Op-Ed: Archie Sonic Comic Cancellation Is a Slap in the Face

The switch to IDW takes some of the sting off, at least.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/22/2017 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog line has been axed by Sega after 24 years of publication. The license has since been granted to fellow comic book publisher IDW, which plans to pursue both fresh and long-time creators to work on the new Sonic comic that’s set to launch in 2018.

IDW is no stranger to publishing comic books with licensed characters. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a consistently excellent read since its launch, and the publisher has also shown it knows how to handle video game-based properties with its adaptations of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2. Readers should take solace knowing that very capable hands will be sculpting the adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog moving into the future.

What rankles here is the absolutely frigid manner in which Sega pulled the plug on its licensing deal with Archie Comics. The three Sonic series being published by Archie (Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, and Sonic Boom!) were all unceremoniously cancelled this past April. No warning was given. No explanation offered until months later. And now fans are expected to jump for joy about this new deal with IDW.

To be clear, the issue isn’t with IDW. That’s a fine publisher with a reputable track record in the industry. The problem is how callously Sega seems to have handled the situation.

A popular excuse for the actions of large companies is “it’s a business.” A beloved player is jettisoned over contract negotiations? “It’s a business.” Hundreds of employees laid off? “It’s a business.” No day off on Thanksgiving? “It’s a business.”

“It’s a business” has become the mantra for a lot of folks looking to cast blame off their shoulders, regardless of how culpable they are for their actions. We as consumers in turn are expected to simply suck it up and accept that bad things and decisions will happen because, well, “it’s a business.”

I don’t know what the business reasoning was behind Sega choosing to not renew its licensing deal with Archie Comics. Archie certainly doesn’t see sales anywhere near what Marvel and DC do. Archie also works with an arguably smaller talent pool than most other publishers in the industry. Sega might have been aware of this and decided it was time to move Sonic to a label with a bigger audience, reach out to more people than ever before, and so on.

I can’t totally begrudge Sega for making this decision if that was the logic that fueled it. At the same time, though, I can’t help but feel that “it’s a business” needs to stop being applied as a universal cure-all for corporate decisions that make people unhappy.

Clorox is the sort of business that can make decisions that I’m not going to lose much sleep over. Maybe it raises the price of bleach, which would stink, but at the end of the day I can go snag a generic brand from Safeway or Walmart and be just fine. Companies like Sega are different. Sega isn’t some soulless conglomerate, it’s a beloved brand of entertainment. Sega is home to characters and properties that define childhoods and provide so much joy to players all over the world.

Unlike a Clorox, which can make “it’s a business” decisions that (generally) don’t cut to the bone, a Sega provides products, services, and more that fully attempt to ingratiate themselves into our lives. There’s nothing passive about the video game experience. Fans interact with the games and form bonds with the characters on the screen and build memories from all the action and fun that they have with them. It’s the entire reason that Sonic the Hedgehog was given a comic book in the first place; fans loved the character and wanted to see more of him.

Whatever rationale Sega had for axing Archie isn’t justification for leaving fans hanging like this. Cancelling the books and then waiting months to give readers an update as to why was a slap in the face. What’s even worse, however, is to not allow both the creators and fans to get any sort of proper closure.

Sonic the Hedgehog was at issue 293. Sonic Universe at 97. Sonic Boom! at 11.

Why not allow Archie to close out the intricate universe it created for Sonic and his fans? Why not let Archie reach the milestone issues for all three of these series and offer their creators the opportunity to bring their respective stories to a close? “It’s a business” doesn’t do much for fans who have been with the mainline series for five years, ten, and in some cases, all twenty-four.

I don’t know what IDW and Sega have planned. Perhaps IDW will continue these lingering storylines in some way. Maybe IDW will be able to put a bow on nearly a quarter century’s worth of adventures for the Blue Blur at Archie. I doubt it. There’s been no inkling on Sega’s part that any of this history matters to the company.

For Sonic the Hedgehog fans, however, it matters a great deal. Sega really dropped the ball here by not offering Archie, its readers, and its creators the chance to say goodbye. Sally Acorn, Rotar, NICOLE, and many other characters with roots in the Archie Sonic universe might never see the light of day again, which is a genuinely sad proposition.

To which Sega would presumably say, “it’s a business.”

The implied “get over it” will depend on just how jaded a fan you are.

Regardless, I’ll make it my business to see how IDW tackles the character next year, but given Sega’s seeming indifference towards Sonic’s past, I worry about letting myself get too invested in his future as a comic book character. Here’s hoping that Sega and IDW can do what Marvel did with Dark Horse’s back catalogue of Star Wars comics and produce some kind of legacy line that keeps the Archie material in print.

Since Archie doesn’t get the chance to say it, I’ll do it for them and all the other fans out there:

Goodbye, Sonic! Sally! Tails! Rotar! Nicole! Knuckles! Shadow! Robotnik! Snively! Team Chaotix! Bunnie! Antoine! And even Silver! You were one of the most way past cool comics out there. Thanks for the memories.

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