Black Hood and the Art of the Comic Book Reboot, Up for Auction

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For obvious reasons, MLJ, the publisher which would rebrand itself as Archie may have had less confidence in the staying power of the superhero genre than most comic book publishers.  The Golden Age lifespan of one of its most famous superhero characters, the Black Hood, provides us with another fascinating example of how the publisher navigated the Golden Age of Superheroes. With a name like "Black Hood", and villains like the Ghost and the Skull, the character stuck farther away from wartime exploits and closer to pulp-style crime and horror than most superhero publishers of the era.  The Black Hood series itself also included covers and adventures that leaned towards crime and horror rather than war or superheroics (though certainly, MLJ was not alone in this during the period).  Of course, MLJ had launched a Black Hood Detective pulp shortly after the character's debut in Top-Notch #9 as well.

Black Hood #19 (MLJ, 1946)
Black Hood #19 (MLJ, 1946)

But the end of the character's own series with Black Hood #19 contains an interesting and clear-cut early example of a comic book reboot. Due to the machinations of a criminal, a police sergeant was able to unmask Black Hood and reveal his identity.  Once his alter ego becomes known, the Black Hood (aka Kip Burland) makes an interesting move — he decides to reboot himself in his real identity as Burland and launch the Black Hood Detective Agency — becoming a private investigator.  The change stuck, and although the Black Hood series ends with this issue, he continues as Kip Burland of the Black Hood Detective Agency in a handful of Pep Comics stories afterward.

It's a historically interesting move that seems to be foreshadowed by the tenor of the issues leading up to the series and would seem to indicate that MLJ anticipated the rise of other genres in the comic book industry of the post-WW2 era.  There are several of these available in today's session of the 2021 July 4-5 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122127 from Heritage Auctions:

Black Hood #19 (MLJ, 1946)
Black Hood #19 (MLJ, 1946)

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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