A: The writers of Sonic comics solicited reader responses to this question; the replies were printed in issue #2 ("All The Mail's About Tails!"), page 1 and page 2. Theories range from transplantation to mutation, and some are just plain silly. In the Sonicgram of Sonic #22, the writer states that Tails just happened to be born that way--with no other comment (thus illustrating the difference between an Explanation and an Answer). At this point, there is no "official" explanation as to how Tails got that way, so you're pretty much free to believe what you like. Personally, I prefer to believe a variation of Jim McGrath's theory cited in "All The Mail's..." that it is the result of mutation induced by Robotnik's pollution of Mobius. This would accord with the fact that Tails had not been born when Robotnik took over and that the two tails had developed while Tails was still in utero (on Tails' age, see Q6; for an alternative theory having to do with Tails' species, see Q4).
Q2: Is "Tails" his real name?
A: No, his real name is "Miles Prower" (you have to say it sorta fast to get the joke). That was his name when he was introduced on the front screen of the Sonic 2 video game. "Tails" was given as his nickname, and it stuck. In the "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" episode titled "Tails' New Home," he states in a flashback that his real name is Miles and "I hate it!"
Q3: Is Tails related to Sally? He calls her "Aunt Sally" quite often.
A:This argument has been put forward by the "Sally is a fox" camp (see Q4). However, if that were true, then he'd also be related to Bunnie, as he's been known to address her as "Aunt Bunnie." For that matter, it seems that everyone in Knothole refers to Sir Charles Hedgehog as "Uncle Chuck," though he's technically only uncle to Sonic.
While it was not explicitly stated in either the comics or in the cartoons, it has to be kept in mind that all of the freedom fighters' families were disrupted by Robotnik's takeover of Mobius. It's safe to assume that they all have had relatives who ended up being roboticized. As a result, they have become not so much a paramilitary resistance group as a loose-knit family. Sonic, for instance, clearly relates to Tails as if the latter was his little brother, the difference in species notwithstanding.
Q4: I can't figure out what kinds of animals some of the characters are supposed to be.
A: Admittedly, it's trickier to spot some species in the series than others. Herewith is the list of principal characters:
Sonic and Sir Charles. . . . . . . . . . . . . .hedgehogs
Bunnie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . rabbit
Tails. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .fox
Rotor. . . . . . . . . .walrus (sea lion, cf. Teitelbaum)
Antoine D'Coolette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .fox
Sally Acorn. . . . . . . . . . . ground squirrel/chipmunk
Sally's father . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .squirrel
The identification of Sally as a ground squirrel is based on extended discussion of the topic on Internet (alt.fan.furry and alt.rec.arts.animation). She was also declared to be a ground squirrel in the comics, inter alia in the Sonic-gram of Sonic #19 and #52. As for the designation "ground squirrel/chipmunk", which has been questioned by at least one correspondent, I entered it this way on the assumption that the two terms were synonymous. I have consulted a dictionary, which states that the term "ground squirrel" applies to several kinds of rodents, including the chipmunk genus Tamias. Archie Comics has since weighed in with the declaration that Sally's father is a squirrel and her mother was a chipmunk (Sonic #52), which really doesn't make things any clearer.
Despite this, controversy continues. Identifying Sally's species has been particularly vexing to some fans, especially those who reason that since Sally's father appeared to be a fox, then she must be one herself. At this point, the official explanation is that she's of mixed parentage. Cross-species mating is a definite possibility, and an example is implied in the "flashforward" at the end of "Sally's Crusade" [Sonic: In Your Face #1].
The identification of Sally's nanny, Rosie, was at first ambiguous. Given her buck teeth, she could be either a beaver or a woodchuck. Since she is always shown wearing a long cloak, I've been unable to spot the character beaver tail. Archie definitively declared her to be a woodchuck in the Letters section of Sonic #56.
The case that Tails is something other than a mere fox has also been put forward by a segment of the fans. They believe that he is actually a kitsune, a mythical fox-like creature of Japanese folklore with multiple tails. The higher the number of tails, the greater the creature's power; apparently there's a nine-tail maximum.
Q5: Why is Sally's name given as "Sally Acorn"?
A: This is how she was identified as far back as the beginning of the comics [Sonic Miniseries, #0, Mar 1993]. Technically, members of royalty do not have surnames or family names in the accepted sense; rather, the title of the personage tends to serve the purpose. Her middle name, Alicia (which was corrupted as "Elisha" in both "Escape From The Floating Island" (Endgame: Part 3; Sonic #49) and on the Archie Comics Web site), was mentioned in "Blast to the Past," part 1. If you wanted to be grandiose about it, Sally's formal title would be: Sally Alicia, Princess of the House of Acorn. As she was a child when Robotnik took over, she had apparently not been entitled "Princess Royal" -- the famale equivalent of "Crown Prince" and heir to the throne. But in any event it's unlikely that Sally's formal title would be in use so long as Robotnik is in charge.
Q6: How old are the characters supposed to be?
A: There is some confusion on this point. According to the TV series ["Blast to the Past: part 1"] Sonic and Sally were both 5 years old when Sally's father was overthrown and Robotnik took over. Two other age clues were given in the "Drood Henge" episode: that Tails was 10 years old at the time of the episode, and that Sally was 16 years old and wouldn't "come of age" [i.e., turn 18] for another two years. The comics, however, have put Sonic at age 15 and Tails at age 8, based on material from the Sega games.
Based on the fact that Robotnik took over in the Mobian year 3224 (as established in "Blast To The Past", Part 1), and that events in the comic and the TV series take place in the year 3235 (see "Taking The Fall," Endgame: Part 1, Sonic #47), we subtract 5 (Sonic and Sally's age at the time of the coup) from 16 (their present age, according to the TV series), leaving the number of years Robotnik has been in charge: 11. Thus, it would appear that 10-year-old Tails was born after the fall of the House of Acorn. I will mention only in passing that according to an episode of "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog", Tails' age is given as "four-and-a-half years old." To take this seriously, however, would only compound confusion.
Q7: What happened with the Princess Sally miniseries?
A: "That the Princess Sally miniseries came out at all is a minor miracle," according to Ken Penders, co-writer of the series with Mike Kanterovich. Archie Comics was late in rolling out the three-part miniseries starring Sally as the main character--a situation acknowledged in the SonicGram of #21. The story actually began with "Deadliest of the Species" in Sonic #20. The cover art for the miniseries, however, differed in subsequent advertisements: one cover for the first issue prominently featured Geoffrey St. John, while another did not. The third issue cover either did or didn't feature Sally doing battle with a clone of herself, depending upon where you see it. Two different versions of the cover for #2 appeared in two different places in Sonic #22. The fact that the Sally creative team (Kanterovich and Penders as writers, Art Mawhinney as artist) PLUS Archie Comics PLUS Sega reportedly came together to discuss "improving" the series (as reported in Sonic #21 -- hence the delay) would seem to indicate that someone had come down with a case of "creative differences."
"In fairness to the people at SEGA," Ken writes, "they wanted to create a viable environment where the public would be anticipating more Princess Sally products such as her own video game or line of t-shirts or whatever, and the ...[mini]series represented the beginning of that, so it was important to them that it was done the best it could be." "[Then-editor] Scott [Fulop]," he adds, "was pulling his hair out during the entire process doing his best to keep things moving along."
So why haven't there been subsequent Sally miniseries? "The Princess Sally miniseries just didn't do well enough to warrant another shot. From what we can tell, it seems there was a problem with distribution which prevented a lot of people from finding and picking up the book. You also had the core audience of little boys that [sic] felt awkward picking up a title that they felt was aimed more at girls. However, when you plopped a copy into their hands and made them read the first issue, that's all it took. They were hooked." [For further information on taking "another shot" at Sally, see Q16]
Q8: Does anyone have a theory about Sonic's speed?
A: How, in other words, is Sonic able to run so fast? Apparently the same way you get to Carnegie Hall in the old joke: practice. I'm serious; here is the only print explanation I've come across so far: "Years ago, when things were right on Mobius, there lived a hedgehog named Sonic.... Sonic was only interested in running as fast as he could. Every day he practiced." [Michael Teitelbaum, Sonic the Hedgehog. Mahwah, NJ: Troll, 1993, pp.7- 8]. And that's the extent of Teitelbaum's explanation. Thanks a heap, Mike! Chris Baird may be onto something, and it looks like he wants to force the issue by asking Archie Comics about "The rumor going around the Internet that [Sonic] got his speed from falling into a vat of power rings when he was a baby." Other theories can be found at the Knothole Science Center, part of Bookshire Draftwood's Sonic Website.
Q9: Why didn't ABC renew Sonic for a third season?
A: There are now three answers to this question -- one appears to
be definitive, but the other two are more fun. Believe what you
1) ABC got clobbered in the SatAM ratings of the November sweeps because the show was up against the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on Fox. Despite the fact that ABC shifted Sonic to an earlier time slot (doing so without warning just before the first airing of the "Doomsday" episode), Fox jazzed with its schedule so that MMPR was once more up against Sonic. This 1-2 punch was enough to do it. Source for this item: someone from within the offices of Archie Comics, as posted to alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog.
2) DiC allegedly screwed the pooch by releasing StH animation cels onto the market without clearing it with Sega. Upon learning of this, Sega took umbrage that its property was being sold without its consent or agreement to a cut of the action (can you say "anal retentive"?). Words were exchanged and the show was effectively cancelled.
3) ABC's kidvid programming has lately been adhering to a policy of "two seasons and out" for shows. Though it's possible that some ideas only last two seasons because they're kinda bankrupt to begin with.
Q10: Why was Rotor called "Boomer" in the early comics?
A: They finally got around to providing an answer to this one in Sonic #29 (Dec 1995). The explanation: "Rotor is Rotor's real name. Boomer was something we used to call him when we were kids to make fun of his voice." So basically we're supposed to believe "Boomer" is really Rotor's nickname.
Q11: What exactly is in those chili dogs?
A: When a story is set on a planet populated by sentient animals, the question of their eating habits is no small matter. How would a planet whose population would include intelligent cows and pigs deal with the subject of eating something usually thought to be made out of pork and/or beef? While several members of the Sonic mailing list have suggested that the dogs in Sonic's chili dogs are fashioned from some meat analog (see below), a possible answer appeared at the end of "Let's Get Small" (Sonic #33). In the last panel, Sonic whips up a batch of chicken soup which, Rotor explains, is "made with chili dogs." Since you can't very well call it "chicken soup" if it doesn't contain any chicken (at least as far as government regulations are concerned), it would appear that those chili dogs Sonic has been scarfing for all these years are made using chicken franks!
This theory elicited the following response from Ken Penders: "they're made from soybeans or some form of seafood by-products, and let's leave it at that. Sheeesh! Some things are better off left alone!" Not as far as THIS crowd is concerned. You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Ken.
Q12: What's happening with the Sonic movie?
A: At one point (Sonic #19), a hint was dropped in the Sonic-Gram that a Sonic the Hedgehog film was in the works. After that, however, there was no news. In the summer of 1996, however, a blurb about a Sonic movie appeared in a magazine for video gamers. Try as I might, I could never determine which magazine it came from or what the exact wording of the blurb was. In any event, fans seized on this spark of a rumor and fanned it into flame. Paul Castiglia at Archie Comic helped matters (or didn't, as will be seen below) by issuing a clarifying statement that perhaps the fans were thinking of the upcoming "An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas" special to be shown some time during Thanksgiving Week, 1996, on the USA cable network. Interest remained high until, in response to repeated questions, Paul stated that the script called for Sonic and Tails to confound Robotnik's plan to impersonate Santa Claus, aided by Scratch and Grounder. Yes, turns out the special was a spinoff of the syndicated "Adventures of..." series and not the SatAM series, despite the appearance of Princess Sally in a thankless cameo. Interest in the special promptly sank like a stone. As for the film, the latest word on that came from Paul Castiglia's press release touting the "Sonic Live" special, wherein Paul tosses off the fact that Sonic is "being optioned for a feature motion picture." Translation: don't hold your breath waiting.
Q13: Why do the colors on some pages of SonicQuest #2 look so weird? Why does Knuckles look like he's been dipped in chocolate? Why isn't Sonic his usual shade of blue? Why does Snively's skin have the same hue as a cup of rosehip tea? In short, why ARE pages 1, 7, 8, , 17, and the Find Your Name and Fan Art pages of SonicQuest #2 so off-color?
A: "It's completely the printer's fault," according to Paul Castiglia. To print a four-color comic like Sonic The Hedgehog, the artwork that comes from the likes of Pat Spaziante or Art Mawhinney has to undergo a process called color separation. The color printing of a comic book works the same way as a color picture on a TV screen or computer monitor. What appears on the page to be a solid color is actually a composite of four different colors: black, red (or magenta), yellow, and blue (or cyan) in varying amounts. If you've ever tried customizing colors for a utility like Paintbox you know what I'm talking about.
Anyway, when it came time to print the aforementioned pages, according to Paul, "the printer shot the red plate twice." Which means that the red values were twice what they were supposed to be. With much more red than was called for, a condition known as "oversaturation" set in, and it apparently went undetected by the printer once the presses started to roll. So some of the pages came out looking like they'd been printed with mud.
The comic is "PRINTED IN CANADA" as it proudly says in the fine print in the front of every issue, and not in-house at Archie Comics in Mamaroneck, New York. So when the finished issue landed on the desks at Mamaroneck, "we hit the roof!...no one [was] more horrified than US at the final result!!!"
Unfortunately, "this issue was running late" so it apparently went out into the distribution pipeline before anyone could notice the issue's, uh, "beauty marks". "With our former printer, we used to get make-readys [final-run quality copies to be used for proofreading, etc.] in advance.... We used to have about a 2-day window to say 'WHOA! Stop the presses--you screwed up!' with them." In this case, the haste to distribute assured that nobody knew about the oversaturated pages until it was too late.
The end result? The printer will probably institute some kind of quality control system in the wake of this "debacle." They have also apologized to Archie, which will receive a credit on future work. And we've got some strange-looking pages. Could have been worse: another correspondent reports that in one issue of the British Sonic comic (published by Fleetway), a mistake in the composing room resulted in the EXACT SAME WORD BALLOONS being used on two consecutive pages. This resulted in the loss of key bits of dialogue and ruined continuity. So I guess we got off easy on this side of the Atlantic.
Q14: Where did the name "Robotnik" come from?
A: "Robotnik" is Czechoslovakian. The word literally means "worker". It arrived in the English-speaking world by way of the play "R.U.R." [which stands for "Rossum's Universal Robots"] by Karel Capek. There have long been stories of mechanical beings come to life, from Pinocchio to the Golem of Prague to the Tin Woodsman, but it wasn't until Capek's play that the word "robot" came to be used for such a being. Since there exists no small debate as to the extent to which a Mobian becomes mechanical when roboticized, it's debatable as to whether the process turns anyone into a "true" (100%) robot.
Q15: Who was that red-eyed figure at the very end of the "Doomsday Project" episode? And what would have happened during the third season?
A: The identity of the figure accompanying Snively at the end of "Doomsday" has been the subject of quite a bit of speculation. The most popular guesses have included Knuckles and Mecha-Sonic. To get the straight dope, longtime Sonic fan Alessandro Sanasi in Germany managed to track down none other than Ben Hurst, writer of the episode in question and (with Pat Allee) one of the key writers for the second season of Sonic. Here is the result of their exchange of e-mail:
"The red eyes you saw were NAGUS, the sorcerer trapped in the Void." In addition, it turns out that Robotnik indeed survived the destruction of the Doomsday device: "At the moment the Doomsday machine was destroyed, [Nagus] was able to exploit the energies [released by the destruction as well as by the Deep Power Stones, presumably] and pull Robotnik into the Void."
Hold onto your seats for a thumbnail outline of the third season: "Snively takes over...Robotropolis...during the first two episodes, he battles the Freedom Fighters. Without Robotnik's cunning, however, he finds himself on the brink of losing everything. Meanwhile, Nagus is having a delightful time 'torturing' Robotnik [cf. the malicious shape-shifting Robotnik underwent in "The Void"] while plotting his...escape. He's... discovered the magic which will enable him to leave the Void without turning to crystal...But...Robotnik has found a means to communicate with Snively--telling the little guy his location. Snively...tells Robotnik where he can get off.
"But then, as the Freedom Fighters are on the brink of taking over Robotropolis, Snively opens the Void, releasing Robotnik-- and accidentally releasing Nagus and Sally's father.... Now Nagus is in charge, Robotnik is his "Snively" [i.e., lackey], and Snively becomes a nobody. Nagus uses the King to bait a trap to catch Sally. Robotnik plots to regain his power and Snively defects to the Freedom Fighters."
Wow! And he didn't even plan on killing anyone, either! Speaking of which....
Q16: What was the deal with Princess Sally in "Endgame"? Did she die or not?
A: One of the frustrations (for Ken Penders) involved with bringing "Endgame" to completion was the scrapping of his original plotline, which ultimately called for Princess Sally to be promoted to Vice President in Charge of Pushing Up Daisies.
When Ken broke the news of the angle on the Net in September of 1996, he wasn't kidding when he said that the story involved "killing off Princess Sally." While the ending of "The Big Goodbye" (Sonic #50) pretty much conformed to Ken's outline, it was supposed to be a gigantic set-up: the Sally in the stasis chamber was (according to the original scenario) NOT Sally, but a replicant. This replicant was supposed to have started exhibiting "uncharacteristic behavior", leading to a break-up of Sonic and Sally as a couple. Only after a year's passing would the readers have learned the awful truth: that the Sally they've been concerned with over the past year was a bot, and that the REAL Sally did indeed die from the fall in issue #47.
That's how it was SUPPOSED to have worked out, but for several reasons, it never did. Those reasons include:
WORKLOAD: Once the Sonic editors met to decide who would be
writing what stories for what issues, Ken Penders realized that
he would be spending most of his time for the coming year working
on stories for the newly-emerging Knuckles the Echidna comic
line, with only a few chances to work on Sonic stories in order
to nudge the plotline along.
OTHER AGENDAS: The other writers who would be handling most of the Sonic stories for the coming year apparently had ideas of their own they wanted to pursue.
THE POWERS THAT BE: Ken has admitted that Justin Gabrie, his editor, insisted upon "a happy ending" to the "Endgame" story arc, something that would have been negated by the original plotline.
THE FANS: One of the things Sega liked about the changes in direction of the Sonic comics heralded by "Endgame" and "Brave New World" was the shift of emphasis onto Sonic and Tails (their creations) and away from the other Knothole Freedom Fighters (which had been created by DiC for the Saturday morning animated show). Based on the assumption that Sally's audience was smaller than Sonic's (see the question about the Sally miniseries; Q7, above), Ken Penders proceeded to kill off Sally in the opening installment of "Endgame": "Taking the Fall" (#47). Fan reaction, however, was apparently stronger than Ken, Sega, or Archie Comics had anticipated. Which (along with the other reasons cited above) is why Sally continues to appear in the Sonic comics, why her character is described in such glowing terms on the Archie Comics Sonic site, and why Ken Penders went public with the original plotline and conceded that Sally is very much alive and will remain so. Now THAT'S a happy ending!
Q17: When did Sonic and Knuckles stop fighting? A: Perhaps the question should read: "When did Sonic and Knuckles stop fighting each other?"
No punches were thrown when Knuckles first appeared in Sonic #11 ("This Island Hedgehog"); subsequently, and for some time thereafter, Knuckles appeared as "Sonic's friendly nemesis," a phrase that is both vague and confusing unless they were competing for a common prize. That never figured into any of the stories, as Geoffrey St. John covered the jealousy angle with Sonic and Sally. But for whatever reason, they continued to beat on each other up until "Endgame". In "The Big Goodbye" (Sonic #50) Knuckles starts out back down the trail of beating up on Sonic (and vengeance for the death of Princess Sally--see previous question--would certainly have been reason enough). Somehow, in the process of realizing that Robotnik was the common enemy, the hatchet was so effectively buried that by "Unfinished Business" (Sonic #53) Sonic and Knuckles are acting like best buds.
The enmity between the two was resolved rather hastily, but then again it wasn't established all that firmly to begin with. Fortunately, Knuckles was never in any danger of being mistaken for a villain; in fact, the burden of Ken Penders' "Lord of the Floating Island" (Sonic and Knuckles special #1) seemed to be to portray Knuckles in a favorable light in an effort to dispel the notion that Sonic fans should dislike Knuckles whenever he showed up. It must have worked, for Knuckles now has his own series (including a supporting cast--the Chaotix--and a strong female lead in the character of Julie-Su). If you want to see the two duke it out like before, there's always the video fight game.
Q18: What's the deal with the last scene in "Bloodlines"?
When it came time to write the final scene for my first attempt at a Sonic fanfic, "Bloodlines," I was stumped. The scene had Sonic, Tails, Sally, Bunnie and Sandy, but it just wasn't coming together in a satisfactory way. So I tried again, leaving out everyone but Bunnie and Sandy. At some point, the mental image of Bunnie planting one on Sandy popped into my head. This surprised nobody more then me! Sure, it was a bit of a shock, but I felt that that alone wasn't reason enough to drop the scene. So I left it in and have been answering inquiries about it ever since.
Did this mean that Bunnie is gay? Not necessarily. You can't very well extrapolate sexual orientation from one behavior. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in The Four Loves, things could get ridiculous if applied to literature: "Hrothgar embracing Beowulf, Boswell embracing Johnson...and all those hairy old toughs from Tacitus begging for one last kiss before the regiment was broken up; all pansies? If you can believe that, you can believe anything."
I felt in writing the story that Bunnie and Sandy would have bonded to a significant extent; both were partially roboticized, and they kicked some bot together. This was a way of portraying that bond forged through shared adversity; perhaps it was done in a way that made a lot of readers uncomfortable. But that's writing.