Sonic Skepticism: An Interview With ‘Sonic The Hedghog’ Editor Vincent Lovallo
I am what you could charitably call very skeptical of Sonic the Hedgehog in all of his various forms. I wasn't a Sega kid, so I never got into the games when I was young, and despite the fact that he's been a constant presence in the world of comics since 1993, that's a vast swath of storytelling that I've never engaged with. Now, however, it might finally be time to take the plunge.
For the past two weeks, there's been a massive collection of Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comics available at Humble Bundle, allowing readers to pay what they want for a new starting point and support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. It might be the tipping point, but while I remain a little reluctant, I've given Sonic editor Vincent Lovallo the chance to convince me once and for all to read these comics.
ComicsAlliance: I’m a little wary of reading Sonic the Hedgehog, but I’m also someone who absolutely loved Ian Flynn’s work on Mega Man. That means I might be the most skeptical new reader who is also the easiest person to convince to give it a shot. With all that in mind, why should I be reading Sonic the Hedgehog?
Vincent Lovallo: Because it’s fun, of course! If you enjoyed Ian’s writing on Mega Man, you will definitely like how he handles the characters and world of Sonic. While there are clearly differences between the two properties, the love and care Ian puts into the narrative remains the same. Just like with Mega Man, Ian takes the foundation of the video game stories, as well as the other variations of Sonic media, and rolls them into a fun, yet dramatic story comic readers and gamers of all ages can enjoy.
CA: Does Sonic tackle the same sort of themes that Mega Man did? One of my favorite things about that comic was how it was an all-ages action adventure that also dealt with questions about morality and humanity, and even the nature of the soul. Do we see that in Sonic, too, with questions about… Hedgehogity, I guess? Or is it pure action?
VL: We can definitely see those themes and questions pop up in the Sonic books from time to time. Sonic is a free spirit that doesn't often let things get him down and favors to take things more lightly; however, there are other times where he can get serious too.
In addition, the extended cast of characters deal with their own hardships and shortcomings. Bunnie D'Coolette is one half rabbit and one half robot, thanks to the meddling of Dr. Eggman. In time her character learned to turn her misfortune into her strength with the assistance of the other Freedom Fighters. It's all about teamwork. Sonic and his friends learn how to get through their struggles together in addition to their unifying goal to help the world.
CA: What are the basics that a new reader needs to know going in? Here’s what I know: Sonic runs fast and likes chili dogs. Tails has tails. That’s… that’s pretty much it.
VL: Ha, that’s a good starting point! The comic story follows the adventures of Sonic and his team of Freedom Fighters as they protect the world from the evil ambitions of Dr. Eggman. Eggman has taken over many different territories all over Sonic’s world in an attempt to build his empire and rule over all natural life. The mad scientist will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
Our current storyline has the doctor literally split the planet apart to keep the major continents divided and in chaos. Sonic and his friends band together to stop the evil doctor’s plot through teamwork, bravery and speed! It’s an ongoing battle for the fate of the world, and Eggman isn’t the only threat around. We’ve got wizards, witches, aliens, and killer robots with agendas of their own that keep Sonic on his toes.
CA: So if you had to put money on one of these characters ending up as my favorite, who would it be?
VL: That's a tough question… though I think you may gravitate towards someone like Nicole. Nicole is an AI that assists Sonic and his friends on their various adventures. In a similar vein to Mega Man, Nicole deals with the hardships of being life-like, but not organic. She even has a story arc in Sonic Universe called "Spark of Life," which brings those topics to light.
CA: Sonic’s not just the longest-running video game comic ever, but as I’ve pointed out before, it’s also the longest-running monthly American comic that hasn’t been renumbered. Throw in Sonic Universe, and it seems like there’s a lot of continuity there, even for someone who reads mainstream superhero books. Where could I jump on?
VL: While the series does maintain its numbering, we did have a bit of a soft reboot right after the first Sonic/Mega Man crossover, Worlds Collide. Sonic the Hedgehog #252 starts right where the crossover left off. In that issue, Sonic returns to his home world and proceeds on a journey that reintroduces the characters and world so that new readers can learn what’s what and who’s who fairly quickly.
Likewise, Sonic Universe #55 follows a similar formula. That series puts the focus on some of the more popular side characters and their adventures in Sonic’s world. The two series have plotlines that connect with each other, but both can be read and enjoyed independently. With the current Humble Bundle Comics deal we have going on, right now is the best time to dive in and catch up, all while supporting charity!
CA: What was it like for you to take over a book that had been going so long and, as you may know, has a pretty vocal fandom?
VL: It was a little bizarre and slightly intimidating at first. I’ve been a fan of the Sonic franchise since I was a little kid and even subscribed to the comics right around the start of Ian’s run. Never did I imagine that I would be working on the comics so directly.
Stepping into the editorial job, I already knew and had played almost all of the games and had read a good chunk of the comics backlog, but even then there was some studying and catching up to do. With the help of my supervisor, enough hard work and time, I gained a handle on the editorial position and an understanding of the fan community. Like you say, the fans are very passionate about the games and comics. It's important to listen to your fan base and have an open ear. With that in mind, we try to produce the most fun and high-quality stories we can. Just like Sonic, we strive to put our best foot forward!
CA: You know I have to ask this. Is there a hedgehog version of you that has appeared in the comic?
VL: Ha, not that I'm aware of. Though if I did, I would be in big trouble if a fight breaks out; my head is shaved so I don't think I'd have any spikes to defend myself with!
CA: What can you tell me about the upcoming "Mega Drive" storyline? I know that you already did a story called "Genesis," which I believe functioned as a sort of origin story for Sonic, and while my first guess was that Mega Drive is just that story reprinted with a British accent, I suspect that’s not the case.
VL: "Mega Drive" is in some respects actually a follow up to Sonic's "Genesis" origins. The story takes place after the events of Sonic & Knuckles. Dr. Eggman is collecting ancient artifacts called the "Ancient Gears" to power up his latest weapon,the Mega Drive. It's up to Sonic and Tails to traverse new lands, re-unite with some familiar friends and stop the doctor's evil scheme. It's a good 'ol fashioned adventure filled with action, comedy and fun!
The Sonic the Hedgehog Humble Bundle runs until tomorrow, July 6, 2016.