Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Comics: SONIC THE COMIC (1996)


When Egmont Fleetway acquired the license to publish a Sonic the Hedgehog comic in 1993 I don't think they expected it have quite the longevity it had. As it turned out Sonic the Comic ran from 1993 to 2002 and has since spawned an online fan version.

I was invited to join the writing team in the early issues and gradually became one of the regular scriptwriters.
By the Christmas 1996 issue of Sonic the Comic, (No.96, cover by Carl Flint, above) it had settled into the format of four long strips. Two of the stories were written by Nigel Kitching which contained no Christmas references as they were episodes of longer serials, so I was asked to provide two complete Christmas stories.

The first story I wrote for this particular issue featured Sonic in A Christmas Wish; a tale about a youngster who learns that you don't have to be a superhero to do something heroic. Roberto Corona was the artist (with Steve White on colouring) and they both did a fantastic job...


One thing that shocked me a little when I saw the published story was the addition of a huge caption warning readers not to imitate the kid who jumps out of a window thinking he has super-powers. This wasn't in my script and I didn't feel it necessary at the time. My worry upon seeing the caption was that it draws even more attention to the leap than if the reader had just read the scene and turned the page. My feeling was that the visual of the kid falling would act as enough prevention. However I appreciated that the editor Debbie Tate had to consider that STC had some very young readers and that we had to take responsibility for the stories we presented to them in case they thought Charmy Bee would be there to save them. In retrospect I should have made the same point with a less controversial scene.


Further on in the comic was the Sonic's World story, Season of Goodwill. I was very pleased with how this strip turned out, so I'm presenting it here in full for you to read. As well as Sega characters it also includes Tekno the Canary and Shortfuse the Cybernik, two characters I created for the Sonic universe. The great thing about Sonic the Comic was that we were able to weave sub-plots and character development into the stories, and this was one of the reasons for its longevity I think. In this story, although self-contained, you'll notice references to past episodes, plus Robotnik receiving a warning of things to come. Andy Pritchett and Steve White did a wonderful job on the artwork for this. Note the design of Father Christmas, harking back to the older version of the character before the jolly red-suited Santa we're familiar with today. I'd suggested this in the script and Andy got it spot on...






Another classic Christmas comic is scheduled to come down your cyber chimney soon!

15 comments:

Manic Man said...

Nice one to pick. You seamed to do a number of 'super hero' parody strips and they all worked pretty well ^_^ as they could be enjoyed by people that didn't know what they were parodying, and enjoyed by people that did, something which some writers seams to have a hard time with.

Lew Stringer said...

You get it. It can be a fine balance sometimes but I think it's very important to make the story clear enough for even casual readers to understand.

I've met a few people over the years who only mix in fan circles and they simply don't "get" that the majority of people out there don't know 99% of superhero characters. (For example, the friends I went to see the Iron Man movie with had never heard of the character before. Ditto with Captain America and Thor.)

When I created Brickman I was spoofing a character (Batman) that IS very well known by the general public, but at the same time I made sure the humour worked on its own level as well. My non-comics mates seemed to get it ok.

Mike said...

Oh OK maybe there was some then XD. I do vaguely remember this now, especially the Santa story. Me and my friends at school used to get STC and talk about the storylines in much the same way as I suppose kids in the 50's did about Eagle and that. But then living in a village made us a bit more "old fashioned", plus newsagents in the 90's still had a little individuality even if they were part of chains. I once got this obscure American comic called Lady Justice from the Mace in Little Downham! Just thinking of the chain of events that led to it being sold there is mind boggling.
For a "mere" licenced comic STC was very good. But then again I suppose several of it's characters were effectively "home grown British characters". For instance the 'gang' that Charmie Bee was a part of, they originated as 'also rans' in a kart game on the Game Gear, I suppose their actual characterisation was completely invented by STC writers?

Lew Stringer said...

There was a style guide we all had that gave some details about background and personalities to the Sonic characters but I can't remember if Charmy Bee was included. Possibly not. Nigel Kitching was the writer who fleshed out the personalities for most of the characters. I went along with his characterization except in the case of Amy where I was asked by editorial to make her more independent. I developed the characters that I created myself though, such as Tekno and Shortfuse.

Manic Man said...

" 'gang' that Charmie Bee was a part of, they originated as 'also rans' in a kart game on the Game Gear"

Chaotix first appeared in the 32X game 'Knuckles Chaotix' (AKA, Knuckles In Chaotix, which is kinda more correct). I remember from a brief e-mail with Nigel Kitching the one time that there wasn't really much taken from the games for the characters of Chaotix. In the games, Nack the Weasel (Japanese Name Fang the Sniper) wasn't anything to do with Chaotix. Vector was meant to be into Rap music, not the sciencist the comic had him as, Charmy was meant to be 16 years old and pretty grown up and mature, unlike his comic version etc.. Mighty, First appeared long before the group, in the Arcade game 'SegaSonic The Hedgehog', along with Ray and Sonic (Ray Never appeared in the UK Comic stories).

The Racing Game on the Game Gear you a probebly thinking about is either Sonic Drift (Only released in Japan) or Sonic Drift 2 (Released outside of Japan as either Sonic Drift, or Sonic Drift Racing). Nack was in the Second, but he wasn't in the first and none of the Chaotix members were in the first or second.

Interesting also, Chaotix didn't refer to any team or anything in the games, or atlest isn't stated to be. It was to do with the style of game, like 'Chaotic' but with a X (90s idea, the X makes it cool ^_^; though i can't say that wasn't on the mind of Stan or Jack with the X-Men back in the 60s).

I was always a bit iffy on turning Amy into more of a Tom Boy.. though some of it seamed to be going via a Riot Girl stage.. I think, in Later issues, Lew was the only writer to even bother to have Amy having a crush on Sonic.. I still can't see why Amy couldn't be a role model (which is what Deb Tate wanted) but still be female.. In alot of stories, she was just pretty much a Guy with Eye lashes.

HOMEFROMTHEPUB said...

Loving this.
STC best comic ever

James Spiring said...

Manic Man, Sonic Heroes has Charmy as being even younger than Tails, about 6 years old (Tails is 8), so the comic got it right. Apart from possibly Cream the Rabbit, who was introduced in that game (and also appeared in Sonic Advance 2, which came out at about the same time), he's the most immature character in the entire franchise. And also in Sonic Heroes, Vector, Espio and Charmy are referred to as Team Chaotix.

Amy being tomboy-ish is also true to the games. Sonic the Fighters (a mid-90s arcade game) refers to her as Rosy the Rascal, and it's that game that introduced her hammer, which she later uses in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Advance. She's hardly the damsel in distress Sonic CD made her out to be. The only girly things about her are her pink colour and her love for Sonic, which is similar to Tails's hero-worship. Both Amy and Tails have the same goal, to earn Sonic's respect and be able to fight. Remember, Tails too was captured once, rescuing him was the main objective in Sonic 2 for Game Gear.

Manic Man said...

Sonic Heroes, like all other Neo games, do NOT directly follow on from the original games. Many of the Characters have changed ages in odd ways.

Amy was NOT a tom-boy in the games. a Pico-Pico hammer is a toy hammer for the Wack-a-mole games, mostly seen (at the time) to be more played by girls.. She wasn't always the 'oh help help I'm useless' girl, but she wasn't a tom boy by any means. again, Neo games have no relation on Classic Sonic so trying to say they are the same characters don't work (like noted, Charmy has deaged 10 years, Tails, who was 8, i think is now 12, I believe Amy was Also 8 and is now 14 etc..) The rascal bit is still true to Amy's Original back story in Sonic CD, with the fortune teller. I was very un-impressed when Sonic R turned The Breeze (Amy's Car) from Blue and Yellow into a red and Pink thing.. out of place for the character.

It should also be noted, that almost all the colours and sizes, among other things, have changed alot.. The best theories for this new Sonic i ever heard was it's his great grand son OR a different reality version.

Ryan said...

Well this is an eye-opener, I had no idea that Mr. Stringer worked on Sonic The Comic!

After the Beano, STC was the main literature of my youth, but at that age you don't really take notice of the credits. The final frame of Dr. Robotnik being along on Christmas Day really struck a chord with me and my brother at the time...

Sometime in the new year, I'm going to go through all my back issues (which I've kept, obviously!), and see what else you did.

Lew Stringer said...

I wrote lots of stories for STC Ryan. The 'Shortfuse' and 'Amy & Tekno' ones were all mine, plus several of the Sonic serials such as the General Brutus saga. It was great fun to work on.

Ryan said...

Used to love Shortfuse back then - even devised my own Mega Drive game starring him (only made it as far as paper, mind - as a 9-year-old, programming skills don't really exist).

General Brutus was a bit of a nutter too!

VariousVarieties said...

Ryan:
"After the Beano, STC was the main literature of my youth, but at that age you don't really take notice of the credits."

Oh, I did! In fact not long after I first picked up my first issue of Buster at the age of 7, I remember noticing that the illustrators had signed their strips, and thinking that this was one of the many things that made it even more interesting to me than The Beano. Some of the artists' signatures were a little hard to decipher, though!

With Sonic the Comic's credits, I remember gradually learning to differentiate between the different credited contributors: the artists' different styles were immediately obvious, of course. Then I began to notice that Nigel Kitching wrote the multi-part continuity-influencing stories, while Lew Stringer and Mark Millar did (with some exceptions) more comedic one-off stories. Then eventually I learned to tell the difference between the letterers too (Tom Frame's lettering and balloons were very boxy and a bit rough, Ellie de'Ville and Elitta Fell's were very neat, and there was one letterer whose name I forget who always used italics).

Has it really been ten years since the final issue of STC was published? :(

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, time flies. I'd forgotten that Mark Millar wrote some of the strips!

VersasoVantare said...

Here, I think old Santa's up to no good here - if Robotnik had gone along with Saint Nick and destroyed his satellite, he probably would've taken out Shortfuse in the explosion!
That Santa's a sly one.

Lew Stringer said...

Nah, Shortfuse is pretty tough. ;-)

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