An Interview With Ken Penders

2013 Comic Con Day 4 005

Near his friend Elliot S! Maggin’s booth in the artist alley at the San Diego Comic Con sits a man who is currently criticized, respected and envied. Criticized by some Sonic comic fans who feel that his recent copyright case with Archie Comics is taking away many of their favorite characters from the Sonic book. Respected because in his tenure on the Sonic comics, he created such a legacy of characters that the comic suffers a bit with them gone. And lastly, envied by other comic creators who would give their drawing arm to have the chance of owning their creations back. To them, Penders is living out a dream come true.

With his famous mustache gone, replaced with long hair and a ponytail, also sits a man who some feel may be a bit too confident in his abilities than he realizes. His video and movie projects “The Republic” and “The Lost Ones” have still been unreleased for over five years and are still in production. Could the Lara-Su Chronicles (an upcoming series of graphic novels based on Knuckles daughter and relations set in an alternate future) suffer from the same fate? And what of his art? Many people have been very critical about his latest promotional pieces. How does he feel about that?

Read on to see Ken Penders side of the story.

TSS – Sooo…What’s new? (Laughs)

Penders – (Laughs) What’s new?!! That’s a very interesting question. Well, I’m waiting for the 9th circuit court to let me know if I’ve won my appeal yet so we can move forward with that case and I’m moving forward with the Lara-Su Chronicles as well as finishing up the Republic and still working to get the Lost Ones out there so yeah, I’ve been a pretty busy boy as of late.

TSS – It’s been almost three years that the case has been going on. Do you feel it’s been worth it?

Penders – Absolutely. I mean, could things have been done differently?….Yes, but the thing is, you don’t get a choice a lot of times in how things are handled.

TSS – Do you think the results of this case could help other comic creators who have lost ownership of their creations?

Penders – I hope so. Very much.

TSS – So tell us about the Lara-Su Chronicles.

Penders – Well, what that is, is a continuation of a lot of story ideas I’ve had with these characters ever since I first worked on the Knuckles series. There’s a lot of story ideas there just waiting to be told and I thought I’d have a chance with the Mobius: 25 years later stories and when that didn’t happen then maybe I figured I’d do that in another format. Maybe add a few new characters just to finish the story and once this case took off as a result of what happened, that’s when I realized I would have to move forward in my own way, in my own direction with these stories. Prior to this, I had been working with Sega on doing a Sonic movie. This is including after I left the comic books. I figured, maybe the ideas might pop-up in that. Once Bob Leffler (Sega licencing) passed away, that changed everything.

TSS – We have seen some promotional art for the Lara-Su Chronicles put out there that some fans have been very critical of. How do you respond to this and have you considered hiring a separate artist?

Penders – Well, no I haven’t considered hiring out an artist for the graphic novel. My response to the criticism is that it’s more emotional. That they are losing the characters in a way that they’re familiar with and going into something different and change is difficult to handle at times y’know? I’ve been getting support from fans who don’t wish to engage in the online vitriol. They’re very much looking forward to it. I’ve definitely been getting support among my fellow professionals who feel the artwork is pretty solid. As a matter of fact, if I had changed the characters too much, there might not be interest in the film project for example. So that’s been a huge impetus in my choices as far as designs go.

"My response to the criticism is that it’s more emotional."
“My response to the criticism is that it’s more emotional.”

TSS – Continuing with that, we’ve noticed that in the latest promo art, Lara-Su looks fairly different from before. Was this dealing from anything from the case where maybe you couldn’t use Sega’s echidna look or something to that effect?

Penders – No, no, I had always intended with that design. Even with the legal situation, you don’t etch everything in stone and you certainly don’t before everything’s decided. You toss something out there and say “hey, this is where I’m going with this” and move on from there. There was no intent for example, to turn them into humans or like that whatsoever.

TSS – There are some fans who are very upset that some of their favorite characters may not be returning to the comics, what would you say to them to make them feel more at ease?

Penders – Well, I really can’t talk about that settlement per-se, but what I can say is that Archie has the ability to go forward with these characters if they so choose. That’s their option and that’s all I’m gonna say on that. I have the right to move forward myself. My copyrights, my characters and that’s what I’m doing.

TSS – Okay, one final question. What would you say, to get fans excited for the Lara-Su Chronicles?

Penders – I think this is going to answer a lot of questions about the characters and the storylines and where it’s all going. Questions they’ve been asking me for years. I’m finally going to get answer on a lot of stuff they’ve been asking since these characters were first introduced.

TSS – Alright. Well, thank you for your time.

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    1. Apparently with creamy nougat filling, if his picture is to believe.

      Pity he had to go all 90’s on us. If he had kept the mustache, he would have been a perfect Eggman… yes, even more so than Jamie Hiderman.

      Oh wait, my bad. With the ponytail, he would have been EXTREEEME EGGMAN!! It makes sense since he thinks he’s all Image now.

  1. Eww what is this thing! Oh it’s Pender.. shaved. Well.. At least he still looks better than that Lara-Su thing.

  2. SEGA’s making a Sonic movie? Why isn’t something that big all over Sonic news websites?

    1. They’re not. He was in talks with someone in Sega licencing and it fell through.

    2. Penders was talking about that way back in the mid to late nineties. He wanted a Knuckles movie base don his comics, but SEGA said if they were going to make a movie it would be about Sonic, not Knuckles. That was the last I heard of it until now.

  3. I’m tired of typing this on various websites, so I’ll make it short.

    I don’t agree with the things Penders has done and said, and no, I have no interest in the Lara-Su Chronicles (definitely not a fan of how the characters look). But he is (believe it or not) a nice guy, I know that first hand. I’m tired of people on the Internet attacking him on a personal level when they just go by what they read on Sonic oriented websites (which are obviously bias against Penders. Not talking about Sonic Stadium though, the one site that has been un-biased). We don’t know what’s went on behind closed doors, and the people verbally bashing him don’t truly know him or what he’s went through. I’m not going to defend some of the things he has done and said (like I mentioned), but please think when you leave a comment.

    1. I agree exactly about what you said about the Lara-Su chronicles, and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt about him being a nice guy

  4. Very interesting article. I guess I never realized how selfish fans can be. The guy seems to be genuinely nice and not deserving of all the vitriol being tossed at him. All of the biased comments and incorrect information that his been put out there is just sad. I know it’s just a comic, but you’d hope fans would be a tad more mature in their responses.

  5. “but what I can say is that Archie has the ability to go forward with these characters if they so choose. That’s their option and that’s all I’m gonna say on that.”

    I wonder what he means… I like Julie, I want her to stay.

  6. I think I might get the first graphic novel to see what its like just to add it to my collection
    but depending on what its like depends if I will continue to buy the series

    so at the moment it could go either way if I like it or not

  7. Yeah, making fun of someone’s personal appearance is a low blow. I don’t agree with Penders’ actions, but criticise him with… criticism, not insults.

    Personally I was never overly fond of Penders’ characters, and a lot of his work. It’s a shame they’re gone for continuity purposes, but, for example, personally I find reading the Knuckles comics a bore. They spend so much time building up the ancestry and mythology of the echidnas that they forfeit the spirit of Sonic. Maybe for that reason it’s better that they’re out the main book – those who were interested in that side of things can get their fix, and the Sonic comics give a more fun experience. I think Flynn is a great writer, so I’m very confident that the comics are going to stay as good as they currently are.

  8. I can’t be bothered to read the interview. The fact that the hatred is still inside me is unbearable!

    1. Angry at him for what? I honestly don’t get the hostility. It is Archie that’s pulling the characters, not Penders. Archie is re-releasing original works but refusing to pay royalties to the artists and writers, but some fans insist on attacking Penders for standing up for his rights. They should keep using the characters and pay everyone the royalties they deserve. Since my previous post about this was removed, I guess it’s okay for commenters to slander and personally attack people who are being written about, but if you take posters to task for doing so, that’s verbotten.

  9. I would honestly like to know which professional artists actually like the character designs he’s done for his “graphic novel”. They look awful no matter how you slice it.

    1. She certainly looks different from what we’re accustomed to, that’s for sure. I think most of the shock behind the new look has more to do with fond familiarity than “awfulness.” I also suspect the Lara-Su Chronicles have to look very different from the original comic or it wouldn’t fly. Since Archie is refusing to continue the characters I for one wish him well. I don’t want to see the characters die off, and I strongly believe Archie should recognize and compensate them for their contributions.

    2. Except it doesn’t look awful. The troll face looks awful. Stick figures are awful. This picture just looks human-like. That doesn’t make it awful. The hand being small looks weird, but the face is fine. It looks like something I’d see in a Disney cartoon.

      1. I’m not explicitly refering to the design shown here, but the redesigns for the majority of characters are ridiclous. Dimitri looks like an overcomplicated mess but it’s not nearly Lein-Da looking like a poorly thought out smut villian. What really gets on my goat is the disgusting colouring. Really bad palette choices combine with horrible burn/dodge tool bullshit to make horrible works.

        He at least needs to hire a colourist.

      2. For me it looks very awful, I was curious about this series but seeing the art killed any chances for me to checking it out, it’s just me though, nothing against anyone who liked it.

      3. No. The art looks awful. I’m not saying this out of bias, or because of the character designs. Ken Penders’s art is fucking awful. The colouring, the dodge and burn, the proportions, EVERYTHING about his art is just terrible. The shitty character designs are the LEAST of my worries.

  10. Well, good thing I never cared for the so and so many years later story line.. the whole setting was just a giant “what if” that probably never had any relevance to the real story

  11. Well, can’t say I agree with what Penders’ doing, but right now I can’t side with Archie, thanks to the way they’re fucking the comics and using Flynn as some shield.

    Now, let me see if I understand that right: did Penders say that Archie could CONITNUE to use his characters without problems? If so, why the hell is Archie DESTROYING THE THING I LOVED THE MOST IN THE COMICS’ UNIVERSE?????

  12. “Archie has the ability to go forward with these characters if they so choose. That’s their option and that’s all I’m gonna say on that. I have the right to move forward myself. My copyrights, my characters and that’s what I’m doing.”

    Oooookaaaaayy?! This totally confuses the HELL out of me. Penders is saying Archie CAN use the characters he created? So, why the heck does it sound like Archie is throwing them under a bus never to see the light of day again?? Arghabargagaaaahh. *Head desk*

    1. I was thinking the same though we don’t know what were the terms of the settlement, perhaps Archie can use Pender’s characters only if the pay royalties to him so it wouldn’t be a good idea for Archie.

  13. Ken, can you and Archie just kiss and make up…please?…please?….please?
    I’m starting to get really po’d about how downward the comics are going since he left, if this doesn’t fix up soon, I expect the Sonic Comic’s cancellation in this next year or so. Hope I’m wrong

    1. Downward? The comics have improved since Penders left. It actually feels like a Sonic comic now.

    2. I don’t know what planet you have been living on, but the overall view from 90% of the online community is that the comics have been on the up and up since he left. Also most people have loved the crossover and are looking forward to this “new universe” and its redesigns that have been shown. More action and less soap drama.

  14. As much as I loathe Ken Penders, I fully support every Echidna character created by him being given to him, just so that we don’t have to deal with those awful characters in the main Sonic comic. They should NEVER have been created; the echidna civilization is supposed to be an ancient race that lived in a floating island isolated from civilization until it became extinct and its only remaining member was Knuckles, not a modern, populous city that resides in another dimension. What Penders did to Knuckles’ backstory and the history of the echidna civilization and Angel Island was an ATROCITY, and I facepalm when people treat that convoluted, crack-induced mess of a backstory as one of the comic’s highlights.

    1. I rather enjoyed how much flynn worked to clean out those Echidnas. He Egg-graped a bunch and had them thrown in the zone of silence, he had the brotherhood exiled to the Twighlight cage, he killed off Locke. I, like all other fans was not a fan of the events of “Endangered Species” but at least the job is finally done.

  15. After seeing him so many times with his mustache at TSSZ, this Penders looks weird as hell.

  16. I was excited when Penders said that Archie can still use the characters if they choose to, but then I realized, they will probably have to pay Penders royalties for using the characters. That doesn’t seem so bad, but Archie probably won’t fork up the cash for characters that half the readers don’t even care about.

  17. I don’t read any Sonic comics, I don’t care what happens to these characters or this graphic novel, but man oh man I gotta say that that image of Lara-su is gross. I have quite literally no idea what is going on with her body anywhere except her face. I see a hand I think holding something where her neck should be? What it is and where it is positioned in relation to her is a complete mystery to me though. And then there’s what I think is her arm that appears to be coming out of her head behind her hair? I’m tempted to think that maybe this is a slightly low angle so we’re looking up at her and she’s looking down over her shoulder which is why her arm seems to be coming out there and I don’t see a neck at all, but something about the orientation of the background seems off if that’s the case. Everything is just melting together and there’s no clear distinction where any individual parts of Lara-su begin or end. Bits of it are super blurry and ill defined like the left edge of her face that is jarringly cut off by her more focused arm (???) and dread, but then there’s also parts like the underside of her hair on the top right of her face that has a lot more detail in the smaller strands of hair (fur? whatever these cartoon animals have) despite being relatively unimportant and looking strange since none of her other dreads around that area have these smaller strands.

    Someone with a better eye for art feel free to call me out on this but for someone who worked in the comic industry (presumably as an artist) this seems pretty bad.

    1. Huh, now that I look it seems most Sonic characters don’t have necks. Never really internalized that fact. That doesn’t excuse this art style though. Most Sonic characters don’t really have shoulders to speak of either but the only way that arm makes any sense at all to me is either Lara-su having shoulders broader than her head like a normal person with a normal neck (that has been omitted as a mistake), or her having both a cartoonishly large head and even more absurdly broad shoulders with no neck in-between (which would be horrifying). Alternatively the arm itself could just not make any sense and be floating there which is what I think happened and is perhaps the laziest of the possibilities I’ve considered.

  18. While I, myself, don’t really care for his art-style, I have to say, he deserves the rights to his characters. He spent time creating them, and even if they are based on an already-existing franchise character, Penders still created those characters as his own. I hear that Penders is a nice guy, and I’m conflicted as to what my opinion of him should be. I’ll at least wish him luck with his new project.

    1. I’ve had personal experience with him, and he is a very nice guy. It sucks to see so many people making fun of him and tearing him apart, when their opinions of him stem from what they HEAR and from bias articles against him (since most Sonic fans hate him because they think he’s trying to sabotage the comics for revenge). Penders deserved to be able to use his characters. I don’t care for the art style either, and I would much rather see his characters stay the same and continue to be included in the comic. But, it is what it is. Ian Flynn will do an amazing job continuing the comic, even without some of the characters. And now Penders can do what he wants with the characters he created.

  19. I’ve always hated Penders and his art since it stuns me that this man is a “professional” artist. The teaser shown in the interview looks god-awful no matter how you look at it. Someone needs to send this guy to art school, at least for one color theory and Photoshop skills class.

    I find that his excuse that everyone’s criticisms come from an emotional standpoint is unfounded- people don’t like this horrible, lumpy troll-like Lara-Su because it looks half-assed and hideous. I also dispise his treatment of the rest of the Archie Sonic staff- that man is a worse primadonna than Chris Cornell, minus the talent.

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