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New Escapist Column! On the Multiverse as the Future of Franchising…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. The past few months have seen a lot of attention directed at the multiverse, with a suggestion that both Warner Bros. and Disney would be embracing it as a storytelling model going forward.

This shift is interesting, given how much effort these companies have build into fashioning internally consistent shared universes, singular narratives unfolding across dozens of films building inexorably towards a climactic pay-off. However, this shift towards the multiverse feels like a logical response to any number of market forces: the shattering of the idea of the monoculture in the midst of the streaming wars, the pull of nostalgia, and the demands of the actors making these movies. It’s a new world. Actually, it’s several new worlds.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

One Response

  1. It’s not just movies that are getting in on the Multiverse concept.

    A few weeks ago it was announced that Netflix would be distributing a Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Prime that would feature “the “Blue Blur” of video game fame in a high-octane adventure where the fate of a new multiverse rests in his gloved hands. Sonic’s adventure is about more than a race to save the universe, it’s a journey of self-discovery and redemption.”

    Although whether this means it will be re-visiting prior media like Marvel and DC are apparently doing is unclear and the subject of much fandom debate, given the complicated legal status of what Sega can use and what Sega will allow to be used:

    Due to Japanese copyright rules Sega is unable to use any characters from Sonic X as they’re owned the company that made the show (hence why the American made tie-in comic from Archie Comics has never been reprinted). Presumably the same is true of the two episode Japanese OVA (that was dubbed released in 1999 as Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie) – although Knuckle’s hat from that had made an appearance in one of the recent mobile games.

    Likewise British copyright laws mean that all characters created for Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic are owned by the various writers who worked on the book and created them, which means Sega would need to get permission from each writer which seems like too much hassle for them.

    Anything from the first twenty-one years of Archie Comic’s Sonic the Hedgehog is off-limits due to the lawsuit by Ken Penders over the rights to the characters he created during his run on the book, which led to the discovery that Archie had lost the contracts that proved that Sega retained ownership of characters created for the comic. Which then led to the 2013 continuity reboot that removed all characters created by writers to prior to then current writer (Ian Flynn)’s run on the comic (e.g. any from before 2006), and erased 20 years of storylines.

    And whilst any new character from the last four years of the comic (aka. The Post-Reboot comics) should theoretically be owned by Sega, Ian Flynn (head-writer of Archie Sonic from 2006-2017 and current head-writer of the IDW Sonic comics) has confirmed that there’s some legal issues with Archie preventing characters from appearing in the IDW comics and that Post-Reboot re-designs of characters originally from the cartoons are outright owned by Archie and not Sega.

    So… yeah effectively the entire 25 years of Archie Sonic are out of Sega’s hands.

    Which just leaves what they do own:

    The currently running IDW Publishing Sonic the Hedgehog comics, Sega have even used some of the characters in the recent mobile games, but Ian Flynn has already confirmed that Sonic Prime won’t be using anything from the comics.

    Any of the DIC cartoon Sonic the Hedgehog (a.k.a Sonic SatAm), Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Underground. Given that they’re all associated with Sega of America, whose work Sega of Japan never really respected, there was already only the slimmest chance of Sega even allowing them to be incorporated into Sonic Prime.

    But since that Freedom Fighters from SatAm are known to be hated by SOJ in particular to the point where they were almost removed from the Archie Comics entirely until Ian Flynn talked them out of it by justifying it via the fact that they were the main characters of the book for over two decades at that point. But with Archie Sonic’s cancellation in 2017 and the fact that they’ve been prevented from appearing in IDW comics despite Flynn fighting for it.

    And Sonic Underground is the only cartoon to be outright disparaged by Sonic Team’s head Takashi Iizuka in interviews, and that the Sonic Universe comic that was meant to conclude the cartoon’s unfinished storyline.

    There’s pretty much next to no chance that Sega would let them be revisited.

    Sonic Boom has been considered the most likely to appear in Prime by fans, given the cartoons popularity and the fact that Sticks the Jungle Badger, a main character created specifically for the series appeared in several non-cannon games such as the Sonic & Mario at the Olympics games. But considered how much money that sub-franchise lost Sega when it flopped spectacularly, combined with the fact that Sticks stopped appearing in non-canon games, and that Ian Flynn has confirmed that Sega outright refused several of his requests to let her be included in the IDW comics I remain sceptical.

    Which just leaves the 2020 live-action movie as the last possible non-game media that could possibly have a Sonic Prime tie-in. And taking into account the new found popularity it’s brought the franchise, the fact that Sega Staff seem pretty happy with the final product to the point that some members will apparently have more involvement with the sequel. Yeah I could see the movie being reference in the Prime Cartoon.

    Although it’s worth pointing out the game continuity already has a mini-Multiverse thing going on. The Sonic Rush games introduced the Sol Dimension featuring Sonic, Tails and Doctor Eggman’s counterparts; Blaze the Cat, Marine the Raccoon and Eggman Nega (although the Sonic Rivals would retcon the latter as Doctor Eggman’s descendant from 200 years in the future, and Takashi Iizuka confirmed that this backstory is now his canon one).

    And 2017’s Sonic Forces retconned the Modern Sonic Games (the games from 1998’s Sonic Adventure onwards apart from 2017’s Sonic Mania) and the Classic Sonic games (the games prior to Sonic Adventure going back to 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog, plus Sonic Mania) to be two separate continuities, despite 1998’s Sonic Adventure and 2012’s Sonic Generations presenting them as one continuity. With Sega mandating that this apply across all Sonic media (such as the IDW comics – which are in their own separate continuity from the games, but still use the events of the Modern Sonic games as backstory – are forbidden from using characters such as Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo that were exclusively from the Classic Sonic games, which is why a separate IDW mini-series that will be based on the Classic Sonic was announced).

    Funnily enough there is actually a Multiverse related connection between Sonic the Hedgehog and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse; Dan Slott.

    One of the earliest media Sonic to feature alternate universes was the Archie Sonic comics, and Slott wrote a couple issues of the Sonic Super Special series, that featured the crossing over between multiple universes as plot points but also introduced fan-favorite character Zonic the Zone-Cop (an AU version of Sonic who monitors the multiverse, trying to maintain the balance of the various universes as part of an interdimensional police force).

    Then years later Slott go on to Marvel Comics where he would eventually have the longest run of Spider-Man by a single writer, which included the Spider-Verse storyline that would serve as inspiration for Into the Spider-Verse.

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