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Sonic the Comic, also known as STC, was a UK children's comic released fortnightly between 1993 and 2002. It was the UK's official Sega comic, featuring stories about its mascot Sonic the Hedgehog, other Sega video game characters and some characters that appeared on Sega's consoles.
It was published initially by Fleetway Editions (the merged companies Fleetway and London Editions), but this company was progressively integrated with its parent company Egmont, changing its name first to Egmont Fleetway in issue #89, then to Egmont Magazines during its final issues.
Sonic the Comic's original price was 95 pence, increasing to £1.35 by the final issue. The comic generally had contained four comic strip stories, each usually following different storylines and being written and drawn by different writers and artists. The first was always a seven page story about Sonic himself (except for one issue which began with Tails instead) and in the earliest issues, the remaining three would involve a different Sega game character (see list below). As time rolled on, Sonic's influence spread, and the other strips were supplanted by supporting-character-based stories such as Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Chaotix and the anthology "Sonic's World", which featured a variety of events in the STC world not covered by the main character strips.
Aside from the comic strips, for its first few years STC regularly featured content related to Sega video gaming. Fitting in with the Sonic convention of calling levels "Zones", these sections were given such titles as the "Q-Zone" (which featured videogame tips and cheats), the "News Zone" and the "Review Zone". Readers' artwork was printed in the "Graphic Zone", and letters were featured in "Speedlines".
Special gifts also came with the comic. These gifts ranged from stickers (including a scratch and sniff sticker modeled after Sonic's shoes) and candy to larger things like a ruler modeled after Sonic.
The mascot of the comic was a robot named Megadroid, comprised of parts of a Sega Mega Drive. Megadroid was the persona used by the editors of Sonic the Comic to answer letters and provide story recaps and general magazine news (much like Tharg in 2000AD, and in fact created by former Tharg, Richard Burton). He acted as a liaison between the readers (whom he called "boomers") and the "humes who think they're in charge".
Megadroid had a one-off strip, where he ran away from the STC offices to a seaside town only to return from his harrowing experience to attend to the needs of the boomers.
Megadroid was dropped from the comic in 1998, and with him the "Speedlines" letter page vanished. Speedlines returned in 2000, though was no longer a regular feature and the letters were supposedly answered by Sonic himself (actually editor Andy Diggle and later Steve MacManus).
As part of STC's unofficial fan-created revival in 2003, Megadroid was brought back, with a midsection now made of a Nintendo GameCube.
Setting and history
Sonic the Comic began its run with a series of fairly inconsequential one-shot stories, and only established its identity and ongoing storyline and setting with issue 8's "The Origin of Sonic". The comic adopted a version of the "Kintobor origin" of Sonic and Doctor Robotnik, which had originally been featured in a promotional comic for the first Sonic game printed in Disney Adventures and had been elaborated upon in Mike Pattenden's book Stay Sonic. Like other UK Sonic publications, STC used the Stay Sonic version as its basis. This origin story established that Sonic was originally a normal brown hedgehog, who burrowed his way into the underground laboratory of Dr. Ovi Kintobor, a scientist who wished to rid the planet Mobius of all evil through the use of powerful gems called the Chaos Emeralds. In addition, he helped Sonic increase his running speed using a special treadmill, until the hedgehog eventually broke the sound barrier with a sonic boom which turned him blue. However, an accident involving the unstable Chaos Emeralds and a rotten egg transformed Kintobor into the evil Dr Ivo Robotnik, leading to the early STC Sonic stories, which were based on the events of the games Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The accident consisted of Kintobor accidentally knocking over a bottle of lemonade into a machine he was working on, that had the emeralds inside (while holding the egg), while he was explaining to Sonic what he was doing.
"The Origin of Sonic" led into a storyline in which Sonic, Tails and their friends were sent forward in time six months. During their absence, Doctor Robotnik had successfully conquered the entire planet of Mobius, and Sonic and co. were forced underground, operating as "Freedom Fighters" attempting to bring down Robotnik's rule of the planet. This situation remained until issue 100 (1997), when Robotnik was deposed.
The main strip of STC was always Sonic's own, chronicling the adventures he had both on his own and with his teammates, while the other three strips in the comic were a rotating series of stories based on popular Sega video games, usually six parts in length. As time went on, these strips dwindled and were phased out entirely in favour of other stories about Sonic and his friends and enemies, the first of which was a Tails solo series which saw him return to his home in the Nameless Zone, where it was believed that he was the great hero of Mobius, not Sonic, leading to misadventures there. In addition to Tails and Sonic, other members of the Freedom Fighters included Johnny Lightfoot and Porker Lewis, characters based upon the generic pig and rabbit sprites freed from Badniks in the video games. The team soon added the "Kintobor Computer" to their ranks - an artificial intelligence based on the brain patterns of Doctor Robotnik's former self - and were later joined by Amy Rose, a female hedgehog infatuated with Sonic, whose lies about being his girlfriend had made her a target for Robotnik's forces. Robotnik himself was later redesigned to match the appearance of his Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series counterpart, and he gained a close ally in Grimer, his green-skinned chief scientist, who was instrumental in creating Metallix, the Metal Sonic, leading to the first major multi-part story in the comic, "The Sonic Terminator," itself an adaptation of the Sonic the Hedgehog CD video game.
While "The Sonic Terminator" was STC's first adaptation of a video game, it was not their last. Knuckles the Echidna and his Floating Island soon made their debuts in the pages of the comic as Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was adapted, and the mysterious history of the ancient power objects, the Chaos Emeralds and their relation to Knuckles' lost race of Echidnas steadily began to unfold (see the gems' own article for full details). Instantly popular with readers, Knuckles was spun off into his own storylines in the comic, while new, original characters like sky-pirate Captain Plunder, rebellious super-Badnik Shortfuse the Cybernik and engineering genius Tekno the Canary were introduced, often in the anthology strip Sonic's World, and would in turn become popular enough that they would headline their own strips at times. One of the most far-reaching storylines of the comic was the adaptation of the Sonic & Knuckles game, which ultimately led into the introduction of the Chaotix Crew and the Brotherhood of Metallix, an army of Metal Sonics who had turned on Robotnik, and embarked on a plan to alter the timeline and take over Mobius.
One of STC's more innovative choices compared to other Sonic fiction was the use of Sonic's Chaos Emerald-induced powered-up form, Super Sonic, as a monstrous, inhibitionless alter-ego, the Mr. Hyde to Sonic's Doctor Jekyll. The appearances of Super Sonic were few and far between in the first eighty or so issues of the comic, making the character's eventual showings all the more impressive and special. Shortly after reappearing to combat Commander Brutus, a Badnik trooper programmed with Robotnik's own brain patterns who eventually led a revolution against this creator, exposure to more emerald power than ever made Super Sonic almost completely uncontrollable. When the Freedom Fighters transferred the chaos energy out of Sonic into the weird alternate dimension known as the Special Zone, Super Sonic continued to exist as a separate entity, forcing Sonic to pursue him. Using the dimension-hopping Omni-Viewer to freeze Super Sonic in time, Sonic was left with no way to return to Mobius and spent a brief period in the Special Zone, while Shortfuse joined the Freedom Fighters to keep them going and Knuckles ended his long quest back to the Floating Island. This ended when Super Sonic freed himself, his escape triggering a planet-wide electromagnetic pulse that the Omni-Viewer shunted to Mobius, deactivating Robotnik's computer systems and robots worldwide. In the comic's landmark 100th issue, with no technology or troops to protect him, Robotnik was finally deposed as Mobius's ruler, beginning a new stage in the storyline of Sonic the Comic.
After establishing the new state of play on Mobius - including the now-amnesiac Super Sonic's befriending of magician Ebony and psychic Pyjamas - STC's next major move was its adaptation of Sonic 3D Blast, which would prove to be the last game adaptation for a prolonged period of time. Although it ultimately amounted to little more than use of the different elements from the game (Flickies Island, the birds used for Badniks and dimensional travel via Mobius Rings), with the added introduction of a new Metallix villain (with its design based on Knuckles this time), it was a key stepping stone in shaping the direction of Sonic stories right up until the conclusion of the series. The story introduced the interdimensional alien race known as the Drakon Empire (spun out of a dangling plot point from nearly one hundred issues prior), who allied themselves with Doctor Robotnik in an attempt to acquire the Chaos Emeralds, revealing their previous ownership of the gems ages prior. Alliances, betrayals and double-crosses cumulated in Robotnik's successful capture of the Emeralds and a 4-issue epic in which he had god-like powers & reshaped Mobius entirely, but when his body was drained of Chaos Energy he vanished into a sub-atomic dimension.
A series of dimension-hopping adventures by Amy and Tekno resulted in Mobius being briefly invaded by Earth military forces, after which Sonic pursued Grimer and Nack the Weasel in their quest to recover Robotnik. Trapped on the sub-atomic world of Shanazar, Sonic found it hard to adapt to the local culture, and when Amy's adventures led her to join him on the planet, the two explored the world's numerous vastly-different zones, combating myriad threats. Robotnik had his own plans, however, using the dimensional technology that brought Sonic, Grimer and Nack to Shanazar to enlarge the world, fusing it with Mobius in a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style event. Shanazar's zones could now be accessed from portals on Mobius, and various doorways had also opened to various points in Earth's history. Infuriated with yet another failure, however, Robotnik decided to bring his long war with Sonic to an end by destroying Mobius once and for all. Entering into a partnership with the living plastic alien hive-mind, the Plax, Robotnik used their technology to absorb elemental energy from both Mobius and Earth, forcing both worlds into total ecological collapse. His scheme was again foiled, however, by Shortfuse, who wired his armour into Robotnik's machine, undo the damage and draining the energy from the villain, with the added bonus of the feedback finally liberating him from his armour.
This proved to be one defeat too many for Robotnik - retreating physically and mentally, he languished in darkness, until Grimer, desperate to snap his master out of his depression, initiated the events of the comic's final storyline, the adaptation of Sonic Adventure (although in practice, this would prove to be the loosest game adaptation yet, as the game's wildly different approach was largely incompatible with the STC universe). Discovering a canister containing a creature of living chaos energy, Grimer unleashed the fear-inducing "Chaos" upon the Freedom Fighters, leading to the death of Johnny Lightfoot. Rampaging out of Grimer's control, Chaos then attacked the Floating Island, intended to absorb the Chaos Emeralds, but Knuckles jettisoned the emeralds before he could absorb more than one, causing the island itself to plunge into the ocean. While Robotnik then set about gathering the emeralds to lure all the players to his fortress that they might all die together, Sonic was transported into the ancient past of Mobius by Tikal and Pochacamac, two of the planet's race of echidnas, where he witnessed the beginning of the war between the Echidnas and the Drakon Empire, the origins of the Chaos Emeralds, and the creation of Chaos, who proved to be a Drakon prosecutor, mutated by exposure to the emeralds. Returning to the present, Sonic arrived just as Chaos absorbed the remaining emeralds and became Perfect Chaos. Robotnik's suicide plan was thwarted, however, by the unexpected appearance of Super Sonic, dying due to depletion of his own chaos energy. Absorbing Chaos's energy, reverting him back to his Drakon form, Super Sonic became his old evil self again and turned on the Freedom Fighters, until Ebony used her magics to fused Sonic and Super Sonic back together again.
Sonic the Comic's original stories came to an end at this point with issue #184, but the comic continued until #223 with reprinted material from throughout the magazine's life.
Sonic the Hedgehog
As the central protagonist and main character of the comic, Sonic was portrayed in his eponymous comic with an attitude which differs slightly compared to what is considered the norm in other media; here he is presented as being somewhat bossy, cocky and arrogant, and characters regularly referred to his "strange sense of humour". Sonic frequently made cruel jokes at the expense of his friend Tails, behaviour contrary to that seen in most of the continuities. However, like all his incarnations, Sonic truly does care about his friends and their well-being, the same care also applies to his home planet of Mobius. Towards the end of the comic's run, with the death of Johnny Lightfoot, Sonic imposed a heavy blame upon himself; disgusted in how he'd kept his friends in the firing line for so many years. After a brief self-imposed exile, he returned to his friends with a much less self-centred attitude, and now more determined than ever.
Originally a resident of the Emerald Hill Zone, a brown hedgehog nicknamed "Sonic" became friends with the benevolent scientist Doctor Ovi Kintobor and assisted in his experiments by running errands for him. He was present for most of the doctor's pivotal experiments, but didn't really pay much attention to them. Sonic's life took a bizarre turn when Kintobor directed his curiosity towards Sonic's running prowess, and attempted to measure what speed Sonic could reach under his own power. Kintobor gave him friction reducing trainers or "Power Sneakers" and put him in a kinetic gyratosphere (a spherical treadmill of sorts) to test Sonic's speed. The machine was started up and Sonic ran faster and faster in it until he surpassed the speed of sound, causing a sonic boom (anything from 651 mph and up) that blew up the machine and caused Sonic to turn blue.
Upon Kintobor's transformation into Dr. Robotnik, Sonic used his speed to battle against the madman's attempts at conquering Mobius. Sonic honed his skills using the various structures around the Emerald Hill Zone and soon learned to control his super-speed, allowing him to perform aerial feats and stunts. His signature move quickly became the "Sonic Spin Attack", which proved useful for destroying Badniks and Troopers, but he also employed many other techniques (such as creating a cocoon of speed to rip his opponents apart) over the years. He was frequently able to escape being held captive by discreetly vibrating the restraints with constant speed; eventually shaking them apart. He also displayed the ability to create a force field by vibrating the molecules in the air around him at supersonic speed.
He had an alias of "Bob Beaky", a heavily wrapped-up bird, which he used for undercover work.
For a list of other characters featured in Sonic the Comic's stories, see Category:Sonic the Comic characters.
When STC started out, three of the four strips in each issue originated from games other than Sonic. After a while, they were gradually replaced by Sonic spin-offs.
- Shinobi (3 series)
- Streets of Rage (3 series)
- Kid Chameleon (2 series)
- Eternal Champions (2 series)
- Golden Axe (2 series)
- Decap Attack (3 series, initially)
- "Pirate STC" (1 series)
- Marko's Magic Football (1 series)
- Ecco the Dolphin (2 series)
- Wonder Boy (2 series)
- Sparkster [Rocket Knight Adventures] (1 series)
- Mutant League Football (1 series)
- Shining Force (1 series)
- "Megadroid" (2 series)
Of these, "Pirate STC" and the "Megadroid" strips was the only ones not to be based on an existing video game; "Pirate STC" was based on a series of adverts for the Sega Mega Drive and Mega CD, while the "Megadroid" strips were based on the host robot of Sonic the Comic.
Decap Attack was an adaptation of a Mega Drive game. The strip became very popular and outlasted all the other non-Sonic strips (partly because the editor liked it), becoming Nigel Kitching's pet project.
The bulk of the work in the comic was written by either Nigel Kitching or Lew Stringer, while art was provided by Richard Elson, Nigel Dobbyn, Carl Flint, Woodrow Phoenix, Roberto Corona, Mick McMahon, Kitching himself and many others.
Several of the comic's writers and artists have since had success elsewhere. Mark Millar, who wrote the first Streets of Rage storyline and some Sonic strips, has since written major titles for DC and Marvel Comics such as The Authority and Ultimate X-Men; occasional cover contributor Dermot Power has worked as a concept artist on several Hollywood films; and Road to Perdition illustrator Richard Rayner contributed to Decap Attack scripts.
The demise of STC began when budget cuts at the comic led to the number of pages being cut from 36 to 32 in 1997 and as a result, the loss of the news, game review and game tips sections. Despite being one of Fleetway's biggest selling comics in 1998 (at one point that year it was outselling 2000AD), from issue 133, published that July, one strip an issue was given over to reprints to save money as part of Fleetway's policy of five-year reader cycles (issue 133 was published shortly after the comic's 5th birthday). Later in the year, the mascot Megadroid was removed, along with the "Speedlines" letters page. Two more strips were later replaced by reprints, leaving just the main strip and the cover as the only new material from issue 157 (issues 155 and 156 had 2 new stories, though this was merely to let the existing Amy and Tekno story draw to a close). With only one new strip an issue, this meant there were no new supporting character strips, the main strip being the only new material in the comic. The reprints policy meant Kitching was supposed to share the main strip with Lew Stringer, causing the plans for the Shanazar arc to be heavily altered.
During this time, the main strip's stories came under the "Time Zone" banner, mostly being set on Shanazar and then later involving dimensional portals leading to other dimensions & Earth's history (identical to the previous Amy & Tekno stories) due to editorial preference. This was highly unpopular with many fans as neither Mobius nor any of the main characters bar Sonic & Amy featured, and the lack of ancillary strips meant no other stories could be told, with Richard Elson's artwork also arguably at its lowest point. Lew Stringer was the comic's sole writer during this period, Nigel Kitching having being sacked after issue 157 (returning with issue 175 after a change in editor).
Despite an apocalyptic final story by Stringer and a much-lauded comeback by Kitching in 2000, Egmont made the decision for the comic to be fully reprint from issue 185 - although these still had new covers, drawn by Richard Elson who was the sole artist in the final issues. This happened at short notice – even Kitching wasn't aware that issue 184 would be his last until he requested an extension for the ten-issue storyline he was in the middle of writing, having apparently already made plans for future stories that would follow it. He revealed the cancellation to fans on the STC Mailing list on 19 April 2000 – a little over two months before the last issue was published, and only a few weeks after he himself had been made aware of the fact. As a result, the final story ended with a handful of loose ends from earlier stories left untied.
Fully-reprint issues continued to be published until issue 223, which reprinted the four-part storyline "The Evil Empire" and featured an article by Nigel Kitching about his time working on the comic, an abridged version of one that had appeared on the Mailing List.
In addition to Sonic the Comic, nine issues of Sonic the Poster Mag were published. This comic consisted of an A1-sized poster, on the reverse of which was printed a comic strip in A4-sized sections. The poster was folded to match the pages of the comic. Most of the stories were based around Sonic, but one was devoted to Shinobi and another to Streets of Rage. Issues 1 & 2 were not strips. Issue 1 contained info on the two cartoon series (AOSTH and SatAM) and Issue 2 was game tips on Sonic Chaos.
In 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999 Sonic Summer Specials were published. The 1995 issue consisted mainly of reprinted material from Sonic the Poster Mag, and the 1999 edition was entirely reprints. In addition, in 1996 the Knuckles Knock-Out Special was printed, containing material devoted to Sonic's "friendly rival".
Four Sonic books were released by Virgin Publishing in 1993, sharing many similarities with early STC including the origin of Robotnik and the early cast (Johnny, Porker, Sally Acorn, Joe Sushi et al.). The second title, Sonic the Hedgehog in the Fourth Dimension, is notable for forcing a time-travelling Sonic to save Mobius by ensuring Kintobor becomes Robotnik - several years before STC did the same thing.
Sonic the Comic Online
Sonic the Comic - Online! (or STC-O as it is commonly referred to) is an unofficial web-based continuation of Sonic the Comic. STC-O!'s first issue starts at #224, following on from the final full-reprint issue #223, and is currently up to #263.
Many notable events have taken place thus far in the Online comic. The long missing Dr. Zachary was established as the primary villain for the opening issues of the comic, freeing the mysterious entity known as Vichama, waking Shadow the Hedgehog and ordering the latter to destroy the Special Zone. Tikal also returned, and has lost her memories of the Ancient Echidna race, much to Knuckles' regret, and currently resides on the Floating Island. The destruction of the Special Zone has also resulted in the arrival of the Special Zone criminal gang The Family, a group of Mafia-style insects led by the mysterious Don Long-Legs, who have rapidly taken over the underworld of Mobius and clashed with the Freedom Fighters. Sonic is currently dealing with a media smear campaign by the Kane Broadcasting Company, while at the same time being framed for committing numerous crimes. In the end, it is discovered that the ruse was perpetrated by a Metallix made out of liquid alloy, who allowed himself to be incarcerated in Sonic's place in order to attack the Freedom Fighters once they broke him out, in order to make them lose their trust in Sonic as the citizens of Mobius already have. Unable to face his failure, Sonic flees the planet, but not without giving Tails the mission of protecting Mobius in his stead, just as Robotnik, his broken body hooked up to a supercomputer linked to his Badniks' systems, launches a new, worldwide offensive.
The comic does not have the backing of either Egmont Fleetway or Sega, but many of the original STC writers and artists have praised the website and backed its continuation; Nigel Kitching is also an occasional contributor to the site's message boards, and several former creators wrote in to #224's Speedlines. Thus, it is considered among STC fans (and even Nigel Kitching) as "unofficially official" - the closest to an official continuation there is ever likely to be. It was in the running for the Diamond National Comics Award for Best Online Strip, 2004 - ultimately coming in second place to the officially-licensed Matrix Comics. As of February 2006, it is nominated for several categories - including Favourite Web-Based Comic and Favourite Colour Comic: British - in the Eagle Awards.
STC-O is also home to the Message Zone, a forum home to thousands of members. Originally starting as a place to discuss the latest online issues, the forum has grown considerably, adding more boards, and more areas of talk.