Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ultraguy’s hopes and despairs for IDW Sonic Part 2: In defense of the freedom fighters and Archie exclusive characters



SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I wasn’t originally going to make a part 2, but I’ve been following discussion on the IDW Sonic comic and I’ve actually been noticing …..Opinions are a lot more split on some things than I anticipated. Particularly reboot or not, I’m kind of noticing that that there’s a lot more discussion regarding the merits of the freedom fighting characters and members of the Archie or old cartoon casts. A lot of people seem to want them removed or for them not to not appear in the new book for various reasons.
…………Well to be honest being a long time reader of the comic and naturally having become a fan of said characters, I kind of feel as If some of the arguments I’ve been seeing are pretty dubious and in some cases overly extreme. Considering that I felt like I needed to expand my original blog and address the freedom fighter situation directly, which hopefully you guys find to be fairly well thought out.

Anyway I’m going to put on my phoenix write coat and try and bring up some counter arguments for why I think removing the FF and Archie characters(at least fully) is a bad or fairly ill thought out idea.

1.      The freedom fighters are to obscure and irrelevant and have needed to be cut for years now
1993 vs 2017

Ehhhhhhhhhhhh? I get that Satam has been canceled for over 20 years now and that’s where the FF originated from, but I wouldn’t exactly call the characters from it obscure or irrelevant. 24 years is a REALLY long time to run a comic, and these characters where major players in it for the entirety of the run. By all accounts Sally Acorn has gotten more media and screen time collectively than almost the entire game cast at this point and predates all of them besides Sonic, Tails and Eggman. I would also point out that truthfully speaking a lot of the game cast hasn’t been what I would call “relevant” in recent times either(if we’re just talking about just game cannon). Sega’s pretty much dialed things back to just Sonic, Amy, Knuckles, Tails and maybe Shadow, with everyone else barely even showing up outside playable status in sports/racing games. Heck the last major game to actually have the side characters have larger speaking roles and story arcs was probably Sonic 06 or one of the Sonic rivals games nearly 10 years ago.

At best this is probably more of an argument that could be reasonably levied at a worldwide audience, given I’m sure the comics didn’t get consistent translations in Japan and I know for a fact they were not readily available in Europe for a long period of their run. But to be honest I’m not really sure how much that argument stands when you consider IDWs comic will probably be in a similar boat anyway.

I also feel that there’s a big elephant in the room that very few people are acknowledging. These characters most certainly aren’t obscure or irrelevant to the people who actually bought and read the Archie comics all these years. That user base was enough to support at some times 4 comics at once, and would have continued to support the comic quite handily if it had not been canceled. It stands to reason that most of those people are probably going read the IDW comic when it comes out and realistically that install base is going to notice if half the characters get gutted from the comic permanently. Heck fans of Archie already reacted badly to the first reboot as well and there was a dip in sales because surprisingly people don’t like having characters or plots ripped out from under them like that. Granted you could make an argument that fans who were turned off by Archie will give the new comic a try, creating a new fanbase. However I still feel like most of the people who actually wanted Sonic comics were probably already buying the previous series, and that expecting there to suddenly be a new untapped market for a franchise as hit or miss as Sonic is a risky endeavor.

Finally I have to point out that this isn’t like Shadow or Amy or whatever not showing up in the latest Sonic game. Fans of these characters KNOW that if they don’t show up again in this new comic, then they might never show up in anything ever again. That’s a big reason why there inclusion is such a big point of contention for people.

2.      The freedom fighters and original cast are a spotlight stealing squad
Not really seeing their promotion here

If I’m being honest I actually don’t get the complaints about the freedom fighters or any other Archie exclusive characters being spotlight stealers. Like MAYBE this could have applied over a decade ago before Ian’s era when the book was oversaturated with echidna characters and melodrama, but Sega had made it a point to give the game characters top priority in the last 10 years. Case and point it was almost IMPOSSIBLE for a non-game character to headline an issue of Sonic Universe.


Like if you look at that list you can pretty clearly see the stars of each arch were almost always Sonic, Knuckles, Silver, Blaze, Shadow or Eggman. We only got two arcs focused on Satam or Archie characters over 10 years, which were Scourge and Nicole respectively. Though even then Scourge is basically just another version of Sonic, several Sega characters where involved in Nicole’s arc, and both arcs mostly happened due to both characters becoming highly requested ensemble dark horses to begin with.

This was also pretty true for the main comic as well, particularly after the reboot. Like most of the Satam and Archie original cast didn’t even show up during the first crossover with Megaman.  None of them even fought in the Sonic the fighter’s adaption that happened. Eggman was pretty firmly established as having to be the main villain in the comic and many other villains had some connection to him. It was also pretty clear Sonic was front and center traveling around the world, except with slightly more characters accompanying him than in the games. It’s not like the series was full of Chris Thorndike’s that were constantly dragging focus away from Sonic for nefarious reasons, or being pushed for inclusion in situations where it didn’t make much sense.

3.      Sega should just focus on what’s cannon and current
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I disagree. In fact I STRONGLY disagree as thought processes like this are the exact reason why so many reboots/relaunches these days fail or are terrible. I understand the modern games always come first, but Sonic has never been a franchise based only around games. Satam is a big part of its history and got tons of promotion back in the day. Adventures is part of its history. So is fleetway, the ova, underground, Sonic X, Boom and yes Archie. Heck on that note all the obscure games and characters from earlier in Sonic’s franchise are also a part of his history. Many people grew up and experienced these media and have fondness for parts of them. Likewise many of them have ideas, characters or concepts that are worth preserving or retooling.
 A failure to acknowledge and respect ones older fans and history, as well as not actively preserving parts of your history people enjoyed in the past is a perfect what to fuck up a reboot or stagnate a series. Case and point look at the Powerpuff girls, Ben 10 and Teen titans go. A lot of these series fail to understand what aspects made the series before them popular in the first place and also didn’t respect what older fans wanted, and suffered critically because of it. Anime’s like Pokemon also stagnate and are constantly called out due to often not wanting to acknowledge their past or not growing much based on past history.

In contrast it’s normally the reboots that learn and incorporate old material, along with new that succeed. Two examples that come to mind are probably Bataman TAS and the old Ducktales cartoon. Both were inspired by a medium built mainly around comics, but were popular cartoons adaptions that had their own original characters like Harley Quin and Launchpad. Despite these characters not originating from the series original media, those characters eventually got worked into the Batman comics and the new Ducktales cartoon because writers realized they had a fanbase and could add something to the show. Heck the Ducktales reboot seems to be drawing inspiration from tons of old Disney stuff plenty of people now aren’t even old enough to know about, and from the looks of it the show will be even better because of it.
………I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think that a comic series that uses exclusively modern Sonic content can be said to be objectively better than a series that uses a mix of old and new stuff from multiple Sonic cannons (though tbf Sega has legal embargoes In regards to how far they can go with some of that regardless). Likewise I don’t think belittling fans of Sonic whatever media in claiming they don’t matter is exactly fair, and that this is particularly hypocritical if such fans request for lesser known game characters that are just as “niche” as Satam characters to begin with. A character isn’t less deserving of any sort of inclusion  on any level just because of where or when they originated from, especially if they can be done well. Heck for comparison it’s basically like saying K.Rool and Issac can’t be added to a new smash bros game since they’re too old for younger fans to remember, aren’t relevant anymore or from series that are only have cult statues. Those are “technically” valid arguments against them, but most hardcore fans aren’t exactly going to get on board with that given the legacy behind them(Similar arguments with new Megaman/F-Zero games, non MCU characters in M V C also come to mind).

4.      It would be better for IDW to start fresh and give their own take on what a Sonic comic book would be like
Ok to start I should probably say that this is actually a fair opinion to have. I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to see the Sonic comics tackled from a different angle and Archie had a pretty long run, so it’s not like having a comic built on a different foundation would be a bad thing.

That being said I need to point out that this is not an argument that’s objectively superior to wanting IDW to continue the old continuity, keep old characters or whatever else people may want to argue for. IDW is not obligated to cater to the old Archie fans, BUT ALSO is not obligated to cater to fans who dislike Archie/Satam elements and want them removed either. People who are giving each side a hard time, really REALLY need to get over themselves.

That being said I do think the idea of “starting fresh” is being exaggerated as some sort of objectively good thing IDW HAS to do. When I think of a series NEEDING a hard reboot or rebranding, I generally think of that decision being made based on some sort of necessity. For example a work has a downward spiral in quality, the story being too complex and back lore heavy, low sales or a property being dormant for YEARS and needing to be heavily modernized for a new audience.
Talking about post gen specifically (which is what most of us had been reading for the last few years) I don’t really believe any of those apply. Outside some complaints about the shattered world arch taking WAY to long, reception for the comic had been some of the best I had seen in years. Sonic universe and the megadrive comics in particular had seen A LOT of praise. I don’t think the lore complexity was an issue given the reboot basically reset most of the universe back to zero anyway and the continuity was mostly based on the games at that point. Likewise the series hadn’t exactly been dormant that long (Seriously people a year hiatus isn’t that long) and the sales were fine.
If the comic was considered good, sold well, was at a place where it was reasonable to new people to jump on without too much issue and had been fairly active, why is it objectively good to do away with all of that to do something fresh? This is even truer since more story elements had been planned out already and several comics had already been completed, meaning it didn’t really end on a finished note.
Like I see the arguments people are making for letting IDW have the chance to be original, but sometimes I think they’re acting like this is similar to the jump from the amazing Spiderman movies to the Spiderman homecoming reboot. In reality it’s a lot more like going from Spectacular Spiderman to Ultimate Spiderman(even with a similar situation of being screwed by lawyers). Yeah people  did eventually warm up to Ultimate Spiderman, but it still sucked for Spectacular Spiderman to get canceled for BS reasons cause it was such a good show, and I still wouldn’t argue it was an objectively good thing for Disney to start from a fresh slate for the state of being original.

5.      It would be better to get rid of the baggage regarding the Satam cast and the background of that world.
I dunno. I can understand this, but don’t think all the traits of Satam were bad even if they were in some ways different than modern sonic. My issue here is that the main sonic games don’t really have that much lore or world building to start from, likewise they don’t really explain some background elements. By using some parts of satam post gen Archie was able to

-To give an explanation to Eggman’s rise to power and some of his tech

-Create a couple more kingdoms and world groups, which could clash and engage in politics with the game ones

-Establish several “freedom fighter” groups’ worldwide, as well as regional badguys, allowing for some world building.

Like it’s not much, but I don’t see why getting rid of it would improve anything. You’re likely need to refill those aspects somehow anyway if the tone of the comic stays even somewhat similar.

6.      If Sega wanted the FF and Archie cast they wouldn’t have left Archie. They also probably want to make the comic more in line with the games.
Art by Shieltar(uh heads up some of his other art is…interesting, but this pic was to good to pass up).

This is not the case. While it’s true Ian Flynn had to do some convincing to keep the freedom fighters and viable Archie characters after the first reboot, Sega didn’t leave Archie due to some dislike of the comics content before or after said reboot. Most of the blame really has to do with the lawsuits Ken Penders and Scot Fulop started, which put pressure on the relationship between the two companies. Likewise Archie’s mismanagement and screwed priorities in regards to Riverdale and other properties they’ve been making, as well as the fact they’ve allegedly want to get away from action/adventure series.

Also we really don’t know what Sega wants to do with the book yet. It was mentioned the comics were going to be taken in a different direction, but it’s not actually clear yet if that was referring to story or publishers. Given the staff for the book hasn’t even been chosen yet though, I doubt they’ve gotten as far as most people seem to be assuming. It’s all just speculation really.

7.      The Sonic cast is already large enough to carry comic
It’s not as much as you would think

Ok I covered this a bit in my first blog, but this isn’t entirely true. While technically Sonic has expanded its roster greatly over the years, the people in it just don’t fill out the roles needed to keep a comic running long term. For example let’s go over the “canon” villains and supporting cast, and actually talk a bit about how viable they are.
Villains
Eggman: Defacto main series antagonist. He’s viable by default for reasons that are fairly obvious.
Metal Sonic: Major villain. He normally works under Eggman, but on occasion can strike out on his own. Viable.

Mephilis the dark: One time villain from Sonic 06. His backstory is pretty complex and built around the creature Solaris from Silver’s bad furture. Current mandates stated he was not allowed to be used in the comics outside of cameos, most likely due to ret-gone nature of Sonic 06. Not viable.

Eggman Nega: Future descendent of Eggman from Silver’s future. He shows up as a villain in the Sonic Rush and Rivals games. Currently there are comic mandates stating he could not be used in the comics, likely due to the continuity snarl in regards to his origin and the sonic timeline. Not viable

Black doom: The main antagonist of the game Shadow the hedgehog. Rules a species of alien beings called the black arms which were the origination of the DNA used to make Shadow. Due to the game and the villain being so tightly linked to Shadow’s character development, Black Doom is also not allowed to be used due to mandates. Though that being said the dark arm’s themselves can show up in stories.

Witcart: Antagonist of the game tails Skypatrol. The game was never released in America, but Sega owns her making her viable. She has very little characterization outside of what was given to her in Archie though.

Great Kukku; Antagonist of the game Tails Adventure. Controls an army of waring bird like warriors. Only appeared once, but is viable.

Void: The negative side of the goddess Lumina from the alt dimension maginary world. Only appeared once in Sonic Shuffle, but is for all known proposes viable if you find a wat to write around him fusing back into Lumina at the end of said game.

Erazor djin: An evil genie that tried to take over the Arabian nights book world in sonic and the secrete rings. Should be viable, but mostly exists within the context of an alt dimension.

Merlina: A sorceress that manipulated Sonic to do her bidding in the game sonic and the black knight. Hails from an alternate dimension called Camelot found within a magic book. Should be viable.

Deadly 6: The villains of Sonic lost world. Outside of not really being all that fleshed out, nothing about them would suggest they are not viable for repeated use in an ongoing comic.

Ok in the entire series we have about 11 major villains that have enough charisma to carry a story on their own potentially, but unfortunately upon further inspection you kind of run into some issues. Under most circumstances Metal sonic works under Eggman, and doesn’t typically display much of a personality on his own. 3 of these characters were expressly forbidden from actually appearing in Archie, which would probably carry over to IDW. Another 4 also reside in completely separate dimensions or time periods, which makes them difficult to use without some major set up beforehand. Most of the rest are frankly one time villains who haven’t appeared in years, making them just as “negligible” as Archies cast anyway.

 It’s really only Eggman and the deadly 6 that are expressly standalone villains that actually exist in the same world as Sonic and are actually relevant to Sega at this point in time.  Which kind of isn’t a lot to work with. Creating new villains like Eclipse, Black Death, Captain metal, Phage, Eggmans dozen, or adapting old Satam/Archie centric characters like Ixis nuagus, Breezi, and Snively are an inevitability to fill that void. 
Heroes
Here’s the thing I don’t think most people understand about the Sonic cast. A lot of them aren’t really designed to stay around Sonic consistently as part of a supporting cast. Many of them have roles in their universe they need to fill out, and Sega has to continually stretch the suspension of disbelief, downplay character traits or rely on huge threats to get them together in most games now.
Knuckles: He’s not really a character that supposed to follow Sonic around constantly while being buddy buddy. He’s a guardian of a very powerful relic and is typically reluctant to leave it. This was actually the crux of his dynamic with Sonic to an extent as he originally was jealous of Sonic’s ability to roam around freely while he had a more solitary life.

Shadow, Rouge and Omega: Works for a government agency known as GUN. They would only get involved with Sonic if their objectives overlap.

Silver: Is from the future of Sonic’s world. He basically needs to travel back in time to get involved in a plot. This typically means he’d only ever be near Sonic when the future world is in immediate jeopardy.

Blaze the cat: Resides in an alternate dimension altogether. She also guards the sol emeralds and jeweled scepter and would probably only normally get involved in the plot if either of those two come into danger.

The chaotix (Vector,Charmy and Espio): Run a detective agency. Will only normally interact with Sonic if he happens to be involved with a job they’re currently on.

The Babylon rouges: Kind of in a weird spot. They aren’t exactly friends to Sonic truth be told. 

They’re more akin to anti-heroes.
Now this isn’t to say most of these characters don’t have tons of cool plot potential or that they wouldn’t travel with Sonic on occasion, but they really aren’t meant to be consistent characters Sonic would hang out with.

It’s frankly really only Tail’s who’s supposed to be a consistent travel companion to Sonic in the games. Outside that maybe you can maybe make an argument for Amy and Cream, given Amy actively seeks out Sonic and Cream tends to stay with Amy on occasion. This is something a lot of Sonic media seem to realize In fact, which is probably why those characters stay with Sonic in X and why all of them were on the freedom fighters team in Archie.

But I digress my point is the freedom fighters serve as a supporting cast that actively have a reason to be around Sonic in most situations, without the need to write circles in the plot to get them together. The group also serves a functional purpose. Because they are a peace keeping group, this gives Sonic a bigger reason to actively seek out conflicts and get involved in issues with other character groups or governments rather than often having to wait indeterminate lengths of time for a conflict to come to him or escalate first.

8.      Some misc. thoughts
 
After seeing some websites comment on the sonic comic and seeing how some detractors are reacting, I kind of have a suspicion that many people leaving complaints haven’t actually read the comic in a while. For example people keep saying they want the comics to more closely follow the games, they want more focus on the sega characters, they dislike the art, and the story was too convoluted or whatever. But the thing is that Ian had been actively working to fix many of those issues ever since he came in on 160 and most of those problems had been done away with after the reboot anyway. If you haven’t read this comic in a decade, it’s a lot different from what you’ll remember.
I also can’t help but feel like some of the borderline disdain for the freedom fighters is a bit ………..hypocritical? It’s ok not to be a fan of a character but I wouldn’t really demand that they have to or should be removed from a media altogether because of that. I say this particularly because the Sonic series is filled with tons of game characters that have huge hatedomes, including Silver, Amy, Charmy, Big the cat, Cream and even Shadow to varying extents. Arguing that any of them shouldn’t be in a game again or that Sega should avoid using them in the new comic or media just seems kind of obnoxious and belittling to the people who do enjoy them IMO. This is particularly true if the characters can be included in a way that’s non-intrusive to what you enjoy or want to see from the Sonic franchise.

 Like really this is the spectrum of thoughts I think most people would probably have

The freedom fighters need to be removed permanently, and have no place in Sonic media-------I’m ok with the FF, but they should have a reduced role in the plot--------indifference---------I would prefer if they stayed, and in a similar role------------if the FF get removed the comic is automatically bad.

I think all the options but the first and last are at least somewhat reasonable. People going to the extreme of either end are honestly either being selfish and nearsighted. If including the FF and Archie cast in anyway is enough to cause so much debate, than I think arguing that they can’t be in the comic at all isn’t being fair to the people who like them. It’s also hypocritical given the way many fans and outsiders hate some game characters. In contrast I REALIZE I’m probably a bit biased, and I fully acknowledge the comic isn’t necessarily going to fail if these characters don’t stick around. Even if you love the FF you should at least be willing to give the new comic a chance.

Anyway overall are the only arguments for removing them I think actively make sense and are more or less objective are

1. Wanting IDW to have the chance to make their own original take of Sonic, not bound to any of the ideas of Archie. Mainly because you think a fresh take would be a good thing for the series that can potentially create some new original ideas.

2. A desire to distance the new comic from any similarities with Archie at all due to the legal drama.

3. Potential legal embargos regarding the contracts of the original Archie comic being based on the Satam/Aosth show getting in the way of whether they can be used again.

3. No that’s pretty much it.

Everything else is a much more subjective. Some arguments don’t even make sense imo.
SAYING YOU WANT A VERSE MORE AKIN TO THE GAMES OR NOT WANTING CHARACTERS IN THE COMICS THAT AREN’T A PART OF THOSE GAMES AND PROBABLY WONT BE ADDED TO THE GAMES IS A PARADOXAL ARGUMENT. I assure you no matter how the comic starts or how “close” to the games it is, you are going to get OC characters that will never be used in cannon at some point. This has happened in every adaption of Sonic ever, with things like cosmo/the meterex in X, Sonia/Manic in underground, evil Super Sonic in fleetway, the intern in Boom, and so on. It’s not something you can escape. If some of the inevitable OC characters can include the FF and Archie cast, I say you may as well go for it. I also find using the megadrive comic as an example against this kinda unfair given it was only a sort mini series.

Conclusions?
The big question few people are asking. Why can’t you just have multiple Sonic books with different cannons or focus points?
Wait this is an option?

Ok so this is an obvious solution to the problem that kind of dawned on me the other day. People are aware that Archie made multiple Sonic books right? Likewise they also know that they aren’t always in the same continuity either right?

Like seriously we’ve had a Sonic X comic, Sonic boom, main Sonic, Sonic Universe, the mega drive comics. Head writer Ian Flynn also had to make a separate Megaman comic on the side at some points. Not all of these were made at the same time to be fair, but at most we’ve had nearly 4-5 ongoing series at once.

In addition to that take a look at IDWs license properties.

Transformers has 8 series with this company: http://www.idwpublishing.com/trending_titles/transformers/

Disney has 11 series being published with them: http://www.idwpublishing.com/trending_titles/disney/



TMNT: 10 series http://www.idwpublishing.com/trending_titles/tmnt/ 

Like granted I’m DEFINITELY aware not all these books were published at the same time and some were short runners, but Jesus from what I can see it’s very common for most of IDWs licensed franchises to have at least 3-4 ongoing books at the same time if they’re reasonably popular, along with tons of mini-series on the side. Not all of them for a single franchise are in the same time period or continuity either, so there’s def wiggle room in terms of the content you can provide.
People do realize what that means right?

You could literally have multiple comics that are made to be tailored to multiple tastes. You could get a comic that’s more baseline with the video game characters and has Sonic mostly doing things on his own. You could have a comic that has Sonic working with the freedom fighters as part of a team and with more original stories. You could also still keep something akin to sonic universe for side characters, while also getting occasional mini-series like mega drive.  Heck you could continue the old continuity and create a new one AT THE SAME TIME!

No one said Sega was going to dial back the AMOUNT Sonic comic content we would get, so there’s no reason to act like all the hopes and dreams of the universe are going to be pinned on a single comic. This is especially true since it seems like IDW hasn’t even put together a staff yet. Everything is clearly in the early planning stages.

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Anyway there’s my say on the whole Freedom fighter and archie cast thing. Overall whether they stick to a similar role as the last comic, or get retooled or get less screen time, I wholeheartedly believe at the very least they have the right to continue existing in some form and the arguments levied against that are pretty exaggerated.

Additionally I’m actually going to expand on the idea of having multiple IDW Sonic books in one final part of the Ultraguy’s hopes and despairs for IDW Sonic series. Particularly talking about what kind of books I think IDA could make to appeal to multiple people, as well as ideas from various Sonic canons I would like to see introduced in some way.

1 comment:

  1. Well-put, and I think so many people are insensitive to the loss so many of us are feeling, and will feel if the Freedom Fighters don't return. I mean, there was never a doubt in my mind that they won't continue to live on via the internet and fan content, but I'd love to see them return in official media in some capacity.

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