Ken Penders interview by Sonic HQ (June 23, 1998)
From Sonic Retro
Sonic HQ: What are your views between where the Sonic comic has been - i.e The Sonic SatAM Cartoon and where the comic is going? Why do you think that Sonic fans (well, at least half of them anyway) show so much animocity at major changes that deviate from the original SatAM Storyline?
Ken Penders: The fans who have been reading the book since day one know that it was my former partner Mike Kanterovich and I who steered the book into becoming more like the Sat AM series rather than the version that was basically more like the weekday series with Sat AM characters. When the Sat AM series was canceled by ABC, I was working on the scripts for issues #34 through 36 at the time. I received a call from then-editor Scott Fulop who informed me that now with both cartoon series canceled, it was only a matter of time before the comic book was canceled. He was acting on previous publishing history. Usually when a comic book is based on a TV series, they usually drop in sales once the series is canceled. The ONLY series this never happened to was STAR TREK. (Yes, STAR TREK has been canceled, but never because of poor sales.) For example, Marvel published a series called ALF. Once the show was canceled, interest in the comics dropped so fast you couldn't give them away, and they sold really well for quite a well. It was at this point that a conscious decision was made to break away from being tied so closely to the Sat AM series. If we had continued to basically produce Sonic fighting Robotnik stories, the readers would have lost interest and the book would've been canceled. By creating the feeling that growth was possible, that the readers would not be able to predict what happened next, something extraordinary happened. We attracted new readers, and not just a few. Month by month, people started climbing on board because here was a book that took chances, that didn't remain status quo. It was then that I began thinking about ENDGAME, and giving the readers the ultimate showdown between Sonic and Robotnik. I felt that the plot device of killing off Sally would be the only justification for Sonic to fully cut loose and go after Robotnik no matter what. At the time, I felt the character of Sally was only holding Sonic back from achieving his full potential. Despite her popularity with SOME readers, at least half wish we had gotten rid of her once and for all. Because Sega didn't want to rule out the possibility of using Sally in the future, it was decided she should live. As a result, I came up with BRAVE NEW WORLD, which set the stage for all new developments, including the concept that we didn't need to use the same villain issue after issue. So where are we going with this? Quite frankly, we're going to be exploring the history of the Mobians and how things got to where they are. There's going to be a more cohesive continuity than there's ever been, and we really do have some amazing surprises up our sleeves. One other comment I wish to make. The fans expressing their opinions on the net are but a fraction of the readership, and a tiny one at best. While we read and listen to all the comments and criticisms sent our way, we have to go by a number of other factors, and the most important one is sales. By all yardsticks, sales have been increasing on a monthly basis, strongly indicating that even if some fans don't like what's going on, the majority do.
Sonic HQ: Sonic Super Special 10 will come out the same month as Sonic #75. So will Sonic #75 feature a long story that will end in SSS 10?
Ken Penders: That hasn't been decided yet, though I suspect it likely.
Sonic HQ: With the end of the round-robin writers on Sonic and Karl Bollers now taking permanent reigns on Sonic do you think that this will improve the status of stories in the Sonic books? And if so will we ever see a return of the full length stories to the book?
Ken Penders: Considering I'm writing and inking the back-up stories, only issue #75 will feature a full-length story in the foreseeable future. As for the quality of the stories, I feel very strongly that the readers will enjoy what Karl and I have planned, especially as we have to make the other aware what each of us is doing.
Sonic HQ: Is there any plans for a mini-series anytime soon?
Ken Penders: Not at the moment, which is why I did the Chaotix 3-parter recently in KNUCKLES.
Sonic HQ: The Knuckles comics are very well planned. But where do you get the ideas for the Knuckles comics?
Ken Penders: From all sorts of sources, listening to readers' questions and comments, articles I've read and so on. I have a basic arc of what I want to do during the first 100 issues, so I'm far from being at a loss for stories. Around issue 50, things get REALLY intense.
Sonic HQ: In Knuckles #15, you got rid of Charmy Bee. Is there any reason for that? Does the void of Charmy help in other character development for other characters? Will we ever see another appearence by Charmy in the comic?
Ken Penders: I didn't get rid of Charmy bee so much as I told a story which put some focus on him. In my mind, I know Charmy is coming back, but I don't know when or how for certain at this point. This goes back to my overall arc. I know what I want to do, but I let the details percolate until the time is right to use them in a particular story.
Sonic HQ: Who designs the covers for Knuckles?
Ken Penders: I generally do, with Spaz taking them and adding much more detail, upon which I ink them.
Sonic HQ: You stated somewhere (Archie's webpage, I think) that nowadays the Archie team have to think a lot of the future plotline. If this is true, can you give a little hint on what will happen after Sonic #75 and Knuckles #25?
Ken Penders: I can't with SONIC, because that would blow a major surprise at this point. The story arc beginning in KNUCKLES #26 is titled KNUCKLES: THE FIRST DATE, and it's going to be a more lightweight story than seen previously. KNUCKLES #26 also marks the beginning of back-up stories, with the first one showing us how Mighty met Sonic for the first time. You'll also meet Ray the Squirrel as well.
Sonic HQ: Do you have any idea about the new Sonic cartoon, Sonic Underground?
Ken Penders: I know enough that Archie wants no part of incorporating anything from that cartoon into our series. In fact, if we did, I might as well have really killed off Sally, because she doesn't exist in this new version.
Sonic HQ: And the last question...who's hand was shown in Sonic #62 on the space craft? Robotnik's?
Ken Penders: Good guess, but incorrect. :-) The original Robotnik is non- existent.
- Original Interview at Sonic HQ.