Fans who grew up playing the Sonic the Hedgehog games know Knuckles as the red echidna who got bamboozled by Dr. Robotnik in Sonic 3 and hit Super Sonic so hard that all seven Chaos Emeralds burst out of him. More voracious fans – those who watched the various TV shows – know that Knuckles is the guardian of the Master Emerald on Angel Island, aka Floating Island. But Archie Comics added so much more depth to this character in their now discontinued comic book series, to the point where Knuckles evolved into a living Chaos Emerald and even died.
During his adventures away from Sonic, Knuckles began undergoing a steady transformation from Knuckles the Echidna #25 on, where his characteristic red fur turned green like a Chaos Emerald and he became imbued with Chaos Energy. The power within the red-gone-green echidna had apparently laid dormant since even before his birth. It all started when his father exposed Knuckles’ egg to a Chaos Emerald to prevent terrible events from coming to pass. If that sounds extreme, know it was a response to a terrifying vision, foretelling the death of his yet-to-be-born son. To his credit, Knuckles’ father did try to perform experiments on himself first to spare his future prodigy. Sadly, that didn’t prevent the tragedy that followed.
As a teenager, Knuckles was hooked to a machine to painfully drain out his excessive powers, but the attempt backfired. Not only did it augment his abilities, but the failure overwhelmed Knuckles to the brink of madness. Much like that failed endeavor, Knuckles’ handling of the Chaos Energy was subpar, like the time he learned he could travel through time. All of his meddling just made everything he tried to make better even worse. His handling of the energy was so lacking in fact that he was finally overcome by it, becoming the equivalent of a living Chaos Emerald before his death in Sonic the Hedgehog #118.
Of course, Knuckles wouldn’t stay dead for long, though not for a lack of trying on the part of a deity known as Aurora. After Knuckles ascended into a higher state of being, Aurora highly encouraged him to stay in the afterlife to become one with the Chaos Force in Sonic the Hedgehog #122. But he later refused and returned to his planet Mobius. After his rebirth, Knuckles would eventually amass even more power when he transformed into Enerjak, a malevolent Chaos Energy demigod in Sonic the Hedgehog #181. Fans may have always thought of Knuckles as the toughest member of the Sonic cast, but most don’t know the half of it.
Knuckles’ story was interwoven with the Chaos Emeralds from before his birth to after his death, giving him a personal mission every bit as vital as Sonic’s freedom fighting against Robotnik. The thing that makes the Archie Comics stories so essential to fans is how much they invested in facing the characters with real challenges based on their simple but consistent characterization. Knuckles was always a character defined by his superior power to Sonic the Hedgehog, but the comics took that characteristic to its logical, and tragic, conclusion.