Zainab brought this Kickstarter to my attention a little while back, which seeks to bring the webcomic Not Enough Rings to print. Drawn by Veronica Vera and edited by Oliver Bareham, Not Enough Rings follows the story of Sonic The Hedgehog, affectionately poking fun at the characters and game design. Each new strip of the series takes place in an act of the game series (every level of Sonic is broken into three acts), meaning over the course of time new characters like Tails and Knuckles have shown up, and the slightly repetitive nature of Sega’s later level design gets a few jabs.
It’s a fun, silly, comic, and each new strip brings back memories of how alternately fun and frustrating the original games can be. The kickstarter has already achieved the target with only a few hours left to go, but that leaves plenty of time to push that total up further! I spoke to both Veronica and Oliver about their project.
Steve: What made you decide to create a comic series about Sonic The Hedgehog in the first place?
Veronica: I used to draw Sonic comics when I was around fifteen years old and had I a lot of fun representing Sonic and his friends my own way. As an example, many other fancomics would illustrate Knuckles as clueless and gullible. That’s a pretty clear trait you see in the new games, but the old ones? He was such a snarky jerk! That’s how I wanted to portray Knuckles, and it came out in Not Enough Rings.
So I wanted to make a comic series purely based on the old games. It was an idea I’d never really seen done before!
Steve: Once you had the idea, how did you plan it? You’ve structured it in a very specific way [each strip takes place during a different ’act’ of the Sonic game series] – was that always the idea?
Veronica: I wanted to challenge myself! I wanted to see what I could come up with if I had to make a joke or observation for every act. It required that I replay the game for hours and hours trying to conjure up memories of how I felt playing the game when I was younger.
Oliver: I loved Veronica’s idea to structure it this way. I think it keeps the comic grounded in actual commentary. It’s a constraint that helps the whole project focus. I can’t remember when we were first talking about it, but as soon as the idea of doing it “act-by-act” came out my heart was set on making it happen.
Steve: Artistically it’s very different to your other comic, Bittersweet Candy Bowl. What do you use to draw Not Enough Rings, and how have you found the process?
Veronica: Bittersweet Candy Bowl went through many visual transformations, but I think there are only one or two comics in the entire archive that use the same Copic markers I used for Not Enough Rings. I accumulated the full collection of Copic markers and wanted to push myself to figure them out. You obviously learn a few things along the way — I should have worked on larger paper since the markers bleed a bit in the fine details, for example.
It’s a method I wouldn’t mind using again (though maybe at a larger scale next time!) but I don’t know how if that will happen as I’m still in love with watercolours.
Steve: Obviously the star of your series is Sonic. How did you build up your own version of the character? When writing, did you find his voice came naturally to you?
Veronica: When you play as Sonic, he assumes a lot of your voice — at least that’s how I felt about as I applied my experiences of playing the game. My own frustrations in certain parts of the game were reflected in Sonic’s attitude. So that’s kind of how the Not Enough Rings version of Sonic turned out – a little neurotic along with the typical confidence\arrogance. He seems to come off as a bit more of a tryhard. I don’t know if that was fully intentional!
Oliver: Veronica seemed pretty determined to give Sonic a consistent personality from day one, though it really was honed through her pre-“Not Enough Rings” comics that shared a bunch of the same ideas on how he and the other characters interacted.
I also think the structure defined it pretty well. The rhythm of 2 acts, a boss, 2 acts, a boss, final boss, etc gave it a kind of feeling from the start that this is Sonic’s mundane little life and Eggman\Knuckles are just irritants in the way of getting the job done. I think it was inevitable that the jokes would develop in a lighthearted direction without much of the grave seriousness that you see in modern Sonic games and the official Sonic comics. It’d feel too contrived to jam all that into the gamey framework of doing it all act-by-act.
Steve: How’s your writing process in general? How do you find the collaborative process?
Oliver: It was novel to write and edit a series of strips that aren’t really much more than one joke after another. It’s a very different experience than when working with a multi-page narrative. It’s a lot easier to conceptualise, and it meant that we could work on scripts in arbitrary chunks (“let’s finish off the first half of Sonic 2 today!”)
Veronica: At the same time, the format forced me to deal with the reality that certain acts just didn’t inspire many ideas. There were times I played through an act multiple times and simply couldn’t come up with anything that was both clever and original. And then, at other times an act would hit you with so many ideas you have the luxury of picking out the best one.
It was also pretty challenging to keep it consistent with the rules and physics of the game. There were several instances where I had joke ideas where Sonic had to do something the games didn’t allow.
Oliver: Which would usually result in me immediately pushing as many gameplay-related ideas I could think of on you, so you could replace it.
Veronica: Yeah, there were times I wanted badniks or the environment to do something out-of-character for the sake of a joke, but that became a little risky! It starts losing its focus, so we had to keep it centred.
Steve: Do you have a particular favourite strip? Was there a moment which solidified the project for you, where you felt you’d really managed to nail a distinct voice for the series?
Veronica: I had the most fun when later characters like Tails and Knuckles were introduced. Especially Knuckles. I really enjoy the comics where Sonic plays off the other characters. A lot of those are in later strips yet to be published online, but they’ll be in the book.
Oliver: My fondest memories are of Sonic 2, so I’m naturally inclined to look at those ones for favourites. I think the best ones vocalise the kind of private thoughts you have while playing the game — standing on a dead body, running against a fan, “PUNG!”. They’re making fun of some of the 16-bit gamey limitations but in the most affectionate way.
Steve: What made you decide to take the comic to Kickstarter?
Oliver: I wanted to use Kickstarter for its most genuine purpose — the idea of proposing a project that won’t be made without an audience to support it. I wasn’t sure it’d make the goal, and if it didn’t work out we’d just.. not make it. Not Enough Rings didn’t have a huge audience, so we were counting on new people coming across it to make it happen. But they did, and it all worked out!
Steve: How have you found the crowdfunding process as a whole? How has the response been from people?
Oliver: Knowing that it was a small side-project for a limited audience (yes, a lot of internet people like Sonic, but you’d be surprised how many of those people aren’t particularly attached to the original games) I’ve been surprised by the project’s success. Not only did we meet the goal extremely quickly, we got to that stretchgoal which I thought would have been a bit of a long shot! My expectation was that we’d scrape by with the softcover version, but it’s been great. Of course, a few more backers wouldn’t hurt!
Veronica: We’ve had people interviewing us about the comic and plugging it on their sites, which was something the BCB Kickstarter didn’t really achieve, which was a pleasant surprise! I’m also really looking forward to drawing the custom level comics for a couple of backers!
Steve: Bittersweet Candy Bowl has been going since 2006. What’s the series about? What inspired you to start it?
Oliver: For the introduction page, we distilled the description down to “Bittersweet Candy Bowl is a funny, sweet and sad comic about cats and dogs in high school.”
Veronica: Yeah, it’s very slice-of-life. It’s just a bunch of kids making mistakes and growing up, except they’re cats. I kind of grew up on Garfield, Mafalda, and Condorito, and you’ll find different elements of those comics in what I do.
Bittersweet Candy Bowl was such an accident, haha. I used to draw some of the characters as a child as a way to vent about things that happened to me in school (bullies, teachers, tests) where the characters would react for me. Then I didn’t use them for most of my teenage years, but when I was studying for a final exam at university, I decided to draw them to keep myself awake. I posted them on deviantART, people wanted more, and before I knew it BCB was my main source of income!
Oliver: I am not sure if there’s a lot of crossover for Sonic people, because while it’s sometimes comedic and has talking animals, it’s not a gag comic and it’s very much a long-form, character-driven story. It’s coming up to 80 chapters now. But as nice as it is to finish Not Enough Rings, I think I’m happier that Bittersweet Candy Bowl exists. I really like how it’s coming along, especially each time we clean up the rough parts and publish a new volume of it.
Steve: What are your future plans? Do you have any other projects in the works?
Oliver: That’s it for Sonic. While I think a Sonic project was inevitable, it’s done now. Vero is now working like crazy to post 5 new pages of BCB a week, and anything after that is going to be one of the original ideas we’ve been talking about .
Veronica: I don’t want to say I’ll never draw Sonic comics again, but Not Enough Rings was always meant to be self-contained and end at Sonic & Knuckles. Sorry, Sonic CD! Though I love you.
I have an idea for another comic to post online, but since BCB is so demanding on my time, I might have to wait until I wrap that up. The graphic novel is still in my head for now, and while I designed the main characters, it’s still far from the point I can reveal it. I might start posting it before BCB ends, but I think I want to be sure I’ve planned everything before that point. It’s one of the biggest lessons I learned from BCB and tested with Not Enough Rings — the experience of actually planning a project from start to finish, and how useful it can be to have it all worked out in advance.
Oliver: Although, when it comes to our next Kickstarter project, we might be doing something sooner rather than later. We’re wrapping up work on Volume Three right now and given how our first project went, we are definitely considering a third Kickstarter project to support it. We’re just stuck on ideas for a funny project video!
Many thanks to both Oliver and Veronica for their time! The Kickstarter is entering final phase right now, and can be found here. You can also find their series Bittersweet Candy Bowl by following through this link here.