Archie Comics is looking to expand the audience for Sonic the Hedgehog, the Sega videogame franchise character, with three new graphic novel series, including two in a new, larger format that are designed to appeal to teenagers and older readers. All three series will collect material previously published as monthly comics, and all are designed with bookstores and comics shops in mind.
Plans include a new series of full-size graphic novel collections of the Sonic Universe series, an extra-thick, full-sized collection of older material titled Sonic Legacy, and a Knuckles Archive series, marking the first time the Knuckles comic has been collected into a graphic novel. The blue hedgehog was originally created by Sega as the main character in their Sonic the Hedgehog game, which launched in 1991. Archie currently has two Sonic monthly comics, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Universe.
Volume 1 of the Sonic Universe graphic novel due out in late summer, will be the first Sonic graphic novel to be published at full comic book size, "in order to be competitive in a Marvel/DC graphic novel market," said editor Paul Kaminski. The book will have some deluxe touches, such as spot varnish on the cover, and is designed to look good on the shelf next to the Marvel and DC books.
All three books—Sonic Universe, Sonic Legacy, and Knuckles Archive—are volume 1's, Kaminski said, and the second volumes will be out sometime in 2012. They will be available in the children's section and the graphic novel section of Barnes & Noble, as well as in comics shops and digitally via the Archie iPad and Nook Color apps.
The graphic novel collections are a departure from Archie’s usual format: The ongoing Sonic Archives are published in a much smaller, 5" x 7" digest size, while the Sonic Select collections are 6" x 9", slightly larger but still smaller than a standard comic. Archie will continue to release new volumes in these series as well, with vol. 16 of Sonic Archives and vol. 4 of Sonic Select due out later this year.
"While the Sonic Archives are our most successful graphic novel title, they are targeted at younger audiences," Kaminski said. "With Sonic Universe, we are going to try to target the teenage audience more, the comics buying audience." The first volume will collect the saga of Shadow the Hedgehog.
Sonic Legacy will also be full size, but it will have a black and white interior and, at 512 pages for $14.95, considerably more content as well. "Sonic Legacy collects a lot of the older stuff and hard-to-get material, from back when Sonic was a little more silly," Kaminski said. While the original comics were in color, Kaminski said, "This is along the line of the DC Showcase and Marvel Essentials titles, where they are able to compile larger groups of stories and keep the cost down because it's in black and white."
"It's like a phonebook size," said Archie marketing director Alex Segura, adding, "The audience for Sonic is very much in tune with the DC and Marvel audience."
The Knuckles Archive collects the old Knuckles series, which started in 1996 and ran for 32 issues. "What's cool about the Knuckles Archive is it fills a lot of the gaps between Sonic Archive and Sonic Select," Kaminski said, "so in order to get the full story, you really should be picking these up. You have this one long-running story, and all of them interact with each other in these titles, Knuckles is the last piece of that." The Knuckles comics have never been reprinted before, he said.
Knuckles the Echidna originally appeared in a series titled Sonic's Friendly Nemesis. "He is kind of like the antihero," said Kaminski. "He is a little roguish; all the kids think he's super cool. He is definitely an antihero in the Sonic universe, and antiheroes are always popular."