Lost Hedgehog Tales: Leedzie’s Sneak Peek

Never one to quit while he’s ahead, Ken Penders clashed with Sonic’s comic book fans yet again last weekend. After singularly taking credit for the success of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series (going so far as to call himself its “savior“), he then went on to downplay the roles of his fellow writers, invoking the fiery inferno of many Archie fans’ collective rage.

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Coincidentally, Ian Flynn had also tweeted just a couple hours earlier that night — and in such a way that indirectly referenced Penders’ unrelenting ego.

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The screenshot shows Flynn’s current progress on his Lost Hedgehog Tales project, a behind-the-scenes look at the storylines forcibly abandoned in the Sonic the Hedgehog comics due to Penders’ copyright battle. The document’s release is highly anticipated by Archie Sonic fans, both for curiosity and for closure, as several plot points received hurried and unsatisfying resolutions. Others never saw a resolution at all.

As one of the folks eagerly awaiting Lost Hedgehog Tales‘ release, I’ve decided to give you all a preview. No, I don’t have any direct contact with Ian Flynn, but I do have clues as to what was intended to happen in one specific arc of the story. All it took was some attention to detail and a little investigation.

Well, and $45.

In addition to collecting officially licensed products, I’m also a connoisseur of Sonic the Hedgehog production art. In my opinion, it’s particularly special because you’re actually a holding a piece of the character’s existence. Without animation cels or comic book pages, we never would’ve had the cartoons or comics books. There’s a very distinct thrill in looking over a scene in official media and being able to say, “I have that. That’s my piece of the story.” Why am I bothering to explain this? Because in February of 2013, I came across several pages from Sonic the Hedgehog #243 on eBay.

These pages all come from part 1 of the Endangered Species arc, wherein the already decimated echidnas face a new attack that could potentially drive them to extinction. All four pages were worth having in my collection, but I definitely couldn’t afford the entire group; their prices ranged from $45-$75 each, and I was a broke college student. I figured I’d just buy my favorite and let the others go, so I examined them carefully to make the best selection.

That was when I realized that there were differences between what I was looking at and what I’d seen in my comic books.

Several lines of dialogue had been altered slightly between the original art and the printed release. They weren’t huge changes — they said essentially the same thing — but they’d been carefully re-worded to avoid directly referencing anything Penders had pissed on to mark his territory. The changes could even be detected on the published pages, as the revised segments had a marginally different font from the surrounding text.

Edits like these weren’t completely out of the blue; it had become clear well before that day that the comics were suffering some last-minute rewrites, as evidenced by several cover art changes. Previews of StH #244 had featured Julie-Su in the lower right corner of the cover, but the printed issue lacked her presence at Amy’s side. Similarly, StH #245 had to make some framing adjustments to ensure the character Lien-Da was omitted from view. Sonic Universe #47 suffered an even more severe makeover, as the cover art had to be completely redrawn to eliminate the most prominently featured character, Rob O’ the Hedge. All three of the erased characters fell under the shadow of Penders’ copyright dispute, and as a result, they failed to appear in any of the issues in question (nor have they turned up since).

With this in mind, I didn’t think too deeply about it when I purchased page 3 of #243. The alterations were minor, and at best I figured it would make a great story when I added it to my RubberSlug gallery. However, it wasn’t until the page arrived at my doorstep that I realized just how significant the purchase would turn out to be.

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This page had been edited TWICE.

We already know that the lawsuit’s damage had been severe enough to warrant entire blocks of storytelling in SU #47 to be completely redone; this can be assumed to have happened to Endangered Species as well, based on the fact that all of the echidnas — including Lien-Da, who was meant to be featured on #245’s cover — abruptly disappear between #243 and #244. Because this page is so early in the Endangered Species arc, it was able to be salvaged rather than scrapped in the wake of the last-minute rewrites. That means that whispers of the original draft are buried under the edits, holding clues as to what had originally been planned for this mangled story arc.

The major edits are found at the very top of the page. We can see that a large blob of white-out is obscuring something in the distance, and Sonic’s dialogue balloon underwent a preliminary edit long before it would later be re-edited in print. Two non-photo blue messages at the top of the page instruct both of these patch jobs.

Obviously, these fixes are hiding something, and I was sure I could dig their secrets out. Recalling the old lightbox trick, I used a lamp and a flashlight to position bright light sources directly behind the page while the rest of the room was dark. The results were extremely telling.

As we can see in the first image, the Death Egg is clearly hidden behind the white-out, indicating that it was originally meant to be directly over Albion instead of disappearing into the horizon. Sorting through the text was trickier; some of the font lines blur together, but upon careful inspection, one can barely make out the phrase, “Albion is under attack.” I even did the text a second time from the other side to be sure this is what it said.

These revelations suggest that Sonic, Tails, and Amy were never intended to investigate the aftermath of Eggman’s assault; they may have been meant to fight back and defend the echidnas in real time. This scenario brings more clarity to StH #243’s cover, which depicts an aerial fight scene set against a downward view of the Death Egg, with Albion directly below.

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Of course, establishing that the first panel’s original draft depicts Eggman as just ahead of them suddenly makes panels 2 and 3 a little odd, as Sonic and Amy abruptly switch to speaking about Eggman in past-tense. My only guess is that this page may have been interrupted partway through its completion, which may have left enough leeway to adjust the subsequent word balloons before they’d been inked. If this is the case, that probably also contributed to why this page was salvaged instead of entirely scrapped.

Having discovered all of this on page 3, I began to deeply lament that I had not been able to also afford page 20 as well; after experimentally adjusting the levels of the auction’s image, I could tell that it too had suffered heavy alterations, and most likely was another salvaged first draft. Knuckles only appears on this one page, and he’s far removed from the central story in this moment, so his page would’ve been easier to repair than redo.

A non-photo blue note of “Remove” points toward two portions of Knuckles’ word balloon in the third panel, and the lower section has a border suggesting a patch job akin to Sonic’s. The conclusion blurb at the bottom of the page is even more obvious, and I have no doubt that the original passage underneath has lots of revealing details about #244’s first draft.

Unfortunately for us, this page was $75. I wasn’t able to get it, and I have no idea who bought it. If by some miracle I’m ever able to find that page again and obtain it, I’ll write a follow-up to this article exploring its secrets. In the meantime, I hope this peek into some of the inner workings of #243 helps to tide some of you over until Lost Hedgehog Tales is complete.

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I don’t own Sonic, Amy, Tails, Knuckles, Eggman, or the Death Egg, which are all the property of Sega. And no, Penders, I’m not claiming any form of ownership over Lien-Da, Julie-Su, Rob O’ the Hedge, or Albion. I’m also not going to say it’s your property, either, because negligence on the part of Archie’s lawyers doesn’t suddenly make your ridiculous logic correct.

All internal art shown in this article was drawn by Steven Butler, while all cover art was drawn by Tracey Yardley.

Aaaand if you’re the person that bought page 20 and are interested in selling it to me, you are more than welcome to contact me any day of the week.

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About Leedzie

Leda "Leedzie" Clark is a writer and game designer with a sharp eye for detail and a kooky sense of humor. She's been a nerd as long as she can remember, and always seems to notice the wrong thing first in any given situation.

Posted on March 28, 2014, in Analysis, Books, Feature Articles, Game Characters, Journalism, News, Portfolio and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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