Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Forum devoted to Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe and the entire Sonic line by Archie Comics.

Do you agree with this?

Yes
5
22%
Sorta
3
13%
Meh
7
30%
No Way!
6
26%
This guy is a stinky poo face!
2
9%
 
Total votes : 23

Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby laviarray » Sun Nov 29, 2015 6:13 pm

After a couple of my Archie Sonic critiques, I got several people saying that I was a bit too harsh and should be more constructive when I talk about the comics. AND THOSE PEOPLE… have a point. While I don’t take back one thing I said about the comics, I do admit I should try to be more constructive when I talk about this series. Now this does not mean I am going to be nice for the sake of seeming balanced, this means I will try to not be as judgmental in my statements and try to throw in recommendations as to how things could be fixed and improved. And I will start with this series.

As I have said before, I have a major interest in reading this series because I tend to use it to help me understand basic storytelling fundamentals and learn about what I enjoy in storytelling. However, I only get to do that because this series fails in the fundamentals. So in this analytical series, I want to explain the issues I have with the comic and what I think should be done to fix them. However, I want to say two things first.
One, I don’t care about the mandates. Not only are they contradicted and many of them come from rumors, every show, movie and comic, especially when they are attached to a franchise, has mandates and I have seen many of them with harsher mandates still work. Two, this is not an objective post. To me, there isn’t a way to be objective for talking about your perspective. What I will do is to state my perspective and back it up as much as evidence and references as possible.

As for talking about the comic, the best way to address the problems I have with this comic is to try to answer one simple question. “What does Archie’s Sonic have to offer?”
Well, the best answer should be the characters. Besides this comic being an adaptation for Sonic, characters has always been one of Sonic franchises biggest assets as almost each character has their own following as fans attach to them for their own reasons. And this would be a great selling point for me. Almost all of my favorite stories like One Piece, Steven Universe, Doctor Who are at their best when they are character focused. Establishing characters, their personalities and their motivations, and setting them in stories to challenge and explore them is basic techniques for a character study and always works to get me invested in narrative. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here.

When I read Ian Flynn commentary on writing the comic in his “Lost Hedgehog Tales” series, one part of it really stood out to me.

“The comic had settled into a comfortable pattern of “Sonic and the Freedom Fighters always come out on top.” My objective between Sonic the Hedgehog #225 and Sonic the Hedgehog #275 was to break the team as badly as possible and watch as they put themselves back together. Cruel? Sure. But by the end of the whole arc, there would be no question why this band of heroes always triumphed. I wanted to put them through the absolute worst case scenario, and then show how they managed to overcome all the odds. On the whole, it was meant to be a testament to the strength of their friendship, their courage, and their heroism.” –Ian Flynn

In which he did this by turning one of the leads into a robot and having an antagonist become the leader of their town legally. While these events aren’t bad on their own, the execution of these plot lines does nothing to achieving the goal of testing the character’s bonds.

To me, testing a character should be about giving them a challenge that conflicts with them in some way and seeing what decisions they make when dealing with said challenge. Out of the 8 leads, only 2 (at best) have their dedication to the group challenged, Sonic and Amy. Sally is a mind controlled robot, so her character loses agency and can’t make decisions, therefore can’t be challenged. Antoine is unconscious for the arc so the same applies to him. Bunnie leaves the story to go get legonized, but again out of the story so nothing can be shown about her on screen. Rotor is just on a different team and doesn’t have much happen to him after leaving the council, so nothing there. And Nicole, while does have a conflict of feeling like an outsider, it was settled by Mina going to meet with her and apologize. While this is a decent conflict, it doesn’t have anything to do with her relationship to the others and by having Mina resolve it, keeps the conflict from involving the others.

So Sonic, Tails and Amy get the challenge right? Well, not really. Sonic does start to doubt himself for the beginning of an issue from all of the bad things that had happen to him up to this point, but that is resolved by Amy yelling at him to get over it and he does. That’s it. Amy’s only conflict comes from her yelling at Sonic and Tails just cries a bit earlier about this to his Dad. So basically, no one had their relationship or commitment to the group challenged, besides Sonic that which only deals with him mopping for a brief moment. Yes, the arc never completed, but Flynn said specifically about this arc that, “I only got as far as the breaking point”. Which means that he set up all of the challenges for the characters, yet none of them were set up to challenge their “…friendship, their courage, and their heroism.” However, this isn’t the only area he has a problem with character writing. He has a problem with character arcs too.

When Sonic had begun to doubt himself, while not a bad idea, ends up being resolved in a very rushed, haphazard way. However, this isn’t the only time this has happened. From 252 to current 278, 4 of the main characters, Sonic, Sally, Tails and Rotor had to deal with their own character conflicts, however, they all fail in the same way, mainly because they were the same arc. They each had different problems, but the execution was all the same. Something bad happens to them, they sulk about it, someone tells them to get over it, and they do. Sonic’s Werehog/The Hulk Conflict, Sally falling for Eggman’s trap, Tails getting embarrassed at the tournament, and Rotor finding his Dad, all have the same structure. Though the arcs hitting the same beats alone isn’t great and ending them with the moral, “Get over it” is a bit lazy, the main problem with these arcs is that they don’t do anything for the characters.

Characters dealing with conflict is meant to give the characters and audience an idea as to who they are. However, all of these arcs end with nothing new revealed about them or nothing about the character growing as individuals. The conflicts contrast with that character’s personality traits, leaving it to be a conflict that any of the characters could go through, sans job titles. Once the conflict happens, they get sad about it, which does establish what makes them sad, but then they are just told to get over it, and then they do. Leaving the character without a realizing moment of growth or change. Basically, they have the structure of character arcs, without actually being character arcs.

OK so the characters are meant to be static archetypes that just bounce around in the story like other long runners? Actually no, most of them aren’t established or interesting enough for that. While Sonic, and to a lesser extent Amy and Antoine, consistently show their behaviors, view points and beliefs in their actions as well has have their own personality quirks, the rest don’t. Besides the leadership dialogue from Sally, you could swap most of the main cast’s dialogue around and nothing about them or the scenes would change, mainly because it’s usually either exposition dumping or exchanging pleasantries. So trying to have these guys just be static archetypes doesn’t seem to be the comic’s focus, mainly because the focus is more on the events rather than character development.

In the Lost Hedgehog tales, Flynn mentions that he likes to focus on long term pay offs. To quote, “Intentional or not, it’s when the author ties together elements from the entire life of the story to bring things together in an epiphany.” However, he does this in a way that the events in the story are the only driving forces of the story. While the freedom fighters are in the action, the story isn’t about them going for specific goals and challenging them on those decisions. Events happen in the series in order to build up to the “epiphany”, but the characters are just along for the ride. For example, while the current Gaia arc has involved the main cast, outside of the tangential Werehog conflict, none of the characters have had to deal with a conflict or challenge that comes directly from this arc. They have been involved, but their actions have been incredibly generic, to the point that they could be swapped with each other or removed and nothing in the arc or their characters would change. Or the “Waves of Change” Arc, where if you removed Sonic, Amy and Rotor from the story, nothing in that story line would change. This is why, to me, the series comes off incredibly impersonal. When none of the characters stand out or deal with anything to define who they are, they come off more as constructs to move the story forward rather than characters.

And this problem seems to get compounded by the fact that the cast is always too large. Now having 7 to 12 characters in the main cast would already be too big for series with a longer story run time, because it would be hard to near impossible to have every character to get screen time, let alone development (which is why we rarely see them all together). But this series seem to have a weird habit of overloading its cast with tons of characters and even they tend to get arcs and conflicts more than the leads. Honey and Dr. Ellidy both characters who are brought into the series with interesting (and creepy for Dr. Ellidy) character conflict that are inherent to their actions and viewpoints, such as dealing with a disturbing version of her own greed in Breezie or dealing with seeing a robotic zombie version of his daughter (Told you it was creepy). It’s like the writers aren’t interested in doing anything with the leads and will create new characters instead and add to the over stuff cast they already have. I know the SEGA characters are, in Flynn’s words, “protected by SEGA’s licensing armor”, but I have a hard time feeling sympathy when it he can’t seem to write the 5 characters he does have control over.

Now the weak character writing would always be a problem for me, but I would be willing to overlook it if I had something else to be invested in like the story. Which considering that Flynn said that long term story telling is his focus, it should be a hook. But it isn’t.

(To Be Continued In Part 2)
Last edited by laviarray on Tue Dec 01, 2015 1:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Meliden » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:06 pm

Well, it's usually very quiet on a Sunday on here, so the peace may last longer than you think.

Me? I'm admittedly not the best person to talk to about this. My hooks for stories seem like they're completely different (my fave characters are ones who have never had a (pseudo) character development arc in the games, just entertaining capers), so I'd naturally look at them from a different perspective. That said, save for Antoine maybe, I really have no investment in the Freedom Fighters because I don't really find them entertaining. They're more plot pushers for me.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Mr.Unsmiley » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:32 pm

laviarray wrote: try to answer one simple question. “What does Archie’s Sonic have to offer?”


for me it's just the simple fact that I want to continue having new Sonic material, but since the games are getting released more slowly than before and haven't had any of that Sonic Team story weirdness since Unleashed, the comics are the main thing giving me my fix.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Specs64z » Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:04 pm

Mr.Unsmiley wrote:
laviarray wrote: try to answer one simple question. “What does Archie’s Sonic have to offer?”

for me it's just the simple fact that I want to continue having new Sonic material, but since the games are getting released more slowly than before and haven't had any of that Sonic Team story weirdness since Unleashed, the comics are the main thing giving me my fix.

I take it you never played Satbk? That had some good story weirdness :) Also, that's pretty much why I read the comic as well. It's currently the best form of non-game Sonic media (well, Sonic Universe is right now, a mon avis) even if it has been pretty meh-tastic these past few months.
laviarray wrote:...they come off as constructs to move the story froward rather than characters...

I definitely agree that the characters feel more like set pieces than people (er, animals) with emotions and development, and that the cast needs to be smaller/less characters per story arc. I also think they need to focus more on Sonic (plz no wherehog). It's his comic, as he reminds us occasionally on the cover. Why does he feel like a backround character? A weak backround character at that?
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Mobotropolis » Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:06 pm

As much as I disliked the Mecha Sally Arch I do not think it is fair to criticize it as-is because it was pretty obvious that the rug was ripped out from under Ian mid-arch. We were maybe one third to halfway through the arch when the house fell in. There were going to be repercussions for everyone involved once we started heading into the " uniting the team " portion of the program -- but that wasn't even a thought yet.

Besides, I think it's a moot point to keep bringing up pre-reboot because it doesn't matter anymore. Leave that in Lost Hedgehog Tales or maybe the Fan Project Discussion if you want to help out there.

That said, I agree with your criticism about the Freedom Fighters. We have 10 members on the team team not including Chuck or the helper animals/robots. That's bigger than the pre-Reboot Chaotix and clearly too big to function. I think the biggest casualty in this has been Cream who pretty much hasn't been seen since the early stages of the Crossover and has done absolutely nothing to prove that she belongs here. Many of the other Freedom Fighters do not amount to much besides " I'm contributing! " banter, yeah. I feel as though there are so many characters and so much going on that it's hard to invest any time or interest in any of them.

One idea that I liked when the idea of a reboot first started floating around (and even for some time prior) was really embracing the idea that Sonic would be a world traveler. And maybe the other characters could be travelers/adventures he meets on his adventures. Then instead of juggling a herd of characters your story can focus on 3-4 characters and actually build a dynamic. It wouldn't be Sonic/Tails/Amy all the time because the pre-Reboot World Tour showed us how dull that can be, but it might be Sonic, Tails, and an Archie Guest Character or Sonic and two Archie Guests and we might actually learn something.

You know. Mix it up a little.

There are mixups I'd like to see that have never been done and will probably never be done because characters are herded into their own little teams and pretty much stay there. How about Amy and Rouge? Or Shadow and Antoine? Knuckles and Big? Blaze and Sally doing some Princess bonding! Omega and Rotor share their interests for unbridled destruction and find true love! Cream does something with someone! Just ideas. :P

Edit: That's only a part of the of the problem, though. Another part is that the plot has become formulaic and leans pretty heavily on the whole action gig without showing too much (or really anything post-reboot) of the other side of the war. It does get tiresome to see Sonic and Friends run from place to place plowing through badniks and minions who stood no chance at defeating them because their team is so big, strong, and protected by Sega Plot Armor.

Sonic Universe seems to be suffering an especially bad case of that with a typical -- Characters are introduced on part one, the Characters run into an issue in part two, the issue gets worse in part three, and the problem is resolved with a big dumb fight and things exploding in part four. In many cases of Sonic Universe either the second or third issue feels like filler to prolong the problem and make it long enough to be a trade. Some Issues do this in a pretty fun way. Others feel predictable because once we know who's face needs to be punched in we know how this will end and who will do it.

And the last bit seems to be the pacing -- which has been a long-standing issue in the book. It's true that Sonic the Hedgehog is a run-longing epic at this point and one of the longest running licensed books ever, but now it feels like it. It seems like ever since Brave New Moebius (which was also too long) the ante has been set to make longer and longer story archs. King Nagus/Mecha Sally was already dragging ... and then we got tossed into the reboot and are currently two going on three years into Shattered World Crisis with no end in sight. This is long for a normal arch, let alone an adaption.

I can understand the need to dangle the carrot and get people invested in the book in the long haul, but one habit that I didn't quite appreciate pre-reboot or even now was dangling multiple carrots and creating new plot points that might be explored in a year-maybe but hang tight for the ride! I would like to see more addressed and actually resolved in the frame of an arch and less " wait and see ".
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Mr.Unsmiley » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:21 pm

Mobotropolis wrote:one habit that I didn't quite appreciate pre-reboot or even now was dangling multiple carrots and creating new plot points that might be explored in a year-maybe but hang tight for the ride! I would like to see more addressed and actually resolved in the frame of an arch and less " wait and see ".


guessing you're not a big One Piece fan
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby laviarray » Sun Nov 29, 2015 10:29 pm

Meliden wrote:Well, it's usually very quiet on a Sunday on here, so the peace may last longer than you think.


How did you know I was nervous about people losing their mind over this? (You psychic?)

Meliden wrote: That said, save for Antoine maybe, I really have no investment in the Freedom Fighters because I don't really find them entertaining. They're more plot pushers for me.


But in a series like this, how is that a good thing? THe characters should be what you are invested in. Not the plot that is going to change in a few issues.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Mobotropolis » Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:42 pm

guessing you're not a big One Piece fan

I read/watched One Piece up until Ace bit it.

After the Timeskip it stopped being about the Crew and the Journey and the Family (that word they use) and whatnot and more about Luffy Time and bringing people from East Blue back for nostalgia and starting wars and pirate politics and wasn't this series about finding Treasure?

I'm not a fan of They-don't-want-to-end-it-itis.
THe characters should be what you are invested in. Not the plot that is going to change in a few issues.

Debatable.

Truth be told, people come to the book looking for different things. Some people vastly prefer the SegaSonic Cast and wish the SatAM/Archie Characters got thrown in the incinerator. Others prefer the Archie Exclusives because the writers tend to have more creative freedom with them.

I'm actually totally for the plot more-so than the characters. The only character I ever actually felt an attachment to is never coming back and will not get a replacement so forget that. The thing that drew me back into this book after being repelled by Pender's writing as a series of changes and quick fixes that Ian made to make the world and story more palatable. I could feel the weight of the character's situation and could see how it impacted the characters. They weren't just traveling from place to place or going through the motions.

It was little things like Sonic visiting Tommy's grave, The Freedom Fighters talking politics after the revolution, Sally and Bunnie's girl-talk during the stakeout, Sonic touring with Mina around Knothole's ruins, Tails' bitterness heading into House of Cards, and even mundane things like Sonic and/or friends going out to lunch that make the characters and their world feel alive.

The post-reboot world is big but feels empty to me, I suppose.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Meliden » Mon Nov 30, 2015 3:12 am

laviarray wrote:But in a series like this, how is that a good thing? THe characters should be what you are invested in. Not the plot that is going to change in a few issues.


I am invested in the characters, just not those characters. I'm one of those SEGA Sonic preferrers, so they'll pretty much always be more forefront. The Freedom Fighters are pretty harmless though, which is better than I can say for them (moreso one, but the others were worse too) in SatAM and prior comic ages.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby DoNotDelete » Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:38 am

I guess my main appreciation for the Archie comics has always been more to do with the world that has been built around the foundation of the SEGA franchise characters. I mean - yes - I have my favourite franchise characters and I like to see them used, but I'm generally more interested in the design work and original characters and world building involved in making a story around these characters that can't be altered (or developed) beyond their franchise models.

I've always been impressed with the Archie comic's creative efforts in that regard - so I suppose for me it's less important that Sonic and the other franchise characters 'develop' in some way that rewards the reader some kind of storytelling gratification, for me the entertainment/reward is seeing how inventive the creatives can be in designing new characters and building new environments that orbit those franchise characters.

I stick around to see new original characters like Clove and Cassia pop up as much as I do to see the old badnik designs from Sonic 3 pop up. So there's a genuine appreciation for new inventions as much as a bit of nostalgia - at least from me.


Also I don't understand the polling options; You're not really asking or stating anything I can answer with any of those.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby Penguin God » Mon Nov 30, 2015 10:06 am

laviarray wrote: try to answer one simple question. “What does Archie’s Sonic have to offer?”

It's a fun action adventure book with characters and a setting I enjoy. Ain't always have to be a whole big thing, the Mecha Sally arc was an issue but the characters not being challenged wasn't the issue. It being a repetitive arc without any stakes or real conflict was a problem, but you can easily do an entertaining arc with that even without taking the characters and trying to wring them through the dryer. They've DONE arcs like that without really challenging the characters' convictions and it worked fine.
You should always ask for quality writing, but deep writing and quality writing aren't always the same.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby SonicBlueRanger » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:06 pm

I'm not really in Sonic for deep challenging plotlines I'm mostly in it for Fun Characters and adventures. I have The Walking Dead for deep storylines I have Sonic for pure escape.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby LordLaharlsVassal » Mon Nov 30, 2015 1:47 pm

I chose the first option on the poll because I do mostly agree with you, though the characters tends come off as a bit more detail from my perspective then yours, I do think there are great potential her that is a lot of times left untapped. However, I do think there are ways to argue that those conflicts moments from 252 to 278 you mentioned, did actually have something to do with the characters, Tails came to my mind I as I was reading your post. Tails was established in Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 as someone who wanted to be as strong and independent as Sonic, meaning he had confidence issues. When he lost to Honey it probably reminded him that he was still not there, and that made him sad and frustrated. While it is true Sonic manage to break him out of it through a pep talk, it was only in that particular case. That alone did most likely not help Tails get rid of his confidence issues. It is a recurring problem Tails faces, which I can relate to.

I do also want to mention I admire your continued writing on this subject matter, in my experience it can be difficult to discuss broadness of characterization and depth of character on the internet. It is often presumed that if one like a piece of fiction and the characters within it, one also have immense interest storytelling and character writing/development, but this rarely the case I find. This is completely understandable, as it would not be a profession if it were something just anyone liked and was great at. The way I see it, depth of character in a story is kind of like a big piece of the motor of a car. Most people don’t know how the motor of a car works and have not interesting in knowing anything about it, but they still love the car because it help them get where they want to go quickly and efficiently (maybe even with style), and without a decent motor the car would not be able to serve that function.

What does Archie Sonic has to offer for me? I think I will come back and answer that later, this post is long enough as it is. But to keep it short; as a Sonic fan, I find myself in a desert, and Archie is just about the only place that offers a drop of water now and then.
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby MetalSkulkBane » Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:15 pm

Oh Lord, another "comic suck, let's fix it" topic. It's just..Ugh!
(reads it)...huh, that's pretty good.

In fact this topic deserve a cookie as so many good points are being threw around
Mr.Unsmiley wrote:for me it's just the simple fact that I want to continue having new Sonic material, but since the games are getting released more slowly than before and haven't had any of that Sonic Team story weirdness since Unleashed, the comics are the main thing giving me my fix.

For better or worst, that's me,
Mobotropolis wrote:And the last bit seems to be the pacing -- which has been a long-standing issue in the book. It's true that Sonic the Hedgehog is a run-longing epic at this point and one of the longest running licensed books ever, but now it feels like it. It seems like ever since Brave New Moebius (which was also too long) the ante has been set to make longer and longer story archs. King Nagus/Mecha Sally was already dragging ... and then we got tossed into the reboot and are currently two going on three years into Shattered World Crisis with no end in sight. This is long for a normal arch, let alone an adaption.

I can understand the need to dangle the carrot and get people invested in the book in the long haul, but one habit that I didn't quite appreciate pre-reboot or even now was dangling multiple carrots and creating new plot points that might be explored in a year-maybe but hang tight for the ride! I would like to see more addressed and actually resolved in the frame of an arch and less " wait and see ".

Couldn't agree more. Those "carrots" aren't bad on their own, but sometimes it feels like Flynn is more focused on setting ups future stuff rather then entertaining us now.
laviarray wrote:While Sonic, and to a lesser extent Amy and Antoine, consistently show their behaviors, view points and beliefs in their actions as well has have their own personality quirks, the rest don’t. Besides the leadership dialog from Sally, you could swap most of the main cast’s dialog around and nothing about them or the scenes would change, mainly because it’s usually either exposition dumping or exchanging pleasantries. So trying to have these guys just be static archetypes doesn’t seem to be the comic’s focus, mainly because the focus is more on the events rather than character development.

That's something that bugged me about FF for a long time now but I couldn't verbalize it. You hit the jackpot (although I would point out that Rotor lately is a pragmatic guy/ a bit of jerk: "we're busy saving the world we can't help Knuckles, help Meropis, play with Breezie")

But back on topic. For me Reboot lacks one thing: any kind of stakes. I'm tired of beating badniks/egg army/dark gaia monsters. Big mook, small mook, it's still a nameless mook, it can't impress me. First E-100 was cool, but now I'm bored with them. The only good parts are Metal Sonic (cause I'll never get tired of him and Flynn does a great job in keeping him a real thread) and Championship.
I'm sure there are other problems, but they aren't as indisputable as that one.

(Maybe I'll comment more later, it's getting late in my country)
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Re: Let's Improve the comic! part 1

Postby laviarray » Tue Dec 01, 2015 1:55 pm

Specs64z wrote:I definitely agree that the characters feel more like set pieces than people (er, animals) with emotions and development, and that the cast needs to be smaller/less characters per story arc.


Yeah. Spoilers for my recommendations, that is one of the things I am going to recommend was shrinking the cast down. However, the character changes I would say might be a bit controversial.

Specs64z wrote:I also think they need to focus more on Sonic (plz no wherehog). It's his comic, as he reminds us occasionally on the cover. Why does he feel like a backround character? A weak backround character at that?


SO TRUE. Sonic gets lost in the crowd so often in this series and really, this isn't his story anymore, if it ever was. It isnt about his goals, or about him trying to protect something. He is really just the muscle in the cast to Sally's lead.
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