While playing some of the earlier Sonic games for my playthrough, I thought it might also be fun to re-read the Sonic comic that I remembered fondly from the time.
Sonic the Comic was launched by Fleetway Editions in May of 1993, while the Sonic games were arguably at their peak of popularity. Following a similar format to many other UK comics at the time, STC was a 30 page fortnightly series that featured several 5-7 page comics per issue as well as a number of features such as game reviews, news and of course a letters page. While most of the comics were rotating features, as you can probably guess from the title every issue opened with a Sonic story. Later in publication, the stories based on other games were less common, with 2-3 Sonic related stories regularly appearing in each issue. Much like 2000 AD’s Tharg, each issue also featured the host character Mega Droid who introduces the issue as well as answering the letters page.
The first issue featured the Sonic story Enter: Sonic which acts as a largely standalone introduction to the character (though does end with a plot thread that’s picked up in the next issue) as well as the first part of Shinobi and Golden Axe stories. Rounding out the issue are several pages of reviews, a news feature which highlighted the then upcoming Mega Drive and Mega CD 2 hardware updates, tips and a preview of the two new strips that would be starting in issue 7: Streets of Rage and Kid Chameleon.
The very early Sonic strips are largely forgettable affairs, with changing writers and artists each issue. It’s not until issue 7 that we get the first Sonic story from Nigel Kitching and Richard Elson, the team who will end up being the primary Sonic creators for the life of the series. Over their initial four issue run, Kitching and Elson introduce Super Sonic, cover the origin of Sonic and Robotnik (which is largely in line with most versions of the contemporary western backstory) and have Sonic end up several months in the future where Robotnik has taken over Mobius in his absence. These four stories are definitely the high point of the first year of Sonic comics, and clearly readers at the time realised this too as the more simplistic standalone stories became less and less common over time.
One thing that is quite noteworthy about the stories not by Kitching and Elson from this era is that some feature very early work by now comics superstar Mark Millar though sadly, these are among the worst of the Sonic stories. It’s certainly not helped by the fact that the majority of Millar’s stories have different artists, and feature some of the worst artwork seen in the first year of the series. Most of the characters don’t quite have their established personalities at this point in the series and while Kitching was also guilty of it at times, Sonic under Millar seems to lean too far into the ‘Hedgehog with Attitude’ slogan of the series at the time to the point that he’s pretty much entirely unlikable. Sonic’s Super Sonic alter ego is also completely different: unlike the games which depict him as simply Sonic but powered up, the comic instead has him as basically a deranged psychopath – something which will become much more pronounced in future stories.
Tails is also noticeably out of character compared to modern versions as he’s regularly portrayed as dumb and clumsy instead of the genius inventor he is these days – a role that will be played by Porker Lewis later in the comic. Millar’s stories also were apparently written in a batch early in the series’ production, aside from a footnote at the start of each that mentions that the planet is ruled by Robotnik this doesn’t feature in the dialogue. Tails is largely useless in these early stories as he’s regularly being rescued by Sonic though he does get his own solo series at the end of the year where he does a bit better.
Aside from the Sonic stories, most of the Mega Drive’s biggest titles of the time all have stories. In the first year of the comic Golden Axe, Shinobi, Streets of Rage, Wonder Boy, Kid Chameleon, Ecco the Dolphin and Decap Attack all have stories.
The first non-Sonic story in the comic, Shinobi follows the titular Shinobi Joe Musahsi on his mission to defeat the evil Neo Zeed and save his girlfriend. This is a pretty fun comic, and has stylish artwork from Jon Haward.
A favourite game series of mine, the Golden Axe strip is another enjoyable one. Featuring all three of the main characters and with a comedic tone, the story follows on from the end of Golden Axe 2. A second series that followed on from this one began with issue 13, but this was sadly to be the last Golden Axe story in the comic.
Wonder Boy was the first series that I couldn’t really get into that much. I think it may be that I didn’t really play any of the Wonder Boy games as a kid and so didn’t have any real affection to the character. It’s not a terrible story and the art was fairly decent though. Plus it had a giant death mushroom, so that’s something.
Streets of Rage is again by Mark Millar, though he’s a much better fit for the series than Sonic. Featuring a fair amount of violence for a comics arguably aimed at younger readers and with some quite cool art by Peter Richardson, it’s a pretty fun series that made me think fondly of one of the better Mega Drive series of games.
Kid Chameleon is based on the story of the game, and follows Casey who gets trapped inside a video game and can turn into different characters. The characters are all completely different types and genres which doesn’t really make all that much sense, but hey the ’90 were simpler times..
After a pretty rocky start with some sub par artwork, the first Ecco the Dolphin story really picked up with the shift to some lovely painted artwork by Steve White. An expanded adaptation of the first Ecco game, it has a scene where a dolphin is being carried in the sky by a Pteranodon. Sold!
The last new series (aside from Tails’ solo story) to debut in the 1993 is also probably my least favourite, Decap Attack. I’m honestly not quite sure what it is about the series that I didn’t like, as I like Nigel Kitching’s writing usually. It’s another series where I never got into the game that it’s based on though, so that could be it.
The latter end of the year also saw the publication of the first two issues of the spin off Poster Mag title – these two issues didn’t contain any comics however (that starts with issue 3) and just acted as additional news and information about the series with the first issue in particular being worth mentioning due to showing artwork of a prototype Sonic cartoon that never aired.
Sonic the Comic of course wasn’t the only Sonic comic of the time. Over in America Archie Comics were publishing Sonic the Hedgehog, which closely followed the setup of the darker Sonic cartoon and featured characters like Princess Sally, Antoine and Bunnie. This Sonic series outlived STC by a long stretch, and only ended in 2017 when it disappeared from Archie’s schedules. I never read this Sonic series back in the ’90s, coming to it about five years ago so as it’s not the one I have nostalgia for I won’t be covering it.