The Short History of Archie’s Dark Circle Comics

Dark Circle Comics logo

The recent mention by Diamond Comics that Archie’s The Hangman and The Shield comics were “cancelled by publisher” (with issue #4 and #3, respectively) made me wonder about the history and short life of Dark Circle Comics, the most recent take on an Archie Comics superhero imprint.

Two years ago, in July 2014, USA Today had the news that the imprint was planned to launch in 2015, edited by Alex Segura (Archie’s senior vice president for marketing and publicity). The plan was for “five-issue arcs and breaks for trade collections” and fresh starts for classic names. The first three books in the line were announced to be

  • The Black Hood, a dark urban vigilante, by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos
  • The Shield, reinventing the superhero as a woman, by Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig
  • The Fox by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel, which previously had a successful miniseries run from 2013-2014 with the same team

Dark Circle Comics promo poster

The Fox ran monthly from April 15, 2015, to August 8, 2015, never with fewer than three variant covers an issue. (A hallmark of Archie’s publication approach these days, variant covers are ways to get more shelf space visibility and encourage fans to spend more on the same issues by buying multiple copies.) Although promoted as a “new ongoing series”, that second miniseries is the last we’ve seen. And it hasn’t been collected.

The Black Hood, a mature readers title, launched February 25, 2015, and similarly ran monthly in its first five issues, through June 24, with the same variant cover strategy. Then the line apparently ran into trouble. A Black Hood collection (remember that earlier quote?) was solicited in August for December release but never came out.

The Shield, although originally planned to launch in April, didn’t appear until October 21. First, it was replanned to June, then got a new artist, Drew Johnson, before release. A second issue came out this February.

In March, a fourth title was announced. The Hangman by Frank Tieri and Felix Ruiz got more promotion on Free Comic Book Day in May, but it didn’t appear until November. A second issue followed this January, with a third in March.

The Black Hood continued with a #6 and a guest artist in October. The same was true of the November (#7) and January (#8) issues before a new series artist, Greg Scott, joined in February with #9. Issue #10 came out in May of this year, with #11 in June completing the run.

Dark Circle Comics logo

Sam Hill came out digitally only last October.

The Web was announced for “early 2016” but has yet to appear. There’s a Dark Circle Comics site that appears unfinished, with empty News and Previews sections and a release schedule from last year.

A “second season” of The Black Hood is planned for this coming fall. That article also promises that The Hangman and The Shield will continue in October. (In which case, did Archie or Diamond mess up in not labeling the cancellations “will resolicit” instead of “cancelled by publisher”?)

I haven’t been reading these books because I am pretty tired of superhero comics, particularly “mature” ones. They’re a glut on the market, but thankfully, there are plenty of other options out there. The hero brand relaunches that are succeeding these days among comic readers are modernized revamps of better-known properties. It seems to me that these dark, mature titles also have an uphill marketing battle, since the content doesn’t fit the public impression of the publisher.

Update: The Shield #3 is offered in the July Previews catalog for arrival October 12, with four variant covers. Also solicited is Black Hood #1 for September 21.



8 comments

  • James Schee

    For me there have just been way too many variations of these characters. I first encountered them in DC’s !mpact Comics line of them. Which I actually enjoyed a lot, as the characters were fun and the talents of Waid, Priest (still going by Owlsey) and others did some great work.

    But then that folded, and honestly I have lost count how many other tries at the characters with approaches so different that I don’t know why they even kept old names. To the point that I have no desire to even try the books, as what’s the point? Even if I like it, it won’t last long and will be back with an entirely different approach/character/setting in 5 years or less.

  • Yes, it’s relatively easy to convince readers, after too many reboots, that nothing matters and it’s all in a state of constant change.

  • I wonder if making these self-contained graphic novels rather than ongoing monthlies would work better, especially if there’s going to be this many delay problems? Speaking of which, between Dark Circle and the horror titles (Afterlife, etc.), sounds like Archie has a lot of delay problems…

  • Jim Perreault

    I enjoyed Shield, from what little we saw of it. Hangman and Black Hood were too dark for my tastes.

    Fox was o.k., but didn’t grab me for some reason.

    I liked Shield enough to check out the prose work of one of the authors ( advertised in the back of the book). It was about a robot PI in an alternate reality take on the 30s. The premise was intriguing, but I felt he gave the robot too many human characteristics in order to have that noir feel.

  • I thought the first Fox miniseries was better than the second, but I liked the explicit treatment of the generations in the second (as the hero’s son, also an adult, wants to take on the hero mantle). I’d read more of that.

    Yes, Anthony, I didn’t do a direct comparison with the ridiculous delays in the two horror comics, but last summer, when the Dark Circle books disappeared for a while, was also when they were trying to get the Riverdale TV adaptation off the ground. Maybe a case of just not enough people to do everything they’re trying to do?

  • Aaron

    I feel that Archie missed the point with these titles. The market is packed full by super-hero comics, and Archie can’t hope to conquer as significant market-share. I would, instead, focus on my main characters and change distribution channels. No more comic book stores, where the average clients does not care about Archie, but supermarkets and digital.

  • Jacob Gilbert

    Archie Comics ain’t helping matters by not offering proper explanations for delays. We know why the horror line is hopelessly behind schedule with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa being in Hollywood and unwilling to have someone step in and help keep his books on time. Segura, on the other hand, has no excuse. Not only that, but the $4 cover price per issue is keeping folks away, as well.

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