On the fourth day of Christmas, Retro gave to me…
…a Christmas story done by Archie Comics.
Now, last year when I started reading the Fleetway Christmas comics, I must admit a small corner of my mind was tickled by the concept. I mean, the idea of the Christmas special isn’t something new. We’ve all seen Charlie Brown buy the saddest tree in existence. We’ve watched the Grinch steal Christmas at least 40 times. And who knows how many times we’ve been forced to watch It’s A Wonderful Life? Now, what all these share is that they are just moments in time, and are always repeated but never changed. Sonic the Comic, on the other hand, tried to make it a yearly tradition to always come up with something new to usher in the holiday season. That’s when a small part of me wondered aloud, “Why didn’t Archie ever do anything like this? They’re a comic book, too!”
So when I started my game adaptation reviews, I was floored to see that, indeed, they had done a Christmas special. One that I completely forgot about.
Issue #6 of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic from Archie, if it’s remembered at all, is for the Sonic Spinball adaptation, which is also the cover story. But backing it up – and actually taking up more pages – is “Sonic’s Christmas Carol.” Written by Angelo Decesare and drawn by Dave Manak, it’s what you can guess from the title – an adaption of the Charles Dicken’s classic, A Christmas Carol. It’s been adapted hundreds of times, from Scrooged to Magoo to frightening psudo-Jim Carrey. I guess I shouldn’t have been caught off guard, but I couldn’t help it. Seeing Sonic on the top of the page announcing to everyone where the source material came from but saying his version is the fastest, the only thing I could wonder is what the person at Sega of America thought when they were forced to read this to make sure everyone stayed in character.
After Sonic’s introduction, we get to see our version of Scrooge, played by none other than Dr. Robotnik. I mean, if you’re going to use someone as the villain of the piece, you have to go with Robotnik, though to be fair Scrooge was more a misguided man. Someone who thought money was the source of happiness, when it fact it wasn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Sitting behind his desk, Robotnik Scrooge is asking if Rotor Cratchet had called him a “penny-pinching, tight-fisted, evil miser.” While he is actually pinching pennies in his hands. Before you can wonder what the subliminal implications of such an act could be, Rotor replies that, no, he just wants to know when Robotnik will pay for the roof to get fixed, since the snow keeps on coming down. Sure enough, we get to see the visual, with Robotnik freaking out about how he’ll decide on when to spend his money. Not sure why he isn’t affected by the cold, but you know. These things happen.
Taking advantage of Robotnik’s good mood (wait what), Rotor decides to ask his evil boss if he can take the day off, because he wants to spend Christmas with his family. As you can probably guess, Scrooge takes offense to the very suggestion, going on about how he needs his factory to be running at full capacity so he can turn everyone into robots. That…wait, how do you get paid for something like that? Those Mobians don’t look all that freaked out about getting robotocized. Did they pay for this service? Why would you want to turn into a robot!
Rotor says he’ll make up the time, and so he gets to take lunch for only one minute for the next ten years. Threatening to turn the walrus into a robot (I’m surprised he hasn’t already), our second-favorite mechanic runs off, wishing Robotnik a Merry Christmas. “Bah Humbot!” O-oh. I get it. We then jump to his “Ill-Manor,” a mechanized mansion where the villain of our story gets to sit and eat petroleum pudding, all the while watching a fire on his big screen television. Suddenly, the image is filled with that of Jacob Snarley, who is very clearly Snively but now decorated in oil cans. It is at this point where we jump into the heart of the story, so if you know the original at all, you know what’s coming up next. Snarley lets us know that he has become a TV ghost, forced to move from channel to channel with no sign of rest, doomed to watch infomercials for the rest of his days (hey, could be worse all things considered). He tells Robotnik that he will be visited by three spirits, but before he can get any farther, the not-so-dictator kicks the screen of his television in.
Hiding under the covers of his bed, Robotnik tries to assure himself of his dominance, he can’t help but jump up when he hears a noise. Peering out, he gets immediately angry when we see the first of our three spirits – the Ghost of Christmas Fast…I mean Past. The role is played by none other than Sonic the Hedgehog, who is for some reason wearing a baseball cap and zipping around a skateboard. Almost like this comic was made in 1993 or something. Sonic grabs the evil dictator and they fly right out the window and into Christmas past, where we get to see the tiniest Robotnik sing Jingle Bots.
The Christmas of the past we get to see is Robotnik’s first with Sonic and Uncle Chuck. Now for those who have no idea what’s going on (and I’m sure most of you don’t), back when the Saturday morning series was still being developed, quite a number of ideas were thrown about as to what the origins of the character’s could be. One that wasn’t used but was later turned into a children’s novel was the idea that both Sonic and Robotnik were orphans, and had been sent to live with Uncle Chuck, though he really was only an uncle to Sonic. It was even revisited in the original mini-series published by Archie, but was presented as just a dream. I guess even they realized how ridiculous the idea sounded. But since this is also some sort of alternate take on things, we’re allowed to have them reunite as children. While Uncle Chuck runs off to make everyone lunch, child-Robotnik decides this the perfect time to jump on Chuck’s tractor to destroy the Christmas Tree they’re decorating outside.
The tractor. For the uninitiated, the tractor is the most important character in the Troll Associates book. It is what precipitates Robotnik leaving and eventually turning into a villain. So we get its second and last appearance, leaving us with a cliff-hanger for part two!…which is right on the next page. By running at full speed, Sonic digs a ditch around the tree, preventing the tractor from going any further. Adult-Robotnik tries to lunge at Sonic in revenge of his earlier humiliation, but is unsuccessful, going face first into…something. I can only assume it’s Eggnog.
Coming to his senses, Robotnik discovers that he has moved on to the second spirit of the night, Christmas Present, who is once again Sonic the Hedgehog but with the body of a Christmas present. Oh, those visual puns. Landing in the middle of the underground Knothole base, we see Miles “Tails” Prower in what I’m assuming is Tiny Tim garb, though he certainly isn’t a sick, crippled child here. Holding a turkey-shaped gift, Robotnik laughs to himself, saying its a bomb he sent to Rotor’s family. That’s…a bit extreme. I mean, the guy works for you. You’d think you wouldn’t want to blow him up, otherwise you’d need to look for a new hired hand, and who would work for you once they find out you blew up their precursor? With strange versions of Uncle Chuck, Muttskii, Princess Sally and Bunnie Rabbot joining him (no love for poor ol’ Antoine), they argue about the validity of such a gift. Before they can open it up, Sonic rushes in and snatches it away, declaring he is going to mark it return to sender.
Once again trying to leap at Sonic, Robotnik is held back by Christmas-Sonic, who reminds him that he can’t be seen or heard. Getting motion sickness, Scrooge demands he be sent back home, but is instead sent to a place he doesn’t recognize. Spotting an old man and laughing at his appearance, we are told rather unsurprisingly that we are now in the vision of the future, with Christmas Future once again being Sonic, this time clad in a yellow robe. Guess they thought it’d be too much to have a hedgehog skeleton in his place. The old man? None other than future Robotnik, causing Scrooge to jump in shock, revealing that for some reason he has metal feet.
We go through the scare tactics, where we find the Freedom Fighters just as old and worn out as Robotnik, told that they have been fighting for years and that even if Robotnik were to win, he would win a world that he already destroyed. Freaked out by the notion, Robotnik begins to cower, Christmas Future Sonic telling him to change his evil ways. When he begins to sheepishly agree, we then see future-Robotnik going on about his triumph, his robot having able to capture the Freedom Fighters since they are now old and slow. With that, Scrooge pulls on Christmas Future Sonic’s hood, saying that greed and evil will triumph someday. Of course, future-Sonic has something to say about that.
Clad in a long beard with full cane, future-Robotnik can’t help but laugh at future-Sonic because of his age, and indeed future-Sonic is unable to even perform his trusty spin attack. But before he can finish Sonic once and for all, future-Robotnik is interrupted by a mailman, who gives him back a fourth-class “Return To Sender” mailing. What is it? Why, the turkey-shaped bomb from earlier! Scrooge Robotnik realizes this and tries to stop his future self from opening it, but lo and behold, they explode.
Cue Sonic the Hedgehog being forcefully woken up by Rotor Walrus. Oh look at that, it was just a dream! Ignoring the fact that Rotor apparently loves to hover over the sleeping figure of Sonic the Hedgehog, he tells the blue blur that he almost slept through Christmas! Freaking out, Sonic speeds off to say Merry Christmas to everyone, riding a sleigh in the shape of his shoe. That…um…
At the end of the day, all you can really say is that the comic was still finding its way. It definitely wants to be funny, and while sometimes a smile can come across your face, its because this was designed for a completely different time period. The innocence and charm found within is not anything you’d see in a Sonic comic these days, which can be a double edged sword. You wouldn’t want it to necessarily be exactly the same, but something can be said about its inherent irreverence. As to how it treated the source material in this story, I can’t help but be annoyed. The payoff of A Christmas Carol is supposed to be the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. Here, Robotnik Scrooge explodes. Even if it is just a dream at the end, no one learns any lessons here. Either way, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if this had become a yearly ritual? What stories would they have forced Sonic to be in?
I also can’t stop thinking about Antoine’s face in the last panel.