Okay, Christmas-Themed Dream Flashbacks Are the Worst Kinds of Dreams and Flashbacks

So we have our first official adaptation of a game in the comic! (I use the term “adaptation” loosely here.) No, it’s not Sonic 3 – it’s Sonic Spinball! You know, the game where you controlled Sonic and basically went through weird pseudo-pinball stages. Kinda creative level design at points, too. I’m sure this won’t be that bad… right?


Hey now, Donkey Kong can go through like twenty different climates with that thing on! Quit complaining!

The Spin Doctor
Writer: Michael Gallagher
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Henry Scarpelli
Letterer: Dan Nakrosis
Colorist: Barry Grossman

The Freedom Fighters (whose heads look bigger than usual on the first page) have taken a page from the Doctor Robotnik Compendium of Horribly Thought Out Plans (DRCoHTOP) and are just charging at Robotnik’s factory, which… I guess is Robotropolis? I don’t know. They can’t even keep the shape of the Greak Oak Slide straight; how can they handle an entire city? Robotnik isn’t even there to congratulate them on reaching his level of terribleness; he’s fled to the active volcano at Mt. Mobius, which is the equivalent to us having a place named “Earth City.” Sonic sees the note that Robotnik’s left to tell them where he’s gone to and naturally rushes off without the other Freedom Fighters.

Sonic arrives outside the “Veg-O-Fortress”, surrounded by lava that looks like mud and completely white sky. There’s a bumper behind him that pushes him into the lava, where he basically pulls a Mario and just clutches his butt in pain for a few seconds.

The lava's not really doing anything to Sonic - he's just agitated that the sky keeps changing color. HOT SOUP

Robotnik watches Sonic on a monitor, ruminating that Sonic will never survive his fortress and that once he fails, he can use the “Veg-O-Converter” to roboticize the entire planet. That is… the extent of his plans. He relocated to an active volcano, setting up elaborate traps and prisons, and even left a sign for Sonic to follow him there. To what end? What is the purpose of this? Obviously he was peeved that the Freedom Fighters tried to one-up him on the Stupid Plan Scale, so he concocted an even more impossibly stupid plan!!! Either way, I’m going to consult the DRCoHTOP, probably under a chapter about building fortresses inside deadly areas, and then get back to you.

Okay, I don't know a lot about architectural planning, but Robotnik probably shouldn't put random fires next to the containers of hazardous materials. I also like how "Rexxon" is just kinda hanging out at an awkward angle, like he was photoshopped into the page. WHAT ARE YOU DOING DAVE MANAK

Sonic meets some robots and destroys them, and everybody tosses around words like ‘boss’ and ‘the next level.’ I’m surprised Robotnik didn’t cackle while telling Sonic he’d get a Game Over. We have two pointless panels where Sonic meets some escaped kangaroos who tell him to watch out for some enemies. Mike Gallagher, in true Mike Gallagher fashion, would actually bring these kangaroos back 34 issues later for no discernible reason. Sonic then finds the captive Mobians (which includes a funny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag about the noise a giraffe makes) and then Robotnik ejects him from the volcano. Tails grabs him and they leave.

And that is the last time we ever visit the Veg-O-Fortress.

I guess Sonic might have gone back to free everybody at some point (the kangaroos got free on their own), but how are we supposed to know that? We’re “treated” to one of those pleading editorial notes at the end about how the readers should write in if they want to see more Spinball action. I guess nobody did! Sucks to be those random Mobians. Poor unintelligible giraffe.

This story also happens to be the most poorly drawn one yet. Dave Manak seems really off his game here (see my comment about everybody’s big heads), but the real culprit is Barry Grossman’s coloring. The lava is a dull brownish orange, the sky is pale white (and also alternating blue and pink), the toxic waste was a boring pink, etc. It seems like they had basically 10 colors to choose from and didn’t bother with details because, hey, who cares about Sonic Spinball?

Sonic’s Christmas Carol!
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Henry Scarpelli
Everything Else: Anonymous

I remember reading a discussion on Ian Flynn’s message board the other day about how it must have been weird starting the Sonic comic, since there was virtually nothing to work with in the way of supplementary material, and the stuff that was out there was contradictory. So I guess the creative team just tried a bunch of random stuff and saw what – if anything – stuck. Things like the general concept of the Freedom Fighters vs. Robotnik and the broad cast personality outlines have endured, but almost everything else has been thrown to the wayside. Some of it’s been embraced in modern times (Badniks, the AoStH cast, the concept of “Freedom HQ”), either due to retro appeal or legitimate fan demand. And some of it’s just been discarded completely – we don’t hear anything about the FREEDOM EMERALDS or Uncle Chuck raising Robotnik or the Veg-O-Fortress. But the big thing to keep in mind here is that they were, for the most part, trying new stuff and seeing what worked.

And then we have a version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

I think it’s a requirement for every kid-centered franchise to do some adaptation of A Christmas Carol. We have Disney, we have the Muppets, I saw a crappy Looney Tunes one last year. There’s a big 40-part series on jimhillmedia.com that goes into detail about tons of adaptations (I’d link to it but the search engine doesn’t seem to be working). Mister Magoo has one. A large part of the appeal of these adaptations (and adaptations in general) is seeing familiar characters in unfamiliar situations – we all know Bugs and Daffy’s personalities, but watching them transplanted into a new scenario is neat. It’s a big reason fanfic is so popular.

Bearing all this in mind, this is how the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book adapted A Christmas Carol. Robotnik is “Scrooge-Robotnik,” who plans to eventually turn every living being on the planet into a robot. His only employee we see is Rotor (not Boomer!) Cratchit, who is also one of the Freedom Fighters opposing Robotnik’s rule (???). Scrooge-Robotnik’s old business partner is “Jacob Snarley” (aka Snively in his first pseudo-appearance). Sonic is all three ghosts and one of the Freedom Fighters simultaneously; he’s also the one having the dream, not Robotnik, and he wakes up just to wish everybody a Merry Christmas.

This is the most legitimately evil Robotnik's been yet, so naturally it's a Christmas-themed dream flashback adaptation sequence.

I find something curious in all of this. It’s not the total lack of effort here – sure, this is a completely irrelevant story where they don’t even let the supposed protagonist (Scrooge-Robotnik) learn anything at the end. What I find curious is that there was all this new stuff they could have tried. Think about it – imagine you’re dealing with a totally hot new property, where you’re given a basic framework to work with but the specifics are left to you. So, ten issues in, doesn’t it make a little more sense that they’d do something more creative than just throwing the characters into a half-baked rendition of A Christmas Carol?!?

The previous stories weren’t A-plus efforts and have varied in quality, but at least they were indicative of the creative team trying to place Sonic and buddies (hey-o) in new and/or entertaining situations. We shouldn’t be getting filler like this ten issues into the comic’s run. I guess they figured that they didn’t need to worry about it, since – like I said in an earlier review – nobody was even sure how long the comic would last. Still, looking back, it’s a shame that not more was done with the early potential the book held.

The only other thing of note from this issue is that, yes, you read correctly – Boomer is now Rotor. The editors basically say in Sonic-Grams that “Surely you’ve noticed that Boomer isn’t called that in the show? Yeah, we noticed too.” That’s kind of an important detail! It’s not the first time Archie won’t be a high priority when it comes to being in the know – just wait till the Sonic Adventure adaptation! (For whatever reason though, Sally’s coloring wouldn’t be corrected for quite some time. My guess is the editorial staff just thought she looked better in pink and figured the comic would be canceled before anyone would notice!)