Sonic the Hedgehog is not a superhero. Yes, Sonic is a hero in the sense that he fights evil and wants to save his friends. He has an arch nemesis, he has a sidekick, he has a friendly rival, he kinda has a love interest depending on how you look at it. Unlike the traditional American superhero archetype, however, Sonic does not fight Eggman because he feels he has to. The blue blur possesses a strong sense of justice, but at the same time lives a carefree existence based on his own rules. He did not have a tragic event in his childhood that made him realize he had to dedicate his life to fighting evil, or come to find he was the only being on the planet with a gift he had to use for the betterment of mankind. Sonic is, to quote a phrase, “just a guy who loves adventure.” His fights with Dr. Eggman are not just because the doctor put his nose in his friend’s business, but because it is something exciting to do. If Eggman had looked for the Chaos Emeralds elsewhere, or decided not to start capturing the animal friends on South Island? Sonic would never have gone looking for Eggman just because he was power hungry.
In most western-produced media, though, the idea of Sonic actually being some sort of superhero took hold, with secret origins becoming motivators for Sonic’s entire philosophy. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Ken Penders writing style doesn’t always work for what Sonic is supposed to be. Ken grew up on superhero comics. The works of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby shaped in his mind how a comic is supposed to be written. He wanted to emulate his heroes, and used the world of Sonic & Knuckles as his canvas to do so, his first real writing job. Also trying to match the trends of modern comics with long-form storylines that are really meant to be read in graphic novels and not the monthly publications they are confined to, Ken wanted to do so much more than what he could. Not just because he was using other people’s characters, but because his writing just isn’t up to par with those great iconic comic book writers. His own ideas seem to escape him, and while there are moments of brilliance, I often get the sense Ken is desperately fighting with himself to reel everything back in.
To be fair, he never did make Sonic adopt a secret identity and wear a mask to fight crime. That was all Karl Bollers. But that’s a story for another day.