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The Wicker Man of Sonic the Comic


Badnik Mechanic

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Back In November, I went to Leeds to meet a one Nigel Dobbyn over at a comic book festival to have a chat and to buy things. Whilst there Nigel mentioned that he would be doing a talk and was a bit concerned because the other two guys who were supposed to be there hadn’t turned up so it would just be him.

A few hours later I found myself in this function room of a Casino along with a small group of other people and Nigel began his talk about his career and how his work has changed over the years. This ranged from his work on 2000AD, to the Beano, and included a very interesting insight onto Sonic the Comic.

About halfway through the talk, a rather tired T-Bird came bursting in looking for a seat... but thats only mentioned for embarrassment and nothing more...

But what Nigel said was extremely interesting, not just how he worked on the comic, but how the stories were created and the hidden references to other media that are within the comic. Specifically, he mentioned a lot from the film studio known as Hammer Horror and various other horror movies, cartoons as well as items from his own childhood that he loved. The following is taken from that talk as well as other conversations with the guy before and after the talk.

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This image is from a story called Village of the Damned, immediately, the very first page makes a reference to not only classic horror with it’s depiction of a mysterious wood, but from talking with Nigel, this could be the wood from the movie “The Evil Dead” during the first 2 movies, there’s a great reference to the wood, that there’s a monster within and slowly the woods take on a character themselves as being an evil force trapping the characters in the shack. Notice how the colour scheme for the woods is very similar to the force that moves through the woods in the Evil Dead in this clip...

Many people consider this particular Knuckles story to be homage to the movie “The Wicker Man.” Whilst the story is similar in nature... they’re wrong to believe that it’s just a homage to that film, the strip contains much more references to other horror films.

Moving on later into that issue, we see another reference to a much more famous horror movie.

page2.jpg

This is the moment when Knuckles enters the pub and meets the villagers for the first time. Nigel told me “I wanted them to just look at him, filled with distrust, Knuckles is an outsider and he’s not welcome.”

What was also significant about this page is that there is a big reference to the movie “An American Werewolf in London.” The Pub itself is the same as “The Slaughtered Lamb” tavern from the movie where the Americans first enter. Not just the layout, but the reactions of the locals.

theslaugheredlamb.jpg

Even the costumes are similar, note the hats, classic and a stereotypical Yorkshire moors esq for a male, notice how in the STC strip, many of the characters are also dressed in similar attire.

However, there is another reference that this pub is supposed to be the same as the pub in the movie. Notice how on the wall of the pub in the strip, there is a Star on the wall. In the Slaughtered Lamb there is also a star on the wall, it’ll later get the Americans thrown out, but it’s there...

fivepointedstar.jpg

And on the next page, the star is brought back again, whilst in the movie the star represents danger/a warning, in the comic strip, it’s a fore-warning to the danger thats to come, and that the character whom Knuckles is speaking to is not to be trusted. Direct parallel to the symbolic meaning of the movies star.

page3.jpg

And again, you get a look at the attire of the characters in the comic, very similar in nature to that of the film. But also, as with the film the Wicker Man, the villagers worship a God called “The Sun God.” With the star mounted on a circular base, could it also be seen as a sun? An idol of the Sun God?

Later on in the strip, we see more references to the film “The Wicker Man”

page4.jpg

Here we see the young girl being carried by the villagers through the streets to be sacrificed in a ritual. In the climax to the Wicker Man, the policeman (Sergeant Howie) too disguises himself and follows the villagers carrying the girl to be sacrificed.

Wicker%208.JPG

Notice too how in the comic strip, the villagers are in costume, wearing animal disguises and masks (despite already being animals). Again, a reference to the Wicker Man, the villagers wear animal masks and costumes as disguises during the parade and sacrifice. Whilst it’s not shown in the image above, when the policeman eventually makes it to the shore, the villagers have tied the girl to a rock. Exactly like the depiction in the comic strip.

In the movie, Howie rescues the girl only to then be betrayed by her and becomes the sacrifice instead. With the comic strip, Knuckles is able to rescue the girl, but during the night she betrays him and he becomes the sacrifice.

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The next page shows the betray and Knuckles’ capture... however, take notice of one of the characters, it’s an almost exact copy of Christopher Reeds character in the movie, the cult leader Lord Summerisle.

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Do you see him? Look in the second frame to the right. There is a fellow in a yellow mask, notice how his hair is stood on end almost like a sun. Is it or is it not very similar to this iconic image from the Wicker Man movie.

the-wicker-man.jpg

Whilst this character seems minor at the moment, at the end he will take his mask off to show that he in fact is Doctor Robotnik. During this time Robotnik was the ruler of Mobius.

When Knuckles is marched on towards the wicker cage, the reason for his capture is told to him, the crops have failed, and his death/sacrifice will prevent the crops from failing again as the Gods will be appeased. Identical to the reason for Howie’s sacrifice in the movie. He’s told that the crops have failed, they need to sacrifice a virgin to prevent it happening next year. Howie tells them that they’re crazy and that they’re going to commit murder... now look at what Knuckles tells them, they’re crazy, and that they’re going to commit murder.

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Howie's warnings fall on deaf ears

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Similar to Howie, Knuckles tells them that they're going to commit murder, killing him will not save their crops, his dialogue is almost identical to that of Howies.

But his pleas fall on death ears, Howie is tied up by his hands (again, exactly the same as Knuckles) and is led to the Wicker Man where he is burned alive.

Knuckles on the other hand shares a less damning fate. Whilst his hands are also bound, and he’s led to the sacrifice area, it’s not a Wicker Man, but a Wicker Egg shaped cage. The cage is set on fire, but fortunately for Knuckles, he’s able to escape.

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Now that you have come to this point, watch this video showing the ending of the Wicker Man, notice how similar it is to the last few pages from this comic strip I’ve shown you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apm4KX9UBM0

When Knuckles finally uncovers the truth about the village, he discovers that the villagers were under a form of hypnotism, again, this can be found in many classic references to horror , even today. But should it not go unnoticed that the title of this comic strip is “Village of the Damned.” In the movie of the same name, the children make the adults commit violent acts, through a form of telepathy/mind control.

villageofthedamned.jpg

Whilst it’s not hypnosis in the same vain as fleetways issue, it’s a very similar idea.

Finally, the issue ends, and in the last panel we get a comic reference back to the Evil Dead again. Robotnik mocks Knuckles and then has a horror thought that Knuckles may kill him... look at how he’s framed with the woods behind him in a sense of fear.

page9.jpg

Again, a similar image to the one I showed earlier of the characters looking for BOOBY JOE! But it’s not just bound to The Evil Dead. Think of all the other horror movies out there which contain a wood in some way, or even famous stories that are set in woods or where the woods will become a strong character reference, Dracula,

Frankenstein, and even the Wolfman.

So that’s just a little bit into what went into just one Fleetway comic strip, however, for Knuckles especially, there are many more references to films and horror movies in his whole Fleetway series. But that’s one of the more interesting ones.

Goodnight out there... whatever you are... Mu-hahahaha.

P.S. I wanted to use this image as an example of Hammer Horror and their Dracular movie containing a wood similar in style to those at the star and end of this strip... but I had reached the limit for posting images.. So here it is now.

Another one that I had to cut was this of the Wolfman.

Edited by Casanova
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The end of that story was the only thing I liked about it. Knuckles's trip to return that chest to the Floating Island got real tiresome, for me, and seemed like the wrong character to be using to explore Mobius in that way (Tails worked fine, but Knuckles was supposed to be a loner character- thereagain, I suppose that was the point of casting him for it all).

Some of the other stories were better though.

Now that you highlight those intertextualities, it is slightly more interesting to dig out and read again though.

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The only difference here is that this character does not play a hugely important role in the story, he is not the leader, but it’s a clear influence from the film.

Actually that particular chicken character is Robotnik in disguise, so in a way he is the leader, just hiding in plain sight.

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Actually that particular chicken character is Robotnik in disguise, so in a way he is the leader, just hiding in plain sight.

Ah, I couldn't remember if it was him or the goat guy. I know that one of them is the hypnotist and the other was Robotnik, but couldn't remember which way round it was. But thanks for clearing that one up, if anything it only strengthens the link. I'll add it into the post.

Also something else I just noticed, does anyone think that the design of the girl in STC looks a lot like the design of the costume that the villager is wearing as they take Rowan Morrison to the sacrifice area?

Edited by Casanova
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