When it comes to the greatest moments in comics, the Joker explaining his famous philosophy that even the sanest man is only one bad day away from madness is usually near the top of the list, so no-one should be surprised that the idea has inspired countless other pop culture villains – what they might find surprising is that one of them belongs to Sonic the Hedgehog. This idea comes from Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, and John Higgins’ The Killing Joke, in which Joker attacks Batman’s closest allies to prove a point: “I’ve demonstrated there’s no difference between me and everyone else! All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.” It turns out, a villain from Archie Comics’ discontinued Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series feels exactly the same way.
This enemy was Scourge, the Anti-Sonic originally known as Evil-Sonic who existed in another dimension called Anti-Mobius. As his original name implies, Scourge was a version of Sonic consumed by evil. While Sonic was a hero, it is believed Scourge killed his own father to seize control of Mobotropolis, which he ruled as an authoritarian dictator. Many times, Scourge would venture from his dimension to Sonic’s Mobius and create havoc, though on one occasion, he tried to argue that the two weren’t really so different after all.
The day Scourge echoed Joker’s words from The Killing Joke took place in Sonic the Hedgehog #172 during one of his many attempts to hurt and torture his selfless counterpart. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a creepy carnival involved, but an epic fight did ensue. As the two zigzagged back and forth, Scourge revealed that he knew why Sonic despised him so much: “It’s that all it takes is one bad day and you’d be just like me.” It’s an obvious reference to Joker’s famous line, but Sonic has a response that Batman didn’t: “No, that’s not it, Scourge. It’s because all it would take is a bit of selflessness… a little bit of decency… and you’d be just like me.“
Regardless of who was right, Scourge’s blatant ripoff of one of Joker’s most profound lines immediately made his character more appealing. Before this point, Scourge was just an embarrassingly adolescent version of Sonic, whose leather attire and lame school-bully vocabulary only succeeded in making him even more of a cringe-worthy villain. Here, that all changed, and it’s followed by a moment in which Scourge seems to take Sonic’s words to heart, entertaining – though clearly fearing – that he could indeed change for the better.
The scene obviously cribs from Batman’s famous adventure, but it does add its own spin, using the comparatively more innocent world of Sonic to give the hero a witty reply that actually stuns the villain. The Killing Joke ultimately posits that Joker is wrong; his attempts to drive Gordon insane fail, suggesting that Joker‘s descent into madness was at least partly a product of his own choices. In Sonic‘s version of the story, things go further, and he’s able to assert the compelling idea that what’s true one way may also be true another. It was a moment that hinted at both the potential light in Scourge and the potential darkness in Sonic, staying true to the great work it homaged while putting a surprising spin on a concept fans thought couldn’t be explored any further.