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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Death of a (Comic Book) Hedgehog

290. In this day and age it is incredibly rare to see a comic book have that number slapped on it. You'd think characters like the Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Spider-Man, huge, iconic comic book characters that have been around since the late 1930s, 1940s and 1960s would be immune to having their high numbers stripped away. You'd be wrong. One character, however, has managed to avoid such a fate and he's only been around for 26 years. On top of that, his home domain wasn't comic books, but video games. The speed blue hedgehog known as Sonic was able to avoid the dreaded renumbering fate that has hit the comic boob industry like a hyper aggressive tidal wave time and time again. Sadly, it looks like his run has come to an end at 290 issues.

From Sonic the Hedgehog #134, universally
reviled as the worst Sonic comic. Ever.
If we take into account the plethora of mini series and spin-off titles like Sonic Universe, Sonic's comic numbers surpass 500. The main series Sonic the Hedgehog comic book is only at 290 issues but that's still pretty dang impressive. Like any comic book, Sonic the Hedgehog had it's down periods, crappy story arcs and such. The comic even underwent a couple of reboots but unlike the reboots of the Marvel and DC variety, the numbering on the comic book never changed.

Comic companies want to draw in new readers and fear that those high numbers will scare off potential new customers. This is why in 2011, DC threw out decades worth of continuity for it's entire universe in what was known as The New 52. This tactic did bring in plenty of new readers but it also alienated many longtime fans. At the end of the day, The New 52 ended up being a short term sales boost. DC will never come out and say it, but DC Universe Rebirth, which brings back the continuity that hastily threw out the window while keeping The New 52 stuff, is basically an admission that The New 52 did not work. During The New 52 era, every single DC book was renumbered, including long running books like volume one of Action Comics and Detective Comics. Those titles have since had their original numbering restored in DC Universe Rebirth, but that still doesn't change the fact that each of those books were still renumbered for the purposes of an event that, in the long run, did not pay off.

To those outside of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic fandom, it might fascinate you to know that the behind the scenes nature of the cook has been, well, interesting, in a word. In a bit more detail, there were several lawsuits by Ken Penders, a former writer of the comic about royalties of the characters he created. The lawsuits are the reason the comic had a few reboots. The last reboot, which started in Sonic the Hedgehog #252 saw SEGA issuing some mandates to Archie, which has been detrimental to the book for a lot of fans. To keep Penders off their backs, any character he created was whipped clean from the comic. SEGA also wanted the comics to be closer to the games, which may sound cool in theory, but this doesn't allow the comic to have it's own identity. To make matters worse, characters that were from the games apparently had to behave in a very specific way and any form of character development for them was a no-no. Ian Flynn, the writer of the comic book for the past ten years, a very talented man, often cited as bringing the book out of the abyss that Penders threw it in, has done the best he can under some pretty lousy circumstances but it may not have been enough.

The last(?) issue.
Sonic the Hedgehog #290 was released seven months ago and issues beyond that have been cancelled. Neither Archie or SEGA has confirmed the death of the book, but the writing is on the wall. I started reading this comic in 1993. I was able to see it transition from slap stick comedy to deadly serious. I hate to this this comic go but at the same time, I hate seeing the book's creativity stifled under SEGA's mandated thumb. If 290 is indeed the last issue of Sonic the Hedgehog, that number is something to be very proud of. Sonic has had a lot of crap happen to him in his 20 plus years, but the one thing that never changed was the number on his comic and in this business, that is a really freaking huge accomplishment.

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