself with King Acorn. Later, he would betray the king and seize power for himself.

In “Sonic the Hedgehog” #50, thanks to a combination of the Freedom Fighters’ interference and betrayal by his nephew Snively, Robotnik was destroyed by his own weapon, the Ultimate Annihilator. He would soon be replaced as the series’ main antagonist by Dr. Eggman, an alternate reality version of Robotnik who defeated the Freedom Fighters in his own timeline.

In 2013, Archie brought Sonic together with another video game property, Capcom’s Mega Man, who starred in a long series of successful games for Nintendo. Dr. Eggman teamed up with Mega Man’s longtime foe Dr. Wily. As with any good crossover, the heroes fought each other before teaming up and taking on the real villains.

After Wily and Eggman used the power of a Chaos Emerald to alter reality, Mega Man, Sonic and company attempt to undo it. Things go all right for Mega Man’s world, but sabotage by Eggman leads to a rebooted timeline for Sonic and company. This was actually due to a lawsuit against Archie Comics by former writer Ken Penders, which resulted in the removal of any characters and concepts he created.

The Archie series continued for a few years after that, coming to a close in 2017 with issue 290.

A year later, IDW launched its Sonic ongoing series, written by longtime Archie “Sonic” writer Ian Flynn, with art by multiple “Sonic” veterans. The new series picks up from the aftermath of the 2017 video game “Sonic Forces,” and despite some shared characters, is a separate continuity from the Archie series.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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Recommended Reading

* “Sonic the Hedgehog Archives” Vol. 9 — The Archie series begins to shift to a more dramatic tone that emphasizes continuity without sacrificing the stories’ humor.

* “Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide” — The flagship character of the Sega Genesis crosses over with Nintendo’s weapons-appropriating robot as Drs. Eggman and Wily team up to harness the reality-altering power of Chaos Emeralds.

* “Sonic the Hedgehog Vol. 1: Fallout” — The series jumps to IDW with a new continuity, new characters and old favorites as it draws from the games themselves rather than previous comics.

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