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On the Beginnings of The Lara-Su Chronicles

Rondo of Blog - Published: March 20, 2024

Today is, as of writing, the last day you can pre-order The Lara-Su Chronicles: Beginnings if you want to make it into the Special Thanks section of the book. Anyone who pre-orders after will be in the app, still, but I think it goes without saying the significance of having your name make it into the first printing. You can pre-order here.

Whether you go and pre-order it now or later, or if you’re looking back at this after the book’s come out, I think it’s gonna be worth the read. Today, I feel moved to write a little about what The Lara-Su Chronicles means to me.

It all started with the Archie Sonic comics. A gag comic that metamorphosed into the bonafide superhero book it came to be known as, that was inarguably the blueprint for what Sonic comics get published today. These things aren’t predestined, no divine hand laid its knowing finger on it to move it from one to another - no, it was the freelance creators who put in the work to make Archie Sonic what it was.

And no freelancer who touched the book can be said to have had a greater impact on it than one Ken Penders. Not Mike Gallagher, who wrote the very first issues; not Scott Fulop, who oversaw the initial transformation the book underwent as the editor; not even Karl Bollers, an incredible talent whose original concepts & characters come the very closest to rivaling Ken’s.

It was Ken who wanted more for the comic, for it to become what the readers of the time wanted it to be. Ken, whose eyes were trained on the countless fan-letters that flooded in, who would test each story idea of his first on his son to determine if he was going the right direction. Sonic comics and everyone who’s helped make them over the years owe him a great deal, whether they want to admit it or not, but it was the Knuckles comic series where he truly shined.

Though it’s become fashionable in some circles to claim he ‘shoved Knuckles down reader throats,’ it doesn’t take too long a memory to remember how popular Knuckles was - and is to this day. One need only look at the incredible reaction to the reveal of Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and the very fact that there is going to be another Knuckles series on Paramount Plus, to know Knuckles stands out in the cast of Sonic the Hedgehog.

But where does Knuckles come from? Who is he? You can refer to wiki articles that note his species and status as a former rival of Sonic, you can watch YouTube videos collecting all the cutscenes for his story in the video game Sonic Adventure, but, as a ‘life-long fan’ of Sonic who is also a writer, I can tell you none of those get us a true insight into the interiority of Knuckles the Echidna.

You can restate his character’s premise like a dog chasing its tail, you can try and mine his angst at being so alone on his island until you’re blue in the face, but neither of those take the character himself in any kind of direction. Not forward, not backward, but stagnant. Only in the Knuckles comics did we see a true step forward, where words met action and the story of the echidna’s past finally had anything meaningful to say about the story ahead of Knuckles.

In the initial miniseries Sonic’s Friendly Nemesis Knuckles the Echidna, after B-stories and C-stories in the Archie Sonic series had laid the groundwork, Knuckles’s past came back for the first time. This was before Sonic Adventure, before Tikal and Chaos, and crucially… it was Knuckles’s story, first and foremost, not Sonic’s as it was in the end for Sonic Adventure.

The follow-up miniseries and ensuing ongoing comic series would expand upon Knuckles’s family, the society they had lived in the past as well as where they lived in the present, and even Knuckles himself. While the Chaotix may be familiar to Sonic fans, they and the Knuckles of these comics live lives and make decisions that SEGA’s characters have not and will not ever know.

In the Knuckles series, Knuckles doesn’t just reunite with his mother and eventually his father. He doesn’t just get into battles with greater stakes for his life than anything he had or would later experience in the video games, face foes more personal and meaningful than the leftovers Sonic leaves for him, and accomplish more than his official SEGA counterpart has in all the decades of history he’s had since. He gets a life - a home with people, not just an emerald and an empty island, to protect. And another soul, who starts off as an enemy, for him to fall in love with.

I’ve never met a Sonic fan who’s been able to reconcile this Knuckles with the echidna that SEGA calls Knuckles. In point of fact, every Sonic fan I’ve ever encountered considers the Knuckles series and every story of Ken’s that came before and after to bear so little resemblance to the source material as to no longer have the right to call itself Knuckles or to claim to have anything to do with what SEGA has done with the character. From their lips, this is an insult. To me, it is both the Knuckles comics’ ultimate badge of honor and greatest strength.

What’s the use of perpetually spinning your wheels and refusing to grow and change? What has Knuckles gained in the three decades since the character debuted, sitting on an island as the last survivor of a dead people? The right to mention every now and then he might take a break from being a guardian, and never seeming to follow-through on that? The right to star in animated shorts where he once again illustrates how little has changed since 1998?

I don’t say all this as a hater, either. I happen to like Sonic Team’s video games, I liked Sonic Frontiers, and heck - I’ve even enjoyed some of the comics they’ve printed in the current ongoing series of Sonic books. The simple fact remains that it’s 2024, Knuckles is still on Angel Island and he still has nothing but ghosts. In every way that matters, SEGA’s Knuckles the Echidna is as dead as his people.

Maybe SEGA does something new with the character in the future, maybe the writers they’ve entrusted with the comics become bolder with their plans, I don’t know and I don’t claim to know what will or won’t happen there. My point stands that today, all these years later, there still is no story told of SEGA’s Knuckles that gives him even half the dignity and respect that Ken’s stories have.

Now, all these years later, what is to become The Lara-Su Chronicles series of graphic novels is finally set to begin with the upcoming release of The Lara-Su Chronicles: Beginnings. In it, after a reprint of the unforgettably-excellent Mobius: 25 Years Later story, we’ll be seeing what awaits Lara-Su in the next chapter of her life and in the wake of her father’s death.

I’ve read literal hundreds of Sonic comics over the years. The Lara-Su Chronicles: Beginnings is not one of them.

But that was always the beauty of the Knuckles series, now succeeded by The Lara-Su Chronicles. It started in Sonic, but emerged from it like a butterfly from a chrysalis into something unlike anything a humble caterpillar could imagine - and the sky’s the limit.