Fellow fans of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic, I write this entry in order to make a difference in the comic’s future. As you all know, most of the fans have heard by now of the lawsuit between Ken Penders and Archie Comics over the use of his characters. Whether Ken Penders was in the right or not is not the issue however. What matters is Archie’s stance on not using his characters.
Like many of you, I thought that Ken Penders was to blame because he was holding his characters back. Having enjoyed the comic for years, I was devastated. Like many of you no doubt have, I grew to love the original characters he created. Sure, Ian Flynn may not have developed them as Ken would have, but at least they were still around and would probably go in the right direction eventually. But the idea of never seeing any of those characters again is intolerable. And not only would we never see them again, but the comic would act as if they, along with 20 years of Sonic mythos, never happened in the first place. Just so some of you get a proper grasp of the situation, here’s a short list of characters we’ll never see again if Archie has its way:
Julie-Su, Elias Acorn, any Dark Legion characters, all of Knuckles’ family, Sonic’s parents, Rob o’ the Hedge, Remington, the extended wolf pack, Saffron, Fiona Fox, Geoffrey and Hershey St. John, Lara-Su
Not willing to let this stand, I went directly to Ken Penders to try to get him to loosen his grip on his characters. The results of our conversation you can read below:
Dear Mr. Penders,
Hello, Mr. Penders. My name is Zachary Kaplan. I've been reading the Sonic comics ever since the age of ten and am a huge fan. Or at least, I was. Which brings me to why I'm writing this email. At the expense of possibly sounding rude, I must speak my mind because I feel it's the right thing to do.
I want to know what the hell you think you're doing. Because of this whole lawsuit business, we'll never see any of the characters you made in the comic again. No Dark Legion, no Elias, no Geoffrey, NO JULIE-SU!!!!!!!!! My God, you took away Knuckles' and Sonic's parents, for crying out loud!!! How are they supposed to explain that. And to top it all off, you've now rendered over 15 years of story meaningless because now they have to act like those characters never existed. Why should any of us old fans keep reading now that everything we've come to love has been destroyed?
And for what?
Because you wanted more money? Because you couldn't just let your characters go? Was that really all that mattered to you? Even if you did create them, I don't see how that gives you the right to just steal them back out of the blue. These characters have had such an impact on the comic that they've outgrown belonging to any one person, even their creator. If Walt Disney was around today and he decided to leave the business, do you think he would try to take Mickey Mouse with him?
And before you start talking about your "Lara-Su Chronicles", save it. I don't care about that, and neither does anyone else. And if you think its gonna be a big success, you're only fooling yourself; which you'd know if you bothered listening to the fans. Even if people did read it, they wouldn't see new characters with new original stories. All they would see is old Sonic characters that were taken from them and are now being recycled by someone who doesn't know any better.
That's pretty much all I've got to say on the subject. The comic is in ruins and we'll never see your characters in a "proper" comic again, and from where I'm standing it's all your fault. I don't know what has to be done to make you give your characters back, but I strongly suggest you figure out what if saving the comic means anything to you. There has to be some sentimentality under your money-grubbing exterior; and I sincerely hope you find it before it's too late.
Thank you for your time.
Let's imagine you're someone who grew up wanting to be a writer, an artist, a musician, a filmmaker, whatever. You took courses to learn what you needed in order to become someone who could make a living doing what you love. Now imagine doing that work for a number of years and seeing others get money for the work instead of you. You wouldn't like it and that's what essentially happened here. If Archie and/or Sega had paid even a small amount in royalties, none of what happened would have happened.
But companies aren't like that in this day and age. More often than not, it's the people at the top of the food chain who benefit the most at the expense of those who actually did the work and brought value to the companies simply because they can. And the only way the people who actually do the work can correct the situation is if they fight back in some manner, whether it be a strike or some legal action.
As you may know, Archie and I have resolved our differences, and as a result, they are able to use my characters. However, THEY choose NOT to. Why? That's not for me to speculate as that's an internal business decision and their right.
As for those stories and characters you grew up on, you'll always have those, just as I have the stories I grew up on. However, as I have learned over the years, especially so during the past decade, even the characters I grew up on have changed much as the SONIC book as changed on you. So the new STAR TREK is nothing like the original to me. And yes, in a way, I'm sad over that. But I still have the original Trek stories I grew up on and no one can take those away from me.
In all honesty, the book was never going to develop the library of characters I created anyway, so readers were really never going to experience their true potential unless someone did something with them.
Archie had a chance to resolve the situation many times where they would have control over these characters, yet ended up not doing so for whatever reason. I was able to reclaim my characters under current copyright laws, and now intend to feature the characters as they should have been shown.
If you really love the characters, you may end up surprising yourself checking out THE LARA-SU CHRONICLES. If you still feel the characters belong in SONIC and nowhere else, I understand and wish you well. Take care.
Dear Mr. Penders,
I think apologies are in order; my apologies, that is. It appears that due to how distraught I was over this whole matter, and a certain amount of misinformation, I ended up getting angry at the wrong person. Instead of lashing out at you, I should have been doing it at Archie. I'm sorry if I seemed rude. I was simply doing what I felt was right. I had thought that if you were the one holding the characters back, I might be able to guilt you into letting them go. Looks like I have another email to send; this one aimed at the right target. Though the idea of guilting an entire company into using your characters does seem a much harder task. But, for the sake how much the comic means to myself, and others, I feel that I have to try. The idea of Sonic the Hedgehog, not only without your characters, but acting as if they never existed, is intolerable. I really don't know how they expect to pull it off. Hell, after all this chaos, Knuckles has, in one fell swoop, been rendered:
3) future daughterless
I think the only echidna characters besides him that you didn't create are Dr. Finitevas and maybe Grandfather Athair. And there were many other main characters who lost family members due to this debacle. Sonic lost both his parents; Sally lost her mother and brother (and in turn Mobius lost it's true king); and Antoine lost his father (I mean, he had died, but now it's like he never existed).
And I do understand what you mean about wanting to get paid for your work. I hope to write fantasy books and would want to get proper payment for it too. My problem was that I thought you were sitting back watching the comic implode for the sake of a few bucks. I was wrong, it seems. I will say that I don't think you're right about how they're not your characters anymore because of the way they changed. After all, everyone changes with time; so, if anything, it made your characters more dynamic and real. Though I will admit I was a bit pissed off when they made Geoffrey a traitor and Naugus' apprentice. But, they did make it seem that he regretted it later on. Unfortunately we'll never know how that would have played out unless either myself or someone better than I can make Archie change it's mind. Who knows, perhaps I'll need your help in order to make that happen.
As to the Lara-Su chronicles, maybe it will work out, but I don't think I'll get involved. I'd just keep thinking of who the characters used to be rather than how you portrayed them now. And I think others will as well. After all, how are you gonna have Lara-Su without Knuckles as her dad? It just wouldn't feel right.
Anyway, thank you again for your time and, again, I apologize. Now it looks like I have someone else to fight the good fight against. As the blue blur himself would say, "Let's do it to it".
Apologies accepted, but I was not mad or upset by your e-mail. I fully understood where you were coming from, and I'm fully aware of how much misinformation is out there on the internet.
I'll tell you what. I don't expect fans to embrace THE LARA-SU CHRONICLES when they love things the way they are or don't think it's possible because I can't use Knuckles. That's why I'm releasing the opening segment online when it's ready for free, just so those longtime fans can see how the story moves forward where MOBIUS: 25 YEARS LATER left off in SONIC #144.
I'm willing to bet that if those fans who loved those characters and enjoyed that story are going to be in for a pleasant surprise. The major difference is that I know these characters, I know this story and I know what the fans expect. I believe if I more than meet them halfway, they'll give me a chance.
As for the big concern about contradicting what happens in the comic, that's not my focus, and if anything, I made the story so the fans don't feel like they wasted time with either version. It's all good.
On a more realistic note, I wish you well in your efforts with Archie, but I've already been approached by fans who even wanted to start a Kickstarter fund to license my characters, which I provided my terms which they thought were more than fair, yet to date as far as I know, neither Archie or Sega has responded to their efforts. It's going to take a lot of you to change their minds into doing something they don't want to do.
In the meantime, I wish you well. Take care.
So, my fellow Sonic comic fans, the truth is that Ken Penders is not the one responsible for the characters not being in the comic anymore. It is the fault of Archie comics itself. They have full rights to use these characters, yet have refused to do so. Seeing as how Ken’s characters were one of the best things about the comic, I don’t see how they feel they can pull this off.
My only question is will we let them.
As I’ve said, the idea of this comic without these characters is intolerable. And I imagine many, if not all, of you feel the same as I do. And I say that if you feel as I do, we can fight this. I’ll admit, it won’t be easy, and we probably won’t see any immediate results, but we can fight this. We can flood Archie with emails and letters letting them know we won’t stand for this. If any of you are video-makers on Youtube or elsewhere, you can spread this news that way. I will personally be sending this message to all the Sonic sites I can in order to get the message out. However, I strongly suggest that anyone who sends Archie messages keep the cursing down to the minimum. We don’t want to lose credibility due to what may be considered a lack of civility.
Again, I implore you; if you love this comic and love Ken’s characters, don’t let this pass. If we can get Archie to change its mind, we can ensure the last 20 years of comics were not for nothing. If necessary, they can reboot the reboot. After all, the Genesis wave has already been used twice already. You know what they say, “three’s the charm”. So please, don’t let Archie win. Because if this continues, I see only ruin for the comic’s future. So please, fight for Ken’s characters. Fight Archie. And pray to the Almighty we win.