frobman:

Some of these early stories were written by none other than Mark Miller, y’know? Writer for comics like Marvel’s Civil War & Kick-Ass to name a few, so the Streets of Rage story is the kind of thing you can believe he’d write.

Although, to be fair, he didn’t write anything in issue six.  You can tell this because the lead story is actually good.

The Sonic The Comic Christmas Story Advent Calendar - Day One

This was popular when I did it on the STC-O forums so, hey, why not.

Also I’m going to finally get around to doing that one story I missed SO LOOK OUT FOR THAT!!  I’ve edited a couple of the entries, too, in the name of making them good and better.

Basically, if you’ve never had an advent calendar then a) sort your life out and b) the idea is you open a door each day on the run-up to Christmas and something nice is behind it.  Like a baby Jesus or a chocolate or a chocolate baby Jesus.  So yeah.  Open the Dragon Gate Advent Door.

—-

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Ho ho ho, Boomers, ‘tis the season to be jolly! And how more fitting a way to celebrate could there be than to reminisce over the STC Christmas stories? Well, to answer that question, I’d have to say, lots more fitting ways. And why? Because they’re almost all dire.

Christmas is a weird time for comics. In Marvel or DC, the continuities would be wrecked by having a Christmas story every year, yet keeping a small time-frame (Spider-Man, for instance, covers less than ten years of in-universe time), so you may, if you’re lucky, get the occasional Christmas story in the main books, a one-shot here or there, or get as little as a bit of snow in the backgrounds. In UK comics, there may be a slight Christmas theme to some 2000AD stories whereas you’re almost certain to get a Christmas story in the kids comics, which is where STC fits in.

So why are STC’s Christmas stories so bad? To me it seems that it’s down to the fact that having to do a Christmas themed story is out of place, particularly as it involves putting Earth holidays into Mobius’ world. It generally forces the overall narrative to grind to a screeching halt too, as the heroes celebrate and the baddies do little more than say “Grr, boo, I’m bad and I don’t like Christmas”.

Not all of the stories are bad. There are some absolute gems in here. Unfortunately, though, the bad ones are really bad. So, let’s open the first door on the STC advent calendar and see what’s inside…

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Happy Christmas, Doctor Robotnik
First printed in issue 16, cover dated 25 December 1993
Reprinted in issue 196, cover dated 13-26 December 2000
Script by Mark Millar, Art by Brian Williamson, Lettering by Elitta Fell


First off, I have to say the cover art here is really quite great, it’s a Carl Flint picture of Robotnik, dressed as Santa Claus, reaching menacingly at a Sonic-shaped bauble on a tree, as Porker and Tails baubles look on, worried. It’s weird, though, that the Sonic Christmas decoration was mounted on a lazy cover on a November issue rather than put on this issue.

I may as well say it before we get into anything else: the art in this issue’s lead strip is absolutely atrocious. STC had a lot- a lot, mind you- of crap, crap artists in the early days. Brian Williamson and Woodrow Phoenix, however, may be the worst ever artists to draw Sonic professionally. The art here is just abysmal. The really unfortunate thing is, this being a Christmas story, it was probably finished well in advance and, of course, by that time, we’d seen Richard Elson draw Sonic, which completely shames the rubbish surrounding those early Elson pieces.

It’s fortunate that the STC editorial staff realised the fans wanted more Elson and less garbage (a letter got printed to that effect, actually, so I can only imagine how many letters they received that they didn’t print complaining about the art).

So, anyway, let’s inspect this story in all its felt tip pen glory. Maybe the script will make it a bit better. I mean, it’s by Mark Millar.  And he works for Marvel.  So it must be good, right?  RIGHT?

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The story opens in a snow-covered Green Hill Zone. The various terribly-drawn, arm-breakingly posed animal friends open multitudinous presents. A rabbit tells Sonic they were given the gifts by Doctor Robotnik himself. Sonic, of course, dashes off to inspect this further. Interesting art note: one of the presents has a tag wishing “Merry Xmass”. That is not and never has been an acceptable spelling of that faux-word. Incredibly enough, however, Robotnik does indeed appear to have turned into a goodie! He’s dishing out presents like it’s going out of fashion. He even has a “Ho! Ho! Ho!” to offer up to the little animals as a Trooper stands extremely menacingly in the background with an angry Robotnik face emblazoned on his chest, creating no contradiction in the slightest, except for that giant massive one and how did they fall for this oh my goodness why.

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Even Tails has been taken in by Robotnik’s newfound kindness, as Robotnik’s given young Prower his own special power sneakers, just like Sonic’s! Now, tangentially, I must split off here. I realise this was written by Mark Millar and Sonic No More! was by Nigel Kitching, whereas Amy’s Secret Past, continuity issues of its own notwithstanding, was by Lew Stringer. But if Robotnik wanted super speed, why did he not just make more of these magical trainers? They evidently work as Tails is running off at Sonic-esque speed levels. I know, I know, I’m looking at this way too deeply. But it’s stupid. Robotnik could have made those shoes in one of Millar’s own stories and become a threat. It was not to be. Anyway, the capitalistic little idiot animals urge Sonic to forgive Robotnik because he bought them presents and that obviously makes up for him kidnapping them all and encasing them in metal shells to use as organic batteries for his robot army. However! The twist lies in the fact the real Robotnik is sat in his base of operations, watching from a camera (presumably) and saying if his plan works, this will be Sonic’s last Christmas!

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Later, at a party, the worst art in the entirety of STC’s history kicks into action, with googly eyes, wacky limbs and squashed heads all over the place, while Sonic plays music on a turntable (because he’s cool and hardcore!) while encouraging the animals to “RAVE! RAVE! RAVE! ALL NIGHT LOOONG!” in what has to be the most embarrassing pile of bad-turdings-we-bring up to yet. The first panel of the party alone is all it takes to convince me that, were it not for Nigel Kitching and Richard Elson, STC would have been cancelled before issue 20. Sally proposes a toast and Flicky calls for three cheers for Doctor Robotnik. Sonic quips “more like three chairs” (HAHA get it? It’s because Robotnik is fat and has to sit on three chairs! Come on, keep up!). An inexplicably drunk Trooper Badnik (why would Robotnik program them to be able to get drunk???) tells Sonic the friendly Ivo ain’t the real deal. Sonic is so shocked he has to remove his sunglasses! The Trooper elaborates; the friendly Robotnik is a robot with a bomb in it, and the real Robotnik will blow everyone sky high! Finally, something resembling a plot in this story.

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Sonic hoiks the Robot-nik over his head and zooms away. To Robotnik’s credit, he’s programmed the impostor to be unfailingly friendly to the last, even as Sonic whizzes him away! Sally wonders where Sonic’s running off to with “Robotnik”. Tails tells her he’ll follow them. I guess Tails had to have lines? Seriously, cut him completely from this story and he isn’t missed. Sonic legs it to a cliff and prepares to hurl the Robot-nik off it and into the sea as the poor clueless droid gets quite upset that he’s melting (as the bomb is going off, of course).

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The screaming Robot-nik goes careening off a cliff just as Tails arrives on the scene to ask Sonic what his [censored]-ass problem is. Sonic explains it was a bomb and Tails thinks Sonic’s some kind of moron. The bomb then explodes, wiping out Joe Sushi’s family in the process (probably). Sonic chastises Tails for being stupid as hell and probably punches him in the arm off-panel. At least a kick in the shin, surely.

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Sally is concerned when she sees the explosion but the rabbit from before is pretty cool about it because Sonic’s no wimp. Whaddya know, he’s right, because here come Sonic and Tails! Everyone prepares to tuck in to a big feast of turkey burgers. WAIT JUST A DAMN SECOND. Number one, why is nobody concerned about Robotnik? For all they know, Sonic just murdered the guy! Number two, why are they all so cheery about EATING DEAD ANIMALS?! That’s just messed up! And before I can think of a number three, the fourth wall explodes, with bits of brick hitting me in the face as Sonic, Tails and the animal friends all look out towards us and shout “MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS!”. Sonic then addresses the readers and tells us to have a “cool Yule” (STC proceeds to use that line EVERY YEAR) and to watch out for robot impostors, as he smears a cream bun over his chest. What completely worthless panels.  This is like that episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor breaks the fourth wall to wish the viewers a happy Christmas except this can’t be blamed on the lead actor’s senility.

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Robotnik, in his base, watches on with anger at his plans being foiled once again. Sonic and co apparently do not question the camera that must be following them. Two Troopers tell Robotnik that “the Baddos clubbed together” and bought him a present. Baddos? Did Millar not read any of the source information? Robotnik opens the large present and finds, to his joy, an egg-cup shaped chair because his name is definitely Eggman and those jokes definitely belong in the Western Sonic material in the 90s. Robotnik then says that the Troopers must be underworked if they have time to go shopping, so he gives them double shifts over Christmas, causing them to make “d’ohhhhhhh” faces like they have a social life. Robotnik then claims he always preferred Easter to Christmas and the story ends. Get it? Because his name’s Eggman. Except it’s not.

What a dire little turd of a story. Even the “next issue” caption box is crap, telling us Casino Night is next when the awful Sonic the Human is in the next issue. It’s like they wanted people to stop reading. Elsewhere in this issue, Ecco fights a polar bear, then gives him a fish, Gilius and Tyris battle a man with “Snakejaw Hands” (of course I’m not making it up) and Nigel K gives us the lovely first Nameless Zone story. So one good story. What a terrible issue. Sadly this is very much indicative of the early days of STC. It becomes pretty obvious here why Nigel K belongs at the front of the book (shared with Lew Stringer, of course), not behind three other writers (especially when they write uninteresting rubbish).

Do stick with me. They get better (though not by much in some cases). STC as a whole was not very good in the early days. Some publications take a while to find their feet- with STC, that also involved finding what the readers liked. That’s why we don’t see Golden Axe after the story seen in this issue is concluded. That’s why Woodrow Phoenix wasn’t allowed to draw anything else. Tragically, Brian Williamson was allowed to draw more lead strips, even doing one of Nigel K’s (Hero of the Year, which would have come across a lot better with Elson drawing). Just a year later, STC had begun to seriously hit its stride. It hadn’t reached its peak yet, but it was a much stronger comic, with most of the creators we know and love on board. When Lew’s scripts started coming through, that’s when STC really took form and Bob Corona and, later, Nigel Dobbyn, helped round out STC’s “big five”.

To be fair, at this stage, the Sonic strips only have three of the main cast (and Tails is all-but useless in the Sonic strips, which makes his first solo adventure all the better). Both Amy and Knuckles would be introduced within the next year, rounding things off and giving more scope for good stories, Christmas or otherwise.

Tomorrow, on our STC advent calendar, we openthe first of a pair of double doors for 1994/5’s two-parter, Ice Cap Attack! It is much better than this one, I promise.

(From STC #73 “Spinball Wizard” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Keith Page, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)
What the FUCK is this guy’s problem?!

(From STC #73 “Spinball Wizard” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Keith Page, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)

What the FUCK is this guy’s problem?!

(From STC #11 “Time Racer” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Ed Hillyer, Lettering by Tom Frame)
HOW IS THIS EVEN A TRAP.  HE CLEARLY HAS ENOUGH CHAIN TO REACH THE SURFACE AND BREATH.
What is going on with the stuff that’s underwater and how lazily it’s been drawn?!  THAT HAND.

(From STC #11 “Time Racer” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Ed Hillyer, Lettering by Tom Frame)

HOW IS THIS EVEN A TRAP.  HE CLEARLY HAS ENOUGH CHAIN TO REACH THE SURFACE AND BREATH.

What is going on with the stuff that’s underwater and how lazily it’s been drawn?!  THAT HAND.

There’s a thread on the Sonic The Comic Online forums right now about our favourite obscure STC stories that don’t get enough love.  Here’s my take on my (first?) pick, The Green Eater:
The Green EaterOriginally printed in Sonic The Comic 15, written by Mark Millar, drawn by Mike Hadley and lettered by Elitta Fell.Unlike most of the early Millar scripts (and many of the contemporary Millar scripts- WOOOAAAOOOHHHH!!) this isn’t utter garbage. It’s got a solid premise, a decent enemy, an interesting threat and good characterisation. And the art’s lovely, too, Mike Hadley has to be the most underrated of all STC artists- praise for Elson, Dobbyn, Kitching, Corona and Burns is to be expected, but Mike Hadley brought a vibrant style to STC’s early days. The only major problem here is he colours Sonic’s legs peach instead of blue, but that’s a fair mistake that a lot of artists made back then, even on official merchandise.Anyway, the plot goes that Robotnik has built this gigantic Badnik, the Terra-Droid, who is overseeing the Scrap Brain Zone and, more specifically, the construction of something called the Green Eater. Terra-Droid’s a slave driver on a monumental scale, working the lesser Badniks to the limit but still demanding the Green Eater be completed in an hour, lest the Badniks face his wrath.We aren’t left to wonder for long what the Green Eater is because we cut to the Emerald Hill Zone, where Tails, a Johnny-lookalike and Flicky all alert Sonic (who’s reading a hedgehog fashion magazine, apparently) to something alarming happening- the Emerald Hill Zone appears to be melting. We’re also treated to an STC first, the classic “base destruction” as Sonic’s secret hideout (which isn’t very well hidden) dissolves before his eyes. As the grass turns a horrible orange colour and dissolves, Flicky tells Sonic of the Badniks’ machine. So, off Sonic rushes to the Scrap Brain Zone, making Tails have a mini-fit*.Sonic barges into the Scrap Brain Zone, smashing all the smaller Badniks in a quick burst of speed and freeing his animal friends. He explains almost immediately that they now have to help him with his plan. Terra-Droid makes his presence known to Sonic, and he’s less than impressed.The animals all realise they must distract Terra-Droid to let Sonic destroy the Green Eater. As they do that, Sonic locates the deadly machine, apparently a giant cooling tower sort of thing in appearance and whips out a move that would become a regular attack of his- the Speed Coccoon or, as he calls it here, a mini-tornado- to crush the Green Eater in on itself.Sonic takes a brief moment to deface some graffiti left by a Badnik in the first panel, rendering it into an insult to Robotnik. Terra-Droid is beyond mad, however, and the animals have to flee. Sonic tells Terra-Droid the Badnik would make Robotnik proud as he’s almost as big a scum bag as his creator.Terra-Droid mockingly challenges Sonic to take his best shot, convinced it won’t hurt him. Sonic launches a Spin Attack and bounces right off Terra-Droid who finds it hilarious. He’s less impressed, however, when Sonic unclenches his fist to reveal he’s ripped Terra-Droid’s battery out of his chest.After a moment’s panic, Terra-Droid is deactivated- permanently- and falls to the ground in a heap. The animals, however, bemoan the loss of their home to the Green Eater, but Sonic has a plan. The story ends in the Emerald Hill Zone with the animals housed inside Terra-Droid, who’s been turned into a new home for them. Tails tells Sonic that our blue hero amazes him- Sonic replies that that’s why he’s here.A great little story and one that manages to fit STC’s overall feel. It doesn’t have any real effect on the plot, like many Complete Stories, but it is a nice tale in its own right. This is one of the final Millar Sonic stories and was much better than most he did on STC. In a way, it’s a shame he’s embarassed by his work on STC- it’s a step up from the mindless gratuitous swearing and carnage that has become a staple of his work these days.
It’s also interesting that the Green Eater is so similar in function to the machine Robotnik uses in the Game Over story arc towards the end of STC’s print run.Anyway, it wasn’t long from this point until Nigel basically became lead writer and also not that long until Lew joined the creative team, so STC was about to hit its stride and enter its Golden Era.*It cannot seriously be understated how important it was that Nigel K and, later, Mark Eyles get to shape Tails’ character early on when they got to write his solo adventures because, up to now Millar hasn’t done much with Tails other than make him very passive and panicky or congratulatory to Sonic to set up a story’s conclusion. Tails’ first story ran the next issue, so luckily things took a turn for the better for him in the readers’ eyes as the character got to branch out from mere sidekick.

There’s a thread on the Sonic The Comic Online forums right now about our favourite obscure STC stories that don’t get enough love.  Here’s my take on my (first?) pick, The Green Eater:

The Green Eater
Originally printed in Sonic The Comic 15, written by Mark Millar, drawn by Mike Hadley and lettered by Elitta Fell.

Unlike most of the early Millar scripts (and many of the contemporary Millar scripts- WOOOAAAOOOHHHH!!) this isn’t utter garbage. It’s got a solid premise, a decent enemy, an interesting threat and good characterisation. And the art’s lovely, too, Mike Hadley has to be the most underrated of all STC artists- praise for Elson, Dobbyn, Kitching, Corona and Burns is to be expected, but Mike Hadley brought a vibrant style to STC’s early days. The only major problem here is he colours Sonic’s legs peach instead of blue, but that’s a fair mistake that a lot of artists made back then, even on official merchandise.

Anyway, the plot goes that Robotnik has built this gigantic Badnik, the Terra-Droid, who is overseeing the Scrap Brain Zone and, more specifically, the construction of something called the Green Eater. Terra-Droid’s a slave driver on a monumental scale, working the lesser Badniks to the limit but still demanding the Green Eater be completed in an hour, lest the Badniks face his wrath.

We aren’t left to wonder for long what the Green Eater is because we cut to the Emerald Hill Zone, where Tails, a Johnny-lookalike and Flicky all alert Sonic (who’s reading a hedgehog fashion magazine, apparently) to something alarming happening- the Emerald Hill Zone appears to be melting. We’re also treated to an STC first, the classic “base destruction” as Sonic’s secret hideout (which isn’t very well hidden) dissolves before his eyes. As the grass turns a horrible orange colour and dissolves, Flicky tells Sonic of the Badniks’ machine. So, off Sonic rushes to the Scrap Brain Zone, making Tails have a mini-fit*.

Sonic barges into the Scrap Brain Zone, smashing all the smaller Badniks in a quick burst of speed and freeing his animal friends. He explains almost immediately that they now have to help him with his plan. Terra-Droid makes his presence known to Sonic, and he’s less than impressed.

The animals all realise they must distract Terra-Droid to let Sonic destroy the Green Eater. As they do that, Sonic locates the deadly machine, apparently a giant cooling tower sort of thing in appearance and whips out a move that would become a regular attack of his- the Speed Coccoon or, as he calls it here, a mini-tornado- to crush the Green Eater in on itself.

Sonic takes a brief moment to deface some graffiti left by a Badnik in the first panel, rendering it into an insult to Robotnik. Terra-Droid is beyond mad, however, and the animals have to flee. Sonic tells Terra-Droid the Badnik would make Robotnik proud as he’s almost as big a scum bag as his creator.

Terra-Droid mockingly challenges Sonic to take his best shot, convinced it won’t hurt him. Sonic launches a Spin Attack and bounces right off Terra-Droid who finds it hilarious. He’s less impressed, however, when Sonic unclenches his fist to reveal he’s ripped Terra-Droid’s battery out of his chest.

After a moment’s panic, Terra-Droid is deactivated- permanently- and falls to the ground in a heap. The animals, however, bemoan the loss of their home to the Green Eater, but Sonic has a plan. The story ends in the Emerald Hill Zone with the animals housed inside Terra-Droid, who’s been turned into a new home for them. Tails tells Sonic that our blue hero amazes him- Sonic replies that that’s why he’s here.

A great little story and one that manages to fit STC’s overall feel. It doesn’t have any real effect on the plot, like many Complete Stories, but it is a nice tale in its own right. This is one of the final Millar Sonic stories and was much better than most he did on STC. In a way, it’s a shame he’s embarassed by his work on STC- it’s a step up from the mindless gratuitous swearing and carnage that has become a staple of his work these days.

It’s also interesting that the Green Eater is so similar in function to the machine Robotnik uses in the Game Over story arc towards the end of STC’s print run.

Anyway, it wasn’t long from this point until Nigel basically became lead writer and also not that long until Lew joined the creative team, so STC was about to hit its stride and enter its Golden Era.

*It cannot seriously be understated how important it was that Nigel K and, later, Mark Eyles get to shape Tails’ character early on when they got to write his solo adventures because, up to now Millar hasn’t done much with Tails other than make him very passive and panicky or congratulatory to Sonic to set up a story’s conclusion. Tails’ first story ran the next issue, so luckily things took a turn for the better for him in the readers’ eyes as the character got to branch out from mere sidekick.

(From STC #12 “Hidden Danger!” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Carl Flint, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)
My, Doctor Robotnik, what big foot you have.

(From STC #12 “Hidden Danger!” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Carl Flint, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)

My, Doctor Robotnik, what big foot you have.

(From STC #5: “Lost in the Labyrinth Zone” - Story by Mark Millar, Art by Woodrow Phoenix, Lettering by John Aldrich)
I have no words.

(From STC #5: “Lost in the Labyrinth Zone” - Story by Mark Millar, Art by Woodrow Phoenix, Lettering by John Aldrich)

I have no words.

(From STC #13: “Double Trouble” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Mike Hadley, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)
Sonic the Weird Egg Sort Of Thing I Guess.

(From STC #13: “Double Trouble” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Mike Hadley, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)

Sonic the Weird Egg Sort Of Thing I Guess.

(From STC #15: “The Green Eater” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Mike Hadley, Lettering by Elitta Fell)
I actually really like this story!  And the art is genuinely fine throughout (it falls short of Richard Elson’s contemporary stuff, but it stills looks nice).  Mike Hadley is a pretty underrated artist from STC’s early days.
The only problem is every time Sonic is standing still (his legs are a whizzy blur every other time in this strip) his legs are pink instead of blue!  This has the odd result of making him look naked.  And this panel just makes him look fat.

(From STC #15: “The Green Eater” - Script by Mark Millar, Art by Mike Hadley, Lettering by Elitta Fell)

I actually really like this story!  And the art is genuinely fine throughout (it falls short of Richard Elson’s contemporary stuff, but it stills looks nice).  Mike Hadley is a pretty underrated artist from STC’s early days.

The only problem is every time Sonic is standing still (his legs are a whizzy blur every other time in this strip) his legs are pink instead of blue!  This has the odd result of making him look naked.  And this panel just makes him look fat.

(From STC #5: “Lost in the Labyrinth Zone” - Story by Mark Millar, Art by Woodrow Phoenix, Lettering by John Aldrich)
SUDDENLY, BACON.

(From STC #5: “Lost in the Labyrinth Zone” - Story by Mark Millar, Art by Woodrow Phoenix, Lettering by John Aldrich)

SUDDENLY, BACON.