When you think of comic books, what character do you think of right away? Superman? Batman? Or are you like my friend ShadowkatRegn and have Spider-Man pop into your mind? These are just a few of famous comic book characters that have shaped the childhoods of so many people, but I tend to think of a different character -- A character who was as big a part of my own childhood as Spider-Man and Batman ever were. That character is Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic was given his own comic book series by Archie Comics way back in 1993. When I strolled into that comic book store in New York way back then, I almost soiled myself when my brother showed me that second issue of the Sonic comic. For the next bunch of years, I collected the comics, and when I stopped buying them, I had (and still have) over a hundred issues, in order. But the real question here is, what pulled me into that comic book universe so much? What did the comics have that the games didn't? Well, the short answer to that question is "a story." The Genesis games didn't have much of a story -- Robotnik (not Eggman) was doing bad things. Stop him. That was pretty much it. It would be a huge understatement to say that the comics expanded on that.
The comic universe, which took place on the planet Mobius (later revealed to actually be Earth when the series went the way of the Sonic Adventure games), told the tale of at least a dozen main characters other than Sonic who had banded together, The Freedom Fighters, in order to stop Robotnik from roboticizing the citizens of Knothole Village, destroying the forest, and just generally causing havoc. Throughout the series, we're shown exactly what kind of "people" these characters are, what their personalities are like, and what battles they're fighting, both inside and outside. Especially in the later issues, you really felt like you connected to the characters.
There were relationships, heartbreaks, family members revealed over time, and videogame tie-ins with expanded storylines. It was the perfect compliment to the games, which always left me thinking about the characters after I was finished with them. Don't get me wrong, the games were absolutely excellent, and they still are. But there was little more than running to the end of the stages and beating up the bad guys. The stories that the comics told were perfect ways to get more of a good thing. There would even be panels where the characters would break the fourth wall and either acknowledge that they were in a comic book or talk to the reader directly. It was sometimes silly, sometimes serious, and always awesome.
Another interesting part of the comic series was the fan art section, where people would draw various Sonic-related pictures and they would be printed at random. There were some incredibly talented people who submitted stuff to that publication, and I would spend hours marveling at the fact that some of that art wasn't actually official. I got this gem of a drawing printed in one of the 48-page specials (the Sonic 3D Blast adaptation):
I actually suck at drawing just as much now as I did back then. Good Lord, that picture hurts to look at. And I just now realized they misspelled "Mahopac." Huh.
The comics, to an extent, were also connected to another part of Sonic's expanded universe. Back then, there were two different cartoon series that aired simultaneously -- The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and what came to be known as Sonic The Hedgehog SatAM, which is the one the comic was linked to. The cartoon had all the characters that the comic did, and provided the same level of back story. There was some pretty serious stuff in there, too. The last episode of the series ended on a cliffhanger as Robotnik was seemingly killed. In fact, Robotnik was probably the best part of that series. It was awesome to see exactly how evil he could be. On a weekly basis, you got to see how truly heartless he was as he caused pain and misery to all the animal creatures, and it wasn't hard to connect to the citizens of the village when something bad happened. Sonic the Hedgehog and cartoons? It was enough to make a kid weep tears of joy.
The Sonic comic from Archie Comics and both cartoon series were a huge parts of my childhood. Sonic the Hedgehog was my favorite game series, and the 'hog himself was one of my favorite characters (he still is as long as I'm not playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the PS3), so getting all of the back story that the comics provided was a welcome extension to the series.
As I wrote this blog, I was flipping through some of those comics for the nostalgia factor, and memories of my life as a kid raced back to me, and I smiled bigger than I have in quite a long time. Thank you, Sega, and thank you, Archie Comics, for making my childhood that much more enjoyable.