The Dawn of Hedgehog

Most of the time, when examining a large body of work, it’s easiest to start at the beginning. This provides perspective on where the work used to be, where it ended up going, and where it’s on its way to. The goal I have in mind for this blog is to review every Sonic comic published by Archie – so what better place to start at than the very beginning?

Longtime fans of the comic know this, but before the main series started with Issue #1, Archie put out a four-issue miniseries, probably to test the waters and see if there was room in the market for a licensed, kid-centered comic about a hot new property. (Spoilers: there was.) The source material was unique in that it was a combination of the two Sonic cartoons that were being aired at the time: the comic’s tone was set by the slapstick-centric Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, but the cast and general situations were culled from the Saturday morning cartoon (aka SatAM). This framework already set up the Archie comic as a unique entity among the various Sonic continuities, whether the staff realized it or not.

The original miniseries – which is numbered #0 to #3 – would eventually be reprinted in “Sonic: The Beginning,” a graphic novel that would start the trend of making older Sonic issues accessible for modern readers. Looking at the miniseries as a whole, it’s obvious that the creative team approached the material a lot differently than today’s editorial staff. The jokes are a lot lighter, the characterization a lot thinner, the continuity almost nonexistent. This was a different time for the comic, and they had no idea if making a book about Sonic the Hedgehog would stick or not. Now, Sonic is the longest-running licensed comic of the modern age, with two full-fledged spinoff series (one of which is no longer around, but still), a ton of 48-page specials, some one-off miniseries, and a crossover with Sabrina the Teenage Witch (okay, maybe that last one shouldn’t go on this resume). It’s a safe bet to say that nobody had any idea the comic would be this successful back when the idea was pitched.

Does that mean these early issues are worse by comparison? Eh, it depends. If you’re going into them looking for the more modern standards of character interaction and tight plot, then yeah, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if you yearn for ‘a simpler time,’ where the main form of humor in the comic was puns and you could miss an issue without any major repercussions, then hey, you might find something good here!

At any rate, let’s start – as I said before – at the very beginning: Sonic Miniseries 0. HERE WE GOOOOO

In which Sonic battles Teddy Roosevelt.

Don’t Cry for Me, Mobius!
Writer: Michael Gallagher
Penciler: Scott Shaw!
Inker: Jorge Pacheco
Letterer: Dan Nakrosis
Colorist: Barry Grossman

You can see from the cover that Robotnik is sporting his games look, yet when you flip to the first page he has his appearance from SatAM. I guess this was done to bridge the two continuities together. At any rate, we open with a roll call along the side of the first page that succinctly introduces us to the ‘heroes of Knothole Village’ and the ‘villains from the city of Robotropolis’. The heroes are obviously the original Five-Man Band – Sonic, Tails, ‘Boomer’ (don’t expect the name change for a few issues, Rotor fans), Sally, and Antoine, who doesn’t look too pleased to be featured so prominently on the cast list. The villains list has Robotnik, Crabmeat, and a bunch of Badniks nobody cares about (don’t expect everyone’s favorite lackey for a few issues, Snively fans).

So Robotnik is chasing Sonic around with his Egg Mobile pod with the wrecking ball from Sonic 1. This Egg Mobile seems to be equipped with ‘Mega-Muck’ which, if I recall from SatAM, was some weird goo thing that could actually slow Sonic down. Robotnik and Sonic run in a straight line before Sonic remembers that he’s from a platform game and can actually dodge things. “Hey!” Robotnik yells. “No fair jumping!” No, early Robotnik is… not the most competent evil villain out there.

Sonic is about to get out of this not-deadly-at-all situation when *gasp* Caterkiller shows up! Robotnik is very pleased with himself and demands that Sonic tell him where Knothole is. Y’know… Sonic just jumped out of the way a few panels ago, Robotnik.

Caterkiller should be a journalist - he's good at raking muck.

So Sonic makes Robotnik look like a fool and then tells the readers that Knothole Village is the Freedom Fighters’ secret base of operations. “He hasn’t found us yet… and I know you won’t tell!” This is, all things considered, a pretty tame fourth-wall breaker for the early issues. Sonic shows off the crazy slide into Knothole (which I’m pretty sure looks different in every subsequent issue) and we then get to meet the rest of the crew. They can be summed up quickly:

  • Tails: Sonic’s biggest fan, wants nothing more than to be like his hero
  • Boomer: Deadpan snarker (his mechanical genius wouldn’t be mentioned yet)
  • Sally: The leader in name only (Sonic pretty much does everything at this point) with LATENT SEXUAL TENSION between her and Sonic
  • Antoine: Dumb comic relief

It goes without saying that, at this point, Sonic is the only competent member of this team.

This pretty much sets the stage for their entire relationship.

We then get treated to an awkward pun that no little kid is going to get (writer Mike Gallagher loves these): there’s a leak in Knothole Village, and Antoine is worried Robotnik will use “trickle-down technology” to find them. I don’t even think I get that. From what I know about economics (which is pretty much nothing) the concept of the trickle-down effect seems unrelated to this. Like, if you’re going to make a relevant pun, how about “a security leak”? But hey, get used to random puns, some of which are hilarious (OAK-KAY) and some of which have entire stories based around them (nerrrrrbs).

Meanwhile, Robotnik (with a sign on his desk that says RIGHTS VIOLATED WHILE U WAIT) is watching non-robots emerge from the Great Forest and prepares to send a batallion of robots to investigate. And by investigate I mean capture. And by capture I mean bumble around like a doofus while Sonic saves the day. You know the drill.

The Freedom Fighters leave the Great Forest and, since Robotropolis is like two feet away from them (remember this, since the writers will conveniently ignore it multiple times) they need to be extra careful. Sonic makes Antoine look dumb (not like he needs a lot of help there) and we get an actual neat concept: the “trickle-down” effect is being caused by literal weeping willows, who are upset that Robotnik bulldozed a bunch of their tree friends. As the Freedom Fighters struggle with this “tree”mendous sadness (DOHOHOHO), Robotnik shows up and promptly chases away the Freedom Fighters, who run around like idiots; Antoine, for his part, hides in a bush. Sonic, correctly realizing that he is the only one worth anything on this team, gets Robotnik to follow him away from everyone else. I’m not quite sure why he doesn’t just smash the crap out of these robots, but hey.

Sonic heads to a random well, where he happened to hide one of his “magic rings”. I guess these are supposed to be power rings, but the terminology isn’t quite there yet. Mike Gallagher actually references this exact event in a much later Sonic Special, and… I don’t really know why, since it’s just a random well with a random ring in it, but hey. After some intense fishing around, Sonic grabs the ring, the Egg Mobile is ruined, and Robotnik gets carried off by a Buzzbomber. Sonic does not follow him because he has more important things to do, of course, like shaking his fist and saying “I’ll get you yet!” (seriously) and also supervising seed-planting for the trees (note how he’s not actually doing any work).

"He's slowly getting away, chief."

So that’s the first story, a lighthearted romp into the struggle of the Freedom Fighters vs. Robotnik. But, Sonic hears the readers wondering, how did things get this way? We then get a BLATANTLY NON-CANON FLASHBACK STORY OMGGGGG

Oh No Robo! No Mo’ Mobo!
(yes that is actually what it’s called)
Writer: Michael Gallagher
Penciler: Scott Shaw!
Inker: Bill White
Letterer: Dan Nakrosis
Colorist: Barry Grossman

It seems back in the day, Sonic was a delivery boy for his Uncle Chuck’s chili dog stand. We learn that Chuck is both a delicious cook and a great inventor; he made Sonic’s special shoes that never burn out, since Sonic kept ruining every other pair. We also meet their dog Muttski, who makes decidedly non-dog noises like ‘Wurf! Yip! Ralph!’ Seriously, Wurf? What? It also begs the question of what a non-sapient dog is doing hanging around a place that serves what appear to be animal products. I don’t think I want to think the implications of that one through.

So Chuck gets an order for two hundred chili dogs and this is, apparently, enough to make them rich. In their celebration the hedgehogs don’t notice a Buzzbomber putting up a sign saying that Robotnik has taken over as dictator, which is awful nice of him to keep the populace informed like that.

Nobody ever told Sonic about tempting fate. Or about LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER.

When Sonic runs off to deliver the chili dogs, a Swatbot arrests Uncle Chuck and Muttski (the Swatbot even calls him ‘Uncle Chuck,’ which I find hilarious). Robotnik shows up, and Uncle Chuck seems to recognize his face but didn’t realize he was the one placing the order… maybe from the ‘new dictator’ sign? But Uncle Chuck also didn’t seem aware that a dictatorship was around in the first place. WHATEVER THIS STORY IS OBVIOUSLY NON-CANON WHY AM I TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT

Sonic drops off the giant order of chili dogs and then almost gets flattened by a checker-wrecker ball (what a fun name). So… why did Robotnik order the chili dogs? Cluck didn’t even take them inside! He just tried to flatten them along with Sonic! BLUHHHHH

Realizing the implications of what this means, Sonic rushes back to the chili dog stand, only to find Swatbots tearing it down and setting bits of it on fire. Sonic is understandably pissed, and makes his way back to Robotropolis. We then get a funny exchange:

Sonic (last panel on the page): Nothing’s gonna stop me from going in there and kicking some Robuttnik!
Sally (in silhouette): Stop!
Sonic: (freaks out)

Sonic can’t quite grasp why this random person is trying to get in his way, and he acts very patronizing and kinda sexist towards her – he calls her “a girl,” “kiddo” and “little lady”… in the same page. It isn’t until Sally prevents him from getting zapped by Buzzbombers that Sonic actually treats her decently, even calling her ‘Sally’ shortly after. Sonic also drops the line that his middle name is Maurice, which is yet another random joke from the original miniseries that really didn’t need to dredged back into modern continuity, but hey, what are you gonna do.

When Sonic and Sally arrive in Robotropolis, they find Robotnik has turned everyone into “robots,” which basically means they’re standing around with googly-eyes and spouting off pollution propaganda you’d hear from a Captain Planet villain. Sonic tries to get Uncle Chuck to snap out of it and cries when he realizes Chuck is too far gone.

…wait. What?

In later issues of the comic, Sega would become infamous for their ban on having Sonic cry. This was presumably done so that little kids would be able to identify with him better – after all, who wants to see their favorite superhero bawling like a baby? This is stupid and dumb logic that is also stupid. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to write a compelling protagonist who is able to show emotion and still be cool simultaneously – Sonic himself does this in an episode of SatAM, not coincidentally also revolving around Uncle Chuck. It’s also not fair to say that any emotional displays are inherently meltdowns and completely out-of-character moments. The fact that there is still debate over this – “Should Sonic cry?” – makes me sad, because it’s totally possible to do well and probably speaks to this weird misunderstanding some people have with emotions.

But whatever, Sonic is BAWLING HIS EYES OUT LIKE A BABY OVER UNCLE CHUCK here which makes him totally uncool. Sally is also completely incapacitated by Robotnik grabbing her arm. God why is everyone who isn’t Sonic so useless.

Do you think Bubsy the Bobcat would cry in this scenario? It's actually a trick question: Bubsy the Bobcat is ALWAYS crying.

So they just decide to call in the towel, Sonic creates a giant tornado thing, and they abscond to the GREAT FORREST [sic] where Sonic joins the Freedom Fighters. The story ends with Sonic issuing a plea to the readers that, if they want to see more stories like this, write in to Sonic-Grams! Mike Gallagher stories often included blatant crap like that – do you want to read more about this wacky set of characters or this not-really-at-all-intriguing scenario? Drop us a line! Kind of annoying.

And there you have it. There’s some filler pages in between the two stories – a Badnik assembly line, a diagram of how Sonic’s shoes work that’s blatantly nonsensical, etc. It’s, again, hard to imagine that anything substantial would ever really come of this, but I guess everybody’s got to start somewhere, right?