Saturday, 1 June 2013

20 Years of Sonic The Comic: A Tribute

Sonic The Comic
20 Years of Sonic The Comic: A Tribute

Britain’s fortnightly Sonic The Comic turns twenty this year. Published by Egmont Fleetway, the series, which ran from 1993 to 2002, was originally conceived as more of a Sega comic. The book featuring a lead strip featuring Sonic but also backup strips featuring other Sega titles like Golden Axe, Shinobi, Wonder Boy and Streets of Rage. Over time, the focus shifted further in the direction of Sonic eventually dropping all other strips entirely (with the notable exception of Decap Attack, a strip initially used to advertise a now little known game but which evolved into something of a pet project for writer and artist Nigel Kitching).

STC was my first introduction to comics, I first picked it up at issue 101, just missing out on the issue widely considered to be the best in the series….*sigh*. Nonetheless, I was hooked and bought every issue from then on up until the series’ cancellation. I have many fond memories of the series, of taking my copies to school and reading them on my lunch break, re-enacting scenes with m friends and of my first tastes of freedom as a child when I was allowed to go into town by myself to buy it from the newsagent. The series has been with me my whole life and means a lot to me. But my love of STC is not only nostalgia talking, it was a genuinely great comic.

In the 90’s Sega were keen to market Sonic as “The hedgehog with attitude” and any publication dealing with the character was delivered an incredibly condescending bible of guidelines for handling the character. This bible lead to the majority of UK Sonic books being borderline unreadable as they tried desperately to push Sonic as the cool dude.
STC took the bold move of throwing the Bible in the trash and doing their own thing. STC’s Sonic had attitude, but he also had flaws. He was cocky, he was rude, picking on his friends, giving them annoying nicknames. He was a hero and he was cool, but sometimes, well, he was a bit of a dick.
This version of the character polarises a lot of fans, many simply can’t get on board with his rudeness, feeling that occasionally it goes to far. Those fans that like it however, realise that STC offers perhaps the most developed and believable version of the character across the entire Sonic multiverse.

Fleetway's Super Sonic was radically different to the version of the character seen in the games
STC took the established Sonic series and adapted it very liberally. While the majority of game tropes feature in the comic, for the most part, they are radically different from their game counterparts. The adaptations of the games themselves, were almost unrecognisable. Sonic 3D went from a simple “save the animals” game, to a story arc that took place over the course of two years involving interdimensional travel and Roman empire style gladiatorial combat.
Later adaptations, like the Sonic Adventure saga took little to nothing from the games but that’s what was so great about it. They took the stories and changed them to fit perfectly with the new world they had established. 

STC was a hit in all aspects, the writing was spot on and the artwork (especially the work of Richard Elson and Nigel Dobbyn) was epic. Characters were well thought out and believable and the new characters created exclusively for the comic were original and interesting, even the reader interaction through the comic’s mascot Megadroid was enjoyable.

the earlier issues weren't as refined as the series would later become and undoubtedly featured some of the worst art of the whole series
Not everything was perfect of course, any long running series working with multiple talents is going to be hit and miss. There were some cringe worthy stories, some bad art every now and then and reading it now, a lot of the references to British pop culture feel very dated, but for the most part, the hit rate was positive and the majority of strips were great.

The cover of the final issue, #223 which reprinted the Drakon Empire story arc
From issue 133 the book started to run reprint strips at the back of the comic and sadly, this was the start of the series decline. Eventually one reprint became two, then three and eventually, from issue 185 all four strips were replaced and the book became a full reprint with no new content whatsoever. Even long time readers struggled to accept this change and sales dropped until eventually the series came to an end at issue 223 with nothing more than a brief article by Nigel Kitching on the final page to let readers know the series wouldn’t be continuing.
STC remained popular with its fanbase however, Kitching and Elson are still hounded by fans and the unofficial follow up Sonic The Comic Online gives fans the chance to continue the adventures of the STC cast.

The final panel of original artwork in the series before the comic went full reprint.
STC was a great comic, it treated the Sonic series with respect and a lot of love. Those who read the book were privy to some of the best characterisation and story telling that Sonic has ever had. That we’re still talking about it twenty years down the line proves the quality of the book. For sonic fans, it will always be held up as a benchmark of quality for the series and will be loved for another twenty years to come.


Sonic Sez
"If you enjoyed this review, why not check out these episode by episode reviews of the sonic cartoons?"
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
(01-05) (06-10) (11-15) (16-20) (21-25) (26-30) (31-35) (36-40) (41-45) (46-50) (55-60) (61-65) (Xmas Blast)
Sonic The Hedgehog
(01-05) (06-10) (11-15) (16-20) (21-26)
Sonic Underground
(01-05) (06-10) (11-15) (16-20) (21-25) (26-30) (31-35) (36-40)

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