Recently Ken Penders, long-time writer of Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog series will no longer be involved with the franchise as of issue number 159.
THE TIMES, THEY ARE A'CHANGIN'
When I initiated this format, I had seriously intended to submit my blog entries on a much more regular basis than I was able to. What I discovered was that 2005 was such a year in transition for me that it became extremely difficult to do so for a number of reasons. Chief among them was that time had become my most precious commodity as priorities kept changing -- practically on a daily basis.
It wasn't until this month that I finally learned to embrace the future and let go of the past; which isn't easy for someone my age with responsibilities. If I was twenty years younger, this would have been a no-brainer. But in an age-conscious society such as the one we live in, making a career change like the one I'm about to do is a huge leap of faith.
For the longest time, I believed I was living on borrowed time working in the comics industry. In an era where there is so much competition for a person's attention and money, comics have been a niche market, considered at best the research and development stage for a character and/or concept before it goes on to another medium, be it film, TV, or video game. Furthermore, I was an anomaly in the industry. The number of creators who can probably match my longevity with a book these days most likely all work for Archie. I can't think of a single writer or artist at Marvel or DC who has been associated with a particular book or character on a regular basis the past twelve years. Creators I can recall associated with a book as long as I are Roy Thomas on Conan and Chris Claremont on X-Men. Even Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn't collaborate on THE FANTASTIC FOUR as long as I've been on SONIC; and they wrote and illustrated the first 102 issues without a break!
So while everyone asks me about breaking into the biz, the topics that go largely unaddressed are just as important. They're the future of comics as well as job security in the industry.
Addressing the future of comics, I believe there will be a comics industry in one form or another for the foreseeable future. I just don't believe ten years down the road it will be the same as it is today. Economics alone demand a change at some point. Take the 32-page format that most comics are printed in today. It's a dinosaur by every measurement imaginable whose very existence is subsidized by its advertising. As for the writers and artists, they will be considered even more expendable by the companies whose priorities are the characters, not the creatives.
Which brings us to job security. Unless you're the publisher or someone extremely well connected within the industry - and there are less of those types than you would imagine - there really isn't any security. At Marvel or DC, when a book's sales go down, an editor may be replaced. But just as often it's the writer and artists who are replaced -- and not because they did a bad job. More often than not, the announcement of a new creative team is seen as an occasion to encourage the audience that something new is happening and that they'll be missing out if they don't check into it. The thing of it is, more often than not, it's only for the short run. I'm sure the current sales of Batman
these days don't match up with those of the recent Jim Lee run (which is now ancient history by today's standards.)
I've been working in the comics industry for almost twenty years, going back to my first assignment for DC Comics. Back in 1986 I worked for their WHO'S WHO IN STAR TREK mini-series; and, I can state from first-hand experience and the testimony of others that as hard as it is to break in, it's even harder to make a career of it -- unless you're adaptable. You can go from assignment to assignment and then, one morning, wake up wondering why there's no work.
That's partly why I became a writer, in response to having to wait for other writers' scripts that I was assigned to illustrate. I figured if I got into the game at the initial stage of creation, I could generate my own assignments. In the case of SONIC, it also offered me a chance to jump onto a book that was looking for one thing (writers) instead of the other (artists). You do what you have to, y'know?
What I didn't count on was ever staying as long as I did on the series. I figured I'd do a few issues and move on to something else at Marvel and DC. After all, working on SONIC back then was an issue-by-issue proposition. Even the publishers had no clue at all how long the book would last, hedging their bets by offering only six-issue subscriptions instead of the twelve-issue subs they offered on all their other titles. And when the original SONIC animated series were cancelled, even my then-editor Scott Fulop was pessimistic of the book itself lasting much longer. The history of similarly licensed-titles in the comics industry did not bode well for Sonic. It was at that point that I wrote up an outline of stories designed to take the series to issue 50. The culmination of which was the final epic battle between Sonic and his arch-nemesis Dr. Robotnik. All the while I knew there were no guarantees we would even make it to the 50th issue.
The only time I had any sense of stability was probably when I wrote the first twenty-five or so issues of Knuckles. When artist Manny Galan moved on to Nickelodeon, things seemed to fall apart. The book, as you know, was cancelled rather abruptly with issue 32.
After that, it became one long roller coaster ride, never knowing how long it would last. Finally, this past October, editor Mike Pellerito told me he wanted to make a change. The MOBIUS: 25 YEARS LATER 2-parter I had recently turned in would be the last story I would write for Archie Sonic in the foreseeable future. He did, however, allow me the chance to continue working on the book in an artistic capacity. I accepted those assignments at first. Then, while working on an assignment, I discovered that there were more pressing family matters as well as other opportunities elsewhere that I couldn't afford to turn down any longer.
So, the current Sonic-Shadow story line seeing print in issues #157 through #159 will be my last regular Sonic story in the series. The upcoming M:25YL 2-parter is my swan song from the book altogether. It's now up to new scribe Ian Flynn and others to carry the ball from here on out.
At this point, I want to thank editors Paul Castiglia, Scott Fulop, Justin Gabrie, and Mike Pellerito, along with editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick, and publishers Michael Silberkleit and Richard Goldwater for the opportunity to work on the series all these many years. And I must mention my appreciation for being part of a series that has meant so much to so many people all that time. My wish is that it continues to do so for many years to come.
As for me, I'm gearing up the work on some projects long in gestation. Their announcements will appear at the proper time on this website. I'll still be appearing at the San Diego Comic Con in 2006 for those still wondering, though I'll most likely be promoting my new projects instead of Sonic like I've done these past several years. I'll also continue to post responses on my message board and answer e-mail. So while I may no longer be associated with the Sonic comic book, I won't be disappearing from the scene any time soon.
After a few days of holiday relaxation, I'll be back posting here as well. Happy New Year!
Due to my lack of sleep all I read the title wrong and thought it had something to do with Archie comics (you know that loveble gang from Riverdale?).
That would have upset me; this...not so much.