A very interesting entry from the earliest days in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, this 16 page oneshot promotional comic (simply named Sonic the Hedgehog Number 1) was crafted by Sega of America, with writing and artwork by Francis Mao, in an attempt to provide an origin story for Sonic in the western world, as well as promote his debut video game.
The comic starts in the Green Hills of South Island, located on the planet Mobius, with Sonic rescuing his animals friends from several badniks created by a new local villain, the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik. Worried, they question where their friend Dr. Ovi Kintobor is, only for Sonic to drop the bad news—that Kintobor is Robotnik! He then flashes back into an origin story, where Sonic explains how he first met Kintobor.
His tale begins back when he was a prickly, brown hedgehog, with him accidentally burrowing into Kintobor's underground laboratory. By chance, the good doctor is working on a machine called the Retro-Orbital Chaos Compressor— or just R.O.C.C. for short. The machine is powered by six mysterious objects called the Chaos Emeralds, with their power kept in check by a series of gold-colored Containment Rings, and as soon as he finds the seventh Gray Emerald to counteract the other six in the machine, he plans to use the machine to rid the world of all evil by absorbing it directly into itself. Sonic and Kintobor become fast friends, and after a freak accident involving a treadmill (due to Sonic wanting to kick the mass versus velocity theory in the dirt) Sonic's fur is turned from brown to cobalt blue, and his quills are permanently fused together from the heat of the speed he was going at—as a token of goodwill, Kintobor promptly gives him a special pair of friction-less shoes to replace his old ones.
But one day, Kintobor spills a drink on the R.O.C.C. controls, causing the machine to go haywire; not only scattering the R.O.C.C.'s Containment Rings all over South Island, but also bathing Kintobor in 10,000 bolts of Pure Evil Energy, causing him to transform into the evil Dr. Robotnik, who chases off Sonic and immediately gets to work building an army of robots to take over the world and harness the power of the Chaos Emeralds for his own means.
The rest of the comic is spent on Sonic partaking in loose adaptations of the levels from the games to try and stop Robotnik, as well as saving Porker Lewis in the end (albeit losing a Chaos Emerald to Dr. Robotnik in the process) and the comic telling the readers to go buy the game to see what happens next.
The comic was initially meant to be the canon backstory in some form or another for the western branch of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, per word of the original US series bible, distinguishing it from the storyline of the series Japanese branch. However, none of this backstory was ever brought up or acknowledged in any of the video games (understandable, since Sonic Team had no involvement with Sega of America's western localization of Sonic), and it is no longer considered canon (if it ever was in the first place) due to Sonic Adventure permanently merging the Japanese storyline of the Sonic games with that of the western Sonic games. It did provide the backbone for Fleetway's Sonic the Comic, which borrowed the same origin story (and curiously did an adaptation of Sonic Adventure without nullifying any of the previous continuity).
You can find the comic in question in its entirety here. It was included in some older early 90's comic books, and was also included in the october 1991 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Superman #62, issue #8 of Sega Visions, Disney Adventures Vol. 2 No. 1 (the latter in a heavily abridged form that chopped out the entire Kintobor to Robotnik part) and others. Predictably, it was also given away as a standalone promotional issue.
Compare to the Japan only, three volume tie in manga, Sonic the Hedgehog Story Comic, which likewise provides a little backstory to Sonic before the main game (and are unrelated to the other Sonic manga series published there, which also had its own interpretation of the original games backstory drawn by the mangas artists, albeit as a tie-in to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 instead). Obviously, the former manga ignores the backstory established by the western continuity and sticks more closely to the source material, while the other manga plays fast and loose with it.
Tropes Related To The Comic:
- Adaptation Expansion: The comic tries to elaborate on the backstory for the original game and explain elements of it, such as the purpose of the Chaos Emeralds (they were magical items intended to be used for good purposes and rid the world of evil) and the rings (which are handwaved as being "Containment Rings" for the R.O.C.C. machine and its energy, which got scattered all over the island when the machine went haywire).
- Adaptation Origin Connection: The story ties Sonic and Robotnik's backstories together by positioning them as friends at one time before Robotnik became an evil scientist and before Sonic was blue.
- Alternate Continuity: The comic was meant to provide a distinctive backstory for western audiences of Sonic, which does not match up with that of the Japanese branch of the Sonic games (which is now considered the sole canon for the main series of video games).
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: The original game and what little backstory it had proper was a straightforward, kiddy good vs. evil scenario. This comic practically turns it into a tragedy for kids.
- Artistic License Physics: Invoked; Kintobor's treadmill acknowledges a proper estimate of Sonic's natural speed using the Mass Versus Velocity theory as 17 mph, but Sonic, being as brash as he is, decides to spit in the face of it by going so fast that he breaks the sound barrier (767 MPH), and thus violently overloads the treadmill—and the heat from the speed also changes Sonic's color from brown to cobalt blue and permanently fuses his quills together. This does raise the question of why Sonic wasn't killed by having his body reach such a dangerously high temperature (we clearly see it burned his shoes into a crisp and warranted Kintobor to construct specialized frictionless shoes for him) or suffer from the inertia of launching himself and stopping at such incredible speed, unless we accept that he was somehow resilient enough to withstand that kind of situation in the first place.
- Balance Between Good and Evil: Kintobor believes he can tip the scales in the favor of good by using the R.O.C.C. machine to harness the power of the Chaos Emeralds and use them to rid the world of all evil, trapping it inside of the machine.
- Beneath the Earth: Where Kintobor's secret lab is located.
- Big Bad: Dr. Robotnik.
- Big Good: Dr. Kintobor, until he becomes Robotnik.
- Canon Discontinuity: Sonic Adventure brought the original japanese storyline back into the western Sonic games, knocking this early backstory out of the game canon forever from 1999 and on. Even if that wasnt the case, later games contain story elements that would flat out contradict the events of the comic anyway, such as Sonic's World in the games explicitly being stated to not be Mobius and the existence of Eggman's grandfather Gerald Robotnik.
- Canon Foreigner: "A Gray Emerald" gets mentioned offhand in the story, even though at the time only six Chaos Emeralds existed in the early Sonic games. The seventh Chaos Emerald (of similar color) wouldn't become canon until Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and while the Grey Emerald could neutralize the others in Sonic the Comic, this concept wouldn't be applied in the games until the Master Emerald was introduced later on.
- Canon Immigrant:
- Porker Lewis would become a prominent character in the UK Sonic Comic.
- The squirrel wears a bow in her hair, resembling the Sonic the Comic version of Sally.
- The idea of a seventh Chaos Emerald would be used for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
- The basic plot of this comic was adapted as the canon backstory for the Fleetway Sonic comic series.
- Also, the idea of Sonic's shoes being designed to be heat-resistant was carried over to three other Sonic continuities; the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon, the Archie Sonic comics and the Fleetway Sonic comics.
- Cliffhanger: Basically an adaptation of the original game with an added background for Sonic and Robotnik, skipping Marble Zone and Spring Yard Zone, and stopping short of the Final Zone with the Chaos Emerald tally one-to-one. The reader is encouraged to play the Sega Genesis to play out what happens next.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Strangely, despite the western original manual for the first Sonic game saying his sneakers are what gives him his speed note , the comic makes it clear that Sonic was already capable of breaking the sound barrier on his own without explanation. He does acquire a pair of fancy friction-less sneakers from Kintobor, but that was to replace his old ones that got burned to a crisp from the friction of him running so fast and ensure Sonic could run without having to replace his shoes each time.
- Continuity Drift: Initially the canon Sega of America backstory, but this was either ignored or forgotten (the actual game obviously does not acknowledge the western backstory this comic elaborates on, since Sega of Japan didn't have a hand in the comics creation, and Sega of America likewise didn't make the actual game), and it was made moot anyway when Sonic Adventure nullified the concept of different localizations getting different storylines. Later games like Sonic Adventure 2 would introduce story elements that would contradict the events of this comic anyway, such as the games clearly being set on Earth and Ivo Robotnik having a grandfather in canon whose surname is Robotnik, which rules out the Ovi Kintobor backstory.
- The Corruption: What turns Kintobor into Robotnik.
- Create Your Own Villain: Robotnik, who Kintobor unwittingly turned himself into by spilling a soda over the R.O.C.C. controls.
- Downer Ending: Not the main story itself (which counts as a Bittersweet Ending) but If you take the story at face value as the official backstory for the classic games, Sonic was never able to return Ivo Robotnik back into Ovi Kintobor.
- Dramatic Irony: The benevolent Ovi Kintobor built the R.O.C.C. machine to rid the world of all evil by using the power of the Chaos Emeralds, but it unwittingly ended up turning him into the very thing he wanted to destroy by transforming him, both physically and mentally, into the pure evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik.
- Early Installment Character-Design Difference: This comic was produced when "Sally Acorn", "Porker Lewis", and "Johnny Lightfoot" had not yet undergone Divergent Character Evolution and were still just Sonic's Animal Friends with new names from Sega of America. This early version of Sally is notably just a Ricky◊ with a bow on her head.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The backstory presented here for Sonic and Robotnik is very odd and quite different from their more straightforward rivalry in the games proper. And because this was made as part of the long abandoned western storyline for the Sonic games, it also has outdated story elements that were ignored and later dropped from canon, such as Sonic being on Möbius instead of Earth or "Sonic's World".
- Establishing Character Moment: Sonic introducing himself to Kintobor.
- Excuse Plot: The next Action Comics #1, this story wasn't. When you look past all the additional backstory and characters added, it's a transparently obvious showcase mini-comic made solely to get kids to buy the video game after theyre done reading it.
- For Want of a Nail: If Kintobor had just kept that soda away from the machine (or at least bothered to make the machinery waterproof in the first place), the entire plot (and by proxy, the entire series) wouldn't have started.
- Fun with Acronyms: R.O.C.C.
- Gratuitous Latin: Kintobor refers to Sonic as an Erinaceus Europaeus, which a footnote claims is Latin for hedgehog—specifically, the Latin taxonomical name for the European Hedgehog species.
- Grimy Water: In Labyrinth Zone, due to Robotnik's pollution. Sonic almost drowns in it.
- Mecha-Mooks: The Badniks.
- Mineral MacGuffin: The Chaos Emeralds.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ovi Kintobor is obviously patterned after Albert Einstein.
- No Waterproofing in the Future: Kintobor's R.O.C.C. machine goes completely haywire just from having a soda spilt onto its controls.
- Now, Buy the Merchandise: Sonic tells the reader at the end to buy the game it's based on to find out how the story ends.
- Off-Model: The artist simply could not make up his mind about how big or small Sonic's features, head or girth are.
- Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: It's not explained where or how Dr. Robotnik was able to build a large army of robots on his own so quickly, much less gather the resources to pull it off. While it's not impossible for Kintobor to have been smart enough to plan or build them at all given he was able to create a machine that could (theoretically) remove all of the evil from the world, his barren lab doesn't give the impression that he was resourceful enough to create what amounts to his own private army or massive factories like Scrap Brain Zone.
- Prequel: Intended to be one to the first game.
- Pungeon Master: Sonic.
- Sadistic Choice: In Scrap Brain Zone, Sonic is forced to choose between stopping Robotnik from stealing a Chaos Emerald, or saving Porker Lewis from being helplessly sliced in half by a buzz saw. Sonic ultimately saves Porker, but Robotnik makes off with the Emerald.
- Sdrawkcab Alias: Kintobor and Robotnik.
- Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: The comic is a Type 2 (Recognizable Adaptation). It follows the art style and character designs and the setpieces and enemies are lifted straight out of the video game, but the story itself is drastically altered from the basic good vs. evil conflict of the actual game.
- Super Hero Origin
- Super Speed: Sonic, naturally. He breaks the sound barrier early in the story.
- Token Human: Like in the pre-Sonic Adventure games, Kintobor/Robotnik is the only human in the story. The rest of the characters are animals.
- Walk, Don't Swim: Averted. Unlike the game its based on, Sonic is able to swim, but it doesn't do him any favors in the polluted waters of Labyrinth Zone.
- Writing Around Trademarks: While the Mass Vs. Velocity theory was written by Albert Einstein, here he's called Eggstein due to the Einstein name being trademarked.