Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 7 – The Mental State of Sonic the Hedgehog

Looking at the comic book as a whole, it’s pretty clear that the entire staff – not just Ken Penders – had some trouble transitioning to the Sonic Adventure era of the franchise. After all, Sonic the Hedgehog was based primarily on the Saturday morning series, which featured characters and settings far removed from the video games. Even characters like Dr. Robotnik were extremely different, his visual appearance and chilling vocals as far removed from the Dr. Eggman design as one could get. Even though Robotnik had been briefly retired, when word came from the licensing department that the newest game was to be adapted in the pages of the series, the staff was given a tremendous challenge. How would one reconcile the anthropomorphic world of a polluted and corrupted Mobius with the human-friendly, pristine world of Sonic Adventure?

The answer? Not very well. Having Station Square be a human city hidden in a mountain and protected from the gene bomb that wiped out most of humanity millennia before, there was already an ominous cloud over everything. Intent on adapting the game as closely as possible, the most ridiculous plot devices were used. Alternate robot bodies, magic rings aging characters, and Super Emeralds somehow able to create buckles on shoes that didn’t already have them…

The hardest hit, though, had to be Ken. Here was a man who, regardless of how you feel about his work, had spent years creating this entire world for Knuckles the Echidna from scratch. Then one day, you’re told that your carefully crafted history has to be pushed aside to include the backstory for Knuckles as introduced in Adventure. The story of Pachacamac, Tikal and Chaos contradicted Ken’s take on the creation of Angel Island at every turn. Coupled with the cancellation of Knuckles’ solo series, it comes through that Ken was writing something his heart wasn’t in. His long-term plans for characters that weren’t even his had to be changed, and pet projects like the original Knuckles: 20 Years Later were put on indefinite hold. Having grown a garden in one place and then being told that you’re actually supposed to be making taffy? That has to take a toll on anyone.

It wouldn’t surprise me if, in some regard, Ken resents Sonic Adventure and the elements he was forced to play with.

We return to the world of Mobius: 25 Years Later in Issue #137, the eight-page back-up tale “Trouble In Paradise” being the seventh part of the story. Yes, another ominous title that implies that something bad is about to happen, seven months after we’ve started. But hey, maybe we’re done with foreshadowing and world building. Maybe something is about to happen. After all, who do we see on the first page? That’s right, Sonic the Hedgehog. The principle character of the comic, the source of everything else that has come since. This story of the future was delayed so that he could be included, after all, so it must mean something, right? The left hand side gives us Sonic and Queen Sally, with the blue hedgehog trying to find a way to get out of seeing Knuckles. On the right? Julie-Su, asking if Knuckles is awake, though its pretty clear that he isn’t. You’d think by now she’d know when her not-husband is asleep, especially while snoring loudly.

The entire issue is presented as such, with Sonic on one side and Knuckles on the other. When looking at it, I can’t help but be reminded of other comic books that have tried to be fancy with their visual layouts. This sort of split-screen treatment works best in the static visual medium, after all. In text, it can get clumsy. In movies or television, you have to be extremely careful not to let anyone talk over each other, or simply rely on a million jump cuts. But with comic books? You can have all sorts of clever things happen on the page at once, as long as the clutter doesn’t overcome the reader. If there’s one problem “Trouble In Paradise” doesn’t have to worry about, it’s clutter. The plot, on the other hand…

Julie shouts at her husband to wake up, causing the Guardian to abruptly sit up in bed. Seems she does know when her husband is sound asleep, she’s just a bitch when it comes to waiting for him to wake on his own. When he asks why she woke him up, she replies that she couldn’t sleep, and once again I feel like this conversation is about to fall right back into sitcom land. What would the name of this show be, anyway? Echidna Meets Island? Oh, wait. That’s his canceled series. Either way, Julie-Su explains that she feels that something is wrong, and that Knuckles isn’t telling her what’s going on. He tries to brush it off, but she isn’t about to let up. Yes, I know I haven’t mentioned the fact she’s wearing something else, but for the most part her nightgown isn’t all that shocking. Butler can’t help but show a little bit of leg in one panel, but it gets obscured by Knuckles full-body shot. Even though this is how he appears in everything aside from Mobius: 25 Years Later, I can’t help but think about how he’s…well, naked. This is what you’ve done, comic. You’ve put so much focus on Knuckles’ new look, that when he shows up just sitting in bed, I start feeling uncomfortable. I should go play Sonic 3 & Knuckles to clear my head and remind me how this is all supposed to be, but instead I’ll just look at the other side and check out what Sonic and the gang are doing.

Oh, they’re boarding a plane. That’s cool I guess. Sonic continues to try and persuade his wife to not go on this trip, suggesting they make it up to Julie-Su and her daughter at some later date. Sally asks if Sonic is still upset about last year, and tells him that he shouldn’t hold grudges because he’s King. Sonic denies it, but c’mon. This is Sonic. If there’s one thing the comic has been pushing since the beginning of time, its that Sonic and Knuckles just don’t get along. It would be nice if we knew what Sally was referring to, but once again we get a taste of a story that seems far more interesting than the one we’re reading.

Previously mentioned by Sally’s three-way call of nothing, we get to finally meet Sonic’s son Manik, who is super excited about the plane trip. As you can guess, he looks exactly like his father, except he has gold trim on his shoes. He also has a gap in his teeth, which I’m assuming is a missing tooth. I know we’re supposed to think of him as a kid, but he is only one year younger than what Sonic was when the series started. Most kids have all their adult teeth by the time they become teenagers, minus the wisdom teeth. Maybe he got punched in the face and was left with a mouthy reminder? I can only hope. With everyone seated, Manik gets to say that age-old line, “Are we there yet?” Yep. Even Sonic can’t help but facepalm that one, folks.

Once on the plane, Sonic gives Sally a look. Maybe he wants to disown his children? Sally asks what’s wrong, since he hasn’t been acting himself. That’s when Sonic tells her that he doesn’t feel cut out to be King. She was raised to be royalty (ignoring the decade of her youth where she led a ragtag band of Freedom Fighters to defeat an evil despot who took over the throne), while he thrives on action and adventure. How come this wasn’t an issue for the last two decades? Why is he only bringing this up to Sally now? Ladies and gentlemen, Sonic the Hedgehog is having a midlife crisis.

Now the characterization of Sonic the Hedgehog is something that should be super simple to understand, yet so many authors have trouble getting it. It’s not always their fault, having been dictated by licensed representatives in the western branches of SEGA who aren’t involved in the creative process to make everyone act a certain way. Sonic is supposed to be cool and blue, but that can be taken a million different ways. Just one look at the wiki can tell you that. When it came to Sonic and relationships, though, Ken didn’t hide his thoughts on how Sonic was supposed to behave:

When you stop and think how Sega looks at the character, he’s all ego and attitude. He thinks about number one. He can accept Tails because Tails is the subordinate junior assistant to his main act. He’d consider Sally nothing more than a fun to be with every now and then (if that) and a drag the rest of the time. His attitude towards Sally, and females in general, in probably much like that MTV-character in the movie She’s All That. The way he ditches the girl is so Sonic-like. (“You think all I want to do is spend my life with you? That’s cool and all, but I gotta go fight Robotnik! Later, babe!”)

I know I’m going to get into a lot of disagreement with people over this, but I’ve yet to hear anyone ever say “Y’know, he can be such an arrogant jerk, but he’s really quite lovable under all that!” They usually stop the comment after the word “jerk”.

If Sonic ever dated anyone else, it’s not because he fancies himself a ladies man. He’d more likely think any girl would simply want the privilege of spending time with him. And if she ever did try to tie him down, he’d be gone in a flash.

Sonic does indeed care very much for Sally, as he would normally do for a sibling or very close friend. He more than likely cares for her in a very special way, but it took something like the scenario in ENDGAME for him to even come close to admitting it. Think about it. It isn’t until he thinks he’s lost her for good does he finally contemplate what she means to him. Even then, once it’s back to business as usual, he gets the ol’ wanderlust and goes searching for high adventure, giving not a hoot to what Sally feels. [14]

What’s funny is that description is a lot closer to how Sonic behaves in the Sonic the Comic series from Fleetway than he ever did in the American book. Yes, there were moments he was a dick in the Archie comic, but you need to only read one issue of the British interpretation to see that, hey, Sonic isn’t all that nice. He is constantly making fun of Miles “Tails” Prower, he can get super annoyed when he has to actually do anything, and he is extremely full of himself. Yes, deep down he is someone who wants to do the right thing, but it seems sheer luck that he has any friends whatsoever. Archie Sonic, on the other hand, always seemed more of an American comic book hero. Even when they were trying to steer him more towards how he acted in the games, there was a sense that he was very rarely a dick. Sonic was stuck up, but rightly so, and never shoved it in anyone’s face aside from Robotnik. Tails started out as a little brother figure, then evolved into his best friend. Very rarely did Sonic outright taunt him, and when he did it was clear it was good natured. Not like Fleetway Sonic, who sometimes spoke like he wanted to crack the fox’s psyche, leaving him broken and scarred for life.

The one aspect of that statement which doesn’t apply to Fleetway? Sonic’s love life. Just like in the games, Sonic was never seen pursuing anyone, his female interaction not going beyond the constant appearance of Amy Rose flirting with him in the strangest ways possible. The need to incorporate some sort of love story is a very corporate idea, thinking that without that one element you will be missing out on huge demographics. That love story for Sonic formed in Princess Sally, though SEGA was always hesitant to let Archie (or the Saturday morning cartoon) ever make her officially his girlfriend. Any scene where the duo kissed? Had to be fought over.

While other love interests were teased (such as Mina Mongoose, who was not a Ken Penders creation and wouldn’t be written by him until Issue #150), the focus of the comic has always been on Sonic and Sally. It was just made clear that, at this point in his life, Sonic doesn’t want to focus on being in a relationship. Well, usually. There were plenty of moments where Sonic would get super jealous of anyone finding interest in Sally, not to mention Sonic’s tearful songs of woe of how Sally was lost to him in Ken’s final stretch of his tenure at Archie.

But here? In this future where Sonic and Sally have been married for ages? Ken is writing Sonic exactly how he thinks of him as a 15 year old protagonist. An arrogant, slightly jerky guy who only wants to live for adventure. Yes, he isn’t making Sonic a complete low-life by having him run out on his kids. King Sonic does say he isn’t upset about being a dad and that it’s just the responsibility of his office, but still. This is supposed to be the future. We are supposed to be seeing the characters in a completely different light, and right now Sonic is not acting like an adult. It is possible to write a character as being mature yet still craving the freedom of the road. Not to mention that, without seeing the evolution of King Sonic’s character, the reader has no reason to sympathize or even try to understand what is going on in Sonic’s mind. Instead of spending so much time on the day-to-day life of Knuckles, maybe it wouldn’t have hurt to see what life is like in the Castle of Acorn. Show Sonic being forced to sit in meetings about ridiculous bureaucratic redundancies. Show what his family life is like. All we know is that Sally enjoys calling Julie-Su, and that his son likes to be annoying.

Sally lets her husband know that he’s picked the worst time to have his crisis, as there is a matter far more pressing at stake, though she refuses to tell him what, saying he’ll have to speak to Knuckles about it. While all this is going on…oh right. Knuckles and Julie-Su. Remember how much you wanted to know how Echidnas clean themselves? How as a kid, you were all “I know Sonic fighting Eggman is cool, but I want to see Julie-Su stepping out of the bath, dripping wet and clinging a towel to her bod?” Well, your prayers have been answered. Knuckles finally wakes up, now fully dressed, only feeling the need to splash his face with water and gargle something. I don’t even want to think about how he must smell. She tries to get him to open up, but I’m having the hardest time focusing on any of this. I get it, the artist wants us to know that Knuckles got himself an Echidna hottie. But…do we…I mean…gah.

Knuckles does open up once she’s dressed, telling her about his conversation with Rotor. She asks him what he believes, and he tells her outright that he doesn’t know, and that scares him. Julie-Su says they’ll get through it as a family, and…woah, that’s weird. I feel like I’m actually reading the interactions of a long-term couple as opposed to the out of place Knuckles we’ve been getting. Does that mean the only time we get Knuckles sounding good is when Ken can make Sonic and Sally extremely awkward?

Whatever Ken has tapped into, it disappears once we reach the final page, the split-screen motif coming full circle as King Sonic, family in tow, stand outside the door of the Guardian’s residence. Manik gets to be annoying, Sally tries to keep him in check, and Abby the Koala takes a jab at a “young hooligan” outside the door. With one final screaming match between father and daughter, the story takes a break until next month.

Well, if only things were that simple. Seems this originally wasn’t the ending. BobR, administrator at Ken Penders’ official forums and close friend of the author, explains.

Another problem we had to deal with was the story in #137. Seemed to cut off rather abruptly, didn’t it? And of course there wasn’t much of Sonia in the story. That’s because there’s two pages missing which would’ve looked more at the kid’s interaction and you would’ve seen more of Sonia. Mike actually caught the fact there were missing pages as the book was going to the printer…but at that point, there wasn’t enough time to do anything about it except to make a minor mod to the “last” page to end on a hunorous[sic] note. “Lara Su! Company!!” “Go Away!”

But what I really miss was the major punchline which was on the “next” page. You remember Abby saying, “…and they brought that young hooligan with them!” To which Julie-Su replied, “Abby, please! Manik’s not even a teenager!” The line on the next page would’ve been Abby saying “I was speaking of the King.” [15]

Ken has never released publicly what those two missing pages consist of dialogue-wise, although he did send the original script to Dan Drazen. For those who don’t know, Dan is a Sonic fan from way back, his interest lying in the Saturday morning cartoon and the universe it created. For almost two decades, he has been watching the comic, writing reviews that many of the old guard (including Ken Penders) paid attention to. For a brief time, his reviews were even posted on Archie’s official website, though that didn’t last too long, probably because his reviews weren’t always that nice.

In Dan’s original review of this story, he had the following to say on the missing content:

Mainly pages 8 and 9 which were given over to dialogue between Manik and Sonia in Column A, and some repartee between Julie-Su, Abby and Lara-Su in Column B. And having seen the lost pages I have to say I agree with Mike’s editing here. Granted we lose some character development involving the youngsters, but I’m not sure I wanted to hear Manik asking his dad “Don’t you think Lara-Su is HOT?” or Knuckles saying “I’m an echidna of the people.” Not Ken’s best dialogue, IMHO. [16]

I’m going to have to agree with Dan on this one. Having anyone asking Sonic if he thinks a girl is hot (especially one that is supposed to be 25 years his junior) would be weird. Having his son ask? What child asks his parents if they think their current crush is hot? What teenager asks their parents anything about the opposite sex? It’s probably a good thing we never saw those pages, but at the same time, it would be interesting. A deleted scene with little consequence, suitable for a DVD you could buy for five dollars at your local big box store.

There we have it, another issue over and done with. With even more set up, one has to hope that the punchline is going to be spectacular. In a way, it is…if you like cruel jokes being played on you. Stay tuned for next week, when we finally get to see the reunion of Sonic and Knuckles. Will fists fly, or will the characters just sit and talk some more? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Wait, you didn’t know there were six other installments to this series? Then you better catch up before next week:

Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 1 – What’s Future Is Prologue
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 2 – Of Frightened and Dancing Crocs
Mobius: 25 Years Later, The Review: Part 3 – The Adventures of Lara-Su and Old Rotor
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 4 – The Mobius Girls Can’t Help It
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 5 – A Brief History Of The Future
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 6 – A Brief History, Continued

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  • Reply

    Why don’t you and Overlord just team up to write the remaining parts of your review? At least where he’s concerned you know there’s going to be constant snark and blind hatred towards the Archie comics. He doesn’t sneak it up on the reader like you do.

    Your mini-rant about Julie-Su’s attire was annoying, but this is what really did it for me–this is why I’m calling the main page of this site quits and will stick to only reading the forums:

    “You’ve put so much focus on Knuckles’ new look, that when he shows up just sitting in bed, I start feeling uncomfortable. I should go play Sonic 3 & Knuckles to clear my head and remind me how this is all supposed to be”

    Cute. See, and if you get Overlord to co-write the next one you can both crack jokes about faithful the amazing Sonic the Comic(s) were to the games! Thanks, Sonic Retro, for being so fair and unbiased.

    • Reply

      Definitely don’t want any sort of opinions in something clearly marked as a review 🙁

      Though I’m sure Overlord would love to write the rest. And by love I mean rather not touch it ever,

    • Reply

      They say “write what you know”. That immediately rules out anything about this story arc for me. XD (Also what David said.)

      Also, you’re… basically complaining about how Fleetway largely stuck to the game universe and Archie didn’t? Those choices were nowt to do with me, mate. =P

    • Reply

      Um… you seem to be overreacting a bit. This is a review, after all; it’s going to have opinions, and you won’t always agree with them. It’s easy to mistake wry humor and snarkiness as being mean-spirited, but to me, a lot of these rants seem to be written more to be tongue-in-cheek than filled with any sort of actual malice.

      I don’t really see how his “rants” about Julie-Su’s outfits are annoying, because it is honestly a little bit creepy that the artists of the comic at the time felt the need to put so much sex appeal into an anthropomorphic character, especially in a book largely intended for all ages.

      I also fail to see how, out of all the things that have been said in the reviews so far, the “Knuckles naked” rant is what threw you “over the edge,” so to speak. Take it from me, someone who has not followed the comics to any sort of degree — it IS weird to suddenly see Knuckles without clothes again after so many issues with his “older” design. I can maybe see how the “I need to play S3&K” comment could come off as a bit obnoxious and/or elitist, but honestly, I felt the same way after seeing that frame. I was uncomfortable seeing Knuckles “naked” again until I remembered, “Hey, um, that’s actually how he used to look, like, all the dang time.”

      If you ask me, the one showing blind hatred is probably the guy who decides to write off an entire website because he doesn’t agree with one guy’s opinions on a comic book.

      (For the record, I think Archie Sonic and Fleetway Sonic are/were both, on the whole, pretty awful comic books.)

    • Reply

      Seriuosly?! I’ve been a faithful reader of the Archie Sonic comics for 8 years and kinda liked this story, and I don’t take offense to it; I find it funny, I mean, I agree with pretty much everything in the review, looking at the story in hind-sight. Retro may not be my favorite website, and they’ve ticked me off plenty, but this review is rather entertaining XD

  • Reply

    Ok, time to be honest.
    I have read all 7 of these reviews so far, and I have literally NO IDEA whats going on. It’s a wonderful review, but I just don’t understand the plot of this story.

    • Reply

      That’s probably because nothing has actually happened in the story so far.

  • Reply

    “What teenager asks their parents anything about the opposite sex?” …when it’s time to have “the talk” perhaps?

    aside from that small piece of missed logic, i am super loving this review so far. keep it up.

  • Reply

    The article title says “The Review”, but what I’m reading is a history lesson. Name your articles properly please!

  • Reply

    This story arc is painful. Whoever (*cough*Ken*cough*Penders*cough*) came up with the idea of Sonic being a) old, b) married, c) with children, and d) a king, ought to be smacked in the head and kept away from the franchise for the rest of his life. Which is why that hack Penders leaving was easily the best thing to ever happen to the comic.

  • Reply

    If nothing else, Manik DID have a point… 😛

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