Within a couple of years following his debut, Sonic the Hedgehog had become one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture history. He could be found practically everywhere: there were Sonic toys, apparel, comic books, animated cartoons, and more. It was during the early-to-mid 1990s that Sonic also became the star of a trio of children’s books, published by Golden and loosely based on the popular Archie comic book series and Sonic’s Saturday morning cartoon. These stories featured the further adventures of Sonic and the Knothole Freedom Fighters on their never-ending quest to rid their beloved planet Mobius of its evil ruler, Dr. Robotnik. Each tale is fascinating, if lighthearted, and is guaranteed to be enjoyed by Sonic fans everywhere. Let me tell you more about these books.
The first book, Sonic’s Shoes Blues, was published in 1993. It begins with a brief introduction to the planet Mobius, which was once a peaceful and beautiful place to live until Robotnik took over as its ruler, using his factory and machinery to pollute the planet and changing its inhabitants into mindless mechanical slaves. A brave team of Freedom Fighters, who reside in the secret underground village of Knothole, strive to overthrow Robotnik and restore Mobius to normal. They consist of Princess Sally, a squirrel who wishes to rescue her kidnapped father, King Acorn (and who has pink fur and black hair like in the early issues of the comic book); Boomer (renamed Rotor in subsequent books), a walrus known for inventing useful gadgets; Antione, a fox who is as loyal as he is cowardly; Tails, a two-tailed fox with the ability to fly; and, of course, Sonic, the fastest hedgehog on Mobius.
One day, Sonic wakes up early, excited about making Robotnik’s life miserable once again. In his haste to prepare for the day’s adventure, however, he fails to put on his trademark shoes. What’s worse, he discovers that he is unable to find them anywhere in his incredibly messy room. Tails offers to help, but he, too, is unsuccessful in locating the missing sneakers. Then again, it can be tough to find anything in a room that is so messy that, as Antione points out, one could even lose an elephant in there. Eventually, Sonic feels that one of the Freedom Fighters may have stolen his shoes. Shocked at such a serious allegation, the rest of the team heads off to deal with Robotnik without Sonic.
The Freedom Fighters’ plan is to use a giant cork to plug up one of Robotnik’s smokestacks and stop it from polluting the air. Unfortunately, Tails is so excited about the mission that he fails to look where he is going and springs some traps. As a result, he finds himself imprisoned in a cage while the rest of the team, as well as the cork,become trapped within a net. Suddenly, Sonic shows up, determined to free his friends even without his sneakers. Just as Robotnik and his minions close in with the intent of taking the Freedom Fighters prisoner, Sonic gives Boomer a bowling ball and Antione a pair of scissors. The net is cut, and the cork is sent flying, landing on the smokestack. Sonic realizes that he does not need shoes to be heroic, even though he finally finds his shoes under the sheets of his bed after cleaning his room. In fact, Sonic gives his shoes to Tails because he feels that he would fill them better than anyone else, and then decides to buy some new shoes before he wears out any more socks.
In 1994, the second book, The Secret Admirer, was released. Here, Sonic starts by being chased by Robotnik’s Swatbots, safely leaping into the secret entrance of Knothole before he can be captured. However, his feet are muddy from all his running around, and Sally forces him to mop up the floor. Then they remember that they have to go on a picnic with the rest of the team, and they join the others deep within the Great Forest. It is there that Rotor introduces the Smogsucker 2000, a grill designed to suck up all the smog and prevent it from being seen by anyone else. That way, the Freedom Fighters can have a cookout without Robotnik coming along and ruining all the fun.
On their way home, the team finds a basket of Sugar Snaps candy, along with a note that says “I think you’re keen!” Everyone is curious as to who left the basket there, and who the basket is meant for. They ponder over the identity of their apparent secret admirer, and then Sonic notices a message inviting him to meet his admirer by the lake. To his shock, he, Tails, Antione, and Rotor, find Sally there, and initially they think that she is their admirer. However, she admits that she did not leave the message for the others to follow.
As it turns out, the whole “secret admirer” thing was a trap, as it was Robotnik and his cohorts who left the basket and message so that he may capture the Freedom Fighters. Fortunately, the quick-thinking Sonic uses the Smogsucker 2000, which Rotor brought with him to cook for the “admirer,” by letting out all the smoke, confusing the mechanical minions and forcing Robotnik to make a hasty retreat. Once again, the Freedom Fighters had foiled Robotnik’s scheme, and they would do so again in the third and final book in the series.
Published in 1995, Up Against the Wall featured the first and only appearance of Bunnie Rabbot, the partially-roboticized rabbit, and also featured Sally as a brown-furred squirrel with red hair to match what she looked like in the comic book and animated series. It starts with the Freedom Fighters wondering why Robotnik and his minions had been quiet lately. Their question is quickly answered when they hear some loud booms and feel some nasty tremors. They soon discover that a large robot, known as the Wall-Upper 3000, is constructing a giant wall around the Great Forest. Robotnik built it so that his city of Robotropolis could expand and the Great Forest would be destroyed. What’s worse, Sonic’s patented spin attack does not even put a dent in it.
Luckily, Sonic comes up with a cunning plan to stop the Wall-Upper 3000. He starts by having him and the other Freedom Fighters bring a chest filled with magical rings to Robotnik in hopes that by giving them to him, he will stop building the wall. Robotnik, however, is more interested in swiping the rings and capturing the entire team. However, Sonic has Rotor pop out of the chest and activate a powerful magnet, which traps Robotnik and his cohorts on the metallic wall. Then Tails shows up with pictures of landscape drawn by Bunnie, and manages to fool the Wall-Upper 3000 into following him, ultimately sending it over a cliff. Thus, the Freedom Fighters save the day once more.
The stories are certainly on the lighthearted side, with bits of humor seen in many places especially early on. Clearly, they were influenced at least in part by the Archie comics, which at the time were more humorous. The action and drama are light, but the plots, while simple, are still enjoyable. Granted, the tales take numerous liberties with the comics and animated series. Numerous key characters from both series are left out, and some parts of the tales, such as having Sonic instead of Sally being the leader, are not considered canon. This could be chalked up to the fact that, when these stories were written, the Archie/SatAM version of the Sonic series was not fleshed out very well just yet and were still being improved upon. This also explains why Rotor was named Boomer in the first book and why Sally was pink instead of brown. Still, author John Michlig should be commended with writing stories that Sonic fans young and old are sure to love.
Each book was beautifully illustrated by Art Mawhinney, who is certainly no stranger to working on Sonic-related projects. He worked on the storyboards for the Saturday morning series, illustrated a Look and Find Sonic book in 1995, and, of course, drew many stories for Archie’s Sonic comic book between 1994 and 2005. Mawhinney’s drawings are simply wonderful, with the characters consistently on model and the environments looking pretty good. I was never wild about the model of Robotnik used here, though. It’s more goofy and less menacing unlike the comic book and Saturday morning cartoon. It rather resembles his design featured in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, where it at least fit right in with all the wackiness that the show was known for. Here, it is slightly out of place and a stark contrast to his wicked appearance in some other Sonic-related media. As a whole, however, the artwork is marvelous, and Mawhinney should be considered one of the best artists to have ever worked on anything related to Sonic.
The books have been out of print for many years, and as such, they have become hard to find. They have shown up on e-bay on occasion, and have also turned up in resale shops and Amazon. Anyone who does take the time to track down the books, whether it is to introduce their children to the exciting adventures of Sonic and his friends or to add to their ever-growing collection of Sonic-related material, will surely find that these adventures are worth their while. It is unfortunate that these types of adventures are only found in the comic book nowadays, as they were fun for Sonic fans of all ages. Sonic would also star in a variety of novels published in the 1990s, and perhaps someday, I will tell you more about them, too.