Blue is Back!
Or at least, that’s how Sega of America wanted you to think back in 1996. Five years after the release of the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the western branches of the company were scrambling to celebrate Sonic’s first semi-prominent anniversary. The original plan was to release Sonic X-treme, the first true 3D game featuring everyone’s favorite hedgehog. The story behind that title’s cancellation has become the stuff of legend, not just infamous in this here part of the world but in the general gaming community. Without that title, Sega decided to heavily promote Sonic’s swan song on the Mega Drive – Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island, also known as Sonic 3D Blast in the United States. With a port of the game hastily developed for the Sega Saturn, along with a similarly titled Game Gear game that was otherwise unrelated, the marketing blitz began.
It was only natural for Archie Comics to craft a comic adaptation of the newest game in the franchise. Not since issue thirteen’s “This Island Hedgehog” had Archie released a comic at around the same time as the source material it was promoting, SEGA’s huge push filtering into the otherwise left alone plotlines of Archie. Did this unique timing help the 48-page special become a masterpiece? Well, that would be giving it away, wouldn’t it? Either way, let’s strap ourselves in and experience the very last of Archie’s stand-alone specials. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I present to you our seventh piece of evidence…Sonic Blast.
With the synergy of cross-media promotion oozing from every panel, the questions I have begin before opening the book. Why was the “3D” portion of the title removed for the comic? Seeing as the story lifts everything from the Saturn game and nothing from its spiritual handheld counterpart (there’s not even a hint of Knuckles’ dreadlocks through the whole thing!), I don’t have a definitive answer. Maybe because the comic was drawn in traditional 2D pencils, they didn’t want people to get confused? In an era where holographic foil-embossed covers were the norm, having anything promoting the third dimension might have given prospective readers the false impression they needed specialty glasses to really experience what was inside. Or maybe the editor thought the title was cooler being two words, who knows.
Though containing three tales, only the first based itself directly off the game. Cleverly entitled “Sonic Blast,” the script was done by familiar Sonic-scribe Mike Gallagher, with drawings by Art Mawhinney and inks by Rich Koslowski. Published between Sonic the Hedgehog #44 and #45, this would be the last game adaptation before Endgame, another not showing up until almost three years later in the pages of Knuckles the Echidna…but more on that next time.
The book opens with a secret communication between Dr. Robotnik and his nephew Snively, the latter holed up in Robotropolis while Robotnik is out on assignment. It only takes the second panel before we get our first fat joke, Snively calling his uncle the “keeper of the cellulite” in the most respectful way one can, seeing as our angry dictator doesn’t immediately try to murder him. The crazed doctor asks the Snivmeister to make sure their communication is on a secure channel, which begs the question: why would Robotnik ever use a channel that isn’t secure? It’s not like he’s calling Sally on his nights off, and even if he did I’m sure he’d want to make sure Sonic never found out!…but I digress. Snively destroys the “super secret scrambler” that would prevent anyone else seeing their communication, thinking back to the recent events depicted in the SonicQuest mini-series and how he wants to get back at his uncle for the humiliation.
This single panel brings up so many questions. First off, why would Robotnik leave his nephew alone in Robotropolis so soon after the failure of the original Death Egg? Didn’t he try to rename the whole place and leave everything unguarded so he could get some sweet SwatBot massage action? Secondly, Snively says he was stuck to Robotnik’s butt for days. Perhaps I’m not meant to dwell on this line, but I can’t help but wonder…just how regular is Robotnik? Surely the evil ruler of the planet had to have used the bathroom at some point. Does he never go number two? Is he that much in need of bran in his diet?
Either way, Rotor intercepts the transmission, Princess Sally telling him and Miles “Tails” Prower to meet her at the harbor, since that’s where Sonic should be already. Indeed, Sonic is lounging about on the shore, lazily fishing in a moment of downtime. Lifting his off-blue eyelids, he sees the princess run over, with her immediately commenting on how Sonic looks upset. Instead of holding back or running off or talking about chili dogs, Sonic comes right out with it: he’s none too happy about Sally knowing Knuckles, or the fact that she lied about it. Wait, what?
Ah yes, I forgot. There are other issues published beyond the game adaptations. The editor boxes point to a couple places to look, but a quick rundown is in order. Back in the Sonic & Knuckles special, Princess Sally, along with Rotor, Bunnie and Antoine, are in Knothole trying to make sense of a mysterious landmass heading straight for them. It only takes some exposition from Sonic and Tails to catch them up on the events from issue #13, which for some reason the duo never felt the need to share with anyone. The first time we see Knuckles and Sally on the same panel was a brief moment in the Knuckles Chaotix adaptation, where they shared no meaningful moments together. It was Archie’s fifth special, Super Sonic Vs. Hyper Knuckles (written by Mike Gallagher), which introduced a “stunning” revelation: that Sally and Knuckles knew each other as kids.
Sally drops the bomb nonchalantly, and while Sonic is at first shocked and gets all sheepish about his and Sally’s relationship, he quickly glosses over it, and by issue’s end all he cares about is whether there are any more chili dogs at home base. Sally’s secret childhood is ignored until the Mecha Madness special, where Knuckles, awakening from being hit on the head, sees Sally and immediately begins to gush about the summers they used to spend together, right in front of the core Freedom Fighters (sans Sonic, who is a robot at the time). Once that arc is completed, the dangling plot point isn’t revisited until Sonic Blast, which wasn’t even the next special. Sonic Live! was in-between the two, not to mention the issues in the main series.
Why did it take so long for Sonic to get worked up about Sally lying about knowing Knuckles? In fact, why would Sally even feel the need to lie about not knowing what the Floating Island was in the first place? She cites that withholding information was to protect the people of the planet, but if a strange floating landmass is heading straight to your secret headquarters, I’d think that would be the best time to open up and mention you know what the heck it is, not to mention who is supposed to be living up there.
If you think that any of this being brought up is going to lead to something, I’ve got something else to tell you. Trying to distract Sonic from his sudden mood swing, Sally reminds our hero that the only man she’s interested in “has a back full of blue bristles,” then tries to kiss him, while calling kissing “bristle,” with Sonic getting very freaked out at the concept. That’s when I realize we’re only on page three and I’m already lost. The awkward sexual tension is broken as both Rotor and Tails burst out of the lake in their respective sea-faring vehicles, Rotor slamming on his horn. Sally looks way more freaked out about almost being caught, but I’m sure Rotor knew exactly what he was doing there. Sonic? His confusion only lasts for a second, the plot finally getting into gear when everyone tells him about the communication they intercepted involving Robotnik being on FLiCKIE Island.
We get out second mention of the word atoll as our sights turn to the latest mysterious island on Mobius, where the evil ruler of the planet wanders about, commenting on the untold riches scattered about that he has no interest in. There is only one jewel that will satisfy his craving: a Chaos Emerald. He doesn’t know any are on the island, he just assumes there must be if every other gem in existence is hiding out. Great plan there, Doc. Robotnik explains that he went to the island alone because the FLiCKIE (yes we’re going to have to type it that way every time) has no natural predators, and thus does not fear strangers. Maybe that’s to explain why the FLiCKIES in the game wander around aimlessly even if there are still all sorts of perilous traps that could hypothetically kill it? The oblivious birds of the comic are soon rapidly transformed into mechanical slaves through the use of Robotnik’s latest invention, the compact Roboticizer.
With his new army flying off to patrol the coast, the mad scientist finds yet another FLiCKIE bird and scares it so he can follow it right to the Chaos Emerald. Ignoring the fact a scared bird probably wouldn’t automatically run off to the most powerful object in existence hiding on the island…I thought these birds feared no strangers? Why would someone going “Boo!” freak out a FLiCKIE? Wouldn’t it just turn around and try to nest on Robo’s pointy bald head? I know we only have 25 pages to tell a story, but c’mon.
Part two begins with Sonic, Rotor and Tails arriving in the water surrounding the isle, with Tails investigating the swarm heading straight for them. He assumes they’re the “rare FLiCKIE bird,” a species never mentioned in the comic until now, and one that no one seems all that excited about finally seeing in person. It doesn’t take long for Tails to realize not all is at is seems, him being attacked by the flock with some even biting his namesake and holding on for dear life, preventing our foxy friend from flying. Miles Prower, along with the three birds, crash into the ocean below, the FLiCKIES suddenly turning back to normal. Um. Ok?
Rotor hypothesizes it must be the salt water, and after making sure Tails isn’t dead, Sonic uses his super speed to make a ball out of water and throws it at another FLiCKIEBOT which promptly turns back to normal. Sonic tells the reader that his happens all the time in zones, that “you just never know what will set off the transformation!” Sonic, yes we do. What sets off the transformation is you curling up into a ball and bopping the robot on the head, freeing whatever animal is hiding inside. In a game which has no water level, why would the writer make this random leap in logic? In fact, why would this have anything to do with the roboticization process? That seems like a very prominent weakness, one that could have been exploited ages ago! Has Bunnie never tried swimming in the ocean since she was turned to half a robot? The Forty Fathom Freedom Fighters would have no work! Robotnik would only be able to rule Mobius-Wyoming!
While Rotor and Tails charge ahead armed with off-brand Super Soakers the walrus packed with him just in case they decided to have a picnic during a top-secret mission, Sonic spins ahead to the mainland, running on familiar checkered ground the comic rarely gives us. Sonic comments on how the FLiCKIE birds are everywhere, even though they’re supposed to be super rare. Guess Robotnik wasn’t very good at roboticizing everyone, was he? Since the FLiCKIE birds can’t say anything except their name (oh I get it they’re like Pokémon except there’s only four types and they never evolve), Sonic draws a crude image of RoBUTTnik in the checkered sand to try and communicate, the nearby FLiCKIE immediately freaking out. Guess they have a natural predator now!
Catching back up with the doctor, we find he’s found a group of FLiCKIES flying in a circle around a giant ring, which he immediately deduces must be a dimensional portal that leads to a Chaos Emerald. I know giant rings have served as transportation devices in the games since the beginning, but…well, this ring looks less like a portal and more a fancy ornament to a giant hole in the ground. I’m thinking the guys at Archie didn’t fully understand the visuals in the game. As the bulbous one tries to jump in, he’s stopped at the last second by our blue hero, whom Robotnik is shocked to see. Really? At this point, you’re startled that Sonic would show up to stop your evil plans? There’s a reason you sent an ineffectual group of FLiCKIEBOTS to guard the island’s coast!
Part three of our tale begins with our hero and villain exchanging some expected puns, Robotnik trying to kill Sonic with a particle beam but receiving a wedgie for his troubles. Instead of knocking out the “mecha-lomaniac,” Sonic allows him to compose himself, the two sparing with words yet again. Getting in each other’s faces, nose touches nose, letting Robotnik zap Sonic with some sort of neural-disruption field that stuns the hedgehog, but leaves the tubbtastic villain unscathed. Just because Sonic loves touching his own nose doesn’t mean he wants Robotnik to feel it up! There has to be some personal space issues there. Either way, with Sonic fazed, the doctor takes the moment to jump into the dimensional ring. Sonic quickly follows with a burst of his figure-8 move that Archie loves but Sega couldn’t wait to forget, and things get trippy…
Pages 18 and 19 are a two-page spread of “Sonic Vs. Robotnik in the FLiCKIE Zone!,” which looks like the Rusty Ruins Zone but has the boss from The Final Fight. It doesn’t take long for Sonic to make quick work of the exo-skeleton (what, no egg pun this time?), protecting the FLiCKIES from any oncoming shrapnel. Sonic grabs the fallen Robotnik’s cape, breaking the fourth wall in the process. Unfortunately for Sonic, the cape is composed of “electro-magnetics” from the material Plaidmantium, the strongest fiber in the world. Wolverine is surely jealous of Robotnik’s fashion at this point, especially since yellow is his color.
With Sonic wrapped up in the cape, Robotnik ventures deeper in the FLiCKIE Zone, coming across a giant FLiCKIE statue with a Chaos Emerald embedded in the forehead. Not wanting such power to be wasted on mere decoration, he climbs up the statue, pulls the Chaos Emerald out, and becomes sheepish as the giant FLiCKIE comes to life. Not wanting to be bird seed, the evil genius runs as fast as his tiny legs will carry him towards the dimensional ring, which is now shrinking. Seems removing the Chaos Emerald is causing the entire zone to collapse, a sensation Sonic recognizes from his last encounter with Knuckles.
Proving the writers really wish they were working on a Flash comic, Sonic begins vibrating at incredible speeds to allow his spines to pass through the cape in an attempt to get free. Since this isn’t the end of the series, Sonic manages it just fine. Robotnik looks quite freaked out seeing Sonic running toward him, and with an oil-based insult, Sonic slips past Robo and lands back on Mobius. With the ring closing in fast on Robotnik’s round figure, Sonic reluctantly tries to save the man they’ve all tried to overthrow for the last ten years. Just like a greedy child whose hand is stuck in the cookie jar, Robotnik refuses to let go of the Chaos Emerald, even though the ring is ready to cut his arm off. Luckily, a FLiCKIE bird bites his trapped hand, the censored expletives conveying his dismay.
Sonic happily tells Robotnik all the FLiCKIES are alive and well, Rotor and Tails showing up to also confirm the entire mechanical fleet was transformed back to normal and flew into the ring right before it disappeared. There’s only one flaw in all this happiness. Wasn’t the FLiCKIE Zone falling in on itself? Even Sonic thought to himself that it felt like the time he and Knuckles accidentally destroyed an entire zone! If all of reality was falling in on you, would you go “oh well, I’m sure that any living creature will be perfectly fine if I abandon them here!” Sonic sure was quick to escape, and for good reason. But don’t worry, all those defenseless birds are perfectly fine and not crushed into the first dimension or anything.
Also, Robotnik sure seems upset about the destruction of his compact roboticizer. Can’t you just build another one? It’s not like you don’t have a limitless supply of raw materials at your disposal. Heck, I’m sure you have plenty of roboticizers just taking up space back home in the city you’re making your untrustworthy nephew watch again!
With Robo’s latest plan thwarted, our trio of heroes hop back in their submarines to go back home, leaving Robotnik on “this remote atoll in the middle of nowhere,” with no way to get off or even communicate with Robotropolis. Sonic says the island is now his prison, but I don’t think Princess Sally is going to be too happy with that one. Right, leave a crazed genius alone on an island where who knows what is hiding out, instead of arresting him and taking him to a proper prison that would be able to keep watch on him 24/7. What are the chances that he’ll escape and set into motion a plan that will end in the apparent death of Sally or anything OH WAIT.
And thus the story ends with that most familiar of endings…
…wait a minute. Right there! There’s a FLiCKIE that didn’t go home! And it’s going to die in the oil slick that Robotnik somehow secretes from his person even though he’s not a real robot! You’re looking back Sonic you can see this happening why are you just leaving TAILS YOU’RE LOOKING TOO WHAT IS WRONG WITH BOTH OF YOU.
The rest of the special consists of two filler stories which read like they were left over from the comic’s earlier days, four “Find Your Name In Print!” pages that were probably way more exciting then they deserved to be, three rich pages of fan content, and the editorial teasing Knuckles’ second mini-series and Endgame.
So, what can we make out of all this? As a game adaptation, it comes closer to the source material than a lot of the others we’ve read in the past. We have the proper backdrop, we have the FLiCKIES (even if their name is being treated like NiGHTS), and we even have an accurate depiction of Eggman’s final weapon against Sonic. Unfortunately, the plot strays way off course. Since you’re only devoting 25 pages to the story, you’d think they’d want to keep it simple. Having a story where Sonic goes to an island, fights Robotnik and discovers the secrets of the Flickies should be super easy to do. Yet it was bogged down by odd elements like the salt water. I know, robots in the comic function far differently than the badniks of the games, but maybe this one time they could have just thrown the FLiCKIES into a shell that Sonic needs to pop. If anything, it might confuse anyone reading the comic as to how to play the game, thinking there’s some secret way to beat everything when in reality it’s just the same old spin attack.
In the context of the overall narrative the comic is trying to accomplish, especially as the months tick down to Endgame, I’m far easier on the story. Even though there are some huge leaps in logic, it’s still a fun yarn to sit down and read. Even the introductory scenes are a nice attempt to give a nod to everything else that’s happening, though it would have made slightly more sense if Knuckles actually did show up. You don’t have to resolve anything just yet, but having Sonic and Knuckles’ relationship move even slightly forward would have been nice, especially since Knuckles does appear in the game. Heck, the 8-bit Sonic Blast has Knuckles as the only other playable character!
If anything, you could argue that this special is one final throwback to some of the earlier stories in the comic. Plots that don’t make complete sense, resolutions which are forced and conflict with what one would imagine Sonic and Sally’s goal to be, but fun nonsense where you can sit down and enjoy the ride. With Endgame, those sorts of stories would be harder to come by. Yes, they still tried to be fun, but you could tell the writers were aiming for something else. Not always a bad thing, but then again…not always a good one.
Next Time: The three-part SegaSonic the Hedgehog story from Knuckles the Echidna. Yes, the arcade game that never came to the west and was definitely never translated to English.
Woah! It’s been almost two years since the last of these…so if you want to remember what the heck is going on, check out my previous reviews:
How Archie Played the Games, Part One: Of Pinball and Echidnas
How Archie Played the Games, Part Two: Of Floating Islands
How Archie Played The Games, Part Three: Of Pink And Metal Hedgehogs
How Archie Played The Games, Part Four: Of Walkers and Snipers
How Archie Played The Games, Part Five: Of Rodents and Giants
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6A: Of Death Eggs and Robot Birds
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6B: Of Silver Hedgehogs and Falling Islands
If you’re confused and thought Overlord did these, well, his domain is Sonic the Comic. Check out the other side of the pond so you can decide which comic did their job better:
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part One: Of Flying Battleships and Space Eggs
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 2: Of Time Stones and Shrink Lasers
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 3: Of Emeralds and Echidnas
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 4: Of Evacuating and Electricians
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 5: Of Ice and Repairing
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 6: Of Master Emeralds and Death Eggs
And if you’re wondering why it took two years for me to do part seven, check out a little 16-part detour on a storyline that definitely isn’t related to any video game I can think of:
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
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 7 – The Mental State of Sonic the Hedgehog
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 8 – A Dinner Party At The End of the World
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 9 – The Myth of the Mobius Sleepover
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 10 – It Goes Full Circle, If Only Halfway
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 11 – The Secret World of Jani-Ca
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 12 – The Completely Expected Death Of Locke
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 13 – When Is A Finale Not A Finale?
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 14 – All Hail King Shadow
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 15 – The All-New Adventures of Lara-Su and Old Rotor
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 16 – Whatever Happened To Ken Penders?