SEGA ends 25-year 'Sonic' partnership with Archie Comics
As noted in January, Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comics (including Sonic Universe and Overdrive) have been delayed for unspecified reasons, with suspicion falling on a renewed contract dispute with SEGA.
Today, the official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account announced that SEGA of America were "parting ways" with Archie; promising that it was not "the end of Sonic in comics", but a "decision to take a different direction for the series that will be announced at a later date".
Not just fans, but current and former staff of the series were stunned by the news.
We have compiled an incomplete list of series staffers' twitter feeds for fans to send their best wishes and appreciation to, below:
- Jennifer Hernandez: @ChibiJenHen_Art
- Evan Stanley @SpiritSonic
- Tracey Yardley! - @YardleyArt
- Ian Flynn @IanFlynnBKC
- Adam Bryce Thomas - @AdamBryceThomas
- Tyson Hesse - @Tyson_Hesse
- Matt Herms - @MattHerms
- Jon Gray - @JonGrayWB
- Jamal Peppers - @Jamal_Peppers
- Ryan 'Jamps' Jampole - @Jampolinski
- Elaina Unger - @ElainaUnger
- Mike Pellerito - @Pellertweeto
- Paul Kaminski - @Paul_Kaminski
- Vincent Lovallo - @Vinployee23
We can only hope that Sonic the Hedgehog lives on in comic book form, no matter where his speedy feet take him.
This story will be updated as new information arrives, so please stay tuned.
Update (Sonious) 7/21/17: Sonic's verified Twitter has announced that Sega is now partnering with IDW Publishing to continue Sonic comic publications.
SEGA and IDW are thrilled to announce a partnership to continue to bring Sonic comics to fans. The new series arrives 2018! pic.twitter.com/neT3oAMNUE
— Sonic the Hedgehog (@sonic_hedgehog) July 21, 2017
About the authorRingtailed Fox — read stories — contact (login required)
a freelance editor & writer and Fox-raccoon hybrid from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, interested in bicycle riding, reading and video games
End of a fucking era
A lot of eras are ending as of late.
Comic books are a very niche market, I wonder what sales have been like for this series. I buy comics weekly at my local shop and now that I think about it, I don't think I've seen any new issues for the Sonic comics in a long while... maybe my store wasn't selling enough and decided to cut back on their orders?
Hopefully this change will end up benefiting the series.
To clarify my comment by "a long while" - I mean even further back than the delay mentioned in the story. Maybe early fall is the last time I saw an issue?
Whatever the case, hopefully they're not trying to pull the DC/Marvel move of consistently rebooting the series or coming up with excuses to constantly restart with new number one issues (although that irks collectors, I've seen stories supporting the practice because it boosts sales... at least temporarily).
I have read at least 180 issues of the Archie Sonic comics. They are outstanding. Way, way, way better than what Sega has been doing with the characters and stories in the games and on TV. I think this decision spells doom to be honest for the credibility of Sonic as a franchise with any real depth. Sega likely plans to take the character more in the Sonic Boom direction, i.e. cheap comedy and gags similar to what happened with Teen Titans Go.
Many long time fans have been holding out hope that someday the Sonic SatAM franchise would be resurrected on television, and the Archie comics have kept that hope alive by continuing the storyline from that series in comic form. I think this puts the final nail in the coffin for those hopes. I used to be a huge huge Sonic fan, but I think they've lost me, maybe forever.
It's for the best. The series was good in its earlier years, before Ken Penders' delusions of grandeur began to balloon in proportion to the success of the comics. He did make some good contributions to the cast of characters and the mythos, but it's like at some point he forgot that he was supposed to be writing the canon for a property that existed apart from him. I started losing interest in the comics when he started inserting way more of his own vision into the canon than was necessary or welcome for the kid in me that still had some nostalgia for SatAM and wanted to see more of those characters and that setting. But, for whatever reason, enough people enjoyed the comic because of (but I'm guessing more like in spite of) what he brought to it so either way, it wasn't going to be the same without him. I'm curious to know if the post-Penders sales even justified the comic's continuation, or if this is a sign that Sega, who finally seem to be getting serious about keeping Sonic both relevant and still Sonic in the games are planning to use the comics to (pardon the pun) illustrate the direction they're taking Sonic as a whole. I hope they don't do away with the original, core cast of the comics (basically the Freedom Fighters) and in fact it's baffled me as to why they never made a game set in that world given how much Sonic fans to this day love SatAM and how starved for decent characters, stories and content recent games have been. When you're resorting to letting people create OCs in an official game (Forces) and letting fans make your game for you (Mania), it doesn't look good on you if you're still too proud to let a western creation into your ostensibly Japanese games just because your shit is Japanese and their shit is Western. That's the old story as to why we never saw the Freedom Fighters and Knothole village and all that in a game, anyway - because the Japanese division were a bunch of babies who were butthurt that their beloved Mickey Mouse Felix The Cat ripoff actually needed some likable supporting characters to have a likable show.
The problem for me is I just trust Archie more than I trust Sega with the direction of Sonic. Can you blame me? Sonic Boom is pretty bad. The Sonic anime was not awful, but it was largely a souless cash grab trying to keep Sonic relevant in the age of Pokemon and Digimon. That was the whole reason for them being in the human world with Chris being shoved into the story. Just so kids could have their self insert character and pretend they were going on adventures with Sonic and the gang. That was stupid and patronizing. Sega thought kids couldn't just enjoy a great story, they needed their Ash Ketchum/Taichi Kamiya self insert.
I have not been interested in a Sonic game in years. It's the same cast of characters doing the same stuff over and over. At least the RPG Sonic game tried something different. Yes, it is shameful that they haven't used the far superior supporting characters created by DIC and Archie. If it is indeed Japanese pride that prevented that, then they deserve to fail.
I suppose they might surprise me but I don't have high hopes for where Sega is taking Sonic without Archie. Creativity at Sega has been spiraling downward ever since they gave up on the console market.
We'll, it's kinda understandable that they wouldn't want to use characters in their games if they were at risk of being sued for it, or would have to pay a high price to license what should in their eyes be their own property.
If the comics are not distributed or popular in Japan, they wouldn't be part of the culture of Sonic as followed by the game development team, so they may see no need to incorporate the comic characters.
Doesn't Sega own the rights to those characters though? I don't know how else SatAM and the comics could've shared a setting and characters if Sega didn't own them. They had a cameo in Sonic Spinball and there was a short little demo designed by (or at least under) Sega of America that was based on SatAM, but when they pitched it to Yuji Naka of Sonic Team (who also happened to be the creator of the original Sonic and so it's not unreasonable to assume he was a bit biased as to what a Sonic game should be) he shot down the idea. But he hasn't been with the company since like 2006 and the reception to most of the ideas they've tried and characters they've introduced since Sonic Adventure 2 hasn't exactly been overwhelmingly positive. So to me it makes more sense to use well-established characters and settings that already have a fanbase than to keep putting Sonic in a different world with different villains and sidekicks with each new game and hoping the fans and critics like it this time.
I'm no expert, but I understand that Archie's prior failure to properly secure rights over characters created by its writers for the Sonic comics may have partly led to this result (see "Games imitating comics" in RingtailedFox's prior piece).
That's certainly true of the characters Ken Penders introduced, which were pretty much all Echidnas. Sonic Chronicles had characters with some similarities to his, and he sued Sega and Bioware for that. Which is pathetic when you consider that all Penders ever did to create his "totally original" characters was basically take Knuckles' design and give it tits, or beaded hair, or a vest, or a robe or some shit. And there was another writer for the comics who decided to follow Penders' example and sue over reprints of comics he worked on. So I'd say you're pretty much right in that regard, if by "partly led to this result" you mean the soft-reboot. They undoubtedly were tired of dealing with this shit and paying for settlements to people who basically just felt entitled to keep making money off things they no longer worked on by being able to claim they still own them on a technicality that shouldn't have existed in the first place.
The Knothole Freedom Fighters, such as Princess Sally, Rotor, Bunnie Rabbot and Antoine are all 100% owned by SEGA. DiC created them as works-for-hire for SEGA. Aside from minor cameos in Sonic Spinball (1993), they have not even been mentioned or acknowledged by SEGA.
I'm pretty sure CodyFox hit the nail on the head regarding the franchise. Sega, as well as Nintendo, seem to not like re-interpretations of their creations at ALL... and ESPECIALLY by westerners. It's "not-made-here syndrome" taken to an extreme degree. SEGA's lack of consistent quality and disinterest in advertising its flagship brand is baffling, to be honest. I've been told by my American contacts that Cartoon Network barely even mentions Sonic Boom on the air.
I've also noticed that if it's not Sonic, Tails, Dr. Eggman, and maybe Knuckles or Amy Rose (who at this point are just glorified cheerleaders), SEGA really doesn't care at all.
I'd say SEGA really lost its footing with the Sonic games back around 1995 when the Saturn launched and most of the American staff that helped make the games at Sonic Team USA (and to some extent, SEGA Technical Institute) were let go (where most ex-Sonic Team USA members formed Naughty Dog and made the Crash Bandicoot games for the PS1), partly from creative differences with the team and Yuji Naka. I've been told that Sonic was NEVER that popular in Japan, and was at its most successful in the west, where it saw various localizations and splintering of the franchise into different continuities (such as Sonic the Comic in the UK, or Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog in America). With that in mind, SEGA of Japan has been trying to focus Sonic almost exclusively on Japan to increase popularity at home (ethnocentrism), at the expense of everywhere else. With revenue from games declining in the west, they became severely rushed, quality declined and it became a vicious loop. I'd say that SatAM/Archie simply got caught in the crossfire of this culture clash AND the Penders lawsuits.
The thing that really makes me rip my hair out in frustration, however, is SEGA's hypocrisy regarding the franchise. They say they want to unify the franchise under a coherent standard. Fine... but why declare Classic and Modern Sonic separate characters??? Why charge SEPARATE licensing fees for them? And why go create Sonic Boom right after and then say that's ALSO separate too??? Is this a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing? Or is it more like Bern Stolar-style arbitrary rulemaking and intentional contradiction to spite business partners?
What has me worried is that SEGA is... difficult to work with, at the BEST of times. At the worst, companies have actually said "screw it, not dealin' with ya anymore" like what happened during Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric with the developer. Even Nintendo tends to keep a close eye on SEGA during their collaborations (such as Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games) and keep them from getting too... odd, but they seem to be the only ones able to do so. So, other comic publishers (IDW, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse) might seem VERY interested to continue Sonic at first, but when they get told what the (OH SO MANY) restrictions on use of character are, they might just say "lolnope!" and walk away.
Having read the comics almost from the beginning (first was Issue 5 in mid-1993), the comics were also incredibly rare by American standards: they had a generally consistent creative team throughout the entire run. Usually, writer and artists and editors are swapped out every 5-10 issues, sometimes even more frequently. With the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the same names appear for DOZENS OF ISSUES ON END! Steven Butler joined around Issue 30 (early 1996) and contributed well past Issue 180 (2007-ish?), as just one example. This all means that long-lasting epic stories can be told, world-building on a massive scale took place, and the comics eventually amassed a lore almost entirely their own. With only a couple reboots towards the end of the series' run, the comics were remarkably consistent with very little being retconned in or out by the writers as time went by. Even after the tightening of the SEGA mandates and the reboots, the comic still had a fairly decent lore of its own that it had adapted from the drastically and rapidly changing circumstances it found itself in, and I still found it enjoyable, even if i missed the old characters and universe that I grew up with.
With all this in mind, I actually do enjoy the modern games alongside the classic ones. I thought Sonic Adventure was pretty fun, the Dreamcast in general was amazing, but I believe that Sonic started declining long before the Dreamcast was killed off.
~ The Legendary RingtailedFox
Update on Sega's new partnership with IDW publishing announced on their Twitter feed.
This was the same direction the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went after losing their contract with Archie: to IDW
IDW is an excellent choice. One only has to look at the My Little Pony comics to see this.
Sonic Sat AM was probably more of a 1980s thing. The show seems to ride off the coat tails of the Terminator movies, Fern Gully and Star Trek VI, all of which was the style of the time of 1980s new age post modernism including the 1980s building architecture there used to be from that time making the buildings trying to imitate late 19th century archiecture a little.
The same pattern seemed to repeat itself. The first season of Nelvana Care Bears was darker with good story telling, then the parents kaveched and the later episodes were sillier and more poorly written. The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie was darker and then the parents complained and then the 1991 TMNT II Secret of the Ooze was sillier and more absurd. Same with Sonic Sat AM, the 1993-1994 season 1 episodes were darker, probably better written and then season 2 was more light hearted, Robotnik seemed more comical and absurd.
There was also this episode of the Simpsons where Marge complains to the Itchy and Scratchy animation studio wherein Marge is depicted as a squirrel getting offed of something by Itchy and Scratchy, which probably alludes to the above mentioned animated shows and movies. Same thing happened with John Kricfalusi and Nickelodeon.
The parents can kavech and complain, but I will always know that season 1 of Nelvana Care Bears was the best. ; ) :)
(sry if what I wrote seems a little unrelated to the comic but I couldn't help. : ) )
You're 100% correct in your thoughts, DreadWolf, though I'd also add that show writer Ben Hurst (also of Tiny Toons fame) said in an interview on the SatAM Sonic DVD box set he and co-writer Len Janson were heavily inspired by the cyberpunk film BladeRunner (1982) for the dark gritty dystopian look of Robotropolis.
~ The Legendary RingtailedFox
Randomly going to resurrect this comment section to explain something I've seen Sonic comic fans get confused about before in the past and which is pretty obvious if you get the reference; Fiona Fox.
Anyway, she's basically a villainous character introduced as a "love" interest for both Sonic and Tails, only to turn out to have been using them the entire time because she was a bad guy. Apparently, Sonic fans thought this was a terrible retcon of an unpopular pairing, but they should have seen it coming a mile away because her name is an obvious homage to Bond villainess Fiona Volpe a.k.a. the only interesting thing going on in the entire movie Thunderball.
Apparently, the crossover between Bond and Sonic fans is non-existent. Heck, I'm not even a Sonic fan (kind of hate all of it), but I keep obsessive tabs on cartoon foxes in general, cartoon vixens in particular (sexy cartoon vixens in specific). So, there's that random bit of trivia out of nowhere.
Fiona Fox is actually a pretty interesting character for me. I think she was kind of a missed opportunity in some ways for Tails' character development. Although they did use her villainous version to create a love triangle that ultimately led to an excellent conflict between Sonic and Tails, that conflict was concluded within a single issue and I always thought that conclusion was much too jarring. I think if they were going to do that, the split between Sonic and Tails should have lasted for several issues. I think that particular issue of the comic was kind of messy anyway, because Sonic and Tails coming to blows over what happened with Fiona was really just a "B" side story to the revolution story in which Tail's parents were trying to overthrow the King. There was a bit too much jammed into those issues and I think the whole resolution of the Fiona Fox Sonic/Tails conflict was rushed as a result.
I do think they did a decent job with her character arc and her impact on the main group, but it could have been much better. Personally, I think the initial issue where Tails first meet the "fake Fiona" was an excellent introduction, particularly given how early that issue was in the comic's history and the lesser quality of the art back then. That issue set up a potentially very poignant story about Tails' coming into his own maturity and I think if they had brought back "fake Fiona" and, for example, had an arc with Tails trying to free her from Robotnic and reprogram her to allow her to have freedom of choice, this could have created a more interesting character I think than the real Fiona (yea that might have created another character similar to Nicole, but I think there would have been more than enough to differentiate them). Then if they introduced the real Fiona, just think of the intriguing conflicts there could have been between fake Fiona (good) and real Fiona (evil). That just writes itself!
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