SEGA Retrospective: Turn the page, it’s Comix Zone Week!

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Welcome to Comix Zone week, where we will be giving you a whole week’s worth of Sketch Turner love. If you have a copy of this SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive classic, give it ago for nostalgia’s sake and stay tuned all week long for new content. This fabulous game was first made available in 1995 for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive. It was later ported to Windows PC, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and PSN. Its also been featured in both Sonic Mega Collection Plus and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

Check out our full overview of Comix Zone after after the break!

Let’s get trapped in the Comix Zone…

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Comix Zone was a video game released late in the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive’s life cycle and one of the handful of games developed by SEGA Technical Institute. The game started mostly with the premise of its art style; by concept, design & art director for the game Peter Morawiec. If the title didn’t give it away, the team was really inspired by their trips to their local Bay Area comic book shops. After Peter Morawiec made demo animations on his Amiga, he pitched it to Roger Hector and Tom Kalinske.  The demo was well received and eventually got the green light and production began.

Sadly, the game was soon put on hold as the team at STI had to work on Sonic Spinball, which was ‘kinda’ a tie-in to the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon by DiC Entertainment. After STI finished wrapping up their work on Sonic Spinball, they finally started work on Comix Zone.


[Early concept video that was pitched. Created by Peter Morawiec]

When Comix Zone finally came out in 1995, SEGA was already dropping support for the SEGA Genesis and advertising its newly released console, the SEGA Saturn. SEGA marketing had a hand in changing Peter Morawiec’s main character, then called Joe Pencil, who was a scrawny geeky-looking kid. The idea of a geeky kid turning superhero wasn’t new to the comic world as it was pioneered by Captain Marvel in the late 1930’s. SEGA of America’s marketing team wasn’t feeling it and changed the name to Sketch Turner and Morawiec redesigned him to give him a grunge look, which was very popular in the early 90’s.

The story…

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Comix Zone puts you in the shoes of Sketch Turner, a starving artist and freelance rock musician living in the Big Apple, New York City. During the game’s opening, Sketch is working on his new comic book titled, you guessed it, Comix Zone. The story of his comic is about the ‘New World Empire’ trying to defend the Earth from  an alien invasion. Sketch came up with the stories from nightmares he was having.

While Sketch is working late one night, a lighting bolt strikes his comic. In that instant, the main villain of his comic book, a powerful mutant named Mortus, manages to pop out of the pages and Sketch gets sent into the unfinished book. Mortus has to kill his creator so he can turn flesh and blood, the only issue is that you are the creator. You aren’t going to let this other world scumbag show you up, are you?

Changing the game…

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One of the selling points for Comix Zone was always its art style, while there were plenty of games based on comic book IPs, none of them really embraced the feel of a comic book’s panel layout the way Comix Zone did. Kicking enemies against a panel would bust it open to another panel, you could jump to different panels that lead to different paths and the animation between panels is one of my favorites on any 16-bit game.  Bad guys didn’t just spawn, they where drawn in giving it more of a comic book feel and sold the idea that the tables have turned for Sketch. Before he was the creator, stopping a villain in his own story, now he is trapped and the villain was using his ability to draw enemies to kill you. The subtly of baddies being drawn in black and white and then turning into true moving colored sprites was a rather ingenious way of doing something as simple as spawning bad guys.

“Bad guys didn’t just spawn, they where drawn in giving it more of a comic book feel…”

The game also didn’t rely on multiplayer combat against endless waves of bad guys. There were already a ton of games that did that, even SEGA’s own Streets of Rage. Instead the developers focused on one character, the hero of the story, Sketch Turner. The game was more about gathering items and trying to survive with as little damage taken as possible. To change up the game formula they added puzzles and items that if used intelligently would help you traverse the panels with minimal health being chucked off. The game was something I never played before, it wasn’t like other games that just wanted to emulate the success of other, popular titles. It was its own game and there wasn’t anything quite done this way before. That is why we will be celebrating the awesomeness of Comix Zone all week long.

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One response to “SEGA Retrospective: Turn the page, it’s Comix Zone Week!

  1. RegalSin says:

    One of the best original “Beat Em Ups” evar made. I am still not over the game. What is more interesting is their was plans for the SEGA CD, but the PC version was released instead. To add to that fire, the Genesis version still holds a candle. I really love this game, it almost reminds me of myself, if I went insane, and started to talk to rats, ( as I am usted to smashing them, and could not imagine befreinding one in terms he did. Comix Zone is a great example of a real challenge.

    Did you know the truth behind CZ production, was the team ( now called Senn ) at SEGA never really had anything to do asides mess around with YN ( Nights creator ) idea of Sonic 2 on the Genesis. So it really goes to show you what THE CREATIVE WESTERN SIDE OF SEGA AMERICA HAD TO OFFER.

    That was it, CZ is the probably the best thing that came out of the imaginations of western game creators. The only other thing was the “Secret Of Evermore” and the “Final Fantasy Adventure”. I could go on to mention “EarthWorm Jim” ( I miss EWJ ), but that is another story all together. Speaking of EWJ, that an CZ are probably the only two games on the genesis that really took advantage of the 2d feeling asides a few games I am not thinking about right now. I mean when it came to 2d bliss, CZ was it, but it was also challenging.

    Right after CZ they went on to make “Sonic Xtreme” and got hoodwinked by Sonic Team. That was it. Nice to mention CZ.

    I am also glad they took the time to make turner look more decent, instead a stereotypical nerd. It was the 1990’s and everybody was into comic books, not just coin dextors, like the ones from “Heavy Metal”. 1990’s man I miss the 1990’s. Every girl was horny and it did not matter how old or how young you were. It was a peaceful time. So damn peaceful everybody was into this kind of stuff. I mean for the older people, everybody was jerks, but I had a happy life back then.

    Then I went to college and discovered how water-down and shallow everybody is really. Yeah that was the mistake I made, college. No really Comix Zone, makes me feel alive again. A part of me that have tried to gain back.

    One of the best original “Beat Em Ups” evar evvvarrrrrr evvaaaarrrrrrr made…ever. But can you master it. Honestly, while I do love comixs and comics, I really hate the over all super-hero theme of the videogame. I mean Turner was good the way he was, and they kinda just over did his muscle trick. I feel so embarassed when I see him saying “OOHHH yeaaahhh” I mean wow embarrassed,

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