Born to the most noble of Echidna houses, the latest to continue the family heritage and responsibility as Guardian of the Floating Island, defender of all against the forces of evil from the world beyond as well as those who would threaten from within!
Archie Comics and SEGA present... KNUCKLES THE ECHIDNA!
— Issue introduction in nearly every issue
Knuckles the Echidna is a 32-issue comic book series published by Archie Comics that ran from 1997 to 1999, featuring Knuckles the Echidna, one of Sega's mascot video game characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The series was a spin-off of Sonic the Hedgehog and shared continuity with that title. The series continued the ongoing story of Knuckles' search for answers about his heritage and true nature, which had previously been featured in the Sonic the Hedgehog series as well as several specials and miniseries. After the series' cancellation in 2000, Knuckles' stories were continued as a regular feature in issues of Sonic the Hedgehog until 2003. After this, Knuckles and several of his supporting cast members became a semi-regular feature of Sonic's stories, effectively merging the two storylines into one.
The main focus of the comic is the title character, Knuckles the Echidna. His sacred duty is guarding the Master Emerald, why he is destined to do this job is even beyond him. Along with the Chaotix and his girlfriend, Julie-Su, Knuckles slowly unravels the mysteries about himself. his family and his people, and of a greater destiny beyond his duty.
The first three issues of the series were published as Knuckles: The Dark Legion, and were intended as a follow-up miniseries to the first Knuckles miniseries. However, the success of the title meant that it was turned into an ongoing series and rebranded Knuckles the Echidna beginning in issue #4. Archie had essentially "retconned" the mini-series as being Knuckles the Echidna #1-#3, something they have also did with Sonic Vs Knuckles: Battle Royal one-shot which they "retconned" into being Sonic Super Special #1. Knuckles the Echidna: The Dark Legion (Knuckles the Echidna 1-3) is preceded by another Knuckles mini-series Sonic's Friendly Nemesis Knuckles and the Knuckles' Chaotix one-shot both of which tie directly into the ongoing series.
Knuckles the Echidna also used a cover gimmick in which a story spanning three issues would have its covers connect to make one full image. These covers were drawn by Patrick Spaziante until issue 25, after which Manny Galan took over for the final issues. Galan was the series’ primary interior artis until issue 25 when the series changed format with issue 26 into a main story and a back-up stor, though he later became the artist for the back-up stories (featuring Mighty the Armadillo and Espio). Other artists include Jim Valentino (#22-24), Chris Allan (#26-28), Sonic the Hedgehog regular Art Mawhinney (#29), Colleen Doran (the Espio the Chameleon back-up story) and Ken Penders for the rest of the series’ duration.
The vast majority of the series takes place on Angel Island. Much of the story centers around Knuckles's family history. Knuckles's family had split into two factions: the Brotherhood of Guardians and the Dark Legion. Knuckles is a member of the former, and Julie-Su used to be a member of the latter. Much of the conflict of the comic surrounds the relations between these two warring factions.
Cast of characters
With the exception of Knuckles and the Chaotix, and later Ray the Flying Squirrel, Knuckles the Echinda featured a totally original cast of characters created specifically for the book, including Knuckles' romantic interest Julie-Su and his personal nemesis Dimitri, some of whom have gone onto continue to play a large part in the regular Sonic the Hedgehog series and universe.
- Knuckles the Echidna: Sworn Guardian of the Floating Island who was trained by his father Locke, and later by a mentor named Archimedes.
- Julie-Su: A former solider of the villainous Dark Legion, and half-sister of their Grandmater Kragok and their Kommisar Lien-Da. She has since defected, and became Knuckles' girlfriend after fighting alongside him for a long period. The two of them share the 'Soultouch'.
- Chaotix: When the series began the team consisted of Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon, Mighty the Armadillo and Charmy Bee. Charmy briefly left the group to return home, shortly after Julie-Su became a member of the group. Charmy rejoined after the series' cancellation along with his fiancée, Saffron Bee. Though Ray the Flying Squirrel was rescued during the series, he did not join the group until after the series cancellation.
- Locke: Knuckles's father and predecessor as Guardian of the Floating Island. Locke foresaw a disaster via a prophetic dream, and exposed his son to Chaos energy while he was still an egg, giving him abilities beyond those of any other guardian. After training Knuckles rigorously, he passed the position of guardian on to Knuckles and joined his forefathers in the Brotherhood of Guardians. He reappears sporadically throughout the series to help Knuckles with his problems.
- Lara-Le: Knuckles mother who lives in Echinopolis during the series' run. Her tumultuous marriage with Locke ended badly, and although he has tried to woo her back occasionally, Lara-Le has had enough of Locke placing his work above his wife and son. She currently lives with her new husband Wynmacher with whom she eventually has a child with named Knecapeon Mace. She dotes on her son and is very motherly towards him.
- Constable Remington: A dedicated leader in the Echidnapolis Security Team and trusted ally of Knuckles. Although he is not corrupt, he is the son of former Dark Legion Grandmaster Kragok (though he himself was unaware of this fact), and has many underworld connections. Remington was briefly missing in action after being captured by Dr. Eggman, but he would later resurface, having seemingly learned of his Legionnaire heritage and taking command of the Frost Legion splinter group. His full memory was restored by Enerjak, and was since made the leader of the few surviving echidnas relocated in Albion.
- Brotherhood of Guardians: A group of former Guardians who operate out of Haven, a technologically advanced base in the Forbidden Zone, from which they also monitor the planet below. With the exception of Tobor (who is revealed to be a former Dark Legion grandmaster named Moritori Rex, posing as his cousin Tobor), they are all ancestors of Knuckles. They are currently missing following the one-year leap forward in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, as Dr. Finitevus banished them to the Twilight Zone.
- Archimedes: A fire Ant who trained Knuckles, as Fire Ants have trained all Guardians since they began, Archimedes or 'Archy' (pronounced 'Ar-kee') is kind and good-natured (though sometimes a bit sardonic) but his duty caused him to keep many secrets from Knuckles, which lead his pupil to mistrust him. Recent issues of Sonic the Hedgehog have shown him to be living on Angel Island, but he has received little exposure since his brief reappearance.
- Dark Legion: The antithesis to the Brotherhood of Guardians, the Legion is an army of cyborg Echidnas who worship Enerjak and technology. Its leaders (known as Grandmasters) are all descendants of Enerjak's original alter-ego, Dimitri the Echidna, just as the Guardians were descended from Dimitri's brother, Edmund.
- Dimitri/Enerjak: Knuckles' uncle generations removed, and supreme leader of the Dark Legion, he is the ancient forefather of every Legion grandmaster. He was powered by eleven chaos Emeralds and turned into a godlike being before he was defeated and depowered by Mammoth Mogul. After losing his power and enhanced longevity, he was rebuilt as a cyborg.
- Kragok: The leader of the Dark Legion at the beginning of the series, he subsequently turns over control to Enerjak when the latter arrives on scene. After a failed attack on Echidnaopolis he was imprisoned for a time, and was later sent to the Twilight Zone with Tobor. When the two emerged, Tobor sacrificed both their lives attacking the Dark Legion Battle Cruiser.
- General Stryker: The leader of the Dingoes during the series' run, a huge, muscled soldier with a militaristic and aggressive nature who worked both against and alongside Knuckles. He is currently resuming command of the Dingoes in the Sandopolis Zone after the death of his son Kage Von Stryker.
- Renfield T. Rodent: A shady businessman who ran the Happyland theme parks on the Floating Island while involving himself in underworld dealings as well. He was later contracted by Dr. Eggman to secretly build robotic armies, but this operation was shut down by the Chaotix Crew.
- Downtown Ebony Hare: A powerful gangster in Echidnapolis, he tried to muscle in on his subordinate Renfield's Happyland caper, attempting to kill Chaotix member Julie-Su in the process. He was later taken into custody by Constable Remington, and has not been seen since Eggman's take-over of Angel Island.
- Hunter: An Overlander who hunts Mobians for sport. Sophisticated and intelligent, he was also quite insane, and shot dead Knuckles' childhood rival Monk as part of a hunt across Angel Island. He was given increased powers by Dr. Eggman, but was still unable to defeat Knuckles, who threw him into the sea.
- Knuckles' Chaotix (Published November 1995)
- Sonic the Hedgehog #30-#36 (as backstories) (Published November 1995 - April 1996)
- Sonic's Friendly Nemesis Knuckles #1-3 (Published monthly from April to June 1996)
- Knuckles the Echidna #1-32 (Published monthly from January 1997 to November 1999)
With the exception of issues 25 and 29 the series was broken down into three part story-arcs:
The Dark Legion (#1-3)
Lead by Kragok, The Dark Legion, a cult of technology-worshiping Echidnas formed by the disgruntled son of Enerjak, return from the Twilight Zone to which they'd been banished so as to reclaim the Floating Island. They capture Knuckles and the Chaotix, but they later escape and the Legion's base is destroyed. The Legion was fled to regroup elsewhere. The story also re-accounted the history of the Dark Legion and the history of Steppenwolf, the first fully trained Guardian.
Lost Paradise (#4-6)
Knuckles encounters Julie-Su, a Dark Legion soldier who was separated from her group as their base was destroyed. Rather than rejoin her companions, she felt driven to seek out Knuckles instead and, despite some trust issues, the two investigate the earthquakes that have become more and more frequent. Due to the firing of the Ultimate Annihilator (as told in the Sonic the Hedgehog Endgame story) has lead to fluctuations and weakening of the barriers between alternate Zones. It is revealed that, two centuries ago, many of the island's inhabitants had been moved to separate Zones by the Guardian Hawking in order to save them from nuclear fallout. The ancient Echidna city, Echidnaopolis, long-thought to have been destroyed centuries prior, starts to reappear on the island; however, the city of their longtime enemies, the Dingoes, begins to reappear as well. Both cities stand to reappear in the same place, causing tensions to mount as the dingo leader General Von Stryker sees the fluctuations as an Echidna-made threat. Knuckles encounters his mother for the first time in over a decade and is later briefly taken into custody by Constable Remington, who sends him to meet his ancestor Hawking. He and Julie-Su later go out to stop the dingoes' military advances as the temporal situation worsens; in the aftermath, Echidnaopolis is restored to the island, leaving the dingoes homeless.
Dark Vengeance (#7-9)
Mammoth Mogul secretly revives Enerjak from his space prison, who then returns to the Dark Legion who have been regrouping in Sandopolis. After capturing Knuckles' friends and allies, Julie-Su is forcefully returned to the Legion; Enerjak attempts to break Knuckles' will through a show of power, but after these unsuccessful attempts, he pulls Knuckles apart molecule by molecule. However, this is reversed by the Ancient Walkers. Thinking his obstacles now dealt with, Enerjak leads the Legion into Echidnaopolis where he clashes with the combined Dingo and Echidna armed forces; however, Mammoth Mogul's reason for reviving Enerjak is revealed as he appears and drains Enerjak of the energies absorbed from the Chaos Emeralds, leaving him an old man. During the confusion, Julie-Su betrays Kragok, leading to his arrest by the EST—and hers as well. The story continued onto Sonic the Hedgehog issue 56 in which Super Sonic, Hyper Knuckles and Turbo Tails battled Master Mogul. Because of her actions, Julie-Su's loyalties are called into doubt, especially by Vector the Crocodile.
The Lost Tribe (#10-12)
Knuckles is brought by his great-grandfather Athair to the surface of Mobius, where he is surprised to find a group of wandering Echidnas known as the Lost Tribe; descendants of those who chose to leave Echidnaopolis just before the island was risen into the sky. Due to prophecy, Athair abandoned his duties as Guardian in order to lead the tribe to their goal—Albion, the original home of the Echidna race—and believed that Knuckles was destined to lead the group on the last segment of its journey. Knuckles is supported by tribal members Yanar and Mari-An, and successfully leads them through Mercia, an area under the control of Antoine D'Coolette's roboticized father, known as the High Sheriff of Snottingham. They are aided by a Mercian local, Rob O' the Hedge, who also turns out to have ties to the tribe's prophecy; the tribe eventually ends its centuries of wandering and makes its way to Albion. Meanwhile, at Locke's insistence, the Chaotix are deputized by Constable Remington, who releases Julie-Su from jail as their new partner despite misgivings all around. This story ties into Sonic the Hedgehog #58.
The Chaotix Caper (#13-15)
Mello, Charmy Bee's childhood friend, arrives on the island, and the two visit the recently-reopened Happyland Amusement Park; unfortunately, Mello is fatally poisoned. Citing other recent cases of (non-fatal) poisonings at the park, Constable Remington sends the Chaotix to investigate; however, they all (minus Julie-Su) end up poisoned as well, Charmy more severely than the others and eventually requiring emergency surgery. A gangster known as Downtown Ebony Hare has been supplying Renfield T Rodent, owner of the park, with a sauce containing the addictive Lemon Sundrop Dandelion additive; however, consuming more than small amounts is toxic. Remington and Julie-Su attempt to further investigate by having Julie-Su go undercover as a potential client; however, Downtown is suspicious and Julie is nearly killed. Regrouping, Remington and Julie follow the thugs to their factory and, joined by Espio, Mighty and Vector (who recovered from their poisoning) confront and capture the criminals. With his friend dead and his own near-fatal experience, Charmy, who is revealed as the runaway prince of the Golden Hive Colony, decides to leave the Chaotix and return home.
Reunion/Deep Cover (#16-18)
Knuckles and Julie-Su encounter Tobor, an old Echidna who claims to be a former Guardian and ancestor of Knuckles. According to him, during his first day as active Guardian, the Dark Legion breached the Zones and attacked Echidnaopolis; during the battle he, and the Grandmaster at the time, Moritori Rex, were accidentally transported to the island amidst a series of old ruins, which then collapses, severely injuring them both. Unable to free himself from the rubble, Tobor watched as his father, Hawking, arrived and, mistaking the battered Rex for his son, took him home. Ashamed, he eventually exiled himself to the surface of Mobius. Knuckles later attempts to interrogate the imprisoned Kragok on the matter, and while the Grandmaster reveals what he knows of Moritori Rex, the two are sucked into a sudden portal to the Twilight Zone; they later exit, only for Tobor to drag Kragok back in.
The Forbidden Zone (#19-21)
Tying directly into the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the story follows Knuckles and Geoffrey St. John's Secret Service as they both journey into the Forbidden Zone (the location of Haven, the base of operations for the Brotherhood of Guardian). The Secret Service had been sent to find out what became of Queen Alicia after her craft was shot down over the island more than a decade prior, while Knuckles ends up encountering Moritori Rex, who'd been posing as a Guardian for decades. While Queen Alicia is found to be alive (though in a coma of sorts), a shocking revelation is found in the form of Prince Elias, a heir to the Acorn throne whose existence had been hidden after it was assumed he had died. Moritori Rex, fearing Knuckles might reveal his true identity, attempts to kill the young Guardian but is fought off; he flees.
Dark Alliance (#22-24)
The Dark Legion try to gain control of the Floating Island via an upcoming election in Echidnaopolis, taking control of a prominent councilor to support their candidate Benedict, who soon gains a strong following. Due to the elections, conflict and riots erupt between the Legion, the dingos and the citizens of Echidnaopolis; Lien-Da, the Legion's Kommissar, goes so far as to have people beaten in the street. Dimitri, who, having lost his powers as Enerjak, is revealed to have been rebuilt as a cyborg; his forces take control of Haven and kidnap Knuckles, Julie-Su, General Stryker, and most of the Brotherhood of Guardians. Dimitri, suspecting that Knuckles has hidden powers, attempts to activate them for his own gain; however, the resulting Chaos energy ends up causing massive destruction. The Legion's candidate is revealed to be nothing more than a robot and the Legion is forced once again to flee. Issue 25 involves Knuckles finally reuniting with his father, who finally reveals his son's past to him.
The First Date (#26-28)
Knuckles and Julie-Su each struggle with their feelings for one the other while the Chaotix discuss relationships after learning that Charmy has become engaged to a girl named Saffron. Locke speaks of the Soultouch, a sort of sixth sense among Echidnas that helps them recognize compatible partners. Knuckles and Julie-Su finally agree to go on a date; however, Lara-Le realizes this coincides with her planned surprise birthday party for her son and convinces Julie-Su to take part in it. While both of his parents are there, Locke and Lara-Le tell Knuckles that they don't plan on getting back together. Knuckles and Julie-Su share a kiss. Issue 29 tells the story of the secret childhood friendship between Knuckles and Princess Sally, and the strain it faces due to the nature of their upbringing.
A Friend in Need (#26-28)
Mighty the Armadillo is recruited by Nic the Weasel and Fiona Fox (who had been thought dead) to open a heavy vault door; the two are searching for a gem they suspect was left behind in one of Robotnik's old prison camps. It is revealed that, as children, Mighty, Fiona and Ray the Squirrel had been imprisoned there; a young Sonic helped their attempted breakout, but Ray was lost in the confusion and Fiona was taken with Robotnik as he fled, causing her to resent Sonic and Mighty. The three eventually find Ray alive but trapped in suspended animation due to the gem sought by Fiona and Nic; at the cost of destroying the treasure, Ray is freed.
King of the Hill (#30-32)
Monk, a purple ape who bullied Knuckles as a child, returns to the Floating Island after being literally thrown off years ago by The Brotherhood of Guardians. Monk confronts Knuckles, but their fight is interrupted by the Overlander (human) Hunter, who hunts all manner of creatures for sport. Fitted with restraining collars, the two are forced to work together to evade Hunter; however, Monk is eventually killed, causing Knuckles to instinctively release the full force of his Chaos powers; Hunter is later imprisoned by The Brotherhood.
Hiding in Plain Sight (#30-32)
Traveling with Julie-Su in Rainbow Valley, Espio comes across an injured chameleon who gives a cryptic warning before falling unconscious. After Julie-Su leaves to seek medical aid, Espio is approached by his friend Liza, who reveals that Valdez, a former member of the Secret Service, has arrived on the island; however, Valdez has been roboticized and reprogrammed by Robotnik. Believing a twisted version of reality, Valdez asks Espio's help in obtaining the island's Emerald; however, as coercion, he has Liza roboticized and threatens the lives of the valley's chameleons. Eventually realizing that this is no longer his old friend, Espio pretends to go along with the plan before turning on Valdez; he is presumably destroyed and the imprisoned chameleons are freed.
Single Issue Series
- Childhood's End (#25): The series' only milestone issue, in which Knuckles is reunited with his father, and the full history of the Brotherhood is finally explained.
- My Special Friend (#29): Princess Sally visits the Floating Island to convince the Brotherhood to join the war against Dr. Eggman, where she and Knuckles discuss their past.
Continuation in the regular Sonic series
Though the series was canceled with Knuckles the Echidna #32, Penders resolved many dangling plot threads in Sonic Super Special #14 and continued to write back-up stories in the regular Sonic the Hedgehog series that followed on from the ongoing series. From Sonic the Hedgehog #79-Sonic the Hedgehog #84 Knuckles story ties into the Sonic Adventure adaptation. Following this came the infamous "Green Knuckles" saga, which spanned from Sonic the Hedgehog #88-#188 (with breaks in issues #92, #98, #103-105, #110-113) culminating in Knuckles' death. The Afterlife story that followed (Sonic the Hedgehog #121-#124) was part of the lead up to Sonic the Hedgehog #125.
Following the "one-year jump" the Chaotix primarily operated in Knothole serving along the Knothole Freedom Fighters in their war against the Eggman Empire. This continued up until the Enerjak: Reborn arc, which saw Knuckles determined to remain on Angel Island as he blamed himself for the death of his father and the massive Echidna casualties. Due to encouragement from Rouge the Bat however, Knuckles decided to continue helping the Freedom Fighters, continuing the Chaotix's assistance in their war against the Eggman Empire.
Most of the excess characters from the ongoing series were dealt with in the Return to Angel Island arc (Sonic the Hedgehog #138-#141) in which the Dingos had taken over the Island and the Dark Legion were acting as protectors of the normal Echidnas as the Brotherhood of Guardians, save Locke, had gone missing. Charmy, along with his fiancée Saffron, rejoined the Chaotix. The story also raised some questions as to the whereabouts of some of the Knuckles the Echidna characters, most notably General Stryker. Hunter, Remington and the Fire Ants were among the casualties of the story-line, as well as some minor Dark Legion members such as Xenin, Simon and Rykor. Remington was later revealed to have been saved by Dr. Finitevus and General Stryker's whereabouts and conditions were revealed in Sonic the Hedgehog #181 and #186, which explained that he'd been ousted by his son and living in the Sandopolis Zone in exile.
In the early 2000s, wind was caught of lead writer Ken Penders' alleged attempt to get an animated feature film centered around Knuckles the Echidna into development, the key studio of choice being DreamWorks SKG. His proposals were rejected (according to Penders) not out of disinterest, but due to severe legal complications regarding the copyrights to any Sonic characters developed in connection to the license by any party, which are said to essentially render the story thus far created through the intertwining roles of Japanese and American-conceived characters and concepts entirely limited to the media in which they first appeared—in this case, the Archie comic book series. (It is believed that this same snag is the reason for Sonic's suspiciously unnamed home planet featured in Sonic X.) To this day, it is supposed that, due to these complications, Sonic and his friends will never grace the big screen in any form not sanctioned by Sega of Japan in whatever form they choose, and the odds that elements originating from the pages of Archie, including such central elements as the Dark Legion in this case, are extremely slim due to the same set of circumstances.
In a self-published article, Penders mentioned that the film proposed would have been an animated feature, though whether the animation would have been traditional or computer-generated is unknown.
- Although there are only 32 issues, Knuckles' and the Chaotix's story continues in Sonic's comic series and is focused with the events of Mammoth Mogul.
- Of particular note when it comes to the series' original characters is its introduction of a vast amount of living Echidnas, a fact that makes the 'Archie Universe' unique among Sonic incarnations in that it changed Knuckles' Sega established status as the last of his kind, something that is still a point of contention among Sonic fandom.
- This is currently the third longest running Sonic comic spin-off series, behind Sonic X (second) and Sonic Universe (first). It was also the shortest-lived of the spin-offs until Sonic Boom undertook it at eleven issues.