Death knell or simple mistake?
The Sonic comic has had a rough time in the last few years, most of it laid at the feet of people like Ken Penders and Scott Fulop, who have seemingly been on a crusade to sink the book for their own personal gains. From last-second edits to increasingly more concrete reboots to shed legally-troubled cast members, if you’ve been a fan of this book, you’ve been putting up with a fair amount of confusion as multiple storylines have been forcibly wiped away without clear resolutions in order to side step increasingly frustrating legal issues.
Those days may finally be coming to an end, and possibly not on the best terms. Bleeding Cool reports that the option to subscribe to Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog comic has disappeared from their online storefront. If that doesn’t send a chill down the spines of comic fans, the next part will: in addition to no longer being able to subscribe to Archie’s Sonic book, Archie has replaced this year’s Free Comic Book Day issue of Sonic the Hedgehog with a Riverdale book meant to cross-promote the upcoming Archie television series of the same name. It will be the first time in 9 years that Sonic will miss Free Comic Book Day.
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the longest-running licensed comic books in the history of this industry, second only to Conan the Barbarian. However, even Conan’s initial 23-year run eventually ended at issue #275, wherein the book changed publishers (to Marvel Comics and eventually to Dark Horse) and various other Conan the Barbarian books continue to be published to this very day. Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, is the longest single-publisher run a licensed character has ever had, with issue #291 releasing in January 2017, marking a 24 year legacy spanning almost a dozen mini-series and six spin-off books. Due to inroads Archie Comics made in selling their all-ages Sonic books in supermarkets and convenience stores, at one point Sonic the Hedgehog was allegedly one of the best-selling comics in the entire comic book industry.
In 2009, former Archie Sonic writer Ken Penders began claiming ownership for characters he created during his tenure at Archie Comics. This spiraled out in to a full-blown legal battle with Archie Comics over copyright that eventually expanded to include parties like Sega and Electronic Arts. Penders had created many characters during his decade-long run of Sonic, and utilizing an uncommon loophole with Archie’s contracts (or apparent lack thereof), intended to continue the adventures of these characters on his own terms. Initial plans were merely for graphic novels, but Penders has since announced additional plans for an expanded media presence, including film and TV. Similar claims were made for Ken Penders’ The Lost Ones series in the early 2000’s, which only ever had one issue published by Image Comics in addition to the trailer for a feature film.
Since then, Penders has turned his quest to claim ownership of his Archie characters in to what’s beginning to look like a personal vendetta, alerting other writers of this loophole and seemingly helping them with similar lawsuits against the publisher.
Rumors have swirled around the future of the Sonic series in the wake of these events. Archie appears to be in a bit of financial trouble themselves, likely from dealing with other legal issues. In 2015, Archie Comics launched (and then canceled) a Kickstarter intended to raise more funds to help publish all of their books. Since prematurely ending that Kickstarter, multiple series have been canceled or gone on permanent hiatus, including the critically acclaimed Mega Man comic series.
Several elements of the original story above were written from fuzzy memories of seven-year-old events. I have tried to amend some of the text to more accurately reflect the actual timeline as it really happened, and I apologize for the inaccuracy. Penders vs. Archie has been long, messy, and complicated.
Regarding the potential cancellation, in the 30 hours since this story was published, intrepid Sonic fans have been making phone calls to Archie’s ordering hotline to investigate the issue further. According to doctorbenMD on Sonic Stadium, Archie’s hotline confirmed to him this could be a sign of the book’s cancellation. However, contrary to that, according a response received by user Mavrickindigo on the Archie Sonic Online forum, the option to subscribe to Sonic the Hedgehog is “temporarily off the site” and they have no official announcements to make as of yet. In addition, the release of January 2017’s issue of Sonic the Hedgehog, #291, has been delayed until February. As I understand it, some recent issues of Sonic the Hedgehog (and other Archie books) have seen similar shipping delays over the last 12 months, meaning this whole subscription business may actually be a temporary problem after all as Archie Comics works out some kinks behind the scenes.
As always, we will try to keep you up to date on future developments.