Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sonic 'Toons And Me: Part Two: Saturday Morning and Early Archie Comics

This would be my era, and takes place between 1993 and 1996.

There are things I'll acknowledge but won't say much about that happened around this time as well. Some are things that I'll come back to in future parts, while others are not.

But before I really get into the meat and potatoes of this, I should explain why this and quite a few other writing projects have been going slowly lately. The unfortunate reality here is that I'm an adult, like it or not, and like it or not, that means there are quite a lot of IRL things that I've got to give priority to. I say that because it seems those IRL things have kind of piled up on me. I think I'm getting things dealt with, but it's been hard to tell for awhile.

With that said, let's get on with the show, shall we?

And speaking of shows, that's probably a good place to start. In the fall of 1993, American audiences were given the premiers of two Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. One was a Saturday morning series, which I'll be covering here; the other was a syndicated, weekday afternoon show that I'll wait until I say something about the games of the era, possibly in the next part.

The Saturday morning show, known as Sonic SatAM amongst its fans, was my first introduction to the world of Mobius and its inhabitants. What brought on my initial interest in the show, I'm not exactly sure, but as different as the first episode turned out to be from the remainder of the series, it was sufficient enough to get me to watch on a somewhat regular basis. The general tone of the show was somewhat dark, all things considered. In this instance, Sonic was a member of a resistance cell fighting against Doctor Robotnik, as a dictator who had taken over the planet. In the first episode, the show had a lighter, more colorful and kid-friendly feel to it, as did the early comics, as I understand. The reasoning, I've heard, is that very early on, there were no firm character designs decided upon until both the Saturday morning cartoon and the comic book were far enough into production to have one episode ready to go and several issues of the comic ready to go to press.

I bring these two up together because, in many ways, the Saturday morning variant of the cartoon and the comic book were highly linked, featuring many of the same characters and storylines. Sonic and his band of Freedom Fighters, as they were known, lived in a village called Knothole. The first episode of the show introduced us to the titular little blue hedgehog and his companions Princess Sally Acorn, the daughter of the deposed king; Antione, a cowardly coyote with a French accent; Bunnie Rabbot, a cybernetic rabbit; Rotor, the team's walrus mechanic; Dulcy, the team's air support in the form of a big green dragon; and of course, Tails, Sonic's two-tailed fox friend who costarred in many of the games.

The main storyline of this series followed this band of seven as they did everything they could to retake the throne, located in the capital city of Mobitropolis, renamed Robotrobolis by Robotnik after his takeover several years before the start of the series. Specific episode stories included the search for allies, sabotage efforts, and even direct attacks from both sides against the other.

There were two episodes in the second season of the show that each contained two half-lenght stories each, as if they had been meant as backup stories for the comic series that wound up getting animated instead. My thought on the reason behind this is that the producers of the show knew going in that the second season was likely to be the last, and their efforts to get their main storyline wrapped up by the end of the season left them two episodes short, so these four short stories were put in to fill out the rest of the season.

Because the SatAM series did manage to wrap up the main plot of defeating Robotnik by the end of the second season, I didn't really get too much into the comics. I do know enough about where the series was supposed to be headed, had there been a third season, to sort of comment on that. The season, and therefore the series, ended on a cliffhanger, indicating that there was another villain meant to replace Robotnik at the start of the season. Had the comic picked up there at some point, and if I'd have known, I might have picked it up more often than I did.

But, my understanding, incomplete as it may be, is that for all the parallels and analogs between the SatAM series and the Archie comic that I'll be talking about here, the storylines were actually quite divergent, not really having terribly much impact on one another. While the main cast was the same for both the comic and SatAM, the comic really went its own way, especially after the end of the cartoon series. For as many bad things as I've been hearing about the comic, especially in recent years, it's gotta be doing something right, as it's still going to this day, if my information is correct.

This is not to say that there haven't been attempts that were seemingly meant to significantly change or end the comic. As of this writing, I've made it through Dan Drazen's reviews of the comics up to Issue #102, and there have been two opportune times to make such changes: issues 50 and 100. Or, at least those issues were ones where obvious attempts to change the book were made, and unfortunately, they were both botched, as I understand, due, in the case of the arc leading up to issue 50, too many cooks in the kitchen, as it were, and in the case of #100, a matter of conflicting corporate mandates making too big a mess.

There are ways that the comic could have gone, but didn't, and I can understand why, of course. If I had my own golden goose, I'd be in no hurry to get rid of it, either. But I also know that golden geese are like most other fowl, and indeed most livestock in general. There comes a time when the animal in question stops producing in sufficient quantity or quantity, if not both, to continue a productive life, at which point it becomes Sunday dinner, and perhaps a nice pillow or a fancy pair of shoes. So too was the Sonic SatAM continuity. It's certainly been a good one. It's the one that all my Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction is based upon, after all. At the same time, though, by the time that Issue #102 was published in December of 2001, the show the comic's main continuity had been based on had been over for a minimum of seven years prior. By this point, this particular golden goose had really started to dry up.

As I said before, though, for me, this particular continuity wrapped quite nicely at the end of the SatAM series, with Robotnik having been defeated, apparently once and for all and a new main villain only hinted at. The first of the places this comic could have, and maybe should have, gone after the end of the animated series it shared so much if its plot with will be the subject of the next installment in this series. There are two such options, but since I desperately need to keep these things more manageable from here on out, I'll be dealing with them one at a time. So, until next time, stay Sonic, everyone!

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