by Glenn Matchett
I would be lying if I could recall when I became interested in Sonic The Hedgehog. The first I recall being exposed to him was through my handheld Game gear console. Back in the 90’s it seemed to me that the Game gear was as good as it got when it came to handheld gaming. I played on that thing for hours and would often play the same game over and over.
Among those games were many Sonic The Hedgehog ones. Around this time in the UK they were also airing a cartoon featuring the video game hedgehog and even though there didn’t seem to be many episodes I would watch this show religiously. The show featured a very kid orientated story featuring Sonic and Tales fighting against Robotnik (who for some reason in recent years has been renamed Dr. Eggman) in various wacky adventures.
In the cartoon Robotnik was ‘assisted’ (I use that term very loosely) by two robots named Scratch and Grounder. The cartoon was very simplistic and in retrospect probably wasn’t very good but I loved it to bits. It was the combination of these two that likely read me to reading the UK ‘Sonic The Comic’.
Starting in 1993 I was right there with the comic when it published issue 1. As far as I’m aware (and what my brief research has told me) this version of the Sonic Comic was available in the UK only so I’m not sure how familiar readers in the US will be with it but I’ll do my best to elaborate as I go.
As a side note I am very aware of the US version of the (as far as I’m aware) still ongoing Sonic comic but I’ll talk about that in a little bit.
Basically the comic often featured many stories. The first and main one would of course feature Sonic usually fighting against Robotnic’s evil plans to enslave him and his friends and ultimately gain control of the land they lived in. The UK comic also featured stories featuring many of Sonic’s supporting cast. Initially this was just tales and a few nameless animals but over time the main story featured many characters from the games including Amy, Knuckles and the Chaotix Crew among others. Initially the characters also didn’t seem to wear clothes but over time the comics tone grew gradually darker and many characters would get their own unique set of clothes. I assume this is because they were following the lead of the games which many of the Sonic stories were based on.
The comic also featured comic adaptations of many other Sega games. Although I knew the world of Sonic inside out and loved his adventures and the ones his cast would experience in their own spin off stories I could take or leave the other stories included in the comic. One I specifically remember was an adaption of the Sega game ‘Ecco The Dolphin’. I hated that dolphin and was often puzzled why anyone would want to read his ‘adventures’.
Often these stories (and the magazine itself) was ‘hosted’ by an original character known as ‘Megadroid’ whose likeness was based on the classic Sega console the Mega Drive. Years before I read ‘proper’ Marvel comics Megadroid would talk to the readers like they were his friends and would make you feel involved in the stories and really care about the characters in them. Of course I realise this was something that Stan Lee did some 30 years before I was blissfully unaware of this while reading Sonic The Comic.
Much like the Beano and Dandy I often did not know or care who the creative teams were behind these stories. I still to this day do not know who wrote many of the stories I enjoyed in my childhood and early teenage years. I have discovered quite recently that one of Mark Millar’s earliest tales featured in Sonic The Comic so I do find that kind of ironic all these years later.
Although the format was very straight forward and dare I say it ‘kiddie’ initially the tone soon shifted. Hints of this were first introduced in issue 8 which featured not only the origin of Sonic but also how his beginnings were connected to Robotnik. Years later they would return to this issue with an issue including time travel which revealed that another future Sonic was present at that very accident and was not only responsible for his own creation but also his greatest foe. I recall loving this story and immediately rereading the initial issue the origin featured in and my young tiny mind being blown when indeed I spotted a second Sonic in that issue in the background. Time travel featured heavily in Sonic the Comic but this is the moment that I probably fell in love with the concept and potential of stories involving the story device which would lead me to enjoy many other different stories and characters years later.
It was also a plot involving time travel that made Sonic ‘miss’ 6 months or so of time and when he returned he found that in his absence Robotnik had taken over. It was here the comic took on a darker tone as Sonic led a rebellion against an insane dictator. This rebellion story would last all the way to the title’s 100th issue which saw not only the main story but all the backups lead in to one giant story that involved Robotnik’s downfall. Again I remember being amazed by how these 4 or 5 different stories had kind of been merging under my very nose and ultimately led to the books longest running plot being resolved. Again I can probably pinpoint this and give credit to Sonic the Comic for my love of long term plotting, especially if you don’t know what’s going on in front of your very eyes.
Sadly after this the title lost some of its. It tried to recapture the magic by sending Sonic to another dimension and have him fight new villains and make new allies but it didn’t hold my interest as much. I left the title and it soon would end its run and then proceed to reprint its stories over until it ceased publication in 2002.
Shortly before I stopped reading during a trip to Florida in 1995 I would meet a very different Sonic and a very different Sonic the Comic. While in Wall Mart I picked up 2 American comics one of which was Detective Comics Annual 1995 (we’ll talk about that another time) and a much thicker Sonic comic. Thinking this was connected to the Sonic I knew and loved I eagerly read it only to become confused.
This comic (published by Archie) featured a different Sonic and a different supporting cast. The plot was the same and it featured them fighting against an evil dictator in Robotnik but nearly everything else was different. I enjoyed the stories but not source any further stories featuring this very different hedgehog. Nearly 2 years later a new Sonic cartoon began airing in the UK and unlike the slapstick simplistic Sonic Adventures this cartoon was a little darker, a little more mature and featured the characters I had discovered in Florida.
I immediately preferred this cartoon and sadly didn’t get to watch as many episodes as I would have liked. It was aired sporadically and I would often miss it. I do remember the last 2 part being really enjoyable and again using that old favourite of mine, time travel to wrap up the show.
I wonder sometimes how I would view the show now I am older. I still have the comic I got in 1995 and reread it not long ago and still enjoyed it. As far as I’m aware (feel free to correct me) Archie still publishes Sonic and they are reaching very high numbers. I am not sure if this is a spinoff of the TV show or it was a case of the comic coming first but either way I am happy to see something I enjoyed so much in my youth continue to be enjoyed by so many.
Next Up: Animation madness!