Personal Information:
Name: Lew Stringer
Job: Writer
Sonic projects worked on: Sonic the Comic

Interview Date: 28/12/10
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Manic Man: Well, as much of a cliché as it is, How did you first get started in the world of comics and art?
Lew Stringer:
I always drew comics as a child, just basic things really to show my parents and a couple of friends. However, as someone who grew up on a council estate, in a working class community, teachers tended to try and steer you towards working in industry or joining the army. I didn’t fancy that at all, and worked as a filing clark in an office for four years before quitting to pursue my original dream of working in comics. After discovering comics fandom (via ads for fanzines in the Marvel UK weeklies) I started publishing my own ‘zines and Brickman mini-comics, and that led to positive feedback from people like Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. In 1983 Alan introduced me to Bernie Jaye, an editor at Marvel UK, and I sent her some cartoons. She accepted them for publication in The Daredevils. After that other work came in. It was a struggle at first though, with lots of rejections, but I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps, as they used to say.
You seemed to really shoot to the top with Action Force Comics, later Transformers Magazine with 'Combat Colin', as well as characters such as Macho Man, Captain Wally, & Snail Man for other Marvel (UK) ranges. How much of a boost do you think these gave you?
It was a great boost to my confidence, which had flagged considerably after all the rejections from other publishers. Around that time I also briefly worked as an assistant to Mike Higgs, an artist who’s work I admired when I was a kid, so that all helped too.
  How did you get involved with Sonic the Comic, as a Writer, kinda not using any of your own artistic skills.
I’d been a writer/artist on Buster comic for years and I did submit artwork to STC originally but they wanted more of an adventure slant to it, so obviously my slapstick stuff wasn’t suitable. I was fine with that though. Richard Burton, the original editor, brought me in as a writer because he knew I could do comedy material and they wanted some lighter material to balance out the comic a bit.
Quite early on, you introduced what is said by many to be one of the best original STC character, that of Shorty the Squirrel, or more, his 'armoured' ID as Shortfuse the Cybernik. What lead to his creation?

Art by Carl Flint
I’m not sure now. I think I just wanted to have a character of my own and a strong character that readers would hopefully enjoy. The cyber-squirrel idea seemed to give plenty of possibilities for action, as well as some pathos with Shorty being trapped within his armour. I designed the look of the character as well, although I never drew him for the comic of course. The artists did a brilliant job on him.
On the whole, you were pretty much the sole writer for the character, Any idea why the character took off so well and became a mainstay of the comic?
Well, Shorty had a short temper, and readers of the STC age group could perhaps relate to that, encountering the frustrations of growing up and the impatience of youth. Or perhaps they just liked to see him zap stuff. ?
You also worked on and created many other characters that were well used in the comic, such as Tekno, Brutus, Vermin the Cybernik & the Eternity Ring, all of whom seemed to have been pretty popular. How many of these did you really believe would take off, and how many were just throw away characters that later returned?
I hoped that all of them would be popular. Some scripts were stronger than others but every script was done with the intention of entertainment. Brutus and Tekno were two I was very pleased with though.
There is a lot of talk about some of the things that went on backstage of the comic, and briefly I wouldn't mind asking about Deborah Tate. There is some talk that after Amy's First story, it was Deborah that was behind the idea to make Amy more of a 'female role model' by having her mostly drop her crush on Sonic, becoming an expert with a Crossbow, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, over her more.. classic outfit, and having her pretty much the star of her own stories. How much of this is true?
I think Debbie was understandably bored with the idea of Amy in the smitten girlfriend role. It was a fun idea to start with but in the 1990s it was an old fashioned concept for comics really so Amy’s character needed to grow. I can’t remember who redesigned Amy’s outfit but it was Debbie’s idea to make her more independent I believe.
This leads me onto a few more things, the first ,related. In issue 127, there was the story "Amy's Secret Past", which pretty much removed the first appearance of Amy Rose (in more then one way) and given this idea that she was turned pink by a reproduction of the experiment that gave Sonic his powers, and that she was a fighter of Robotnik (and good with a Cross Bow) all the time. Who’s idea was it and how much control over it did you have?
I’m afraid I can’t remember now. It’s been a long time.
You have done a lot of long running story arcs in STC, and I have to ask about one of the... less good ones. Sonic the Comic was already starting to drop down and lost pretty much any Story that wasn't Sonic, as well as gaining a reprinted story in each issue. Robotnik had been removed from Power and then tried to regain it.. Then trapped in the Atom sized world of Shanazar. I believe you wrote most of that storyline. What lead to doing it and what were some of the plans?
Sorry, I can’t remember the reasoning behind it after all this time. It was just a way to deal with Robotnik as I recall. As for the reprints, that would be at the request of the finance department, to cut the budget when sales were falling. It was nothing to do with editorial decisions and was out of Debbie’s hands. (Although I know some fans did blame Debbie at the time. This was unfair as she was a good editor and steered STC on a good course throughout the main years of its run.)
When the story ended, it seemed to lead to another way to create simpler stories in the way that the two worlds fused together, but it did seem a bit yampy for there to be portals to new zones all over the place but okay, fine.. though why were there also portals to earth at various different times?
We just wanted to do stories on Earth as I recall.
As we get near the end of the comics life, most of the staff seemed to have left, reducing it to pretty much four people for all the writing and art, You, Richard Elson, Nigel Kitching and Mick McMahon. While I believe no-one knew the comic was going to be canned until the end, at lest Nigel Kitching says he didn't know until the end, what was going around the offices at the time, with most of the comic now being reprints, most of the staff no-longer there etc..?
No idea. None of us worked in the office. Writers and artists are freelancers, working from home. However, as soon as reprints began to dominate I thought it was inevitable that the comic would close as I’d seen it happen before on other Egmont comics.
During all the stories you did, which if I got this all right were: 'Metamorphia' (#30), The Pretender (#31), The Unbeatable Foe (#32), The Frozen Zone (#40), Ice Cap Attack (#41-#41), In Good Hands (#41), Enter the Cybernik (#45-#51), The Big Con (#46), Face from the Past (#51-#52), Knuckles Verses The Cybernik (#52), Beware Predicto (#54), The Rampage of Mekanik (#57-#58), Project Brutus (#63-#66), Cybernik Strikes Back (#63-#67), Snow Business (#68), Brute Force (#69-#72), Fox on the Run (#73-#76), Mission to the Metropolis Zone (#74), Hidden Danger (#77-#78), Grounded (#79), Revolution  (#79-#82), Fleabyte Returns (#80), Shock Tactics (#81), Changing Times (#82), Bubble Trouble (#83), Mystery Villain (#83), Sneaker Seeker (#84), New Image (#84), Trooper Trouble (#85-#86), Scream Theme Park (#85), Future Shock (#86-#88), Easy Target (#87), Small Change (#88), Secret Weapon (#90), Head in the Clouds (#92), A Christmas Wish (#93), Season of Goodwill (#93), Eve Of Destruction (#94), The Monster Wakes  (#94-#95), Out for a Spin (#95), Hero Hour (#96), Furtual Reality (#96), Mop the Doc (#96), Boiling Point (#97), Solidarity (#98), No Exit (#99), Final Victory - Part 3&4 (#100), Vote For Me (#101), Invasion of the Veg Heads  (#101-#102), Unnatural Disaster (#102), DIY Danger (#103), Crawling from the Wreckage (#103),Flip Side  (#103-#104), Deception (#105), Out of Work Hero (#106), BraveHog (#107), Zero Zone (#106-#108), Spot of Bother (#108), Kog the Mighty (#109), Star Struck (#109-#110),The Unbrushables (#110), Hero of the Beach (#111), Spaced Out  (#111-#113), No Future(#112), Channel Hoppers (#112), It's Raining Bananas (#112), Fall of the Leaf  (#113-#114), Earth Bound  (#114-#115), Weather Beaten (#115), Spooked (#116), Hot Legs (#117), High in the Sky (#117), Tall Tails (#118), Amy and Tekno - Multi-Mania (#118), Going Crackers (#119), Peace of the Action (#119), Riot Resolution (#120), New Years Twister (#120), Break Out  (#120-#121), Bee Prepared (#121), Recipe for Disaster (#122), Root of all Evil  (#122-#123), Fan Friction (#124), The Lump (#124), Fashion Victims (#125), Green Envy (#125), Desert Fox (#126), Taking the Plunge  (#126-#127), Fog Warning (#127), Amy's Secret Past (#127), First Flight (#128), Show of Strength (#128), Yesterdays Heroes (#128), Clear as Mud (#129), Flights, Camera, Action (#129), Shady Characters  (#131-#132), Making the News (#131), Game On (#131), Cat Trick (#132), Vane Hopes (#132), Suntrap (#133), Following Suit (#133), Football Lazy (#133), Eternity Ring (#134), Hyper Sonic (#134), The Sky's the Limit (#135), Prehistoric Ways (#136), Day of the Puppets (#137), Doctor Genius (#138), Future Distractions (#139), Bite Back (#139), Out of Time  (#140-#141), Rat Race (#140), Skeleton Crew (#141), Day One (#142), Rise and Fall (#142), When in Romanus  (#143-#144), Dream On (#145), Earth Attack  (#146-#147), Return of the Nightmare  (#146-#147), New Year Out (#146), Small Talk (#147), No More Heroes (#148), It's a Small World (#148), The Thirteenth Task (#149), Forbidden Island (#149), Goin Underground (#150), Northern Fright (#151]), Treasure Seeker (#152-#153), Desert Storm (#154), Gangster Trap (#154-#155), Full Circle (#156), Bottled Up (#158), The Rig (#159), KnightMares (#160), Space Race (#161-#162), Medusa (#163), Worlds Collide (#164-#165), Earth Spirits (#166), SuperZone (#167), Mirror Image (#168), Secret of the Gods (#169), Splitzoid (#170), Planet in Peril! (#171), The Terra Connection (#172), Game Over (#173-174), Holiday Hot Spot (Sonic Summer Special 1995), Ocean of Horror, Marble Garden Menace, Trapped in the Vortex (For the Poster Mag, but reprinted in Sonic Summer Special 1995), Sonic Vs Shortfuse & Movie Madness (Sonic Summer Special 1996) Which ones, if any, were your favorite, and which ones did you just not like (if any)?

Art by Andy Pritchett
Some were admittedly stronger than others but I can tell you that my absolute favorite was ‘It’s Raining Bananas’ for its sheer daftness. I bet the fans hated that one though. ?
Where there any stories you wanted to do but weren't able to? Not exactly 'lost scripts' but ideas that might have been turned down for various reasons, or stories that there just wasn't time to do?

Art by Gary Andrews
No, I think I accomplished all that I wanted to with Sonic and co. I also enjoyed writing Marko’s Magic Football, a non-Sonic strip in the comic’s early days.
I'm not quite sure if you were in the office doing work, or just faxed it in, but where there any members of the team you got on really well with, or some you might have not liked as much as others?
I worked from home as we all did except for the editor but I would be on the phone to Deborah Tate and Richard Elson quite often so we became good friends over the years. I still keep in touch with Rich. I still see Nigel Dobbyn at conventions too.
And then, the end of the comic happened.. But, as with before and during, you still seemed to have a fair bit of work coming your way with adult Humour comic 'Viz', Beano and Toxic, among others. Can you tell us a bit more about stuff you have done since the end of STC?
It’s always a worrying time for a freelancer when a comic closes but after STC bit the dust I worked as the writer on CiTV TellyTots magazine which Deborah was editor of. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy writing nursery level stuff but it was great fun and very satisfying to know I was helping children to read. Then I worked as a writer on Lego Adventures, and then Egmont started up Toxic magazine and I’ve been the writer and artist on Team Toxic for that since 2003. I also draw for The Beano occasionally, and The Dandy, and have been contributing to Viz for over 20 years.
Thank you for your time and I for one look forward to see what the future holds for you.
Thanks for the interest in my work. I’m proud to have been a contributor to STC and it took my career into an interesting new direction for a few years which I hadn’t anticipated.
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