By Mike Sangregorio
Midday Saturday Archie Comics held its Dark Circle Comics panel to discuss a few of the superhero properties, and characters, that have recently been reintroduced by the company and why some of these newer, more modern versions may not be what longtime fans have come to expect.
For those not familiar with the brand, formerly known as Red Circle Comics, it has been a part of Archie Comics since the initial superhero boom of the late 30s/early 40s, when most publishers decided to try their hand at having a line of titles featuring mystery men. The character known as "The Shield," an overtly patriotic hero, actually predates Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's Captain America.
In the ensuing decades the brand was reinvigorated in a few different ways, sometimes by other publishers, most recently by DC during 2008 through 2010. Now the characters have been brought home. According to Archie Comics President Mike Pellerito this move was made at the behest of CEO Jon Goldwater who wanted to have "new and dynamic" comics that were unlike anything else currently being offered by the genre.
The Fox, by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel, has been coming out for a while and has "set the tone for what would become Dark Circle" according to Alex Segura, the "line curator." The title would soon begin its Fox Hunt storyline which was described as "Spider-Man versus the Sinister Six… times a thousand." All of the Fox's foes would be returning to bedevil he and his family which the panel reminded us featured one of the only superheroes where the entire family was part of the super-adventures.
Next is The Black Hood, by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos, which is up to issue #5 and attempts to "be as noir as possible" in the vein of Gaydos previous title, Marvel's Alias. An issue featuring the art of Howard Chaykin is forthcoming that will be set on the West Coast as opposed to Philadelphia where the story has been set up until now (Swierczynski, who was not in attendance, is a native).
There will be a continued push to have older versions of these characters, such as DC's nineties "!mpact" line, available digitally through services such as comiXology. All panelists assured the audience that while the rich history of all of these characters is appreciated the focus of the line is to not be afraid to try new things.
The next two titles reflect this, first being The Shield. Now a woman, who is described as "having always been the Shield" in this version of the story, by series writer Adam Christopher. The cover shown billed the character as "Daughter of the Revolution" and the costume art was described as making her "look like a real woman."
Following this is a new version of The Web featuring a 14 year old comic fan who is cosplaying as the Silver Age version of "The Web" when she receives her powers. The series will be written by Dave White with art by Szymon Kudranski and will be available during 2016.
Segura confirmed that "each title is in its own space" and that there would be more emphasis placed on "slow boil" storytelling rather than rampant crossovers between titles and characters. Frank Tieri (Wolverine, Punisher Noir) will be working on The Hangman with art by Felix Ruiz.
More of a horror comic than anything else, it will feature "Sex, violence, death, and demons." Tieri used a litany of colorful phrases to describe the specific sort of things that fans should expect in the book and that, for example "Archie and Jughead will not be showing up… if they do that would be kind of wrong."
Assistant Editor Joe Morciglio spoke to the company's intent to "keep the line consistent visually" and then spoke to the beauty and excellent design work of some of the covers being created by Francesco Francavilla (including The Hangman #1) who previously worked with the company on the well received Afterlife with Archie. Writer of that series, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, was also in attendance.
Former Red Circle flagship property "The Crusaders" will receive its first mention in issue 7 of The Black Hood. Exactly how the concept will be reimagined was not revealed. When asked about other characters from the property's history the answer given was that if for no other reason than the "names alone" there would be "more to follow." The characters "Blackjack" and "The Jaguar" were named.