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Another one where Sonic gets mention
Style vs Style
Basically, comics are just that, a bit of kiddie friendly fun and thats how they should be. But there tends to be a divide between countries how things should be done strange enough. Japan has manga, which to them is what a novel is to everyone else, hence why their series are often long and their comic books massive. Most American comics typically used to do it in one issue and their best stories are always done in one issue. You have one series, maybe spin offs, a comics typical lifespan for a healthy run for the US comics seems to be about 32 issues. :-/
Well there was a divide sharply between how Sonic was done in the US as oppose to the UK. In the US, you have a cast of characters consisting of Sonic and his friends (which these days seems to be Sonic and his "harem" of girl followers). The US archie comics had little to do with the actually games... And only a few references even now get thrown in to please fans. They decided to launch themselves on the "freedom fighters" note, which was fine but at the time the GAMES CAST was just Sonic, Tails and Eggman/Robotnik. Well they invented their filler in characters and made up storylines to suit it.
The difference with the UKs comic is, it decided to keep in-line more with the games then Archie did, "zones" always appeared. The chaos emeralds were always present and at large in the storyline, even though they were given to Knuckles to keep, their presence remained a strong point. Rings I don't think appeared outside the early issues. And most of all, STC was more committed to tie itself in the games. There was a Sonic 3 and Knuckles adaption, there was a Knuckles Chaotix one too, Sonic CD was in there too... And the comic kept referring back. Sure it had its own mythology, it had its own storylines, but in essence it never forgot it was about selling a characters from a Video game. That said, when it came to the Sonic Adventure Adaption, UK Sonic had written itself into a end end and it had the most distant from the game version of the SA storyline. Actually to some extent, for a last storyline, that was a pretty sweet way to end the comics life, but on the note... Yeah, it wasn't their best adaptation.
From the word "go" things never were right with Archie's comic, the filler characters were fine as generics but you know... Archie pushed them too much. Much more then they deserved to be pushed, boring and bland characters who deserved no more then one comic book showing appeared as main characters. Some served no purposes THEN and are forced into purposes NOW. Ironically, SEGA themselves have a cast of characters to fit any slot, yet Archie always finds the need to force theirs along. I got sick of seeing the soap opera style drama within the comic from a comic thats suppose to be selling a video game character. I'll give an example they did a "30 year later" storyline, Sonic and Sally are married. All they did for two issues is look "lovely" together and hold each others' hands. It was almost sickening because at the time a big disaster was happening, and they were meant to be alert, and on edge. The lovely-dove stuff was completely out of place in the storyline, neither character was truly "in" character until the important points and their expressions on their faces just creep me out. ^_-
While it did have its own main cast of characters, Fleetway's UK comic only included Porker Lewis and Johnny Lightfoot as main characters and kept the rest of their crew at the side until needed. Johnny Lightfoot they even admitted was so boring the comics final storyline involves him dying to get him out the story in a meaningful way (haha... haha...ha... ^_^' ) because "he was too boring". And had they continued the comics run, he'd remain dead (unlike Archie's characters who have a tendency to return when you don't want them). Porker Lewis was written on several occasions out of the main storyline into side stories where it took the focus off him in the team. Tekno I think was introduced to even out the female cast as in the games there was Amy Rose and Amy alone and with the storyline seeing Robotnik's defeat, there was no way for her to be pushed forward without a "best friend" character to lean on. Shortfuse, he was there are times, he became important when needed, rewritten out when needed and reintroduced when they wanted to resolve his freement from his armour after 100 issues or so. But it ultimately remained focused on the main SEGA characters.
Next there are plots, now both comics had the same problem, how do you handle Eggman/Robotnik Vs. Sonic. US was the first to have Robotnik as the super dictator, the UK comic just copied him. But at times he was a shadow of his video game self and it seemed they just didn't know what they were doing with him. Archie borrows too much from Superman, they even did the whole "multi-universe" thing (badly) with "night of the 1000 Sonics" or something I think it was called. The multi-universe thing doesn't even work with Superman, let alone Sonic. And at some points it becomes too much of a storyline plot that you wonder if Sonic should just stay on his world. Sometimes the many "Sonics" just get silly and anthropomorphic hedgehog designs get boring after the first few thousand. There are also too much "nod your head and accept it as it is" moments, where storyline just makes you go "riiiight". And when the things from the games are introduced, they often get added on top of things just to have a SEGA ref, I'm sure Silver was never meant to be in the 30 year later storyline (since its initial thoughts pre-dated his introduction to the games), but they forced him into it anyway. :-/
UK Sonic, it did have Robotnik as the dictator but it started out as Robotnik working towards it. On top of it, we saw how at times his mind works, and even victory against Sonic. The two would "tango" with each other over freedom for Sonic's world and Robotnik wanting to rule it and more often then not Sonic struggled along. Though Sonic of the US has it hard, UK Sonic had it harder, he was betrayed in some instances, praised in most. And he lost a lot of fights, not as nearly as many as he won still there were fights he never won, his teams HQ, a friend... He had to become "Sonic" as much as Robotnik had to become "Robotnik". There were nice touches, like after he freed a lot of people in one storyline, he sat back and admitted it was only a small step towards freeing everyone else which was a nice touch. The worst part of the storylines were puns... But both comics got their puns out of X-mas crackers so moving along! Nigel Kitching was one of the better script writers and his employment seemed to have driven the comic forward (and it fell backwards after, I think it was him anyway, was fired). Whereas Archie has Ken Penders, a man who once pushed his own graphic novel in the US comic via a crossover, from what I gathered just to sell it. I don't remember much about it now, only it was enough to stop me reading stuff. ^_-
Artwork was ultimately an issue with the US comic, to the point were the panels were boring to look at. The artists kept things simple, little shading was ever used and you had mostly a flat 2D image at all times. It was because of this when they introduced Knuckles in a dark room, the characters all ended up with a white outline since there was no way to separate their outline from the background. It took a long time for Archie to get their artwork ideas together.
Not saying the UK one didn't have its fair share of the bad artwork, they had a few particularly "bad" artist, one they had later in the comics lifespan was prone to making box-style bodies and being renowned as one of the flats coloured of all comic strips was his specialty. Shame really considered the likes of Richard Elson could do some BEAUTIFUL artwork when allowed. Overall it however DID manage to push itself forward sooner art style wise then Archie did and when SEGA changed its art style, the UK artists admitted they couldn't pull it off well so out of the two comics, the US won that part of the advancement forward and the UK remains dated even for its time. Richard Elson's artwork seemed to suffer under trying to match itself with SEGA and I think that was a shame.
There were other stuff in the UK comic too, extra comics like Streets of Rage, it was the UKs unofficial "SEGA" magazine really and there ultimately was only 1 or 2 Sonic stories in it at first, although shifts later on pushed this to 3 Sonic stories and one guest comic story. They weren't very popular most of them anyway, they tended to have a one storyline lifespan and never appear again, although Kid Chameleon made a second run and Chuck'd'Head's one kept coming back because fans like it.
Ultimately, the US won in the in with theirs, our UK comic well under hard times, Fleetway were bought out, and I think their new company went bust on top of that. The comic fell into reruns of old stories with the last new story being in issue #184. The fate of the comic was somewhat undeserving, its fandom remains in the hearts of my generation and is part of the reason why most 20-30 year olds will guilty pay out for a Sonic game even if its crap, although they won't admit it. To a generation it was a big thing, something Archie can't seem to hold. The US comic is not that great, after years and years of doing this and doing that it is at its worst point.
But to be quite honest, the UK only really failed because the company didn't keep itself in check. Under different circumstances, it would have been a lot better. But at the end of the day, for all that the UK comic did, it inspired a lot of kids, enough to see 4 years after it went a fan-based version open up: here.
I'm thinking of animes that have done the same thing. But the thing is, the west favors the nostalgic things more then they do, as they tend to favor the "now" more. Still, I think of several animes I followed back when I first accepted I was an anime fan... Artists do artwork for the shows out at the time, and a few months after it finishes, then they move onto another show. Aside from CLAMP there isn't even close and all CLAMP are even now are fans that make comics for fans.
But which of the two styles in Sonic's case was better? UK I'd have to say. Part of me wonders if their failing sales is not because Sonic isn't selling or as a series its buckled too much and has t recover, but simply because its too much of what its always done. Its not enough of the game and too much of the character. I think of a lot of times just briefly when I think of a storyline that Sonic didn't need to be there for and you cover unravel a lot of Sonic's own storylines. Plus the US never took use of Knuckles being on his own like the UK one did, and now it seems at times the only four species of animals on their world is Hedgehogs, echidnas, humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.
Sometimes an Archie fanboy gets onto the UK on-line fan forum and starts pushing for Archie characters to be in, but their two very different comics... And Archie has copyright on their own personnel characters. Plus, it was something they SHOULD have only done when Fleetway was still turning the organ grinder.