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What if Ken Penders never joined the Archie Sonic staff?


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So, we all know who Ken Penders is at this point. But let's go back to 1994. Mike Gallagher was still the writer for the comics, but starting with issue 11, Ken Penders (along with Mike Kenterovitch) took over as writers.

However, let's say that at the last minute, Archie decided not to hire Ken and Mike K. How would things have been different?

Also, I know there is a dedicated Ken Penders thread on the forums, but I felt that this topic deserved a thread of its own.

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Honestly, it would be a bunch of what-ifs.

Archie Sonic would probably still be the gags/comical comic after its first 10 issues, possibly merging AoStH with SatAM as one as whole. 

Or maybe a different route with new writers (who could possibly understand the games' lore -a bit- at the time). Some thing like this:

Pre- Sonic Adventure:

Instead events like Mecha Madness, Endgame, World Tour, etc, maybe more plotlines, elements and locations from the games themselves. We would've seen Knuckles, Metal Sonic, Amy, Fang, the Chaotix, etc. appearing sooner down the line. Since AoStH and SatAM have their own stuff, they can merge within too. Possibly brought in Griff, Breezie and others sooner.  (Depending on the fate of SatAM at the time because the cartoon lasted 2 seasons).

Possible others, i.e., Sally and Tails may have their spin-off running past 3 issues.

Knuckles may have better storylines in his own book without "copying" elements from other sources and could past 32 issues.

Super Specials may be staying. Damn sure Sonic Live wouldn't be concepted. Although, it may not stop Archie Comics from doing their crossover spin-offs with Archie and Friends, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, etc.

Other characters, like Amy, may get some good spotlight and development.

Better consistency, new elements, world building and some new and interesting OCs that could  possibly gather attention to SEGA (if they weren't in that East vs. West BS within the company). Also, we MAY could have some elements of Sonic X-treme added in the comics.

And since Sonic Underground came out before Sonic Adventure began the evolution of Sonic's and co's designs, Sonia, Manic and other elements could be incorporated into the book.

The only negative thing that I know SEGA would still say NO is adding the OVA stuff.

Sonic Adventure phase:

Since they had to work with Spaz's Japanese copy, the writers would probably stick at least to the plot closer to the games. Although, for the updated designs of Sonic and others, I'm not sure how the artists at the time would handle it but maybe they just shrug it off and said, "Meh, we're just following SEGA's mandates."

Post Sonic Adventure:

We would had definitely see more games tie-ins, such as a better Sonic Adventure 2 storyline to incorporate Shadow and Rouge into the comics. Sonic Heroes would had definitely got one and then the Advance/Sonic Battle games and so on. I would believe Shadow would definitely receive his own spin-off because of his popularity. And then Sonic '06.... oh boy, that would had been interesting to read, despite its own issues.

Not sure if both Sonic X and Sonic Boom stuff would be either merged into the main book or have their own series like they eventually did. 

 

A couple of things that I think if this were the route of Archie Sonic, I don't think a Multiverse would had been concepted (but maybe later down to the Modern era when they eventually added Blaze, although we wouldn't get an Evil Sonic/Scourge character). And I know damn well, we wouldn't get nonsensible ideas and concepts, and trying to tell a story about the future just to focus on just 2 or 3 Sonic major characters, my OCs, and said "F*** the rest of them because its canon and I said so."

 

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To look at things objectively for a moment, and putting my dislike for the man aside, it probably would’ve had a dork age still but with Gallgher’s terrible puns, and more difficulty with writers getting things set to a serious storyline. Penders is a awful writer, but he was the one that for better or for worse pushed the comic to take itself more seriously. To push it away from a silly goofy gag to a comic with overarching narratives and character dynamics. He’s the reason the comic recollided itself closer to the tone of SatAM rather than being a hybrid of AoStH and SatAM.

And to be fair, Penders does have decent story ideas now and then. He’s a terrible writer but he can put out a few ideas that conceptually - are sound enough. I certainly wouldn’t call him the saviour of Archie Sonic and I certainly wouldn’t attribute the comic’s large scale success to him, but when your choices were the cheesy puns of Mike Gallagher and Penders’ serious but ridiculous narrative, it was the latter that at least gave the comic enough footing to push itself towards when the likes of Bollers and even Ian later coming in to make the comic great.

But I certainly don’t think he made the comic a success. We’re talking early 90s Sonic, right smack bang in the middle of Sonic’s popularity boom, I feel certain the comic would’ve survived a very long time even if it remained a gag comic. So I don’t think it would’ve been canned or anything, but I do think if Penders wasn’t there to at least set the bar of “hey, these comics can actually have a overarching story like other comics”, it might’ve taken much longer for later writers to try push that bar when they came on board.

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Gallagher also wrote things like Mecha Madness and the Death Egg Saga. And he did some good game adaptions, too. Sonic CD and Sonic (3D) Blast were a lot of fun. Also, I don't know if he was the one who pitched it, but the whole "Tails is the Chosen One" plot thread got started in one of his stories, so he did contribute to lore building and adventure stories. A lot of his stuff was weird and didn't fit with the direction the series ended up going in, but there was some stuff there.

Honestly, I find this entire scenario difficult to imagine... Part of that is because I'm not even sure what exactly Penders was responsible for. He's widely thought of as the one who pushed the series toward a more serious direction, but there are so many factors in a book like this. Editors, the sales department, fan demand, Sega themselves. I feel like there's a good chance the series would have gotten more serious about the same time even if Penders had never been hired. After all, his first few stories were just as much focused around gags and lame puns as Gallagher's.

There are so many factors at play here, too. Are we assuming Gallagher would be lead writer, and basically do everything Penders did in the real timeline? Or would someone else have been hired? Or would they have had one of the less known Sonic writers do it? Would Bollers still have come in at the same time? Earlier? Later? Not at all? What would the creative process have been like without Penders in the office? Would the stories have been more cohesive without his "I don't read the other writers' work" attitude? Would the Knuckles series have gotten past the miniseries?

This feels like a scenario where you could plug almost any outcome into it and it would be plausible. But if I had to pick one and run with it, I'd say...

Let's go the "Gallagher does what Penders did" route. My guess is the stories would've been more goofy than what we got, but not as much so as his early work. I suspect Archie still would have asked him to take the series into a more serious direction. His plot threads would have been very strange and ill-fitting, but in a different way than Penders (think things like the Ancient Walkers). Maybe more tuned toward a mysticism kind of bent?

I don't think Robotnik would have been killed off, as I think that was something Penders personally pushed for. The heroes might have retaken R/Mobotropolis still, simply because it would probably get tiresome to keep the status quo for so long with no apparent progress. Adventure comes around eventually, the comic is retooled to match it... The details would be completely different from what actually happened, but I imagine the shape of the comic would remain similar, since so much of it was caused by outside forces.

Reverberating into the future, I doubt the lawsuits would happen. The reboot would not have needed to occur. Sega would continue giving the comic less oversight. Maybe Archie wouldn't have gotten gun-shy about licensed properties without the legal woes... and maybe that would've been enough to prevent cancellation. Not saying the lawsuits caused the cancellation, but I think they were probably a domino in the chain, and maybe removing them would've been enough to prevent that.

And as long as we're going with an unfalsifiable alternate reality, let's say the actually important bit: The lack of legal troubles means Archie Mega Man doesn't get cancelled either in this timeline. (this is probably a stretch, but just let me dream)

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9 hours ago, WanderingBleats said:

Honestly, I find this entire scenario difficult to imagine... Part of that is because I'm not even sure what exactly Penders was responsible for. He's widely thought of as the one who pushed the series toward a more serious direction, but there are so many factors in a book like this. Editors, the sales department, fan demand, Sega themselves. I feel like there's a good chance the series would have gotten more serious about the same time even if Penders had never been hired. After all, his first few stories were just as much focused around gags and lame puns as Gallagher's.

Not really, from what we know at least. As evidenced by all of the absolute weird nonsense Penders got away with, writers didn't have much oversight, due to an editor who really didn't care that much and gave them free reign over the comic, and a SEGA who only saw the comic as a quick marketing tool back in the 90s, who's oversight essentially was 'yeah, whatever', as long as it wasn't something egregious that happened to Sonic himself.  And while his first stories did fall under the current direction of the comic, for better or for worse, it was Penders' issues that did start pushing things towards arc-based over gag based plotlines. It's hard for me to imagine Gallagher doing the same thing when he was still doing the exact same shtick 10 years later.

And even with Gallagher's good stories, like the adaptions, or Mecha Madness, they still had a goofy and punny undertone to them. Even right up until his departure in the mid-160s, he was still pulling the same shtick of forgettable Freedom Fighter factions and pun-filled stories. Even the big mythic arc for Tails was resolved with multiple universe variants, Titan Tails, and more. The outliers here don't really mean much, especially when said outliers also happened after the push towards a more arc-based narrative was made. Gallagher was also a newspaper skit writer if I recall correctly, which attributed to his much more whacky and silly take on Sonic, so that plays into things as well.  

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They brought Ken in since they needed writers, so it would have been someone else otherwise. It kind of depends if this alternate stayed writing long term, moved to a spinoff book like Knuckles or doing backups the same as Ken did since it was a lot more backup stories he was writing for a span, or just left short term as other talent came onboard. 

It should also be noted in an interview with a lot of the comic staff, I'd have to find the interview, it was said SatAM was the more popular series overall and shifted to more serious tone to garner that fanbase. Which doesn't seem like a stretch to say the series would have evolved the same way, even if Gallagher or other writers would keep a lot of comedy in. I wouldn't have minded that kind of tone at that time. Mecha Madness was one of my favorite stories of that time. 

I think Endgame might have had a similar outcome no matter what, if not a dissimilar story or lead up. Robotnik makes a final push of some kind inspired by SatAM. Maybe adapting the wolf pack story and Doomsday since aparently they'd been sitting on the backstory for a while. He ends up supposedly dead since everyone on the book said they thought with the cartoon ending the comic would end too. In an alternate world it might. 

Karl Bollers comes in and we get a world tour arc. Then Robotnik returns and uses a back up body when his was destroyed. The entire Robo-Robotnik subplot being unnecessary since that odd Push was all Ken. Nate Morgan was a retooled SatAM character sort of and with some characters like Mina, that was a pitch by the editor. So some of the same expanded cast would come into play. The game Adaptations likely take up more space with a more fleshed out SA2. Without Chaos Knuckles it would make more sense. Metal Sonic would still likely go down the same due to the specific writer and the OVA being more known, and could lead to Shard down the line.

Karl had shown a lot of ideas he'd had for as far as 150 I think? Ian Flynn was an avid fan, and i think it was said editorial eventually accepted his pitch. So the fact there is a lot of variant story plans anyways the comic still looks pretty similar up to 160. We don't get Return to Angel island as it was initially written, but a lot hinges on if other Echidna's were reintroduced. If some were, Finitevus would likely still be a character. He fell on the more Mystic side of things anyways. Since Ken wasn't fighting so hard against Karl's ideas, we don't need as much cleanup. The Mobius X years later stuff isn't really a thing so that clears a lot of clutter. We still get a Guardians of the Galaxy crossover and since Dan Slott did most of the Zone wars stuff Zonic might still be a character.

There was actually an "Imaginary Tales" story right in the initial miniseries. That was Silver Age DC Comics early multiverse stuff. And Evil Sonic was just a spoof of DC's evil Earth 3. Since early Archie Sonic was just kind of a Silver Age spoof/homage, it is conceivable that something similar might have popped up. So Scourge would either be a similar character, or even be developed around the Ian run as a type of reflected counterpart. Especially since that design was based around an unused SA1 redesign and the Asura glitch. If not, Surge was a late unused idea during the Archie run (I know Starline was, and the other glitch characters were said to all be developed around the same time as a trio) so who knows.

Even Echidnopolis was Silver Age Krypton reskinned so there's a point where it's homage, then a point it's just blatant. With the way Ken talks about pastiches and homages so negatively, it's odd he relies on so many. He also stated he regrets one of them, but didn't even bring up so many others. 

And for the Idea Sonic Live wouldn't be a thing. That was sorta the plot to one of the 90s movies that went unmade. Mixed with Last Action Hero and DC comics Earth Prime "real world" character crossovers. So it may have come out in a different way too as a similar homage. Maybe better art and less Roboniks. Oh, and the Image Comics crossover was Ken kind of co-opting a different plan for a crossover with the Archie Red Circle hero characters Flynn later worked to revive so that is similar too.

Now, what's gone. Any ongoing Knuckles series would probably be a search for missing echidnas. instead of Echidnopolis or Albion, Athair being a non Penders character would likely have led to some more mystical heritage or lost civilization storyline more like the French comic. A lot of the miniseries and backups would be different. We would have the pleasure of missing Geoffry. Sally's mother and brother would likely be skipped. While some were based on background characters the substitute freedom fighters wouldn't be the same if they were even a thing. Sonic Chronicles would still come around and the Fourth Great Civilization still might have been grafted onto Echidnas as they would be a big unknown in some permutations. Just less headache after.

The Flynn run cleaned house. We would probably get a different Secret Freedom Fighters. But some of the pivotal moments outside of anything Echidna related probably look similar. Without the lawsuit, things keep trucking and they would probably still do an Unleashed adaptation and roll in old characters as a big shake up anyways. Genesis, Worlds Collide, and Unite all fill up a similar niche but with older characterizations. 

To Ryannumber1gamer's point specifically. When talk of Sega oversight comes up though, while stories were skating through for a while it wasnt always the case. One of Ken's first three scripts was denied, the one being a Mario spoof. Endgame Sega wouldn't let Sally die, and the Robotnik thing was always a temporary "death". Yeah, issue 155 might have been the breaking point with how lax they were being with the Executive/Saw the Cover story but even by the Good, the Bad, and the Unknown before that Ken was complaining about Sega trying to get him to add Shadow before more stringent oversigt restarted. 

Again, I'd have to try and look it up but Ken said it was only 2003 or 4 when Sega became so lax checking maybe 1 in 3 scripts for approval due to just how routine it was. The fact prior to that so many oddities also made it through kinda seems unthinkable, but also the books at time weren't pushing the envelope too hard most of the time. Scrutiny of the fans is likely far harder on things than an approval office. Also at one point there was a third party handling some of it from what I read. Certainly interesting hearing about the inner workings of the process. Even without Ken it likely would have just been something different triggering much the same oversight agaim. I know some Ian panels were redrawn at times early on so there would be some precedence. 

With editors though, Justin Freddy Gabrie was definitely one who let things fester so much. That he gave Ken free reign and let things get so out of hand was pretty much him. Whether it was friendship or apathy that caused it, i can see why things changed so much when he was gone. Look at how Ken refers to different Editors. Gabrie just gets talked about in casual mentions, and Ken said something to the effect Mike Pellerito should never have been an editor to begin with. All because Pellerito would do his job. No wonder Ken demands constantly that he be given full creative control if he were to come back, since he apparently can't tolerate being told what to do or how to do it. I can only think of one time that Ken mentioned Gabrie gave an order. Chaos Knuckles was dragging on too long, then the fact Ken agreed with the sentiment is the only reason he so easily capitulated I'd assume.

As for Archie, they were in financial trouble when the dropped the Mega Man license and then subsequently Sonic. It was the cost of the crossovers (Specifically Unite which didn't do as well and so they didn't recoup losses on it) and the higher renewal rates of licensed content that pushed them over the edge. There were a coupe of people related to archie. An employee and I believe a former one bickering over it on Twitter at one point. Not necessarily the renewals but Archie simply having trouble allocating money after bad decisions in general. Don't think that thread still exists. But the timing all fits. It's likely there would still be a shift to IDW and that game canon would take priority. I feel a lot of things would end up the same, just with less twists and turns in the long run overall.

This is certainly a complex topic. So sorry for rambling so long. Also just to say, i enjoyed parts of Ken's work when he wasn't trying to push things too far or get so dynastical with family trees. He was a quirky writer who just loved Jack Kirby's Kamandi and wanted to do his own take for better or worse. If not for all of the friction he cause before and after, I wonder what it would be like if he never left.

 

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I think the comic would have been simpler without a ton of Penders’ OCs needing a spotlight.  Not sure if Knuckles would have had a solid spin-off on his own without a huge family tree; I could see him and the Chaotix getting their own comic though.

We’d have also had Scourge for the long haul as well, and I think the writing overall would have been more lighthearted and with less problematic turns.

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