How a Sonic fanfic writer ended up leading Sonic Frontiers

While we still know little about Sonic Frontiers, the first open-world adventure for the lightning-fast hedgehog, there’s good reason to hope it’ll be something special: one of the title’s main writers is Ian Flynn, a big name in the Sonic community, and editor of Archie Comic’s Sonic the Hedgehog series and senior editor of IDW Publishing’s Sonic the Hedgehog comics.

Flynn’s path to Sonic Frontiers gives hope to Sonic fans (or any fans, really) that with perseverance, luck, and skill, they can one day help create what they love.

Flynn’s love for Sonic began when his father brought home a Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. A passion for cartoons and comics soon followed. “They got me hooked young,” Flynn tells us.

Throughout college and working on his English degree, Flynn remained a fan of the Blue Hedgehog. But on the other side, he panics: “’What do you actually do with an English degree?’ I wondered.” So he decided to try to mix his passions and write a Sonic comic.

What do you actually do with an English diploma?

Ian Flynn

Submitting unsolicited manuscripts to comic book companies isn’t the norm for landing a job in the industry — not that there’s a standard route — and it didn’t immediately pay off. Addressing the website (now defunct) Dreamflint In 2006, Flynn explained how he sent scripts for four years before Archie Comic’s Sonic The Hedgehog series editor Mike Pellerito gave Flynn a chance. Flynn told us how he started out writing data files — pages that appeared in the comics and gave detailed breakdowns of characters and locations — though he later moved on to writing test scripts.

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Flynn rose quickly; within months, he had become the lead writer for the Sonic the Hedgehog series, a position he held for more than a decade.

A selection of Sonic The Hedgehog comic book covers

(Image credit: Archie Comics)

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“There was always hope,” Flynn says, talking about working on a Sonic game. “After all, I beat the odds and landed my dream job with comics, so why not hope lightning strikes more than once?”

Still, Flynn had no shortage of Sonic work — in addition to writing the main book, he also took on writing duties for comic books based on the Sonic X and Sonic Boom TV series. “Both books took a more comedic approach than the main series,” Flynn explains. “Sonic X was more of a need to stand out, but also a way to find the fun in a series with much tighter restrictions. Sonic Boom followed in the footsteps of cartoons rather than games and was even dumber.

Sonic Boom, in particular, opened up a surprising new avenue for Flynn. Showrunner Bill Freiberger had contacted then-editor Paul Kaminski to have some of the cartoon’s writers contribute to the comic, and vice versa. “[Freiberger] coached me on how to write for TV versus comics and did a few workshops with me,” says Flynn. “In comics, there’s a very tight pipeline between me and the artists. Publishers and licensors have their say, but the storyline of the comic is the template for the art team. With the television, you have directors, storyboarders, animators, voice actors, and their directors, all of whom influence the final product.The TV script is structurally similar but does not need to be as precise in its moment-to-moment descriptions. This is less of a blueprint and more of a set of strongly suggested guidelines. I’m a huge fan of the current voice cast, so it was a pleasure to hear my script performed by them.

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Flynn was riding high by this point, regularly writing three monthly Sonic comics and a handful of Sonic Boom TV scripts.

Then one day, everything fell apart.

End of an era

I was drained and more than a little terrified.

Ian Flynn

Despite preliminary plans for issue #300 and beyond, all Archie Sonic comics abruptly ceased production in 2017, with no explanation given. It was a blow to the fans and creatives of the books, Flynn included. “I was gutted and more than a little terrified,” he recalls. “It was my regular job, a reliable source of income and my dream job. All of that was gone in the blink of an eye. And just before Christmas. If there was a new book, I was hoping I could be involved to some degree and highlighting all the talented people I had worked with, but there were no guarantees.

Shortly after Archie Sonic’s cancellation, IDW announced that they had secured the publishing rights to the Sonic comics. Fans immediately jumped on the bandwagon to try and get Flynn involved. Then-editor Joe Hughes contacted Flynn and asked if he was interested. “The response was a grateful and emphatic ‘Yes’,” Flynn says.

A panel of IDW Publishing's Sonic The Hedgehog

(Image credit: IDW Publishing)

At this point in his writing career, Flynn wrote for several Sonic comics from two different publishers, game stories, and cartoons. His fans have been clamoring for Sega to let him work on one of the games for years, and, finally, that opportunity has presented itself.

“The working relationship between IDW and Sega is a little different from the days of Archie,” Flynn says, “which opened up different avenues of communication. I can’t say for sure who noticed me when, but the offer has been made [to work on Sonic Frontiers]and I gave another emphatic ‘Yes’.

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The chance to work on a major Sonic title is “surreal,” says Flynn. “Intimidating, even. There are a lot of expectations and assumptions, and all I can do is try my best and hope people enjoy the experience. Working with the team was a pleasure and I hope to do it again one day.

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