The Clashing Tones of Knuckles the Echidna Comics
Back in the '90s Sonic the Hedgehog's friendly nemesis Knuckles had his own comic and it was insane.
Knuckles the Echnida has become a meme. The once arch rival to Sonic the Hedgehog is now a punch line not only to fans but the franchise itself. Look at Knuckles in the recent Sonic Boom cartoon. The whole joke is that he’s an idiot.
I have no problem with that. Everything surrounding Knuckles’ meme status is comedy gold. I regularly jam to remixes of Knuckles’ theme from Sonic Adventure. I’ve said, “Oh no” to my friends so often I think I’ve ruined the Sonic franchise forever to them.
My somewhat joking love of Knuckles has gotten so pervasive I received the most chuckle inducing gift of all for Christmas this year.
The first six Knuckles comics.
I lost my mind. I had these comics when I was a kid! I couldn’t tell you a thing about the plots (I was more a look at the pictures kinda guy) but I remember loving them. Back before the memes I legit thought Knuckles was kinda cool. Okay, so I was six but still!
Maybe there was something deeper to be found in Knuckles’ expanded universe back-story. Maybe these comics held the key to Knuckles’ salvation from the dregs of internet meme hell.
As I read through these issues (and these are the first six of Knuckles’ main series, not the mini-series that came before) I was struck not only by the wonderfully dated adds for Post Cereal and Mootown Snacks but something I never could have conceived.
Knuckles comics are some of the most insane stories for children I’ve ever read in my life. I know that sounds like an over exaggeration but trust me, it isn’t.
Each issue hits you over the head with the kind of 2deep4me opening recap that makes Mohinder’s monologues from Heroes seem like casual conversations.
Take these bits from Issue 3.
“The conviction of one’s beliefs and the courage against theirs of blind obedience and cruelty and the embodiment of one’s honor against those who have none.”
“If you’re an Echidna named Kunckles, above all else, you have faith that you’ve been shown the right path in life, and if you’re true to yourself, you have nothing to fear but fear itself…”
Yeah, that’s right. You just read a goddamn Franklin D. Roosevelt reference in a Knuckles comic. I hope you liked that touch of politics because these comics are obsessed with the political machinations of the Echidnas.
(Et tu, Garek?)
In these two arcs we get intergenerational clashes over anti technological beliefs, nuclear fallout panic, and a refuge crises. Lines like, “The Citizen Council of Echidnaopolis did have a vote” abound. In fact that particular line happens just before a dude nearly gets assassinated in the Echidna senate.
Man, I just came here for Knuckles not wanting to chuckle, I didn’t expect all this!
When the series isn’t filling you in on the current dynasty of Echnida Guardians and their relations to the neighboring Dingoes it’s nearly all about Knuckles’ family history. It never stops! Every issue Knuckles is learning about a new family member or something awful one of his great grandparents did that totally boned the Echidnas for generations.
Okay, so that doesn’t sound all bad actually. Yeah it’s kinda dense but it has some unexpected depth for a kids comic. Maybe they were able to sneak this past Archie Comics and this is a hidden gem of a political thriller!
And then you get lines like, “You picked the wrong Croc to step to, bro.”
(This is objectively the greatest comic panel of all time.)
Ah yes, when the comic does remember it’s an adaption of a video game it’s filled with nothing but bad one liners. Some more examples include,
“Say, Knux—You sure we’re the only ones who know how to hip-hop around here?”
“Say, pal, know what time it is? It’s CRUNCH time!”
“The dope is strictly Looney Tunes!”
These comics are incredibly confused about who they’re made for. In the same series where Knuckles legit chokes a dude out for information, Vector the Crocodile blares the actual theme to Sonic CD to stop a forest fire.
These tones clash too intensely against one other. You can’t have pages and pages of political diatribes punctuated with jokes like this one directed at Espio the Chameleon,
“How come you’re always so full of bad Karma, Esp?”
I will admit, that was legit a funny line but it all just leaves me so confused. What age group were these comics written for? The writer or editor didn’t answer the letters from fans that were printed in every issue. They were answered by Knuckles. Each issue contains fan art from kids who were usually around 8 or 9 years old.
This was supposed to be a comic for young kids but the plots don’t reflect that, outside of the very rare action scene where Knuckles and the Chaotix take down the bad guys.
Now I’m not saying these comics should have been stupid tales filled with fart jokes. I regularly advocate on this very website that children’s entertainment shouldn’t talk down to kids. However, and this is probably the first time I’ve ever said this, the Knuckles comics went too far in the other direction.
They’re too complicated for a kid to follow. I certainly couldn’t when I was six and buying these comics. In fact I think there’s really only one audience for these comics.
Edgy middle school kids. Yeah, those kids who take their favorite comic/show a little too seriously. Who would read those opening recaps and feel smug at how “mature” their comics are without quite understanding what the hell they’re reading. Who’d decry all the one liners and bad jokes for being “too silly” and that the comic should focus more on Knuckles’ tragic back-story.
(NOT MY VCR! How will I tape reruns of Pretty Soldier Sally Moon with that hunk Tuxedo Knucks?!)
I know that sounds like a dig but that’s the element I found most charming. The comic takes their subject matter so seriously and without irony that I have to give them props. There’s clearly a lot of thought put into the world of Echidnas that I could totally see a fan wanting to chronicle every little detail on a wiki page.
I could also see tweens identifying with Knuckles. While he barely has an actual character arc, his main conflict about how no one in his life ever tells him anything would totally strike a chord. When you’re 12 you’re just angry with your parents for being too strict, man! You can handle anything!
If you’re not in that age group though, these comics are just a chuckle inducing oddity. They’re weird as hell and definitely not what you expect but that doesn’t exactly make them good. They certainly can’t save Knuckles from his current punchline/meme status.
While I’m sure some hardcore fans appreciate the depth in these stories I think I’ll stick to flexing my Knuckles.
Shamus Kelley is tougher than leather. Follow him on Twitter!