The Strange Saga of the Complete Black Hood Comics Run, at Auction

One of publisher MLJ's pre-Archie superheroes, the Black Hood was arguably one of the most interesting superheroes of the Golden Age.  He certainly had an unusual publishing history during that time. The character first appeared in Top-Notch Comics #9, took that title over, started getting elbowed aside in the Top-Notch series 18 issues later in favor of humor characters, got kicked out of the series entirely less than 20 issues after that, took over another superhero's title, ended his title run by getting his secret identity exposed, and finally decided to hang up his superhero tights and just continue on as an ordinary private detective character.  All of this took place in the Golden Age, and the Black Hood Comics #9-19 run is a big part of the character's saga during that period.  Every issue of this short-lived Golden Age Black Hood Comics title is up for auction in the 2022 May 15-16 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122220 at Heritage Auctions.

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

The shift of the Top-Notch Comics title to become Top-Notch Laugh Comics with issue #27 in 1942 was one of the early signs of Archie's impact on MLJ.  While Black Hood was still a regular feature in every issue, they began to experiment with a wide variety of humor in the series as well.  By the time the series ended with Top-Notch Laugh Comics #45 in 1944, Archie had taken over the cover of Pep Comics and gotten his own series as well.

Black Hood took over the ongoing Hangman Comics title, which was re-titled Black Hood Comics with issue #9.  The Hangman himself was relegated to a back-up feature.  By the time of issue #17, cover-dated Winter 1946, MLJ had rebranded itself as Archie, putting "An Archie Magazine" symbol on their covers. But the end of the series with issue #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 series ends with this issue, he continues as Kip Burland of the Black Hood Detective Agency in a handful of Pep Comics stories afterward.

Meanwhile, the Black Hood series was retitled as Laugh Comics with issue #20 and featured the exploits of Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the Riverdale crew. 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.  A fascinating and underappreciated part of Golden Age comic book history, the Black Hood Comics #9-19 run is up for auction in the 2022 May 15-16 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Select Auction #122220 at Heritage Auctions.

 

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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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