Wizards and Warriors: The Turmoil of Geoffrey St. John
SO, anyone out there excited about the upcoming release of Lost Hedgehog Tales? Who am I kidding, of course you are! This blog turns up in LHT search results at least once or twice a week, and I doubt it’s due to Ken Penders gnashing his teeth. At this point, I think we’re all in a tizzy over the unofficial sort-of-a-book due to another teaser tweet last month, courtesy of Archie’s lead Sonic the Hedgehog writer, Ian Flynn
Well, my friends, August is drawing to a close, which means we could see a release any day now! In light of the impending euphoria, I’ve decided to share some thoughts I’ve waxed upon with regard to a particular character. This isn’t the same as my comic page investigation; it’s merely the personal hunch I always had while reading the pre-reboot (preboot?) Sonic comics.
One character that has never failed to hold my attention under Flynn’s pen is Geoffrey St. John. After having abandoned the comics over a decade before, I got back into them purely because I was fascinated by the sudden developments surrounding this skunk and wanted to know more about where he was going. Once a particularly bland and frequently unlikable character, Geoffrey managed to gain a significant foothold in the preboot story with his unexpected alliance swap. Despite having spent the history of the comics as one of the kingdom’s highest-ranking soldiers, Geoffrey shocked everyone with the revelation that he had been training in wizardry all along — under none other than Ixis Naugus, one of the most powerful villains of the entire series.
Had Geoffrey really abandoned his former allies in their darkest hour? Was he ever really an ally to begin with? For someone that had always been mercilessly anal retentive about procedure, justice, and fulfilling his duties, how could he pull the rug out from under so many people like this? Didn’t it go against everything he’d ever stood for?
Actually, none of those are the real question. Those queries can be answered by figuring out an even bigger mystery: What really happened to Hershey St. John?
There is a saying that desperation can cause good people to do bad things. Although a lot of folks would refrain from calling Geoffrey St. John a good person, I think he’s a far cry from a bad one. I think he wants to do good, but he goes about it in the wrong way due to some very ill-timed misfortunes in his life. One of those events led to his introduction to Naugus; another cost him his wife, Hershey.
Now, looking at these panels, I think we can all agree that we don’t really know what happened to Hershey. We know that Geoffrey got second-hand information that she’d died while spying on the Dark Egg Legion, and the Felidae offered up her uniform as evidence. We know that Geoff searched with every ounce of expertise he possessed and wasn’t able to find more than a scorch mark among several Legionnaire bodies. However, Geoffrey’s exact words were that he “couldn’t find a trace of her.” Like us, he never actually found out what happened; he simply concluded that she was dead because he could find no evidence she was alive.
So what happened?
As far as the fanbase is concerned, I’ve heard a couple of folks mention that they believed she’d actually infiltrated the Felidae Legionnaires so deeply that she was still among them, which was why Geoff wasn’t able to find her; I’ve also heard a lot of harpy screeching over Ian giving in to the urge to stuff women into refrigerators. Personally, I don’t follow either of these ideas. I never thought she was dead, even when the news initially broke, but I also don’t buy that she managed to elude Geoff’s ability to track her. I know there’s that whole the-student-has-become-the-master thing, but considering that he’s been honing his spy techniques for basically his entire life, I’m pretty sure even Hershey couldn’t disappear so effectively that Geoffrey St. John of all people can find zero trace of her, “best student” be damned. I think it’s more likely that she’s somewhere in between these two ideas; she’s not dead, but my hunch is she’s hidden and incapacitated in some way that Geoff can’t detect. But who could do something like that?
Well, just as I doubt Hershey could really outwit the person that taught her everything she knows, so too do I doubt Geoff is savvy enough to be on top of everything his master is up to. It’s more than within Naugus’ ability to hide things from his apprentice if he wants to, and in this case, Naugus would have a very strong motive for removing Hershey from her husband.
Naugus and Geoffrey’s relationship dates all the way back to Geoff’s early childhood, shortly after the loss of his father, Ian St. John. It was then that an impressionable and very vulnerable Geoffrey discovered a magical artifact that put him in direct contact with Ixis Naugus, who wasted no time asserting himself as the new authority figure in the grieving kit’s life. Naugus fed Geoffrey the support and encouragement he craved in his father’s absence, which readily gained the wizard Geoff’s trust and loyalty. Right away he set to work grooming Geoffrey for apprenticeship.
This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the way Naugus would later treat his apprentice as an adult.
It’s not hard to see that Geoffrey’s relationship with his master is not a healthy one. Neverminding that a master/apprentice dynamic isn’t meant to be an equal partnership in the first place, Naugus takes this a step further by actively keeping Geoff isolated from his peers in order to maintain total control over him. Like any other abuser, Naugus secures his grip on his apprentice by convincing him that there’s no way out. Geoff has to believe that he deserves it, that no one else out there would have him, or that things could get even worse if he dared to leave. Abusers manipulate their victims into feeling dependent so they won’t try to escape or fight back.
However, Geoff’s submission in this scene isn’t purely due to the verbal smackdowns he’s been receiving from his master; it’s also partly due to grief. Shortly after the Acorn family’s legitimacy is challenged, Geoffrey admits — perhaps for the first time out loud — that he believes his wife is dead, and that she had been for some time.
Anyone who’s ever lost a loved one knows that actually saying out loud that they’re dead can be a very intimidating task, as on some level it’s facing up to the finality of the situation. Geoff had kept Hershey’s apparent passing a secret — not to preserve plans or to spare others worry, but because he himself could not yet handle it. When confronted in the above scene, he probably said it out loud at last because he’d lost everything else at this point, too. His reputation, his alliances, his friendships… They were all gone now that his cards were on the table. Admitting that his wife really died is just one more piece of the new reality he has to face. His life as he’s always known it has fallen apart, and this exchange is where you can see the weight of it starting to hit him in the face.
This is exactly why I think I think Hershey’s disappearance was part of Naugus’ plans all along. So long as he’s trying to maintain control over Geoffrey, Hershey’s presence is a serious problem. As Geoffrey and Hershey grew closer, Geoff uncovered sides of himself that he hadn’t even been aware he was capable of. For the first time since his very early childhood, Geoff found himself with unconditional love and support — something even Naugus had never offered him. Hershey treated him with respect, never asked anything she wouldn’t do herself, and exposed him to ideas that Naugus had spent years blinding him from. Geoffrey became inspired to be a better person — not for himself or for his master, but for Hershey, he only person he’d ever truly loved.
The more Hershey opened Geoffrey up to new avenues in his life, the less dependent he became on Naugus. It grew more and more likely that he might break his oaths to his master, or at the very least become insubordinate. Naugus must have been very alarmed when he discovered that his apprentice had spontaneously gotten married in the midst of one of his missions; after all, with Hershey backing him up, Geoffrey had much less to lose if his relationship with Naugus went sour. There was no threat of solitude or abandonment as long as Geoff had a second pillar of support. What easier way to restore the status quo than to knock down that extra pillar?
Hershey’s alleged death caused Geoff to become even more compliant with Naugus than he’d been prior to his marriage. In the wake of the loss, everything else mattered far less by comparison, allowing him to go through with plans that would destroy his own support system without much of a care. In Geoffrey’s own words, he had “lost the only other direction in [his] life,” and threw himself into fulfilling his duties to his master in a desperate attempt to regain some sense of purpose. Still, no matter how much he submerged himself in his work, it wouldn’t be enough to kill the grief.
However, this newfound diligence wouldn’t last. As the sting of Hershey’s disappearance gradually faded, Geoffrey’s devotion chipped away as well. His wife’s body was gone, but her words continued to linger in the skunk’s head. Geoff began mouthing off to his master regularly and spying on his former associates. He even went so far as meeting with them to divulge Naugus’ plans, as well as ignoring Naugus’ call for help in a collapsing cavern. It seemed that when everything mattered less in the wake of Hershey’s death, that included his loyalty. Geoffrey was well on his way to ditching his master whether his wife was by his side or not.
This is the reason why I believed Hershey was merely missing, not dead. Naugus is smart enough to know that there’s a chance his apprentice could eventually turn on him, and he’s certainly not stupid enough to discard a bargaining chip. I believe that Naugus has Hershey indisposed in some way that Geoffrey can’t detect. Maybe he dumped her in a pocket dimension, maybe he froze her in crystal as he was shown to do in SatAM… I’m sure there are a plethora of methods he could’ve used right under Geoff’s nose.
There’s little chance that Geoffrey would find out about what Naugus had done if Naugus didn’t want him to — and even if he did, what was he going to do about it? Geoff freely admits that his wizardry skills are intermediate at best. Anything he’d managed to learn beyond the basics was done on his own time and without proper instruction. Regardless of whether he were to find out about Hershey himself or Naugus decided to (excuse the pun) let the cat out of the bag, there’d be virtually nothing Geoff could do to stop him. He’d have no choice but to continue his service in order to protect his wife. From that point on, if Geoffrey even so much as hinted at having rebellious thoughts, all Naugus would have to do is dangle Hershey in front of his face to get him to cooperate again.
So with all this in mind, the next question would naturally be, how likely is it that this was the scenario meant to play out in the Sonic the Hedgehog preboot comics? Honestly, I’m not sure; even though I’m adamant that this is the way I would’ve written it, I’m also not completely certain of how it fits with the timeline. There was a period where Naugus was rendered mentally inept, and I don’t know if that coincided with Hershey’s disappearance, as Geoffrey’s not very specific on when he concluded she died. If that happened while Naugus was a drooling idiot, then it’s unlikely he incapacitated her. If she vanished prior to Naugus’ mishap, however, then it could’ve been him.
If Naugus did do something with Hershey, I think the story progress that we were able to see prior to the reboot indicates that Geoffrey could’ve caught on. The last time we see either of them, Naugus is urgently seeking a host to use as a vessel before his own mutating body completely gives out. Failing to forge a contract with a gullible third party, Naugus fell back on his apprentice.
With the two inhabiting the same mind, it’s possible Geoff could’ve had access to the competing psyche and learned what had become of Hershey. But what would happen from there? How would Geoffrey get control of his body back? If he managed to do it, would he be any different? Could he have absorbed any of Naugus’ knowledge of magic and retrieved Hershey himself?
Well, Lost Hedgehog Tales should be out any day now. If Ian Flynn wrote anything akin to the ideas I’ve been mulling over since having been left on such an agonizing cliffhanger, perhaps we’ll get some long-awaited answers when the document is released. Even if it turns out I’m way off with my guesses, I’m still looking forward to finding out. After all this time, I think we all deserve some closure.
Obligatory Legal Crap
Geoffrey St. John is © Ken Penders. I’m writing this one first because he’s so testy about his copyrights that he pesters fanartists to put this on their drawings, and the last thing I want is an e-mail demanding that I amend or take down my article because I didn’t word the OLC properly.
Naugus originated in SatAM, so I guess that’d make him the property of DiC, but it doesn’t matter because he’s ultimately under Sega’s umbrella anyway. I’m sure Archie Comics also works into there in one way or another too since I’m using a bunch of preboot panels, but that again makes this stuff fall under Sega.
I would also like to point out down here where no one’s paying attention that I spent over a month working on this article because for some reason it just refused to flow properly. I REWROTE THIS STUPID THING SIX TIMES. I hope you enjoyed the fruits of my extensive labor.
Posted on August 25, 2014, in Analysis, Books, Feature Articles, Journalism, Video Games and tagged Geoffrey St. John, Hershey St. John, Ian Flynn, Ixis Naugus, Lost Hedgehog Tales, Naugus. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.