The Sonic The Comic Christmas Story Advent Calendar - Day Three

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Ice Cap Attack Part Two
First printed in issue 42, cover dated  6 January 1995
Script by Lew Stringer, Art by Mike Hadley & John Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter


Part two starts with our heroes running through the Ice Cap Zone, with Sonic kicking ice in Knuckles face with a smile (whether he’s doing it intentionally or not isn’t clear). Knuckles says he’s found what they’re looking for. Sonic can’t see anything in the snow, but when his red rival points out an egg-shaped (sigh) igloo, it doesn’t take much to work out who built it.

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Knuckles offers to dig a tunnel beneath the structure, but Sonic has a faster way and simply runs at top speed into the igloo, [censored]tering its wall. Inside, Robotnik is seated on a throne as an army of Penguinators look on. Knuckles is shocked to see Robotnik back as he thought he’d gotten rid of him. Sonic points out, though, that Knuckles ought to get used to Robotnik always coming back (a brilliant line, I feel).

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Robotnik pushes a button on his control console and a beam of light surrounds the two heroes. Robotnik advises Sonic not to try to move lest he be burned alive (though he hopes Sonic will try anyway). Sonic offers sarcastic seasons greetings to the dumpy dictator. Sonic tries to poke a finger through the forcefield but, sure enough, he ends up burning his glove. Knuckles is exasperated at how things have turned out, but Sonic ensures him he’ll think of a plan.

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To buy them some time, Sonic tricks Robotnik with the oldest trick in the book- using reverse psychology to force Robotnik into explaining his master plan. Robotnik intends to use the portal to the Emerald Hill Zone as a shortcut to slavery. Knuckles is enraged that Robotnik would use the Ice Cap Zone like this, but Robotnik continues and makes it clear he wants to install his gateways in many Zones so the Emerald Hill Folk would be unable to cope with the influx of Badniks. Sonic says he’ll find a way to stop Robotnik, but Knuckles already has the answer.

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Knuckles digs through the floor, underneath and past the forefield and Sonic lazy-methods his way through the tunnel. Robotnik orders his Badniks to stop them, but the two heroes pose coolly saying that simply isn’t going to happen. A page of fighting and banter begins, with Robotnik escaping, but these Badniks have people inside them, so Sonic is forced to let the bad guy go so he can lead his fellow Emerald Hill citizens through the now closing portal.

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Mission accomplished, Knuckles says the truce is over and Sonic shouldn’t trespass on the Floating Island again. As the portal blinks away, Sonic says that suits him and quips that Knuckles won’t be joining the Freedom Fighters for Christmas. As Tails, Porker, Johnny and scowly Amy rush over to our blue heroic hedgehog, Sonic assures them the mission went well. But, what’s this? Snow fall! Tails is worried Robotnik has created another portal to the Ice Cap Zone as Porker and Johnny look concerned and Amy scowls at the snow. Sonic tells his buddy to relax- it is Christmas, after all. Sonic wishes a merry Christmas to everyone. Everyone except egg-shaped bad guys, that is. Tails has an inexplicable balloon from nowhere, Porker and Johnny exchange happy smiles of relief and Amy stops scowling for half a minute to hold a wishbone and give Sonic come-hither eyes. Next issue is Badniks Bridge. Hooraaaaaaaay.

Elsewhere, SoR continues, Nigel delivers us a Tails Complete Story exploring the fox’s backstory (with lovely art by Carl Flint) which leads into some mysterious unseen adventures in the Nameless Zone (Tails is right back in the lead strip next issue), the Carnival Night Conspiracy is revealed to Knuckles, Doctor Robotnik breaks the fourth wall a bit for what is easily the best strip Mark Millar wrote for STC (by virtue of it being really quite good!) and Marko’s Magic Football continues with slime creatures everywhere. Another really good issue, then, and it’s obvious by now that STC is hitting its stride.

Ice Cap Attack was the end result of some of the big changes that had occurred within STC over the past year. Lew Stringer was now on board and would remain so until the penultimate story arc of the comic. The artists involved were of a much higher calibre than they were a year ago (even the cartoony style on the lead strip works well and Marko’s Magic Football has a very suiting art style from Gary Andrews). Knuckles and Amy had debuted, resulting in huge new plot possibilities and, similarly, the animal friends had all evolved into an anthropomorphic, humanoid shape, which meant Johnny and Porker could become larger players in the stories. Sonic 3 was still in the minds of Sega gamers worldwide and Sonic & Knuckles would be around this time, too, so further use of Sonic and Knuckles team-ups would result in some great stories, eventually resulting in Knuckles becoming an auxiliary member of the Freedom Fighters.

Come back tomorrow for a very generic winter story that only sort of qualifies as a Christmas tale!

(From STC #25 “Wonder Boy in Ghost World Part 4” - Script by Mark Eyles, Art by Bojan Djukac, Lettering by Steve Potter)
Trying to decide which of the following is more appropriate as music for this cliffhanger.  Choose yourself from the following selection:
OPTION A
OPTION B

(From STC #25 “Wonder Boy in Ghost World Part 4” - Script by Mark Eyles, Art by Bojan Djukac, Lettering by Steve Potter)

Trying to decide which of the following is more appropriate as music for this cliffhanger.  Choose yourself from the following selection:

OPTION A

OPTION B

squiggly submitted this:
(From STC #72: “Brute Force Part 4” - Script by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Carl Flint, Colour by Dondie Cox, Lettering by Steve Potter)
Brutus, what is with that pose…
AMOSTC Comment: I almost cropped this down to just the bottom-left panel, then I saw Brutus’ wrist in the top panel.  What the holy effing hell.

squiggly submitted this:

(From STC #72: “Brute Force Part 4” - Script by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Carl Flint, Colour by Dondie Cox, Lettering by Steve Potter)

Brutus, what is with that pose…

AMOSTC Comment: I almost cropped this down to just the bottom-left panel, then I saw Brutus’ wrist in the top panel.  What the holy effing hell.

In fact, to tide you over, here’s this:

(From STC #41: “In Good Hands” - Script by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Roberto Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

In addition to Porker’s goosestep, where the hell did Sonic’s torso go?!

(From STC #46: “Enter the Cybernik Part 2” - Story by Lew Stringer,  Pencils by Roberto  Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve  Potter)
Bonus panel of Grimer looking extremely creepy.  Bob Corona would, mercifully, draw Grimer on-model in future!  I say mercifully because this chills me to my soul.

(From STC #46: “Enter the Cybernik Part 2” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Roberto Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

Bonus panel of Grimer looking extremely creepy.  Bob Corona would, mercifully, draw Grimer on-model in future!  I say mercifully because this chills me to my soul.

The Amazing Size-Shifting Squirrel

[Lots of pics here, so do please click them to expand them to full size in order to fully appreciate them!]

These next few aren’t really examples of bad art, but it’s a huge inconsistency and something I always thought was pretty funny as a kid: Shortfuse the Cybernik’s size changes an awful lot depending on the artist.

To give you an idea of scale, here’s Shorty the Squirrel (the animal inside the Cybernik armour, for the uninitiated) being held by the tail by a Trooper Badnik in front of Robotnik.

(From STC #45: “Enter the Cybernik Part 1” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Roberto Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

He’s kind of a little guy, which is really the point.  Now, for further scale, here’s the Cybernik armour when it’s closed, with Grimer parallel to him.

(From STC #46: “Enter the Cybernik Part 2” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Roberto Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

And here’s a very handy shot of Shortfuse stood facing Sonic as Amy, Johnny and Porker look on.

(From STC #47: “Enter the Cybernik Part 3” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Roberto Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

So now you should have a general idea of how Shortfuse sizes up against the other characters and, indeed, in his own right.  He’s a little taller than Sonic in the armour, but he’s noticeably shorter than Robotnik and Grimer.  I’m not sure how much input Lew gave to the height of Shortfuse given he’s also an artist, but let’s assume this is the “correct” height for the Cybernik.

Shortfuse’s next appearance is a Knuckles story and here, oddly, he seems noticeably taller than Knuckles, even though Sonic and Knuckles are usually drawn as being the same height.  You’ll also no doubt note he seems slightly chubbier.

(From STC #52: “Knuckles Versus The Cybernik” - Story by Lew Stringer, Art by John Moore, Lettering by Elitta Fell)

Even though Nigel Kitching respected Shortfuse was Lew’s creation and, thus, never wrote a story featuring the character, he drew the Cybernik on a couple of ocassions.  The first time, he draws him to about the same scale as Bob Corona did in Shortfuse’s debut story.

(From STC #58: “The Rampage of Mekanik Part 2” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Nigel Kitching, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)

Here’s where things get really fun!  Shortfuse’s next appearance has plenty of leeway for the artist to bend the rules a little as the Cybernik gets an armour redesign and the main enemy is Metamorphia who, as a shape-shifter, does not have a consistent height.  Also, Tekno makes her debut here so her later height (she also ends up being stretched somewhat) doesn’t match up either.  I don’t know whose idea the new armour design was- whether Lew was unhappy with Shortfuse’s original design, it was an editorial decision or if it came from fan feedback- but I think it’s a definite good call as Shortfuse looks rather boring in his first few appearances.  Here’s the last time we see him in the original armour, somehow even fatter than before:

(From STC #64: “Cybernik Strikes Back Part 2” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Carl Flint, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

And here’s our first view of the new armour from the same issue:

By the next time Shortfuse and Robotnik meet, Shortfuse is much, much taller than he was during their initial encounter:

(From STC #67: “Cybernik Strikes Back Part 5” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Carl Flint, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Steve Potter)

Amusing footnote: Though the story’s climax hinges on Shortfuse being a hero and not a murderer, can you guess which of these three characters would actually attempt murder in an issue of STC-Online?  The answer may surprise you!

In the completely excellent Revolution, Lew’s conclusion of the Commander Brutus storyline, Shortfuse again teams up with Sonic and, again, Nigel Kitching is on art detail:

(From STC #80: “Revolution Part 2” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Nigel Kitching, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Tom Frame)

…except this time Shortfuse is tiny!!  However, this does lead to one of my favourite panels in the story:

Making Shortfuse smaller actually makes this cooler since he just doesn’t care about how intimidating Brutus appears.  In the 1996 Holiday Special, an underlying plot thread is toyed with as Robotnik briefly gains control of Shortfuse, leading to a Sonic v Cybernik battle.

(From Sonic Holiday Special ‘96: “Sonic Vs Shortfuse” - Story by Lew Stringer, Art by Mike Hadley, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)

There are loads of panels in this story where Shortfuse is any combination of gargantuan and/or fat.  Shortfuse shows up again in issue 85’s Scream Theme Park, which is Max Gamble’s first issue.  Bob Corona is again on pencils so, as you may expect, he draws Shortfuse to the same size as he did before, though there is one completely bizarre panel.  Throughout the story, Shortfuse is shown to be of average Mobian height, while Max Gamble is obviously tall (later noticeably so at the side of characters like Tails).  Yet, when Shortfuse grabs Max…

(From STC #85: “Scream Theme Park” - Story by Lew Stringer, Pencils by Roberto Corona, Colours by John M. Burns, Lettering by Tom Frame)

…He’s somehow taller than him.  It is, of course, feasible Max was on his knees in panic at this point, given he’s a weaselly slimeball.  It’s just smart framing, anyway, having the hero stand above the villain in complete control.

I could pull out a million different pictures of Shorty from this period as he appeared in a lot of stories, but they were all drawn by Bob Corona, so the height will be consistent.  By now, Bob was really the “third STC artist” after Richard Elson and Nigel Dobbyn, so it’s no surprise he drew a lot of stories- the majority of which were Lew’s and, given Lew couldn’t use Sonic due to him being stranded in the Special Zone in Nigel Kitching’s lead stories, Shortfuse briefly joined the Freedom Fighters.

I will, however, give you this from Richard Elson, STC’s numero uno artist:

(From STC #131: “Shady Characters Part 1” - Story by Lew Stringer, Art by Richard Elson, Lettering by Tom Frame)

Richard didn’t get quite as many chances to draw Shortfuse but, whenever he did, I always felt he drew him well, with plenty of attention given to the reflections on his armour.  Interestingly enough, here Shortfuse stands ever-so-slightly shorter than before, but Rich has also re-tooled Shortfuse’s general design so he seems more tightly designed and looks tougher.

(From STC #174: “Game Over Part Two” - Story by Lew Stringer, Art by Richard Elson, Lettering by Ellie De’Ville)

Richard also drew the strip in which Shorty was finally- and permanently- freed from his armour.  This was also Lew’s final strip for STC, so it was the perfect farewell to Shorty and the Cybernik character.  As you can see in the picture above, Sonic is slightly taller than Shorty, which is pretty consistent with Shorty’s first appearance.

In Sonic The Comic Online, Shorty’s height in and out of his new, removable armour does tend to differ from artist to artist once again, but it’s generally around the taller range.

(From STC-O #236: “Unusual Suspect” - Story by Mike Corker, Art by Chris G, Lettering by Charles Ellis)

Shortfuse is oozing machismo with that pose.

(From STC-O #254: “Come Crashing Down!” - Story by Mike Corker, Art and Lettering by Pete Murphy)

Who would have thought that for all his powers and skills Shorty’s most unusual ability would be his talent to change his height?  I’ll leave you with this picture of Shortfuse by an artist who didn’t get to draw him during the print run, the incredible Nigel Dobbyn:

(STC-O #254 cover - Pencils by Nigel Dobbyn, Colours by Pete Murphy)