Blast Processing for Young Imaginations

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Despite his failure to adapt to a post-Dreamcast world, I have a soft spot for Sonic the Hedgehog. It started with his second game on the Sega Genesis, and shortly moved to an affinity for the licensed comic book. I was given my first issue (No. 13) by a grade school friend. Along with any Peanuts and MAD paperbacks I could get my hands on, Sonic helped kick-start my lifelong love of comics.

My rendition of Sonic the Hedgehog

Published by Archie Comics (the same one that regularly dispenses Betty & Veronica “digests” to your local supermarket checkout stand), Sonic the Hedgehog was actually a perfect introduction to the world of serialized comics  The popular video game and cartoon show tie-in immediately hooked my malleable brain into an upbeat mixture of humor and action, the tone set by distinctive artists like Scott Shaw!, Dave Manak, Steven Butler,  Sam Maxwell, Manny Galan and Patrick Spaziante. The book’s level of continuity was deeper than in Valiant’s comparatively short-lived Super Mario Bros. comics, yet more accessible than that of Marvel or DC’s respective universes. It was entertaining, and it kept me coming back.

That trend has continued for over fifteen years; last month the series reached its 200th issue. For reasons of nostalgia, completeness or purely entertainment, I have stuck with it that entire time. Month after month and regardless of which mini-series or spin-offs were introduced, I was there. I mimicked my favorite artists’ styles in my own drawings, learning fundamental principals of expression and composition. One of my first experiences with HTML was in creating a Sonic the Hedgehog fan site. While that level of fanaticism waned with adolescence, those skills I practiced in reaction to it did not.

Proudly showing issues ¼ and 200 of Sonic the Hedgehog
At left, the ashcan preview issue ¼ of Sonic the Hedgehog published in 1992. At right, the recently published issue 200.

I love taking out my cardboard comic box housing the series, flipping through the hundreds of issues and remembering fondly the worlds they conjured. But alongside comics as challenging and thought-provoking as Maus, Blankets, Kane and the works of Moebius, it has struggled to compete. Issue 200 is truly a milestone; I decided months ago that it would be my last.

Inspiration comes from unexpected sources, and I doubt anyone would have predicted a passion for Lewis Trondheim and George Herriman would be cultivated from SEGA’s marketable mascot. I extend my sincerest thanks to the creators of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book for avoiding the oft-traveled path of half-hearted, licensed schlock in favor of a surprisingly rich continuum of stories that continues to ignite young imaginations.

If you’re a parent looking for a book your kids will actually read, I suggest you give it a shot.