Sonic Super Special #3 Review by Dan Drazen
|"Don't Cry For Me Mobius... (Sonic #0 Miniseries)"|
"Rabbot Deployment (Sonic #3)"
"Lizard Of Odd (Sonic #4)"
"This Island Hedgehog (Sonic #13)"
Mike Gallagher, Ken Penders, And Mike Kanterovich(W)
Scott Shaw And Dave Manak(A)
"Memories light the corners of my mind....
Lately there have been some on the Sonic lists who have been observing ("whining" may be a more appropriate word for it) that the comic seems to have taken a rather grim turn since "Endgame": Mobitropolis is in shambles, the populace is divided along "racial" lines and being slid into a "civil war", and Sonic is disaffected. It's kind of unsettling to hear people talking about a period dating less than five years ago as if they were "the good old days." But just how good were they?
In that respect, Archie has done fans a great service by reprinting four stories from the early days of the comic, covering a period between February 1993 and August 1994. By taking a look at these reprints, we realize that nostalgia ain't what it used tobe.
"Misty watercolor memories of the way we were....
For one thing, these stories are NOT bona fide reprints. Like the protagonist of George Orwell's "1984," Archie has taken some "liberties" with the past. The most obvious change (obvious to anyone who still has those rare issues and looks at the pages side- by-side) is in the character of Princess Sally. Aside from her gradual makeover in the course of the book's development (not only has her hair been restyled away from the ponytail on display here and her muzzle fur more highly defined and her general contours become more adult--especially after Pat Spaziante got through with her!), she's no longer red with yellow headfur! That WAS the color scheme in her first appearance in "Don't Cry For Me, Mobius". Archie DID change her looks after that...to pink with black headfur! It was only by issue #16 that Archie got it right and adopted the brown with auburn headfur color scheme from the "Sonic the Hedgehog" TV series.
They sure didn't adopt much else from the superior Saturday morning series. While the premise and characters of that series found their way into the comic, the tone seems to have been taken from the vastly inferior "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" syndicated series. This must have seemed like a reasonable compromise at the time, enabling Archie to tie the comic to both series while ignoring the serious difference in mood between the two. The result, seen in hindsight, is jarring; it's like trying to do "Midsummer Night's Dream" with the cast of "King Lear."
"Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind....
This wasn't the only liberty taken. Rotor was consistently referred throughout the comic's early days as "Boomer." It wasn't until Sonic #6 that his name changed to "Rotor" and it wasn't explained to the readers until the Sonic-Grams of issue #29 that "Boomer" was Rotor's nickname. A rather convincing rewriting of history; Orwell would have been proud.
"Smiles we gave to one another of the way we were....
Having said that, there is a discernable tension just below the rather frothy surface of these early comics, as if the writers (or more specifically "writer" since three of the four stories on display were scripted by Mike Gallagher) recognized the superiority of the Saturday morning continuity but couldn't quite bring themselves to plunge headlong into it. The most serious example is the odd little interlude with Sonic and Sally at the top of page 6 of "Don't Cry For Me, Mobius." It's as if Gallagher WANTED to make more of the Sonic and Sally relationship but couldn't quite bring himself to do so. Of course, in these early days, he may not have been sure where things were going so his approaches were consciously tentative. By the time Gallagher scripted "Sonic Blast," the relationship was more established and the exchange between Sonic and Sally in THAT story (I'm thinking of the "You know how to bristle" sequence) has a freedom that's visibly lacking in these early efforts.
"Can it be that it was all so simple then/Or has time rewrittenevery line....?
But let's look at the stories themselves. Ever since "Taking the Fall" (Sonic #47), the title "Don't Cry For Me, Mobius" has taken an ironic twist. Every time I read it I picture Sally standing on a balcony in a strapless evening gown singing:
Don't cry for me, freedom fighters
The truth is I shall not leave you
Though Sega sought to
I'm Princess Sally...
And always will be.
The "crying" of the title, as it turns out, comes from some literally "weeping willows" who, because of Robotnik's recent deforestation efforts, "have been crying for their fallen friends ever since." This is an extraordinarily poetic touch; it reminds me of the scene in "The Last Battle" (the final installment of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia) where a dryad -- a wood spirit and the embodiment of a tree -- vanishes when her tree is cut down. Too bad the rest of the plot couldn't live up to the premise; it features Sonic being chased by Robotnik and Sonic defeating Robotnik. The artwork by Scott Shaw! helps set the light tone for the piece, and for Dave Manak's subsequent work on the series. Yet I can't forget that "weeping willow" premise -- it carried at least as much promise as "Growing Pains, Part 1" (Sonic #28) before THAT story arc headed south in the following issue.
"If we had the chance to do it all again/Tell me would we? Could we....?
For my money, the last story in the issue, "This Island Hedgehog", is the most interesting. An early story by Ken Penders and former collaborator Mike Kanterovich, it introduces Knuckles, "last of the Echidna" (little did HE know!). The important thing here is the character of Knuckles himself: here he's all belligerence with some of Sonic's jargon thrown in for good measure (with phrases such as "put the snatch on the jewel" and so forth). The plot of playing Knuckles off against Sonic and Tails is a bit more complex than the other reprints on display, but what's most noticeable of all is how one-dimensional Knuckles is here compared to where he is now. He may have more on his mind these days what with villains like Enerjak and the presence of Julie-Su and his "relations" with the other Guardians (not to mention the re- appearance of his mother) and.... You get the idea. This story originally appeared in Sonic #14; in the space of a few short years a character who could have been stuck with being a bit player and occasional "friendly nemesis" -- the role he got stuck with for the longest time, basically just waiting around for Sonic to drop by so he could take a swing at the hedgehog -- is now at the center of an EXTREMELY well-written and drafted series of his own. Can anyone sincerely believe that the changes Knuckles has gone through in the last three years have been for the worse? Do the fans really want a return to THIS?
"Memories may be beautiful and yet....
There are a LOT of problems with "Rabbot Deployment," not least of which is the character of Bunnie herself. I have to cut Gallagher and Manak some slack here because this story was written and drawn before the Saturday morning series debuted. They had no way of knowing that thanks to the DiC writers and Christine Cavanaugh's gifted voice work on the series, Bunnie would blossom into one of the mainstays of the Sonic continuity. Here, she starts out as a kind of orange rabbit with no discernable bustline until the improbably bantering SWATbots toss her into the mobile roboticizer. So what we've thought all along was the top of her body suit turns out to have BEEN her bod!? Nice try, Dave, but I'm not buying it. On page 6 of the story she literally goes from unconscious to wisecracking in the space of ONE PANEL. And unfortunately, Gallagher not only has supplied her with a generous helping of Southern fried cliches (as he later would in "Rage Against The Machine" in Sonic #39, part 1 of the Mecha Madness story arc), he insists that her ultimate desire is to become a hairdresser to royalty. Why didn't he just name her "Lurleen" or something else equally connotative of "trailer trash" and get it over with? This is NOT the Bunnie we've come to know and love,thank goodness!
Yet even HERE there are some interesting foreshadowings: Bunnie asks about Antoine in a possibly less than casual way, and she's established as knowing something about martial arts. Still, fanfic and even Mike Teitelbaum's book "Robotnik's Revenge" takes the issues of being partially roboticized a little more seriously that Mike Gallagher does here. And of course, Ben Hurst definitely threw a monkey wrench into this continuity when, in "Blast To The Past," he showed a child Bunnie (with ribbons in her ears) as one of the children who managed to escape with Rosie to Knothole when Robotnik took over. Reprinting this story now only serves to muddy the waters even further with regard to Bunnie's origins and leaves the question up in the air. On the bright side, now that Robotnik's out of the picture I don't see Bunnie talking about opening up a beauty parlor in Mobitropolis with a name like "CurlUp 'N' Dye."
"What's too painful to remember we simply choose to forget....
"Lizard of Odd" is the least justifiable reprint of the bunch, and the greatest cause for being grateful that these stories do NOT represent the current state of comic book affairs. Sonic takes on Universalamander, an ordinary lizard turned into a mecha-Godzilla by Robotnik. When Universalamander pops him into his mouth, Sonic escapes by...running around inside the lizard's mouth. There's GOT to be more to it than that, and Mike Gallagher HINTS at the reason why this is a "humiliation" of the Big U.: Sonic gratuitously says "I'm cookin' with GAS!", Crabmeat refers to Robotnik in the very first panel as "Oh flabulant one", and the last panel of the story centers on a totally pointless scene of Super Sonic humiliating Antoine with a whoopie cushion. Not even Puumba would be able tostomach THIS!
Even more inexcusable is the presence of Super Sonic. It's yet another tie-in to the video game (and there's some of that on display in EVERY story here), and let's face it, WHAT'S THE POINT OF TURNING SONIC INTO SUPER SONIC? I've had someone ask me if I was ever going to do a fanfic about Super Sonic; my answer was that I saw no reason to do so because there's no drama inherent in the transformation. Sonic is ALREADY "the fastest thing alive." Aside from looking like a lemon drop, he doesn't do much as Super Sonic that he doesn't do AS Sonic. It was a useless exercise.
"So it's the laughter we will remember
So why the nostalgia all of a sudden? Perhaps the answer lies in two recent purchases I made. While at the Fall Motor City Comic Con, I bought two pages of Sonic comic sheets from Rich Koslowski. One, from "Sally's Crusade" (In Your Face" special), showed Sonic and Sally married, two pint-sized versions of themselves underfoot, and King Acorn made whole. Kanterovich and Penders had to back away from this idyllic look into the future under pressure from the Sega plotmeisters, yet it was such an agreeable vision ("...and the children have a grandfather") that I've never forgotten it. Likewise, I bought a page of "When Hedgehogs Collide" (#24) showing Sally in gypsy get-up trip-wiring the Antisonic's hog.
Recently, under the doctrine of Loose Continuity, the endings of stories have gotten soft. In "Running to Stand Still" (#54) and "Rise of the Robians" (#55), Karl Bollers uses the device of a call on a communicator to signal a transition more than a conclusion. Likewise, in "Sounds of Silence" (#53) Naugus vanishes and we're left wondering, along with the Mobians, when and where he'll strike next. It's as if the Loose Continuity notion is anchored in the words of Shmendrik the Magician from Peter Beagle's "The Last Unicorn": "There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."
These reprinted Sonic stories DO have happy endings (except for "Lizard of Odd" which has a SAPPY ending). They also have no sense that these characters have hearts or souls or lives. Once the ball got rolling and the writers got a taste of the Saturday morning feel for things, they were able to turn out more than just eye candy. "Sally's Crusade" and "When Hedgehogs Collide" had happy endings as well, but they ALSO had a greater feel for the characters and made us CARE about them more than the stories reprinted in "Sonic Firsts." I can see fans wanting a return to THAT level of storytelling, but NO WAY can Archie's stable of writers and artists backtrack to the Gallagher/Manak style comics of almost five years ago. It'd be the saddest thing of all, like watching Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's disease getting worse.
"Whenever we remember the way we were....
"Sonic Firsts" has a certain curiosity value, due to the fact that these were first attempts made by the Archie crew. It's greatest value, though, is to highlight just how far we've come since those days. Whatever the faults of the recent stories and even of "Endgame," Archie has defied the odds and kept the title alive after the tie-in TV show stopped production (the conventional wisdom is that the comic should have died shortly after the show -- this is the same "conventional wisdom" that gets lampooned in "Dilbert" on a regular basis). My own belief is that the writers and artists have to remain true to the characters to keep things going for another five years. Those characters are the heart of the Sonic continuity, which has taken on a life of its own now. No matter what Sega does with the games, Sonic and Knuckles and the whole gang (even Princess Sally, much to Sega's chagrin) now exist in their own right. "Sonic Firsts" reminds me of the title of Otto Bettmann's landmark pictorial history of the late 19th Century: "The Good Old Days...They Were Terrible!"
"....the way we were."
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