Archie Sonic Stories about Archie Sonic Stories

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JayAxer's avatar
  I've been asked now and again about when I worked on a few stories and frontispieces for Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic many years ago. I figured I'd indulge a bit for the few people who would find such tidbits interesting.
    Only a few people will find this relevant or interesting and for anyone else it will probably be pretty boring so heads up. This will just kind of jump around  content-wise so also be aware.

   Getting Hired
     When I was hired it was kind of a weird situation. I was doing a lot of work at the time so when I was approached I initially said no. After some phone discussion I agreed to do some work and felt it could be fun to do. Karl Bollers, writer at the time, was the one who actually asked me to come on as I'd be working alongside him on what was going to be newly introduced side stories which would accommodate my busy schedule.
     At the time I was into Sonic and the like and making fan art but I didn't identify myself as a Sonic Artist per se, and I didn't have big dreams of being involved. It was happenstance that worked out to be some fun. At the time there were fans who felt like it was a fan victory to get a sonic fan artist on the sonic comic, but I hadn't been so heavily involved at the time so I learned more about the fan base at that time than I ever had before. I liked drawing Sonic but at the time I had more been drawing sonic characters with machine guns and violence..which came into play on the book later and caused some... concern.

  Artistic Freedom

    When it came to creating story art and art for the frontispieces I was given a lot of freedom. There was more limitation on what I could do as far as my own art ability than what I could portray in a scene... which is to say my suckiness at art got in the way more than anything. The normal sway of things if there was a script for an issue would be for Karl and myself to sit down and just come up with a quick idea for what might represent the main story of the book.
    Sometimes story panels or frontispieces, (which are just the full page illustrations inside of the cover usually  covered with credits and recaps), would suffer late additions or adjustments and that's why some of them look a little funny which I'll point out later.
     Eventually with stories I was able to contribute more aesthetically with designs or adjustments to story panels. In some places, especially a two part story called Heart Held Hostage revolving around a Mina Sonic and Sally love triangle, this became a point where I had to dial things back. A good amount. For the kids.…

  The layouts were super messy but the pages usually represented the plan they set out faithfully.…

  I pretty much sketched like garbage back then and I sometimes still do so I didn't spend much time on the layouts other than to convey the placement of panels and the action. Then things would get overly detailed in the pencils version and I'd ship it off to the office to be given to the inker, whomever that would be at the time.…

   The story that image is in actually led to a story where Sally had to step into a golden pool. She was supposed to take her jacket and boots off but she was deemed too naked at this point thus she was given a towel pretty much out of nowhere to keep her chest covered..which was normally the chest that is uncovered because of her jacket. The boots were okay though I guess.…

 Eventually I just kinda started drawing whatever in the open space of the submitted layouts, usually someone shooting someone or playing basketball with a Chao's head because I was young and that's a thing.

  Heart Held Hos- oh man those are real handguns

      The aforementioned story Heart Held Hostage, or HHH, was a simple idea to resolve character conflict in a love triangle. Nack, an old sonic character, was going to have a gang of thugs and kidnap Sally, sonic goes after them, Mina follows. It called for Mina to get shot, however. So in my infinite wisdom at the time I figured that means they should all have guns.
    Mind Nack in the old days had a naturally we brought that back. I decided modern handguns was the way to go for his cronies and they were drawn in the comic firing and pistol whipping characters.…
  Look at those jerkbags. They were supposed to be like other versions of Nack, obviously, but were based lightly off of people I was working with. Thus the names. Conor was an inker I had hired in, Karl was Karl Bollers the writer (thus the dreadlocks he had at the time sans the blue) and Powell was Jeff Powell the letterer. They were created as expendable villains.…
      What is Sonic without guns pretty much all over the place?
   So there were a lot of 'don't do this again's going on in that issue..real guns being drawn, guns aimed at heads/faces.
 The real culprit was this guy here:…
     It actually had a panel taken out of what went to print- Nack loading bullets into his revolver. The head in crosshair was a big issue as well. You kinda don't wanna show how to load a gun in an Archie kid's book. Or so I was told a few times after I showed loading a gun in an Archie kid's book. Don't worry though, more guns to come cuz I don't learn lessons well.…
  When Mina gets shot there is no blood- originally there was but it was discussed and the decision at the time was it was okay she was shot but it wouldn't be okay to show blood. The whole thing was originally going to be silhouetted as well but still couldn't imply any blood from the wound. I was still young at the time so i thought this was ridiculous. Now I just think it's funny.
    I also kinda think it's funny how Sonic and Sally are surprised it happens but Sally is just like " oh. That happened."

  Their hideout was changed to an old mansion simply because I love haunted mansions. There is a shot of Nack playing the piano while talking which was going to be foreshadowing to a storyline that never came to fruition (and honestly, shouldn't have).…
  The idea was going to be showing that Nack plays piano here and there..then in a very dark story later of Robotnik retrieving the Chas Emeralds by hiring Nack, Nack kills two key characters with a piano wire. I wonder why they thought that was a little too dark?
   I totally was gonna kill of Charmy Bee's woman, btw. piano wire. It was gonna happen.…
  Nice shot of my inexperience here as they manage to fire bullets from handguns that aren't quite right and happen to still be in their shells. Hey I wanted guns in there nobody told me I'd have to draw bullets.…
  King Max here gets laughed at for being in a wheelchair and then calls his guards in to beat the crap out of Conor. The original idea was going to be that his wheelchair would squeak as he slowly wheeled around. He'd start to show real menace as a ruler so when people heard the squeak of his wheelchair they'd shiver in fear. It was silly so we never did it.
    Also those guards were super jacked on steroids because I thought it was hilarious when the other artists would make them huge so I perpetuated it as much as I could. When I was asked to do some redesigns I kept it going.…

   Speaking of-

  Character Redesigns

I had done some redesigns of characters for use in the comic. A lot of them did not get used for various reasons. The idea was that this is what the characters were looking like after Sonic's absence. It was a chance to tell stories about characters based off their visuals. What i came up with was maybe the wrong direction a bit, haha.…

 That's Dr. Quack the mobian doctor in Knothole village! Something happened to his arm and leg. The idea was they got blown off in an explosion and he was an unhappy surgeon who could no longer operate due to the loss of his arm but refused to get a tech upgrade to replace his limbs due to an aversion to roboticization from their villain Eggman. You can kinda take yer pick at which part of that was considered too dark. So the duck got lucky and got to keep his limbs. Let's try this again.…

  This is fiona fox. She was supposed to feel jilted and have no real direction .So she got a goth outfit partially inspired by Lulu from FFX. Didn't go over too well. Let's try something else.…

 There we go. This one got used for Geoffrey St. john for a liiiittttle while. It was far too complex for anyone to want to draw more than once so you can see why it wasn't too popular with anyone.…;  

   This was Antoine's redesign. I gave him a scar and didn't give him a reason as to why he got it. It was supposed to have him become more of a hero and less of a coward, a fairly heavy character turn for a character that was slightly tired. The story we used behind the scenes was that he acted like the scar was from some heroic act but he actually got it falling down the stairs by accident.
   This Antoine was actually used but I guess he just turned out to be some alternate universe clone or something down the line. I clearly should have given him a much larger scar.…

  This is Ray the Squirrel. i dunno what I was thinking. Nobody is gonna draw those clothes, gimme a break.…

  One of my favs is the Elias redesign into some kind of woodsman. The best part is the stubble. On his fur. It's like he shoved his face in a bunch of pepper or something. That guy really let himself go.…

 That's the best right there. I was asked to design a jacket for Bunnie so that is the official design sheet for it. Maybe the fastest design i ever did, followed closely by how quickly I had to draw the "Bat Fight' story featuring Rouge VS Bunnie which was done in one day.

   Every Blade of Grass a Painting
  Here's a couple things.…
  This is a panel from Sonic vs the space aliens. They all draw weapons on him and I drew them out. This panel is actually blacked out in the book because once again too many weapons shown. This caused a rule to be made that there would only be futuristic weapons that didn't fire bullet projectiles.
   One can imagine how this conflicted with the presence of Shadow the hedgehog and his gunplay game.…
      I had a habit on pages or frontispieces of going overboard on detail. I hadn't learned to control detail and organize a scene yet and when i did space things I always drew out the stars. Every. Single. One. I would draw the circles for them all instead of having it be black space marked "BWS" for black and white and stars. So inkers loved that. usually that was just done by inking black space and flicking white out onto the areas for stars.
   Also note Tails in that image there- you can only see his eyes and top of his head because I forgot to draw him in and added him last minute. It looks ridiculous like he's suffocating in a pile of his friend's heads. Rotor is just shoved off to the left cuz I didn't like him, the poor guy.…

 This one had BWS on it but you can still see the drawn out star bits cuz I just couldn't let it go. Fact is a few of the inkers who would get assigned to my pages requested to no longer work on them. This made sense because frankly they didn't get paid any higher a rate for all that detail vs the much lower detail of a normal page. Eventually this caused me to just hire in my own inker and request to ink my own stuff. I was only allowed to ink a couple frontispieces, but it worked out.…

  I would go ridiculously overboard with details on clothing or environments. It got silly; I'd shove panel gutters full of detail and draw out every blade of grass. it looks noisy and some liked it and some hated it, but I will be honest about it- I wouldn't do it that way at all now. I organize detail and consolidate to frame. This work was done 10+ years ago...but I enjoyed it. it was really cathartic to me to sit down and just draw those things out and draw out every tree and leaf and go nuts. So I don't regret it at all.…

 What happens when you draw a story in one day? Bunnie's robotic arm swaps arms in panel two because she's freaking magic. That's what.…

  Eventually I began to learn to organize details a bit better. It was a process because at the time i was still learning to draw- I mean i still am, but back then it could get really messy. Some of the later pages got a bit better with it, though...…

 ..Some didn't.…

   This page actually has names on the detention board and i wrote "Jon gray" who is WB and was brought onto the book after I left. I had spoke with him and asked him if he wanted to test to come on since I was going to be leaving. Really nice guy and I'm guessing he had some fun.
    The classroom number is 312 because of Silent Hill 2, btw.…

  These aliens in the script were just aliens and their captain so I was told to design them. I designed them as I drew them in this frontis then did the issue section afterwards. Really amateur way to do it, but so it goes. Honestly i hadn't had much chance to draw original Robotnik with his huge mouth so that is why the captain has Robotnik's big mouth. I used it as a chance to finally get to draw his stupid mouth and his ridiculous smiles.…

 Couple more comparisons between layouts and pencils for anyone who is interested.…

 I'd decided I would draw out every bit of wallpaper and detail in the mansion for this story because why the hell not. I got a phonecall from my inker about it and had to barter him more inking work elsewhere to make it worth his while.…

 Best part about crowded scenes or crowd scenes in there is that I had a habit back then of drawing everyone bunched up and looking around like nobody really belonged there. Someone just came along and piled a bunch of Mobian bodies around and then Sonic showed up to be a jerk and show his robot dad how to pay guitar well since his dad can't perform the nuances needed with his robot fingers and man yer a jerk Sonic, you know that?  I mean Sonic's hands are huge so the fact that he can play the guitar well at all is kind of silly to begin with ,but MAN. In front of everyone, too, and they don't even know what they're doing here!…

  At the end of the day it was a long time ago. i know that the characters looked wonky and bony and odd and kinda got the "I'm a wizard' eyes going on a lot as they got lost in a sea of over-rendered leaves..but I was a kid and it was a good time when I did it and I still learned from it, which I feel is important. I've moved on from it a long time ago and I honestly don't think about it much these days but every now and again someone reminds me that they do, and i appreciate it. For what it's worth i set out to try to draw something nice for a book based on games I enjoyed. I think..I strayed from that there somewhere but hey. Sonic's kinda a jerk.



© 2016 - 2021 JayAxer
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williameister1933's avatar

woah you mena you the artist of A Really Big Deal. Was the artist of the stories such as 123 and Sonic in Space? Damn talk about coincidences

williameister1933's avatar

Woah, that’s a long way from unique Sonic to anime-like furry stuff, they weren’t kidding on Reddit when they said you drew 18+ but I didn’t knew I already had long ago read one of your comics

eggbossposs's avatar
dude this is hilarious.

i recently finished marathoning the old comics and your ridiculously detailed shit was some of my favorite and i just knew the inkers must've loved you. spaz too ahaha...

also i hollered when i got to the issue with all the damn guns because i love when sonic stuff gets way too edgy for its own good.
JayAxer's avatar
It was a ride!
EternalKitsune's avatar
Do you have any plans to approach a spiritual successor to these experiences? I'd throw so much money at a project like that.
EternalKitsune's avatar
I don't mean like Sonic proper. I mean like something completely new that draws on those memories. I'd hope that while you've moved on, your heart hasn't let go. I'm sure that the influence would shine through rather well.
JayAxer's avatar
Naw, while I appreciate the interest I moved on years ago.
Maarons's avatar
Jon Gray might be a nice guy, but you’re the 2nd best they had on the comic and far better and more preferable than Tracey Yardley, Ben Bates, and especially Gray any day.
Maarons's avatar
Dude...I’m basing this around J.’s experience and comments not some political arguments. Gray’s art sucked and Axer here was really good; need there be anything more?
JayAxer's avatar
yay second best!
Maarons's avatar
Don’t feel bad, I just prefer Steven Butler. Plus, some of it has to do with how visually noisy your pieces are and how much it is to take in.
JayAxer's avatar
I don't feel bad, I am happy! I appreciate it when someone likes anything I do; doesn't bother me if it's number one or number three.
Butler was a good guy when I spoke with him, and it's true those books were super noisy when I did 'em but to be fair I had only started drawing like 4 years prior at the time. That was a long time ago
Maarons's avatar
Well I appreciate the super amount effort put into your work compared to the bland tooniness of the current era.
ShanahaT's avatar
So making pictures of Amy Killing Mina was a Hobby for you? 

… You must have been a pretty disturbed 20-something. 

Also, just how strict was Karl Bollers on how you should draw certain scenes in the issues? 
How specific was his scripts? 
JayAxer's avatar
Pretty normal for most 20 year olds who doodle, to be honest.
Karl was not overly strict with how scenes were presented. He'd look them over but generally my approach would be approved because sometimes we'd be going over the presentation by phone beforehand. His scripts were about as specific as most.
Metalslayer777's avatar
I wish I knew the name of Lizard Bounty Hunter from space
OmegaMorph's avatar
Okay, re-reading this now. Were you serious bout that part with Nack and Saffron, cause that seems hella dark. I mean Nack before Ian's run was never a nice guy, but that'd push him to the level of villians you'd see in a Punisher comic.
JayAxer's avatar
I was serious, yeah. I wasn't making any of that up. Honestly it was dark and too dark for what was essentially a children's comic so admittedly it was for our own entertainment at the time more than what would have been appropriate for the book.
   The initial thought was his original incarnation (Nack ) was that he had a revolver. So part of the Mina arc came into that (thus his use of a gun as well as his henchman I made) and then what would a mercenary that had no rules other than profit do.
  It never came to be and I think that is for the best.
JewelMaiden's avatar
Appreciate these types of posts, thanks for compiling! HHH is definitely one of my favourites from you, incredible art and perspective in each panel.
JayAxer's avatar
That story was fun to work on because I was able to do some random stuff in there for no reason other than I felt like it at the time. It worked in some some cases it didn't, but for all the old art, mistakes and whatnot I think it's still pretty fun.
JewelMaiden's avatar…

I'm sure you saw this comment on this article (written by someone else), but just in case you missed it :) 

"Out of all of that I will never forget one particular artist’s style: J Axer. He put so much detail into every scene and character with huge inspirations from Japanese anime."
JayAxer's avatar
That's cute; thanks for letting me know!
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